Surrounded by vast fields of innocuous-looking poppies, Afyon (“opium”) is a leading producer of the world’s opium, grown here legally for pharmaceutical use. Afyon is prourl of its role in the War of Independence, when Atatürk made his headquarters here. It also boasts two excellent but rather small museums. If spectacular views are your thing, a climb to the towering Hittite fortress will likely be the highlight of your stay. Modern-day Afyon, however, is a rather nondescript town, so it’s best to stop just long enough to see the sights and try some lokum (Turkish delight) before getting on your way again.
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The city consists of a peninsula jutting into the lake, Egirdir Lake, and two islands connected by bridges to the mainland. The city center, marked by a walk-through minaret, a marketplace, several restaurants, and pensions, is on the mainland. The otogar sits directly between the minaret and the lake shore. The closer island, little more than a floating çay garden, is called Canada (JAHN-ah-dah), which means “soul island” or “life island.” Most of the town’s pensions are on the more bulbous Yeşilada (Green Island), which is connected to Canada.
To reach the lake, walk straight from the otogar past the Atatürk Statue on the right, and follow the road as it curves left onto 2nd Sahil Yolu. This street runs past the PTT and the tourist office to a soldiers’ casino (askeri gazinosu) and several pensions before hitting Yazla Plajı, Altikum Plajı, and Bedre Plajı. Yenimahalle Cad. begins to the left of the otogar, and continues past the hospital on to Konya.
- Tourist Office: 2nd Sahil Yolu No. 13. From the otogar gate, walk straight and follow 2nd Sahil Yolu as it curves up and to the left past the PTT. English spoken. Open M-F 8:30am-5:30pm; in winter M-F 8am-4:30pm.
- Banks: Türkiye İş Bankası, on 2nd Sahil Yolu, before the PTT (when walking from the town center) has a V/MC/Cirrus/Plus ATM. Several other ATMs dot the town center. Luggage Storage: At the otogar. $1 per bag. Open roughly 6am-8pm.
- Hamam: Erkek Hamam (312 36 18), just before the PTT. $6. Open 7:30am-llpm. Police: (311 53 63), on 2nd Sahil Yolu, 20m past the PTT. Open 24hr.
- Pharmacy: On Yenimahalle Cad., to the left of the otogar. Open daily 8am-7:30pm. Hospital: (311 64 90), on Yenimahalle Cad. Turn left out of the otogar and walk 300m. Open 24hr. The health center, Sağlik Ocağı (s 311 48 55), is next to the hospital. Open daily 8am-5;30pm. Little English spoken.
- Internet Access: Gözde Internet (311 23 48), the first left after Kervansaray Restaurant, past the otogar. Quick access and cheap rates. $.75 per hr. Open 9am-midnight. PTT: (311 45 90), on 2nd Sahil Yolu on the way to the tourist office. Information and poste restante daily 8am-llpm. Express mail M-F8:30am-12:30pm and l:30-5:30pm. Postal Code: 32500.
Since nearly all of Egirdir’s pensions are affordable and comfortable, the added extras can be the deciding factor: the town has no tour agencies, so the services offered by agencies competing for business are paramount. The best are scattered on the mainland and on Yeşilada. Since most don’t have singles, they often make single travelers pay for double occupancy during high season (June-Sept.). To save $2-3, let pension representatives at the otogar bid on you with their rivals. Bargaining is acceptable.
Köşk Pension-Restaurant, 37 Yazla Mah. (311 43 82; fax 311 61 84), at the top of 2nd Sahil Yolu, 800m from town. Free car service to and from town and the beaches;
call for pick-up or meet the driver at the Tuborg/Pepsi sign across from the otogar. Most of the 17 rooms have showers and lake views. Owned by the local Pepsi distributors, Köşk features a free “Pepsi Tur” every Sunday, which shuttles guests in a Pepsi truck 70km south to the scenic Çandır Canyons (9am-9:30pm). Boat tours are also available ($2). Breakfast $3. Singles $6-10; doubles $12-20. Discount with Let’s Go.
