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Isparta, City of Roses.

The Friendliest City in Turkey.

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Egirdir.

We worked in Istanbul for three years, then left and worked in Turkish Cyprus for three years. I loved Cyprus, but in our final year there our boss was driving us crazy, so we left and went to Poland. Poland was a beautiful country, but we were paid practically nothing and when our employers started messing us about, we voted with our feet and performed a disappearing act. That left us unemployed and living with my mother-in-law. Much as we loved her, we could not stay there for ever and so it was with a sense of great relief that we accepted a job in Isparta. Neither of us had ever even heard of Isparta. We were to be employed by an Istanbul based language school, but we were to live and work in Isparta teaching English to the employees of two companies owned by the brother of former Turkish President, Suleyman Demirel.

We flew out to Istanbul and were put up in a hotel there. Our new employer came to meet us next day and fly with us to Isparta. When our employer paid our hotel bill, the receptionist accused us of having drunk everything in our mini-bar. We had not touched a single item from the mini-bar, so we were outraged and would never have paid that bill. Our new employer, however, paid it for us and he must have thought: "Oh no, I've just recruited two alcoholics to fill a prestigious contract working for the President of Turkey's brother." Ahmetbey, if you are reading this, we were telling you the truth when we said we never touched that minibar. That hotel receptionist should have been taken out and shot.

Our contract was only for a few months and we were put up in the Hotel Artan in the centre of Isparta. Each day we were collected by staff minibus and taken to one of the two companies where we were to teach. One company made cement; the other made frozen foods. The people we worked for and taught were probably among the loveliest people we have ever met. They treated us with amazing kindness and hospitality. Every evening after work, we were invited to dinner in one of their houses. In fact, to be honest, we did not want to go out every evening or to put everyone to so much bother, but we would no doubt have caused offence if we had refused to go. After about a week of non-stop hospitality we were exhausted, as was everyone else. We then discovered these evenings went on so late as it was up to us as guests to say when we wanted to go home. We had assumed it was up to our hosts to tell us when they wanted us to go away. Once we had grasped that, life was a lot easier for everyone.

We arrived in Isparta at the end of winter, beginning of spring. There was still snow on the mountains and in the town when we arrived. As a destination Isparta does not have a huge number of sights, but the area around it is very beautiful and the people of Isparta are old style Turkish people. They are not sick of mass tourism or out to rip anyone off. They are honest, hardworking, proud and incredibly hospitable. I have nothing but good memories of them. Isparta is known as the City of Roses. It has a famous volcanic crater lake surrounded by roses. We did not see this. Wrong time of year anyway. Isparta makes rose cologne, rose jam, rose tea. It is also famous for making rugs.

Isparta has a small museum which we visited. All I remember about it is that one visitor's dog kept trying to mate with my husband's leg and this caused me to have a fit of the giggles. It also has several attractive mosques. It had a restaurant, where we could eat free, i.e. it went on the company's bill. That restaurant did the tastiest pide ever.

On our drive to one of the companies we taught in, we passed field after field of incredibly huge and beautiful flowers. Every day I looked at them wondering what they were. Finally I asked. They turned out to be opium poppies. They were being grown legally under license for use in the medical industry. They were an amazing sight, but there is tight security around them. Don't get too close. Also Isparta had amazing sights round about it. We visited the stunningly beautiful Egirdir Lake with its fantastic fish restaurants, mountainous Burdur, the deserted and extensive Ancient Greek city of Sagalossos, Antalya, Side, Kemer, the Ancient Greek remains of Phaselis and the religious sights of Konya. All done as day trips from Isparta.

Atatürk Monument With Roses.

Everywhere in Turkey has a monument to the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Isparta's had a rose theme as befits The City of Roses. I suppose it is also showing a Turkish carpet, too. Isparta's other claim to fame.

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Atatürk Monument With Roses.

Mosques.

There are several important mosques in Isparta. These include the pre-Ottoman Hizir Bey Mosque which dates from around 1325. These also include the Ulu or Grand Mosque which dates from around 1429 and the Haci Abdi Mosque which dates from 1569. Isparta even has a mosque designed by the Ottoman Royal Architect Mimar Sinan. This is known as the Firdevs Pasa mosque and it dates from the sixteenth century. Of course, being totally disorganized I don't know which one of these is in my photograph.

