Spending the week in Antalya might sound like heaven. But when the week begins with an overnight stay in Çandır village, Sütçüler, heaven just doesn't begin to describe the experience.
Winding our way through mountain roads, closing the window against the dust, we pass a vast array of trees... oak, maple, poplar... gold, red and green tones cover the hillsides. Driving along the great reservoir, taking a break to have a freshly squeezed orange juice, every experience makes you think it is summer, perhaps late summer. Not late November.
When you arrive in Çandır village, about 90 minutes after leaving Antalya, the first indication that you have arrived is the Çanlar Trout Farm, standing proudly at the top of the road.
Drive past the trout farm, and follow the road to the very end. There you will find the Yazılı Canyon Nature Park. The park is full of natural beauty, trees of every hue, lined up randomly along the running, sparkling water of the river. This is a park with a history. The route through the canyon is known as the "King's Way." There is also a path called "St. Paul's Road;" this is part of the 500 kilometer holy trail that St. Paul followed. Following St. Paul's Road, you cross two high bridges, looking down at the water rushing through the canyon below.
In some places the water is still, making clear pools. The water is so clean and pure that it is hard not to jump in. But then you remember that it really is November, and that the water is running down from mountains higher up. Convincing yourself that it might not be such a good idea to dive in, you continue. After crossing the second bridge you come upon the inscription that gives Yazılı Canyon its name. Unfortunately, some years ago a young shepherd became convinced that there must be treasure behind the writing and that this (to him) indecipherable inscription must be some sort of Ancient Greek treasure map. This young man got hold of dynamite and tried to blowup the rock that held the inscription. Not finding any treasure, he tried again further down the road. Fortunately, Dr. Sencer Şahin has been able to provide visitors with the full text (in English and Turkish). Below, I will give only the first three lines to our readers. We have to leave something to the imagination, something to spur the reader to make the journey.
A Poem to the Free Man:
O traveler, as you prepare for the journey and set out know this:
The Free Man is only free in his character
The measure of a person's freedom is in their own nature....
This poem was written by Epiktetos (Epictetus), who we are told was born in Hierapolis between 50 and 138 A.D. He was a famous philosopher and monotheist, who was taken to Rome as a slave. (He was later emancipated).
Here, among the trees, nestled in the Taurus Mountains, somewhere between Antalya and Isparta, are clear remnants from a history so long ago that the mind boggles. Following the narrow path that accompanies the river through the canyon, the autumn daisies stand proud and add to the symphony of color.
There are laurel trees, pine, oak, walnut, maple, sandalwood and olive trees among many others that I was unable to recognize. Flowers include oleander, wild rose, ivy, holly and the daisies I mentioned before. There are wild goats, badgers, otters, rabbits, squirrels, wild boar, eagles, hawks and doves.
Some visitors from Australia wrote on TripAdvisor about the canyon, "Crystal clear spring waters, cascading little waterfalls at every turn and wonderful swimming holes with little rocky beaches to relax, picnic if you wish, or simply sunbake and enjoy a good book and swim to your heart's content. A little tea house is situated in the car park area, with simple Turkish cuisine for those who wish to enjoy a light lunch before heading back to civilization. An absolute ‘must do' whilst in this beautiful area."
Couldn't have said it better myself.
But once you leave the canyon, then what? The first building you come to is Çanlar Trout Farm. And you must stop and have some trout. You can hear the water rushing through the trout pools, and see the trout jumping high. You can sit over the river on a platform and eat trout that has been scooped out of a pool just minutes before. Or you can sit in the restaurant with massive glass windows and eat your trout there.
If you are lucky Mr. Alim Çan will be there. He is the Çan of Çanlar. He will greet you and welcome you in. If you are lucky his son will be there. And Mr. Alim's young granddaughter.
Mr. Alim Çan is impressive. He has built a great business out of the mountainside. Here trout are bred to be sent all over the country. Live trout is sold all over the country. And Mr Alim and his family feed all those who come to the Yazılı Canyon.
But the star of the show is Mrs. Çan. Ayşe Hanim will glance at you sharply, giving you a quick once over. She will make sure you are served a fantastic dinner. She will ensure that everything is clean and orderly.
And if you are lucky, she will smile at you. That is a smile that warms your heart. She will start to chat with you. She will tell you of the people who come and go, the foreign tourists to the canyon, and how they love their Ayşe teyze, or aunt.
Ayşe hanim sums up the Turkish expression "Hükümet gibi kadın"... she is the queen of the roost, she is the power behind the throne. She is the epitome of a hanım ağa. We were fortunate enough to be invited by Ayşe Hanım and her relatives to have dinner with them. We dove into the gardens, picking green beans and aubergines - the like of which I have never seen. An aubergine should be purple and bulbous. These are green, with very faint purple stripes. They are long and banana shaped. And when we ate them, they were delicious. We were informed that these are the native aubergines of the region. The villagers are doing all they can to keep these native plants from dying out.
Watching the teyzes making gözleme, eating the gözleme, walking in the fresh autumn air, picking fruit and vegetables, walking through the canyons... The two-day trip to the Yazılı Canyon was a unique experience. I am counting the days until I can go again... and again... and again.