‘ROSE HARVEST TOURS’ THAT HAVE BEEN ATTRACTING TOURISTS HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO ISPARTA’S TOURISM SECTOR.
If May smells like roses that means you are in Isparta and it is the rose harvest time. When the rose scent is added to the West Mediterranean geography where mountains meet lakes, Isparta welcomes us with all its beauty.
The locals of Isparta say, “Both our lake and rose are famous.” They are right. The popularity of the Lakes Region is not a secret. Numerous alternatives for history, trekking, travel, and photography enthusiasts are available all seasons. Even if you are there to smell and harvest roses, the beauty of Lake Eğirdir may captivate you. In Eğirdir, which is settled along the southern banks of the lake, Canada, Yeşilada, which is a peninsula that projects into the lake, Dündar Bey Madrasa (Taş Medrese) that is used as a covered bazaar now, the Hızır Bey Mosque that attracts attention with its architecture, Aya Stefanos (Yeşilada) Church, Akpınar Village Observatian Terrace where you can watch the magnificent mountains and the ‘seven color’ lake are among the places to see.
The flower that changed the fate of a city
Whether there is rose harvest or not, many products are available to experience all the pleasures that rose contributed to life in all seasons. As the debates on who has brought rose to Isparta first, was it Gülcü İsmail Efendi or İslamköylü Hacı Abdilağazade İzzet Ağa, go on, here is the most acceptable story: İsmail Efendi becomes drafted to Bulgaria and meets the flower there. He realizes the nice income that Bulgarians make by harvesting roses, boiling them in kettles, deriving their oil, and selling that oil. As the ones complete their duty take home henna, İsmail Efendi takes a rose seedling to Isparta. According to a rumor, he hides the seedling inside his walking stick all the way from Kızanlik to Isparta.
Rose oil for the whole world
Among the rose products, rose oil is particularly important not only for Turkey but for the world. Isparta with its large rose gardens currently meets the 65 percent of the rose oil production of the world. Rose products are various: rose delight with petals, rose cologne, perfume, jam, water, oil, candle, cream, shampoo, make-up products, rose scented rosary and prayer rug. There are approximately 1350 rose species around the world. According to the information provided by Isparta City Culture and Tourism Department, 24 of them are recorded in the Turkish flora. Stems of Isparta rose, originally named ‘rosa damascena’, are densely covered with thorns. The hardy flower has five leaflets, strong scent, and pink petals. This rose species, which is a hybrid, is also called pink oil rose, oil rose, gum rose, or Damask rose. If we consider that the rose has been used in alternative medicine in history, the importance of the rose cultivation and industry becomes clearer for Anatolia.
Roses blossom; children are born
Isparta is a city, which has been identified with roses since the old times. Girls, who were born between 5 and 10 am used to be named Gülderen, which meant ‘one who harvests roses’; girls, who were born in the afternoon used to be named Gülseren, which meant ‘one who spreads out roses’ because the roses were filled into sacks in the afternoon and then spread out on the ground in factories; girls, who were born in the evenings used to be named Gülay, which meant ‘rose and moon’. Until recently, those who came to see Isparta used to visit Atabey Ertokuş Madrasah, which is a worthy Seljuk artifact with its stylized inner dome sky composition, Firdevs Pasha Mosque, Isparta Museum and the natural surroundings of the Göller Yöresi (The Lakes District), purchase rose products, shop and leave. In recent years, both ‘local and foreign tourists’ have become interested in ‘rose harvest tours’, contributing to Isparta’s tourism sector.
A fragrant day
‘Güller Vadisi’ (Valley of Roses) Güneykent vicinity, the largest rose garden of Isparta, is 40 km from Isparta and 15 km from the junction of Burdur and Antalya. The vicinity attracts visitors with the promise of nice fragrance during the harvest from May 15 to the end of June. 15-18% of the roses grown in Isparta are cultivated here. The Isparta rose, which blooms in June and is the only rose suitable for oil production, has a strong scent. In Güneykent, the producers set out for the harvest towards their gardens with their families before the sunrise and together with the first lights of the day, they start to gather roses. The roses gathered until noon are transferred to the agricultural carriers called ‘pat pat’ and taken to the factory; they are processed on the same day and rose oil is derived. A modern rose oil factory was established with the instruction of Atatürk who came to Isparta. Rural rose oil production has begun to leave its place to large-scale industrial rose oil production since 1935. Today, however, if there is demand, some producers produce rose oil with their traditional methods in the sections they build near their houses. It is worth seeing the traditional preparation of rose oil in the distillers called ‘black boiler’.
Rose is a blessing
You can take a walk in the rose garden in Güneykent, get information about the rose harvest from the workers, smell the roses, harvest roses with your bare hands, shoot photos, visit Yunus Emre Tomb, and sip your rose tea beside the waterfall at the square. Also, visit the Rose House where the products, handmade by the Gülkent women, are exhibited and the souvenirs, carpets, and sewing workshops are located. Isparta has more than 10 rose oil factories that belong to Gülbirlik and some other private organizations. Touring rose-plant factories and comparing old and new oil extraction methods will also give your tour an interesting perspective. Rose oil, rose preserve, rose cream, rose syrup will be among the souvenirs of your travel. The world of rose is a very colorful blessing to discover from its fragrant to healing powers.
The International Rose, Carpet, Culture, and Tourism Festival is in June.
Don’t skip trying the famous Isparta kabob.