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Mosques.

Suleyman Bey's Exquisite Köfte.

As I said before in Isparta the people were very hospitable. We were often invited to dine in people's homes. One of the kindest people we encountered was Suleyman bey. This is a picture of him preparing delicious çig köfte. Çigmeans raw and çig köfte is a raw meat dish a bit like steak tartare. I was given a plate of steak tartare when I worked in Poland and really could not eat it, but as Suleyman bey explained in çig köfte, the spices cook the meat and it does not taste raw at all. According to legend çig köfte was invented in Urfa at the time of Abraham. At that time Nimrod, King of Shinar and a mighty hunter, collected all the firewood in Urfa to build a huge execution pyre. One hunter's wife, in the absence of firewood, had to prepare venison raw. She mixed the venison with bulgur, herbs and spices, then crushed the mixture till it was edible.

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Suleyman Bey's Exquisite Köfte.

To make çig köfte:

Knead bulgar with chopped onions and water until soft. Then add tomato and pepper paste, spices and very finely ground beef or lamb. The meat has to be without fat or gristle and to be of top quality. Lastly, mix in green onions, fresh mint and parsley. Çig köfte is eaten rolled in a lettuce leaf and should be served with a drink of delicious Turkish ayran. It is actually amazingly good, though it won't be as good as Suleyman bey's.

The Turkish Lake District: Egirdir.

One of the places we were fortunate enough to visit a lot while we stayed in Isparta was Egirdir. Egirdir is a fishing community on Lake Egirdir. This lake was surrounded by beautiful snow capped mountains when we went there. The waters of the lake were a wonderful shade of light blue. If it had not been so cold, I would have loved to swim there. We would visit Yesil Ada which means Green Island. This is a small island connected to Egirdir by a short causeway. Yesil Ada had some absolutely wonderful fish restaurants with excellent food and drink.

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The Turkish Lake District: Egirdir.

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The Turkish Lake District: Egirdir.

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The Turkish Lake District: Egirdir.

Sagalassos.

While we were living in the middle of non-touristy Turkey in the Hotel Artan, Isparta, we happened to bump into an Englishman who was also living in our hotel. His name was Alan and he was an engineer, working on a project in Isparta. Alan had a car and he had spotted a sign for a historical site while he was out driving. Heasked us if we were interested in taking a look. We said sure why not and Alan added that there was probably not a lot there, but we could do no harm in looking. We all agreed. Well, we drove there. There was no entrance office, no other tourists. Not looking good, we thought, but we'll go in anyway. Imagine our astonishment - a whole Ancient Greek city with theatre and rock tombs and temples. We had the whole place to ourselves. Well, that's not entirely true, at one point a goat herd and his goats wandered past us giving us a friendly wave. Talk about spolit; once you have had an entire Ancient Greek city to yourself, how could you possibly enjoy another tourist choked site. Sagalassos is about 30 km from Isparta. People have lived in the area around this site since 8000 BC. In the days of the Roman Empire, Sagalassos was the first city of Pisidia. Pisidia was a region in the western Taurus mountains. Nowadays Pisidia is known as the Turkish Lakes Region. When Alexander the Great conquered Sagalassos in 333 BC on his way to Persia, it was one of the wealthiest cities in Pisidia. In 518 Sagalassos was devastated by an earthquake, then between 541 and 543 it suffered a terrible plague. Next it was attacked by Arab raiders in 640, then in the middle of the seventh century it was struck by an earthquake again. The ill-fated site was abandoned and left to fall apart. In 1985 an Anglo-Belgian team led by Stephen Mitchell conducted a major survey of the site. Then in 1990 a major excavation project was carried out at the site by Marc Waelkens of the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. On August 9th 2007 a colossal statue of the Emperor Hadrian in military garb was found buried at Sagalassos.
Remains at Sagalassos include the great theatre with a seating capacity for 9,000 people, many tombs carved into the rocks, a library, temples, baths, a market place and monumental fountains.

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Sagalassos.

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Sagalassos.

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Sagalassos.

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Sagalassos.

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Sagalassos.

Burdur.

