14.07.2017 - 16.07.2017 38 °C
Day 51 Friday July 14 2017 Egidir to Pammukkale / 197 km
Day 52 Saturday July 15 2017 Pamukkale
- We leave Egidir with a familiar feeling - wishing we could have stayed an extra day or so to explore the area. Walk a bit of the St Paul's Trail, strewn as it is, with ruins of bygone civilisations. Or visit during the rose petal harvest. The smell must be divine.
- Today is a direct route to Pamukkale where we are lingering a second day to see the ruins of Hierapolis, Laodicea, and walk the famous white travertine slopes. Yes, we are now moving on from Christian churches & monasteries to Greek, Roman & Byzantine ruins. Turkey is an eclectic mix of many ancient civilisations.
- We arrive in time for lunch at our hotel 'Venus Suites'. We have been to Pamukkale once before in 2010. But it was a flying visit at the end of October. The weather was so vile ( winds & torrential rain ) that we decided not to visit the ruins.
- The weather is also against us this July - the temperature is too high & the sun too intense to do any ruin rambling between 11.30 and 5.30. This means half a day spent in the shade.
- On this trip to the S. Caucasus, Turkey has been a thoroughfare rather than destination. However there is plenty to see & do in this vast country - but not in mid summer.
- We use our enforced rest time productively: another oil change for the truck ( AG looks after his cars very well ) a laundry session & catching up with emails. At least there is no problem drying clothes.
- We do not have the energy for Hierapolis and the travertine walk this evening and so decide instead to drive 8 km or so to visit Laodicea. Incredibly we have it all to ourselves.
- The setting is exposed - hats and sunglasses are essential in high summer.
- The ruins cover an extensive area (5 sq km )c- a sure indication that the city of Laodicea grew to be a prosperous place. There is known to have been a settlement here since 5500B.C. In Hellenistic times it became known as Laodikeia (3C B.C.). It fell under Roman control 1C B.C.
- The site is poorly signposted, there are no audio guides and some places are cordoned off because of archaeological work in progress. Although W
we rarely see anyone actually working. But you know, each and every site we will visit over the next couple of days has its own unique appeal & justification. With Laodicea it is perhaps Syria Street, the Monumental Pool of Septimus Severus, the Main Temple and its remote setting.
- And why now a ruined city? End 5C a massive earthquake razed it to the ground, a few more tremors in 7C, causing problems with fresh water supply, a general vulnerability to enemy armies - these are amongst the reasons that Laodicea never recovered its former glory or size.
- We make for the very obvious Syria Street, nearly 1km long running westwards from the East Byzantine Gate. A kind of high street. Built in 85 A.D. ish in classic Imperial Roman style.
- Heat & fatigue prevent us from doing justice to Laodicea. But at least we have the place to ourselves and that is worth a lot.
- As the sun sinks behind the mountains, Pamukkale's travertine hill is bathed in glorious pink light. We watch from a restaurant terrace opposite. The waiter speaks good English. He comments that national politics is ruining the local economy. International tourists are staying away. Indeed apart from some Turkish visitors, we are alone here too. Business is obviously not good.
- It's interesting to note that this same complaint is articulated in so many different countries - politics is an obstacle to efficient & sensible government and prevents the ordinary man from living his life in safety and prosperity.
- Pamukkale is a veritable touristville - pensions, hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops & cafes - lots of them. How many seasons of downturn can they take before they must close down their businesses?
- We opt to eat in an empty restaurant with large menu boards printed in major languages of the world. This is so very unlike us. But frankly they all look to offer a very similar fare. We have no way of knowing what the chef is like. But we warm to the waiter on duty this evening. He speaks very reasonable English, especially considering it is self taught & he left school without being able to read. Impressive and humbling. Actually the food is ok too. But Elbistan still ranks a very unlikely number 1.
Day 2 Saturday July 15 2017 Pamukkale
- We must plan our day carefully. We do not wish to compromise our well being by staying out in the sun after 11.30. Younger, fitter, madder people could perhaps cope. But we have a long drive ahead of us during the next week. We cannot risk feeling jaded or worse.
- After an early breakfast we drive up to South Gate of the Hierapolis complex. Once inside we intend to catch the shuttle bus from outside the Antique Pools up the North Gate. And then to walk back through the entire excavated area of the ruins. We have just missed a shuttle bus, they operate every 15 minutes or so. At 9.30 the heat already saps energy. Even SG is willing to change plans and confine our ramblings to the vicinity of South Gate. In any case there is more than enough to see before the 11.30 deadline.
