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Pamukkale /Hierapolis

by libralady (7/27/2007)

Pamukkale / Hierapolis

I saw a series on English TV two years ago, a geological programme about geological faults.  The programme was based in the Middle East and because of the number of geological faults in Turkey, two of the programmes focused on the faults that run through Istanbul and caused the major earthquake in Izmit and the other was about the earthquake and how Pamukkale was formed.


It is one of the natural wonders of Turkey and in the guides books, as one of the top 10 places to visit in Turkey  It is astonishly beautiful and was made a UNESCO world herritage site in 1988 to protect it from the public.  Before the site was protected, hotels were built on the site, which have since been demolished.  These buildings destroyed some of Hieroplolis and water from the springs was used to fill swimming pools.  It is disgusting to think that people had so little reguard for such a beautiful natural site, that they walked with their shoes on in the travertines and even bathed using soaps and shampoos.  Even more tragic was the fact that even locals disreguarded the site and road motor bikes up and down the slopes causing destruction as they went.


The programme I watched told us about the tectonic movements that took place in the fault depression of the Menderes river basin which caused frequent earthquakes. This also gave rise to the emergence of a number of very hot springs, and it is the water from one of these springs, with its large mineral content of chalk that created Pamukkale.


We can read about Pamukkale and how it was formed on vairous websites and guide books, but it is a truely natural phenomenon.  From watching that programme, I decided that I would like to visit there if possible, and when I went to Oludeniz last year, did not realise it was within reach of the town.  So this year, on our return to Oludeniz, I decided I would visit.


My husband did not want to come, he was not interested, so as I scouted around the agents, one agent tried to put me off.  Why would an agent try and do that?  It is not what it seems, he told me, without elaborating any further.  So me being me, decided I would go and hence he lost my business.


I wont go into too much detail about the 3½ hour trip, in a dolmus, but after a night of little sleep (pool party and arguments keeping me awake into the early hours) and an early start of 5:30am, I soon had my eyes shut.  We stopped for breakfast higher up into the mountains, and all I heard was "wow the scenary, isn't it magnificent" yep, and I was alseep!


After the journey into the mountains, through low cloud and past opium poppy fields (now that was a suprise!) you travel through the outskirts of Denizli city and as you approach Pamukkale, you begin to see something that ressembles a limestone cliff.  I could not see much, the guide was pointing it out, but I am thinking "is this it?"  We pulled up into the most chaotic bus park I have seen, outside Istanbul - because in England we have nice white orderly lines for the buses to park within, not lets see if we can sqeeze into this gap!!! Ooooooops, there goes another wing mirror!!!


As I was alone on this trip, I decided to make the absolute best of it.  We walked with the guide with the first part of Hieropolis you reach being the South City Gate and he explaining everything as we went along; As you pass throught he gate a path leads up across the scrub towards the Theatre.  I was determined to explore a little even in this heat, I was prepared carrying anough water and wearing suitable footwear. 


As we walked along the path, at first sight, you don't really see that much, and I was beginning to wonder why had I bothered.  But as we approached the site you began to see the travertines.  We carried on to the meeting point which I believe was a building at the source of the hot springs and we was given our instructions about time and place etc to meet and off I went, armed with my disposable camera as my video camera had gone wrong as I discovered five minutes earlier!


I walked around the building that housed the shop, toilets, cafe etc and the pools, and up a path towards the ruins of Hierapolis.  It was amazing, suddenly I was complete alone, not another person in sight.  I expected the place to be full of other tours, judging by the number of coaches.  As I reached the Roman Theatre there were a few other people around.  I entered the theatre and wow!  Now this is when I feel I DONT have a head for heights, the seating was so steep down to the arena.  There is no way I would walk down those steps.  I stayed for a few moments and took a few pictures and then went on my way. 


I carried on up the path and suddenly from nowhere came a women selling post cards and table cloths!  I had no money with me, what can you buy in a ruin and why would I want table cloths? 


I looked around the site and looking up towards the Martyrion of St Philip ruins, I thought I would walk to that but the woman seemed to know my intention, and she said "snakes, snakes".  Urgh, snakes?  No way! I then decided I wanted to walk towards the Roman Baths across the open land .  I began my walk across deserted scrub land taking a well trodden path towards the ruins in the distance.  And no, I did not see a snake, if I had this story would now be finished!!!


As I walked, I wound my way across the path, the grass was tinder dry.  I came across the occasional caper bush.  Again I was the only person, I searched the view and could see no-one.  I was begining to wonder if I had done the right thing, but I soon came across another path which headed towards my destination.  At this point I reached the city wall and stood to admire the stone work.  I took a photo of how square the corner was, and how large the stones were just to show my builder husband; how ever much it weighed I would never have liked to guess, or how they were lifted into position, . 


