Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Shining white Pamukkale

Thursday 4th August: Egirdir
Another lot of drumming through the night, which Ewan managed to sleep through - unbelievable! Apparently they are to wake everyone up so they can eat before the fasting for Ramadan commences at 4am.
Over breakfast we had a conversation with an American girl who is bike riding around Turkey alone, having brought her bike with her. She and Ewan decided to go for a ride together to a place called Acsun, which Ewan can describe. She is very fit : does lots of cycling, rock-climbing, snow boarding etc - should be interesting for Ewan.
Erin and I were on a mission to post back some warm woollies we don't need and two bloody vuvuzelas that she bought in Cape Town and are cluttering up her bag. Fortunately the friendly guy in the Post office saw us as a mercy mission and found a box, used half a roll of tape and organised the whole deal, although the cost was rather astronomical.
Erin negotiating the purchase of some
of the local peaches:
Our next stop was the weekly market where the stalls had overflowed from the Market Square into the streets and lanes beyond. We had a great time wandering around and buying some treats and the makings for a picnic. The stall holders were happy to do charades with us so we could get what we wanted, and to have their pictures taken. Our minimal knowlwdge of numbers came in handy a few times but I'm sure, as there were few tourists, that we were a source of entertainment to all. There were no local handcrafts at all, but endless stalls of long baggy pants that the elderly ladies wear here in sombre colours, lots of scarves and socks, and men selling ladies underwear! We were rather intrigued to find a stall selling swimwear which provided head to toe swimming outfits for Muslim women, including lycra scarves, dresses and leggings in pastel colours. We bought olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, red peppers ( that were not chili hot: that was interesting miming!), crumbly goat's cheese, fresh bread, turkish delight (of course!), pistachios, peaches ( twice the size of ours and very juicy), tiny crunchy pears, local apples (not very nice) AND the largest nectarines I've ever seen - about twice the size of the peaches. Not a bad morning's work!
After a reviving cup of chai (tea) at the local cafe we took all of our purchases back to the Hostel, made a picnic and Erin and I set off for a stroll along the Causeway out into the lake We found a grassy Park with lots of shade and settled down for lunch and a long read of our books. Very relaxing!
As we headed back to the Hostel Ewan appeared at the bike shop looking rather hot, and drenched in water which he'd poured over himself: The temperature was in the 30's but I think his level of fitness wasn't what it was when he left home. After a swim we wandered back to the Causeway and had dinner on the banks of the lake, enjoying the cool breeze.
Friday 5th August: Ergidir to Pamukkale
After another night of drums and call to prayer we packed up and headed out of the mountains towards Pamukkale in the south. It's one of those places EVERY tourist in Turkey goes, so we were no exception.
The reconstructed Nymphaeum at Sagalossus
On the way we stopped off to visit some ruins: no surprise when Ewan is planning the agenda! I have to say these were fantastic and very absorbing. The place is called Sagalossos and it's a ruined ancient city backed by sheer rock at the top of a huge mountain where snow lies for most of the year. For 2-3 months each year Belgian archaelogists and their menagerie of experts excavate there. We had the good luck to have one of the Belgian historians guide us around for free, to show us the work they have done. The site dates back to the 12 th century BC and despite its seeming isolation at the top of the Mountain it was an important city in Hellenistic and Roman times. Even Alexander the Great came through. It wasn't used after a massive earthquake in the 7th Century. Water from natural streams trickles through and the view from the top of the Ak Dag (White Mountain) was remarkable.
Unfortunately there were no archaelogists at work as they were having a long weekend but there was plenty of evidence of their work. The Belgians have used sponsors funding to reconstruct some parts of the buildings using the actual stone that was excavated onsite. It was very exciting to see a 'Nymphaeum' with columns, statues and a natural spring providing freezing cold drinkable water straight from the mountain. The problem with a lot of ruins is that they are ruined!! So you have to use a lot of imagination to recreate what they actually were. So it was fascinating to see how it would have looked (and today when we went to Hierapolis there was a ruined nymphaeum and we knew exactly how it should look).
Eventually we covered the rest of the kilometres to Pamukkale, after driving very carefully down the narrow winding road from Sagalossos. We encountered the usual maniacs overtaking on blind curves but managed to arrive safely, only to be horrified at the heat when we jumped out of our air-conditioned car! After having a swim at the Hotel in a slightly dubious pool we wandered around the tiny town and had dinner at our hotel. The mistake we made was to walk around with our copy of The Lonely Planet as 3 of the restauranteurs looking for business made sure we knew they were mentioned in it and one even had a banner saying 'Recommended by Lonely Planet' hanging in the breeze!
Saturday 6th August: Pamukkale
Not snow: white travertine!
To avoid the crowds we didn't dilly dally and we started the trek from the south gate to the top of the travertine mountain with very few others. As we approached the top we realised that the Tour busses go to the top and let the tourists wander down the hill. So we had to weave our way through increasing numbers of people.
Pamukkale will be forever in my mind because of two things:
1. For those of you who have no idea about Pamukkale it is a mountain of white travertine marble that has natural springs running down it forming beautifual aqua pools. It's supposed to rejuvenate and heal any problems you might have. It was a wonderful experience walking barefoot up the shining white travertine with water from warm thermal springs running over your feet and then paddling in aqua pools of slightly milky water. Nothing like I've ever seen elsewhere.
2. We were also amazed at the number of grossly overweight middle-aged and elderly women in skimpy bikinis posing for photos taken by men in speedos that were far too small for the size of their bellies.( Pictures to follow!)
Too far away to appreciate the size of this woman ....
and the size of her bikini!
And why do people have to strike such odd poses for photos???!
Erin and I had a lovely time commenting on them and their choice of bathers! Made me feel slim and sylph-like which I certainly am not!
At the top of the travertine mountain you put your shoes back on and wander around an ancient Roman site called Hierapolis, some of which is quite intact. It really stretched our imagination as most of what once was a large city is just piles of stone. The exception was an old Roman baths which had been turned into a Museum, and a huge amphitheatre which could seat 13,000 people. The marble seats are all still in place and the actual theatre stage is being reconstructed by the Italians.
One might ask why every other European country is helping restore Turkish history and one would be spot on the money, as we have seen very little investment from the Turkish government at the historic sites we've visited. One of the more cynical replies from the Belgian historian, was that as the current ruling party is strongly Muslim they are not interested in spending money unearthing Greek Roman or Christian Era sites, but who knows the real answer??!!

Roman ampitheatre at Hierapolis
In the heat our imaginations could no longer conjure up the entire city - in fact mine could only imagine a cold icy drink! - so we set off down the travertine mountain, encountering even more outrageous and skimpy bathing costumes and headed for the quiet of the Hotel.
We spent the afternoon sorting out our bags as we are off early to Fethiye on the coast tomorrow. We are going to catch a boat for a three night tour drifting around the Mediterranean. There will be no blogs for a few days whilst we recuperate from all of the hectic travelling. Bon Voyage to us!!

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