Pamukkale and Hierapolis

Days: 527 (4 December 2015)

Total distance travelled: 133,809.2 kilometres (83,111.31 miles)

Originally we’d scheduled two nights for ourselves for our explorations in and around Pamukkale.

Time enough we’d felt to visit the famous Travertines (a series of pure white pools and cascades, natural formed from calcium carbonate) or the ruins of Hierapolis the afternoon we arrived, and a day to do the other (whichever we’d missed the day of arrival) at our leisure.

A little further reading closer to our departure had us quickly reassessing the time we’d committed, and thank god for that, as the sole night we’d booked in town was surely enough, but more on that later.

We did still book a place in advance for that solitary night, and after a kilometre or so walk from where our microbus dropped us in town, we were wandering into Hotel Allbau, an empty looking place which wouldn’t have looked out of place as an abandoned trailer park in the deep south (of the US that is)… only this was our hotel, and as such had a collection of rooms, and not caravans (trailers).

The fallen leaves of autumn (even though we were now into the months winter) covered everything and gave the place a lovely golden glow that matched the painted walls.

An empty (as in no water) and slightly grubby pool completed the scene.

Not surprisingly, the reception continued the theme and was also empty which had us wondering how long it had been since the last guest had checked out.

A sharp knock on the door soon had us some attention, and after a few minutes more we had our room, complete with double bed, ensuite bathroom and kettle… and let’s not forget slightly obscured glimpses of the bright white Travertines above and clear views of the empty pool.

Our mission then became lunch, which came in the form of a slightly unsatisfying and overpriced (tourist priced) spinach and cheese crepe from an eatery near the entrance to the Travertines, before we paid our entrance fee and began our saunter up the hillside.

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Lunch: Expensive at half the price…

Despite the chill in the air, we’d already begun this excursion in our hiking shoes (yes, for any non regular reader, that would be our flip-flops), but there is a condition to entering Hierapolis through the Travertines (there is an alternate entrance which can be used, but it is a six kilometre trip).

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The famous travertines of Pamukkale (click on image to enlarge)

They must be crossed bare footed, so as to keep the area as clean, and therefore as white as possible.

During the summer months this would be no problem, but right now, during winter… at least the sun was shining and it wasn’t too windy!

Here, we made two surprising discoveries.

Sure, it was cold, but not as cold as we’d expected the first contact to be, and secondly, it was nowhere near as slippery as we expected, rather it wasn’t slippery at all!

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In winter, a bloody cold experience!

The coldest points proved to be where there was either no water, or the waters had simply pooled and were not flowing. Those flowing waters ranged from cool to warm, depending how close they were to a point where the thermal flow emerged.

It was also stunningly beautiful, reminding us of the bright white we’d encountered in the Salar de Uyuni (the world’s largest salt flat in Bolivia) and similar we imagined, to hiking a glacier on a sunny day… barefoot!

Okay, so it probably wasn’t as cold as that would be, but there were still times during our ascent that either our feet, our legs, or both began to ache from the chill.

Thankfully there were enough points where the waters were warm, that allowed us the opportunity to stop and regather our strength for the next section!

Given the lack of consideration we’ve seen from many travellers over the past eighteen months, it did come as no surprise to see one tourist ignore the rules and put his shoes back on (then simply ignore repeated requests from the guard to remove them)…

At the top, the views were no less impressive, with the addition of the Hierapolis ruins thrown in as a bonus backdrop.

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Still stunning, but absent were the postcard picture pools…

There was little to write home about the Byzantine fort which jutted out on a well-positioned promontory, as little remained beyond a crumbling wall (although the views were nice from there and a lot of effort had been put into manicuring the lawn and gardens), but after wandering the ridge a little further, we soon found ourselves surrounded by the expansive necropolis of Hierapolis.

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Making our own grand entrance into Hierapolis

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Today, a city of the dead

Huge tombs and sarcofogi lay everywhere, many shattered, whether by time or looters over the preceding hundreds years was unclear (although given their size, my money is on the latter).

Some took the shape of small buildings, most were simply huge stone caskets, whilst a few rounded and grass topped dome like structures wouldn’t have looked out of place on the hillsides of Albania (resembling the countries seven hundred and fifty thousand or so defensive bunkers)!

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A tumble of shattered tombs

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Were we back in Hoxha’s Albania?

Back closer to the Travertines, several other large structures remained, although the fragile nature of the large former bathhouse made us a little thankful that it was fenced off and inaccessible.

Following the old Roman roadway took us past the latrines, apparently severely damaged by past earthquakes, an old basilica and eventually what is considered the highlight of any Hierapolis visit, the amphitheatre.

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Following another classically preserved road

That said, maybe it was the surrounding scaffolding that tainted the picture, but we felt we’d seen several more impressive in recent days…

Then we witnessed it from above, and our opinion did indeed change!

It was a stunner, the reliefs that adorned its stage included such wonderful detail, setting it apart from so many of its nearby contemporaries.

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Sure, we’ve seen a few of these. That means you should believe us when we say this one was impressive!

Turns out we probably could have used that extra night after all, although it wasn’t something we were to dwell on for too long.

Pamukkale is also the staging point for excursions to Aphrodisus, a place we’d considered worth visiting but would now miss (it would have required that full second day)… still, after visiting nine or ten sets of ruins over the past four days, we truly wondered if we’d have fully appreciated them anyway.

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Rush hour, Pamukkale style (left) & I told you our place had a pool… complete with ice! (right)

 

Notes:

* Our bus from Selcuk to Pamukkale was a direct service (most terminate at Denizli) cost us ŧ35.00 Lire per person.

* Entrance into the Travertines and Hieropolis is combined on one ticket which cost us ŧ25.00 Lire each.

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