- The Hierapolis entrance ticket costs 5£ per person. You are only allowed one entry. In mid summer this is inconvenient. It would be fairer if the authorities allowed a double entry ticket during the hottest months of the year. On balance we would rather pay an extra £5 each for an evening visit than save £5 and expire! In cooler months you will not have this dilemma.
- Once in Hierapolis, there are extra fees to pay - if you want to swim in the Antique Pool - but why would you ?! Check the photos and decide for yourself. The large 'sacred' pool has submerged sections of original fluted marble columns. The water emerges from its underground source at a constant temperature of 36C . It is rich in minerals that supposedly have wondrous curative properties. It's what the Romans believed and a hope we still cling too.
- You also have to pay an extra fee to visit the onsite museum which is located mid way between the Antique Pools & the access point to the travertine hillside.
- The human traffic flow walking between the Antique Pools and the Travertine hill is a spectacle in itself. All shapes & sizes and all types of swimsuit styles ( quite amazing since we are in a Muslim country ) People change at the Antique pools, then walk to the Travertine area for a dip before returning to the Antique Pools for another soak. You are allowed 2 hours of bathing so there's no time to lose.
- You can also people watch at the Antique Pools without charge. Young people have perfected the art of posing - by themselves & for themselves. There seems to be a new boyfriend/ girlfriend ritual: girl agrees to have photo taken by doting boy. Girl poses sexily, confidently, boy does his best to make her look beautiful, girl checks result . If not good enough, boy must repeat & repeat. As if for their portfolio!
- Beware, prices at the self service cafe at the Antique Pools are steep. £1.75 for a can of Diet Coke - in Turkey. It's the most we've paid to date.
- Anyway back to Roman ruins and the museum. The quality of the sculptures excavated on this site and the sarcophagi from Laodicea are quite astonishing. It is worth the entrance fee. By the way there is a Pan Turkey Museum Pass for sale at £15. In retrospect it would probably have been worth purchasing. More hindsight to give you.
- Time is getting on and temperatures are rising. We head back to the South Gate car park via the walkway adjacent to the travertine hill. The sun's reflection on the white slopes hurts the eyes. It is like one huge snowfield. Sunglasses are essential.
- Another mediocre lunch at our hotel and an afternoon in the shade. SG has a swim in the pool - thankfully alone. She much prefers it that way.
- Around 6.30 we take the hotel shuttle back up to South gate, pay another entrance fee of £5 and head to the famous travertine slopes of Pamukkale, adjacent to the ruins of Hierapolis which we visited this morning.
- An hour or so before sunset, many day trippers have departed, the sun's heat is less intense and the glare of the white travertine more bearable. It's an altogether better experience.
- On arrival at the travertine slopes you may initially feel a bit disappointed. Photos in tourist brochures suggest a landscape of white calcite shelves overflowing with warm mineral water that appears a beautiful pale green. But this happens rarely.
- Nowadays the slopes are mainly dry, except for specific wet areas. The authorities now manage the travertine hill to preserve & protect. The water direction is changed regularly, a kind of pool rotation system. Apparently when the changeover happens or when there is heavy rainfall, the slopes once more look like the brochures.
- But forget those photos & focus on enjoying today's experience. A downhill walk of a couple of kilometres, barefoot across the travertine landscape passing through and beside specially created pools of spa water. It's another great people watching opportunity. The pools are maximum knee deep so you can wear shorts if you wish. Others just get their clothes wet or wear swimsuits.
- You are no longer allowed to wear shoes or socks of any kind ( even shower shoes which LP intimates are permitted ). It's barefoot or nothing. You do have to watch your step, but generally the travertine surface is smooth enough to make it pain free. If you are not too sure footed, a hiking stick might help with balance & confidence.
- The water in the pools is not the 36C it is at its source; but it is still rich in the calcium carbonate which against the white travertine ensures a milky opaqueness & refraction of a beautiful green/ blue colour. Many visitors collect bottles of the cream coloured residue that accumulates on the bottom of the pool, or simply rub their bodies with it. A kind of sludge bath. Both the water and the 'mud' are meant to have curative properties. It is what the Romans believed, and is why the spa city of Hierapolis became so renowned in ancient times.
- At the end of our very enjoyable hour's stroll, we repeat last evening's routine - a drink on the restaurant terrace to watch sunset - again we are the only foreign visitors. And then on down to Kayas, where we eat pretty much the same meal as yesterday. Why spoil a good formula?!