Pamukkale and Didyma

3 to 5 May 2018

One place along with Cappadocia that came much recommended to visit were the bright white mountain terraces of Pamukkale so in our last few days in Turkey we decided to take a look.

A far shorter drive than Cappadocia but still far enough for an overnight stop we set off again through Turkey’s now familiar agricultural landscapes.

Having left early we stopped for breakfast about half way at this very tranquil spot which belied its location just beside the main road.

And what a breakfast feast it was! About twenty dishes of sweet and savoury delights – including four types of infused honeys – which we could only pick at before feeling gluttonous.

We arrived in the village of Pamukkale in the early afternoon and needed a nap to sleep off our breakfast. In any event we had been warned by the woman at our hotel not to go up the “Cotton Castle” in the heat of the day as the glaring white of the travertines (terraces) would be at its most intense.

Even at 4pm it was still very hot when we got there but we decided against joining the other visitors in their swimwear to paddle down the series of turquoise pools.

Instead we walked around the top of the travertines. Formed over millennia by spring water full of calcium carbonate depositing its ice like coating that then trickles down the mountain side to the valley below. It is a beautiful and unusual sight. Some visitors took to the skies for a bird’s eye view.

Pamukkale is literally a two for the price of one attraction as above the travertines are the ruins of Hierapolis, a Roman and Byzantine spa city which attracted Greeks, Romans, Jews, pagans and Christians to feel the restorative benefits of its springs.

From the size of the necropolis outside the city gate, not everyone was rejuvenated by a dip in the pools. One tomb was half submerged in calcite as the waters had continued to flow around it in the intervening centuries.

Our favourite ruins are the ones where enough stays standing for us to really imagine what life might have been like there and so walking through Hierapolis’ Arch of Domitian and down Frontinus Street was really special. The drainage system from the latrines was visible in the public buildings.

We followed the ancient path to the theatre imagining the food stalls which would once have lined the way and wondering if pop corn had been invented back then. I nearly stepped on this tiny tortoise camouflaged  in the grass. Stefan lifted it out of harm’s way.

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The highlight of Hierapolis for us was definitely the theatre – the most complete that we have seen anywhere in Europe with its stage still almost in tact. It was easy to imagine the 12,000 spectators watching the players on the stage far below and it gave us an incredible view across the ruined city and down to the valley.

On our journey home we marvelled at more mystery giant processing plants along the road. We never did learn what it was they were processing in their miles of shiny, rollercoaster like piping.

And it was firmly strawberry season with deliveries heading in all directions and miles and miles of roadside stalls with eager stall holders inviting us to stop.

Before returning the car we decided to visit just one more archeological site. We had decided against visiting Ephesus even though it was quite near because we prefer to see the smaller, more off the beaten track places. Only a few kilometres from Didim is ancient Didyma, a city home to what was the second largest temple in the ancient world. The Temple of Apollo had only 5 columns less than the star attraction at Ephesus which had 127 but it has more remaining standing and is more in tact. The vast, towering columns were very impressive and it was easy to imagine the scale of the place.

We got to walk down the stone corridors to the vast cella where the oracle would have spouted his wisdom after drinking from the sacred spring. In the early morning we were the first and only visitors there and were able to sit for a while taking in the atmosphere within the giant walls.

The patterns and carvings showed intricate craftsmanship and it was incredible to imagine the ancient hands that made them.

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Best of all was the rather bemused and sad giant face of Medusa.

And so it was there that I made a rather rash promise to Stefan that we would not visit anymore ruins (at least for a while) and we had to think about leaving Turkey and heading back to Greece. We left Didyma with faces as crumpled as Medusa.

We had just loved every minute of our time in Turkey…

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