Having spent most of the day at Aphrodsias our next stop was Pamukkale,which is the site of an extraordinary natural phenomenon, albeit onewith added classical ruins. You will have to bear with me because my knowledge of geology is limited in the extreme, but what I do know isthat there are hot springs, and the water / soil it flows through isrich in calcium, with the result that the springs deposit travertine(which seems to be a kind of chalk) on its way out.
The result is a series of pools and odd formations, a little like land-locked clouds, covering the whole of one side of a hill above the town of Pamukkale. As I am coming to expect in Turkey, the Romans got here first, (In about 200 A.D) and built a spa town called Hierapolis at the top of the hill, where the springs are. There is also a cave which vents deadly poisonous gas, apparently, but these days you are no longer permitted to throw members of your party into it see whether the gods are feeling kindly disposed toward youâ€¦.
They believed that only the eunuchs who served in the temple there were immune.
Until recently, visitors used to be allowed to bathe in the pools of travertine, but due to concerns about ecological damage this is no longer allowed, and you are also required to take off your shoes if you want to walk down the hill on the travertine.Having arrived at about 3.30, we started from the bottom and walked up: Bizarrely, there was no-one at the bottom to say we were supposed to have taken our shoes off, so we didn’t. (But we were all wearing fairly soft soled shoes, so I don’t think we would have done any more damage than in bare feet)It was getting dark by the time we got to the top, so after a quick look around and taking some atmospheric sunset pictures, we walked back down again – this time we did take our shoes off, which meant very chilly feet, as it was fairly cold to start with, due to the height and the time of year, and when you add to that the sun having gone down .
However, I’m sure that the chalk/travertine exfoliating pedicure will catch on soon, and the advantage to being cold is that once your feet start to go numb you don’t notice the occasional pebble underfoot so much!It really is an extraordinary phenomenon.(It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.) Pamukkale translates as ‘Cotton Castle’ and that’s a pretty good description of the way it looks from below. From further away, it is less impressive as it looks rather light an oversized quarry, until you get close enough to see the formations.
Having worked up healthy appetites with our brisk walk up and down the travertine, we headed back to our hotel (Nice, although not as quirky as the last one) â€“ happily, K&C had had the foresight to prepare and bring some pre-mixed gin & tonic to sustain is as we changed and waited for supper. . .
We had not had time to look around Hierapolis, or to see or visit the antique pool, which is the one place you can now swim in the spa waters. We spent a lot of time during the evening debating whether to go back in the morning (influenced in part by the fact that this would mean paying the entrance fee a 2nd time, (20ytl (about Â£9 / $13) each, plus the same again for the pool itself)
However, we decided that it would be fun to do. Actually, to be completely honest, I decided that I would like to do it, and the other 2 agreed. Overnight, they changed from considering coming to watch, and mock, and take pictures, to deciding to come swimming too, and afterwards admitted that they were glad I had, as they were pleased to have done it, afterwardsâ€¦
We were a little disconcerted when we came out of the hotel after breakfast to find ice on the car windscreen â€“ considering that only a little over 48 hours earlier we had been sitting on the sea front in t-shirts drinking chilled beer. . . and of course more of a shock to K&C’s systems than to mine, as I was only enjoying a frost-free respite, whereas they have been in Turkey since September, and so it was their first frost of the winter. After a short detour to an ATM (as we discovered that the hotel didn’t take cards, and we had no cash â€“ they must have decided that we did have honest faces, though, as they had no problem with all three of us plus our baggage disappearing to find an ATM, despite their knowing nothing of us but an e-mail addressâ€¦) we went to the ‘top’ entrance to Hierapolis, where you can get in without having to walk all the way up the travetines again, and went in to the antique pool. The pool is an open air one and it on the site of the old Roman healing pools (The springs were, it would appear, believed to cure just about anything, and are still trumpeted as being good for you, a claim which is, to my mind, only slightly called into question by being displayed immediately under a big sign warning that youshouldn’t go in the pools if you have high blood pressure, heart problems, and a whole list of other symptoms. . .) It still contains large chunks of the original masonry, so you can recline on original marble pillars while you bathe, if the fancy takes you.
As it was very cold, and the changing areas completely unheated, we changed extremely fast. I had discovered when backing for the road trip that I had only packed my skimpy ‘wearing into the Hamman’ bikini, not my swimming costume, and was regretting the loss of the few inches of extra coverage that this would have given, and the potentially lower heat loss as a result.
Then we got into the pool.
Where the water temp. is around 36-38 degrees centigrade (about 96-100 Fahrenheit). And it was wonderful.
As well as being hot, and full of (possibly healing) minerals, the water is absolutely crystal clear. For most of our swim, we had the pool to ourselves (there was one man, who I think may have been an employee, who was in the pool when we got in and for the first 15 minutes or so) It really was amazing.
When we got out, the chill was very noticeable, and we may have broken some world speed records for getting dry and changed. I have to say, though, that once out an dry it felt great â€“ I’ve never had a proper Scandinavian, rolling in the snow sauna, but I suspect that may feel quite similar, and for much the same reasons!
We didn’t have time to visit the whole site at Hierapolis so contented ourselves with walking back down to the car-park, through the Necropolis â€“it would appear that the healing waters were not successful for every visitor, and so a lot of them ended up being buried here. For reasons of hygiene, no burials were allowed in the city of Hierapolis, so they are all in the Necropolis, and some have been engulfed by the travertine.
Read rest of her stories at her blog Margo’s Musings