I passed a Turkish women picking capers and she did her best to avoid me.  I would have spoken to her but it was obvious she wanted to keep away.  I picked a couple of capers and sqeezed them just to see what they were like inside, and they seemed to be nothing.  Not like the caper I know, so I assumed the whole thing went into the pickle or brine.


Within a few minutes I was walking into the ancient Colannaded Street, through the triple arch admiring the architecture, looking towards the North City gate, at how straight the street is, taking a few photos (actually 27 photos!)  I must admit I am not sure what all the ruins where, arches, and pillars, and what looked like a font.  I then walked further towards the Basilica or baths, and then what appears to be some stone gates, the entrance to the Necropolis I think.  There were signs around telling the tourist what was what, but these were well faded and difficult to read.


I walked back past the Tomb of Falvius Zeuxis and  towards the travertines, although you can only see a small part of them at this point.  There has been some boardwalks layed for visitors to tread which I followed, parallel to the main road.  Below me a few meters was a couple of pools and some gardens which I carried on through, stopping to listen to a frog croaking, hidden in some of the pipes in one of the pools and unbelivable a fish.  Now where the hell did that come from?  Whilst I was peering into the pipe to find the frog, I noticed a group of young women sitting under a tree, and my path was to pass them.


As I approached the group, I realised they were young girls, maybe in their late teens dressed in Muslim clothes, pretty scarves and long clothes and as I approached, they called to me. 


"Hello, where are you from?"

 "Hello" I said, "I am from England"


and at this point I felt quite self conscious in my strappy top and shorts.  The girls were very sweet, and one replied,


"What is it like in England?" and of course I replied with our stock answer


"cold and wet"  with a smile, which is true for this summer.  And they all giggled as if I had made a funny joke!


One girl then asked me if I would like to join them and share their lunch.  At this point I really felt so very humble, that they were prepared to share their lunch with a complete stranger.  I accepted some cherries and some peaches, but I had to go because I only had a short time to see the travatines and to be back at our meeting point.


I said goodbye to the girls and thanked them for their hospitality, something I will never forget, and made my way around the boardwalk and came to the first of the travertines, brown and empty of water.   I carried on in the hope that things would improve, and still I was alone, and I was suprised at this, only passing a few people on my walk.  As I walked around a corner, still on the boardwalk, there they were, the travertines, and there were people walking in the few at the top.


I reached the travertines that had water in them, and stood and pondered for a moment, do I join the tourists walking in the pools or do I go back to the springs for a swim?  I decided to walk in the pools, which I felt was quite strange, as is was so obvious that they were fake.  The water is pumped in at certain times of day.  I somehow expected it to be uplifting but I am sad to say it was not.  It is in a way obscene, with many people paddling around for the sake of it.  Just to say that you have been in the pools at Pamukkale.


I soon left, after being shouted at by some German man, who thought I had taken something of his, and I don't understand German, so I more or less ignored him, but he was angy about something.


As I walked back towards the hot springs, there was an amazing arch way on my left, built over what would have been the main ancient thorough fare.  Again I took a photo of this arch, built from huge stone blocks, bearing in mind that the calculations were done by pure maths, no calculators, just maths with pen and paper.  Whilst I stood there, a Russian girl with her boyfriend, was trying to climb on top of the arch, so that he could take her photo.  Because I stood watching, I maybe had a look of distain on my face, she tried to climb down, in her flip flops and short dress.  In the end, he lifted her down.


I walked back to the pools, our meeting point, an expensive cafe with a "tourist" shop with over priced goods.  We could go into the pools but again quite expensive.  So I walked around, and took some photo's, and one thing I have noticed about Turkey, every where you go, touristy, there is the photographer with his zoom lense camera taking pictures as if it were going out of fashion. 


Once thing I found very peculiar, the majority of the visitors were Russian, and at one point on my walk, the Roman theatre filled up with Russian people on coach tours, and all I could see back towards the coach park, were troups of people, looking like worker ants, coming towards the Theatre.   I was suprised there were not more English, but the guide told me that most of the tours come from Antalya and the All Inclusive Hotels, which the Russian go to.


As we walked back to the bus, I noticed something I had not seen on the way in, the drainage system.  A very well preserved drain leading towards the road, and which must have gone on towards the edge of the plateau.  The guide book does not give the drains a mention, but they are a magnificent feat of engineering, as is most, NO, all of Hieropolis.


The TV programme I watched, showed the best part of the travertines and many people walking and bathing in them.  I am not too sure when that programme was filmed but that is certainly not the case today.


My overall opinion was that it is well worth a visit and if you can be your own guide then that is even better, as you don't have a time constraint.  I would have liked to spend some time, just taking in the history and imagining who lived there, sitting on a stone somewhere, in the shade.


I hope this magnificent natural  phenomenan is preserved for ever, but I suspect that over time this will not be the case, and I am so glad that I have visited it when I had the opportunity.

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