We went to Burdur by bus from Isparta, because it was nearby. Burdur is in the Turkish lake district. There is a lake Burdur. We went for a walk outside the town and enjoyed the mountain scenery. We stopped off in a kebab shop for a Döner kebab. When we explored the nearby mountain scenery, we encountered many sheep and goats. That reminds me that we were in Isparta during kurban bayram - the sacrifice holiday. During this holiday Muslims sacrifice a sheep, goat or cow to God and distribute the meat to the poor. During the holiday Isparta was full of shepherds trying to sell sheep or goats for sacrifice and for some reason they kept trying to persuade my husband to buy one. When we responded in English, though we did speak some Turkish, instead of leaving us alone, they mimed taking a sheep and cutting its throat. Considering that both Peter and I are wimpish hypocrites, who will happily eat meat provided it comes wrapped in plastic and bears no resemblance to a living creature they were not onto a sale there.

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Burdur.

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Burdur.

Konya.

We travelled to Konya for the day just once when we lived in Isparta. Konya was known as Iconium during the Roman and Byzantine eras. This name is believed to derive from the word for icon and comes from a legend that the city was founded by Perseus who used an icon of the Medusa's head to turn the earliest inhabitants of the area into stone. The Selçuks established a capital here on Alaeddin Hill. Parts of their crumbling palace and the Alaeddin Mosque, dating from 1221 still remain. Probably Konya's most famous site is the Mevlana Müzesi. This is the original tekke of the Mevlevi Whirling Dervishes. It was built at the end of the fifteenth century. The tekke includes a hall where the ritual Whirling Dervish ceremonies take place. It also has a library, living quarters, and the mausoleum of Celaleddin-i Rumi, founder of the sect. He is also known as Mevlana. Legend states that Mevlana was walking through his local marketplace one day, when he heard the rhythmic hammering of the gold beaters. Their hammering sounded to him like the words: "There is no God but Allah". Mevlana was so filled with joy at this sound that he spontaneously stretched out his arms and started spinning in a circle - the Whirling Dervish was born. Whirling Dervishes wear a white gown to symbolize death, a black cloak to symbolize the grave and a tall brown hat to symbolize the gravestone. At one point in the ceremony they throw off their black cloaks and spin on their left foot with their right palm facing upwards towards Heaven and their left hand pointing downwards towards the Earth. The whole ceremony symbolizes man achieving a deep sense of happiness through submitting himself to the will of God. We saw this ceremony in the Atatürk Cultural Centre in Istanbul. It is also performed for the general public on December 17th each year in Konya. This date marks the death of Mevlana. The Whirling Dervish ceremony ends a two week Mevlana Festival. Our photo of the ceremony was bought, not taken by me and I cannot remember whether I bought it in Istanbul or Konya. What I do remember about Konya is that when we had lunch in a very friendly little restaurant my husband wanted a beer. As we were close to mosques - there are mosques everywhere in Konya - he had to drink the beer while keeping it covered with a brown paper bag to avoid offending anyone. When we tried to leave Konya in the early evening, all the buses back to Isparta were full, so we had to wait two or three hours for a bus. Once we bought our bus tickets, we went to the park and had a seat. It seemed that every child in Konya had been given a school assignment, find English speaking foreigners and ask them these questions. When we sat down, we were
approached by a very cute, very polite school child who asked us our names, where we were from and what we thought of Turkish people. Then another child approached and asked us the same things. Then another, then another. Soon we had a queue of cute, smiling, polite children, all waiting to ask us the same questions. We began to feel we were the star attraction of Konya. It was impossible to get annoyed with these children as they were so well mannered and friendly. After a few hours of this, we did finally escape to our bus.

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Konya.

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Konya.

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Konya.

Antalya.