R Peace Pension (311 24 33). Within Yeşilada, take a left before Choo Choo Pension and a right at the next street. As serene as it gets, with sparkling rooms and a pleasantly shady terrace. Trekking and fishing trips organized. Breakfast $2. $5 per person, with bath $8.
Lale Pension, Kale Mah, 6 Sok. No. 2 (312 24 06; fax 311 49 84). Exit the otogar and head right past the castle to the large yellow signs leading to Lale, 2min. from the shore. 9 clean rooms with hardwood floors and bath. The mountaineer owner offers sage advice on trekking, boat trips, and other outdoor activities. Enjoy the astounding terrace view. Laundry $3. Internet $1.50. Breakfast $3.50. $15 per person.
Choo Choo’s Pansiyon (311 49 26; fax 311 67 64), on Yeşilada Mah. The newest pension on the island, offering clean rooms on the lake, each decorated with the work of a different artist. The hosts, Hüseyin and jovial, St. Nicholas lookalike Choo Choo, arrange boat and fishing trips. Breakfast $2. Singles $8; doubles $15.
Altınkum Plajı Camping (311 48 57), on Altınkum Plajı, roughly 2km past the tourist office. Bear right at the “major junction” sign after Köşk. Plaj-bound dolmuş leave from across the otogar (every 15min.). Camp with Turkish out-of-towners on Egirdir’s best¬loved beach and enjoy electricity, hot showers, and phone. Small tents $1.80; large tents $3; cement shell $6; small double concrete hut with shower and toilet $6.
FOOD AND ENTERTAINMENT
Egirdir cooks make a mean fish. The local specialities are sazan (caip), usually served whole; levrek (bass), generally filleted and fried in a light tomato flavored batter; and karides (shrimp). All of these are available at the lake-front pension- restaurants of Yeşilada. Lokantası and döner stands line the town’s center.
Kemer Lokantası (311 42 47), directly in front of the minaret’s entrance on the street, A no-nonsense eatery serving delicious, hearty, meat-and-potatoes standards. Half chicken $1.75, kebaps $1. Open daily 6am-llpm.
Kervansaray Restaurant (311 63 40), next to the otogar. Serves more luxurious meals, with a wine list and an extensive menu including izgara çeşitler (mixed grill; $2.50) and fish ($3-7), all served on a lakefront terrace. Levrek comes in a light, crisp tomato batter that must be tasted to be believed ($2.50). Open daily 9am-llpm.
Nasrettin Hoca is a fabled 14th-century Ottoman wise man, born In a village near Egirdir, Spouting wisdom still quoted by Turks today, he traveled the land with his talking blue donkey. One day he arrived at the mosque unprepared for his sermon, and asked the audience if they understood what he was going to tell them. When they all replied “no,” he told them that if they didn’t understand, there was no point in telling them, and he sat down. The following week when he asked the same question, they all replied “yes.” Since they knew what he was going to say, he told them, there was no point in saying it, and so he sat down once again. By the third week, half of the audience said “yes” and the other half said “no,” to which Hoca bowed politely and asked those who knew to tell those who did not. Apocryphal Hoca comics often appear on plastic ayran cups, most accompanied with English subtitles.
Melodi Restaurant (311 48 26), right on the Yeşilada coast. Classy setting with soft lighting and outdoor seating under the trees. The cow brain meze in tupper ware is a steal at $1. Fish $2.80. Open daily 10am-11pm.
Big Fish Restaurant (311 44 13). Veer left as you enter Yeşilada; Big Fish is on the right facing the water. Airy and colorful restaurant with a lovely view, excellent service and scrumptious, fresh fish dishes ($2-9). Open daily 7am-midnight.
Keyasun Disco Bar, past the PTT near the bazaar, is the town’s after-hours social center. Off-duty soldiers, and university students pack the small dance floor, drink from the full bar, or sit outside on the terrace in the cool night air. Beer $2. Open daily 9pm-2am.
