With ‘democracy’ in Turkey resumed and in full swing, we continued on our way to Georgia, ‘slowly-slowly’, as they say in Turkey. We meandered from the Menderes River waterfall to Lake Eğirdir, passing a wind farm in the middle of nowhere (reminding me that there is a moral component to aesthetics and explaining why objections to wind turbines on the Aegean coast because they are ‘ugly’ turn my stomach) and a police road block in the center of Isparta (reminding me we were in a ‘post-coup-attempt apocalypse’ that required rerouting everyone around a huge jandarma facility that had been blocked off by police cars and tanks) to get to the road that wound down to the lake. A bus driver we had met back by the waterfall (See Part 3) had tipped us off to the fact that we could find cheap pensions on the peninsula that juts out into the middle of the lake, so naturally, that’s where we headed.
Picture 15: Rooms in Eğırdir
This little strip of land has a lot of character, what with stone houses once owned by Greeks (I believe, as it would explain a lot of things) in various states of abandonment, disrepair and renovation into boutique hotels. The almost imperceptible pause taken by the owner of the first place we enquired at led us to move on – because the pause is one that I have come to recognize as accounting for the time it takes to calculate whether or not to double or triple the price of a room based on the looks of the customer – to a little place on the other side of the peninsula a few blocks away (this is not a very large peninsula) where the owner also gave us a once-over when we enquired about a room – but in this case, the pause was more of an “I-doubt-that-these-two-are-worth-the bother-but-beggars-can’t-be-choosers” kind of a look – and since the price was right, the place was clean, and well, it was only going to be for one night, anyway (clearly, we were all making calculations based on the same criteria of skepticism-divided-by-need), this is where we ended up.
Picture 16: Watering the Garden in Eğırdir
It turns out that Ali, the owner of the ‘Sahil Pansiyon (Shore Pension)‘, is really a wonderful guy, once he warms up to you (as usual, it was Harun he warmed up to first, when he discovered that Harun also belonged to the Universal Brotherhood of Fishermen), and the Sahil Pansiyon is really a wonderful (albeit no-frills) place, its sign (advertising ‘all rooms with toilets and showers’) harkening back to an earlier era in Turkish Tourism. As Ali explained to us (while Harun helped him water his pumpkins, tomatoes and fruit trees from water pumped out of the lake), he (Ali) had given up his previous life of fishing on the lake and gotten into a bustling Eğirdir tourism industry by transforming his old family home into a pension.
Once upon a time, the lake came practically up to their front door. Nowadays, there’s a road between the buildings and the shore, and the tourists passing by the pension drive over the pebbles spelling out ‘Sahil’ that are embedded in concrete in front of the pension’s threshold. Nowadays, in fact, there are few tourists passing by, and even fewer stopping (Ali blames this on 1. ‘wrong policies’, 2. ‘bombs’ and 3. the ‘post-coup-attempt state-of-emergency’), but (and I can understand why) both he and his wife (who has diabetes and isn’t much on conversation, but sits in front of ‘reception’ in the Sahil’s ‘breakfast area’, where there’s no breakfast, because it’s not worth the bother) prefer the lake to their apartment in downtown Isparta.
Harun and I both loved the lake, too, and if it weren’t for the fact that we were trying to get to Georgia, we would probably have stayed on for a few days, but as it was, we settled on a fish dinner by the lakeshore and a room cool enough to fall asleep in, and then headed on.
“Next stop, Konya.”
Picture 16: Fish (details)
This is a close-up of our Fish Dinner in Eğirdir. Some points to note: 1. Fish on the left is sea bass, farm-raised and one of the two most common fish on the menu at every fish restaurant in Turkey; fish on the right is lake bass, from Eğirdir; 2. Cell phone on the table; NOT having a cell phone on the table is almost unheard of; 3. No raki on the table. NOT having raki on the table at a fish restaurant is almost unheard of. Or used to be. More and more (and more) as we headed into the Turkish hinterlands we saw signs advertising ‘alcohol-free fish restaurants’. In Eğirdir, which is in the province of Isparta, we found some fish restaurants on the shore that sold raki (and may I point out politely that no one is forced to drink it), whereas next-door in Beyşehir, which is on the other side of the provincial borderline bewteen Isparta and Konya, we found schoolchildren on public-school-sponsored summer-camp outings to the mosques on the shore (with boys loaded onto one bus and girls on the other)…
(Here I’ll share a tidbit of information from Wikipedia with you that I thought was interesting and explained to me why I always have a hard time spelling the name of this lake: “The town and the lake were formerly called Eğridir, a Turkish pronunciation of the town’s old Greek name Akrotiri. Unfortunately,Eğridir means “it is crooked” in Turkish. Therefore, to remove the negative connotations of the name, in the mid-1980s the “i” and the “r” were transposed in a new official name, thus creating Eğirdir, a name that evokes spinning and flowers, although many people in Turkey still call both the town and the lake by its former name.”)
Picture 17: Konya – Praying
Konya is the home of Mevlana – Rumi – the sufi mystic – and one of the most-touristed cities in Turkey, under normal conditions. But we were travelling under ‘extraordinary conditions’ – and there was not a tourist in sight. Instead, the complex in which Rumi is entombed was filled with residents of Konya (one of the most conservative cities in Turkey), taking advantage of the ‘free entrance to the museum’ that had been declared by the president (or was it the prime minister? I forget) as ‘a present from the government to the Turkish people’ for taking to the streets to ‘put down the attempted coup’. (Personally, I like the idea of free museums for the people – but it would have been nice if it didn’t require a ‘coup’ to happen…)
Picture 18: Konya – WhirlersIn case it’s not clear from the photo, the whirlers are mannequins. The Mevlana complex has a lot of ‘tableaux’ like this set up to lend authenticity to the place. We also got treated to a group of mehter musicians dressed up in Ottoman regalia (“for centuries, mehter music accompanied the marching Ottoman army into battle”) and performing right in the middle of a traffic circle on the way to the museum (I’m not sure if this has become standard procedure, or if this was another one of many ‘post-coup gifts to the people’…).
Picture 19: Konya – Where Rumi is Buried
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