Let me get this the right way round. If you wanted a holiday in Antalya, you would probably not stay in Isparta and commute, but if you happened to be in the Isparta area, it is very easy to get to Antalya and back by public bus on the same day. The journey was by comfortable coach and passengers were regularly given lemon cologne to freshen up with, so the buses even had a lovely smell, plus the scenery was beautiful. Antalya is touristy Turkey, so different from Isparta. Although it was beautiful, to be honest I was usually glad to get back to the more relaxed, less hassley world of Isparta. Antalya is a big modern city with a small old town. Old Antalya is known as Kaleiçi and it is very pretty. Kaleiçi was Antalya until recent times when the modern city sprang up round about it. Kaleiçi. dates from Roman times and is built around Antalya's old harbour. It has city walls, old gateways and narrow streets. Kaleiçi has sights dating from the Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, Ottoman and modern Turkish republican eras. The name Kaleiçi means inside the castle or city walls. One of my photos shows a simit seller standing in front of the harbour. Simit are delicious sesame seed rings. Anyway, I was taking a photo of the harbour one rainy day when this simit seller stood directly in front of me, so, a little taken aback by his rudeness, I moved and started taking the photo again. He moved in front of me again. I lowered my camera and told him none too politely to get out of my way. "No, no photograph me", he said, so I did. He then demanded money for me taking his photo. At that point I lost it and unleashed a whole torrent of abusive Turkish at him, liberally spattered with many shouts of "Cok ayip!" which means great shame on you. This took him completely by surprise and he scurried away thoroughly chastened. It's not even a particularly great simitci photo as his simits are covered with a blue plastic bag to protect them from the rain. This is the sort of thing I mean by touristy Turkey and how different it is from non touristy Turkey. Another example, was the day we took a boat trip from Antalya to see a famous waterfall. The guide on the boat, who seemed to be a bit drunk, sat next to me and my husband and started telling us about all the tourists he had slept with. Why he thought his sex life was of any interest to us remains a mystery to me. We were extremely glad when he moved away and started talking to someone else. Another enjoyable thing to do in Antalya was to go for a walk through Karaalioglu Park. This is not far from the old town and harbour and has lovely sea views.

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Antalya.

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Antalya.

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Antalya.

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Antalya.

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Antalya.

Side.

We visited Side for the day from Isparta. To get there we had to go to Antalya first and take a bus from there. Side is an Ancient Greek city on the Mediterranean coast about 78 km from Antalya. The ancient part of the city is located on a small peninsula which is about 1KM long and 400M wide. Side was founded by Greek settlers from Cyme, western Anatolia in the seventh century BC. The city was dedicated to the goddess Athena. The name Side is thought to mean pomegranate. In 333 BC Alexander the Great occupied Side. Greek culture flourished in Side from the fourth to the first century BC. In the first century BC, Cilician pirates established a centre for their slave-trade in Side. In 67 BC the Roman general Pompey defeated these pirates and brought Side under the control of Rome. Side began to grow wealthy from trading in olive oil. Over time earthquakes and Arab raids took their toll on Side. It was abandoned in the tenth century. Its citizens resettled in Antalya. Nowadays in Side you can see the remains of a theatre that could seat between 15,000 and 20,000 people. There are stretches of well-preserved city walls, a colonnaded street- with many of its columns toppled, a public baths which is now a museum, a market place, temples and parts of an aqueduct. We explored the remains and had a meal in a restaurant not far from the ancient site. Side also has beaches. We liked Side, but had been very spoilt by our visit to Sagallasos which we had to ourselves. Can you believe we had to share Side with other people !!!

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Side.

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Side.

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Side.

Kemer.

Again we got here by taking a bus to Antalya first then catching a bus from there. Kemer is a pretty resort town with beaches and we spent our time there swimming and wandering around the harbour and town. Kemer is one of those Turkish towns where you can swim in the warm Mediterranean sea while looking at the snow capped Taurus mountains behind you.

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Kemer.

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Kemer.

Phaselis

Phaselis is 16KM west of Kemer and I think we visited both places on the same day. Phaselis was originally built by people from Rhodes in 700 BC. The city was later captured by the Persians and remained under their control for around two hundred years. Later in 334 BC it was captured by Alexander the Great. Phaselis was under constant threat from pirates in the first century BC. The pirate Zekenites even took over the city for some time until he was defeated by the Romans. In 129 AD the Roman Emperor Hadrian visited Phaselis sparking off a bit of a building boom. Phaselis went into decline after a wave of Arab raids on the city in the seventh and eighth centuries AD. It was abandoned all together after a devastating earthquake in the thirteenth century AD. Phaselis was the site of an important temple to Athena. Phaselis had three harbours. A 24-metre-wide ancient street runs through the middle of the ancient remains at Phaselis. There are ruins of shops at the sides of this street. Nearby there are remains of a Roman baths, a market place and a theatre. Phaselis is a beautiful place surrounded by lovely scenery. There are plenty of places to swim right next to the remains.

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Phaselis.

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Phaselis.

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Phaselis.

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Phaselis.

Posted by irenevt 19:14 Archived in Turkey Tagged isparta.

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