The small Yazla Plajı, originally a retreat for secondary-school teachers, is now open to the public. Past the Köşk Pension at the top of the hill, signs point to Egirdir’s finest beach, Altınkum Plajı (Golden Sand Beach), lbakm farther along 2nd Sahil Yolu. ($.25; parking $. 75; dolmuş from town center $.25.) Some 11km farther is the less-crowded Bedre Plajı, accessible by bike or taxi ($8). While there are no real beaches on Yeşilada, you can clamber down the rocky shore and swim wherever you like for free. Pisidla Tours (311 53 62; fax 311 58 58) runs tours and parties on Lake Egirdir on a small yacht. The boat’s skipper, the enterprising Turko-Australian Aydın Akdüz, lets backpackers sleep on board or camp out on deck under the stars for $4-6.
Egirdir will not disappoint nature lovers or adventurers. Paragliding ($40), which offers aerial views of the glorious lake, is brand new (check with the tourist office for information). Your best bet for other activities is to find a pension that can organize fishing trips, camping, and other waters ports. Other possibilities include trekking and wind surfing. Prices are negotiable.
Warm hospitality and gorgeous views make the village of Akpınarköy a popular trekking destination. The trek begins from behind the hospital and takes about two hours. Twenty-seven kilometers east of Egirdir lies the 1km-long Zindan Cave, which once served as a Roman temple dedicated to Eurymedon and now serves as the spookiest cave in the region. Explorers should bring a flashlight and a high tolerance for bats. Near the village of Sağrak, 40km southeast of Egirdir, stands the severely ruined Pisidian city of Adada, now consisting of an ancient temple’s fallen columns, sarcophagi, and an amphitheater. Coins have been found here dating to the first century BC, although today the site is nearly empty and difficult to reach. Only 25km south of town, Lake Kovada National Park teems with wildlife that draws butterfly collectors in the spring. Avid walkers can follow a popular stretch of the King’s Road, by which Lydian rulers once traveled from Ephesus to Babylon. The trail passes through the Çandır Canyons near Lake Kovada. (Many pensions will run excursions to these sights, especially for groups. Ask your pension owner to help negotiate prices: Zindan $20; Adada $35; National Park $40.)
Poised atop the mosque’s archway is one of two walk-through minarets in the world. Built by the Selçuks in the 13th century, it is part of the Hizir Bey Camii. Walking under the arch is considered good luck. A castle, dating from the Lydian kingdom of the 5th century BC, is on the road from the town center to Yeşilada. Atop the castle is a museum-home, a reproduction of a 19th-century fishing home. At the foot of the castle in a small green domed hut is the Tomb of Devran Dede, a Muslim mystic who was famed for squeezing water from rocks. Egirdir’s Thursday bazaar attracts hundreds of neighboring villagers. (Museum: open during the day; try to find the attendant to let you in. Free.)
Sultan Mahmut II (1809-1839) knew a fashion faux-pas when he saw one. Bound to keep Turkey abreast with European custom, the sultan sought to replace the turban as the official Muslim headgear in 1826. After toying with the possibility of a tri-cornered hat (but rejecting it for its symbolic ties to the Christian Trinity), Mahmut’s head was bare no more after a shipment of attractive chapeaux from Tunisia arrived in Istanbul. Though useless for brimming the sun, the fez was close-fitting and thus perfect for the bowing involved in Muslim prayer.
In yet another cultural coup, Atatürk outlawed the once-innovative fez in 1925 as part of his program for modernizing and westernizing his new republic. He implemented the new law by staging what amounted to a fashion show of bowler hats in the extremely conservative Black Sea Coast city of Kastamonu. Atatürk’s popularity (not to mention the 3 month prison sentence for anyone caught wearing a fez) ensured his plan’s success, and brimmed hats reigned. Today, fez-wearers are still rare: only tourists are allowed to buy them as souvenirs.