Travelling through Turkey’s vast interior has always seemed to me like a sort of expedition. I reached Eğirdir via a meandering and laborious route: from Izmir’s palm-frocked sea, heading up to Bursa with its solemn Seljuk tombs, each one a grim testament to fratricide. Then on to vibrant Eskişehir, with its heavy metal, electric trams and chess sets made of Meerschaum. Kütahya came further south in the dust, and then lonesome Afyonkarahisar, where domesticated animals made of plastic decorated the kebab shops. Around the bend came Isparta, renowned for its aromatic rose oil.
Eğirdir was further east, in Anatolia’s fertile lakes region, ringed by mountains and long a magnet for all sorts of different people and causes. Linguistically, Eğirdir (a name that suggests ‘spinning’) clings to the Byzantine Greek name Akrotiri (meaning ‘peninsula’), and is a modern improvement on the Seljuks’ phonetic corruption, Eğridir, which had long bestowed to the town a semantic sense of ‘crookedness’.
Walking from the bus stop towards the town centre, I encountered nothing particularly crooked, nor dizzying (and certainly, no looms); I did, however, spy a rather conspicuous peninsula, and followed it northwards, bisecting the great tranquil lake. It was Turks who built the causeway out into the lake to deprive Yeşil Ada (Green Island) of its island status. A 20-minute walk along the road over the causeway is all that’s needed to reach Yeşil Ada. There is a clutch of guest houses, restaurants, and the remains of a church. There’s also a cemetery, where lie interred many with Greek names. The entire population of the island was Greek prior to the population exchanges of 1923.
However, I stopped first to admire the remains of a craggy Byzantine castle, on the left side above the lake. That is how I met Ibrahim Ağartan, who has a restored Ottoman home built up against the walls of the castle.
A tall and amiable fellow with piercing but kind eyes, Ibrahim showed me around the family-run guest house, with its big terrace overlooking the lake and fine rooms with antique dressers and elegant beds. Pointing past the window’s gauze-like curtains Ibrahim warned, “anyone staying in Eğirdir must be sure to have screens like this on their windows. Otherwise the lake bugs can get in. They always follow the light.” I duly noted this and put down my bag: this was a fine place to pause in my travels.