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Pamukkale, Turkey

Parasailer over the travertine terraces

Parasailer over the travertine terraces

The three hour bus ride from Selcuk to Denizli went surprisingly well. As usual, Ezra made friends with two women who were happy to hold him for a bit. Near the end of the ride he started to get antsy and we kept him occupied with the secret weapons – Brown Bear, Brown Bear and cheerios. In Denizli we switched to a dolmus for the 45 minute ride to Pamukkale. As we meandered through town picking up passengers the dolmus started to get crowded, and Ezra started to get unhappy. By the time we hit the highway he was screaming and BA was at a loss. We were getting various suggestions from all sides – He’s hot; Here’s some water; He wants to be by the open window; Give him to me, I’ll hold him. Finally, we yanked him out of the ergo and pulled his pants off. The rapid cooling seemed to calm him down.

In Pamukkale we found the Melrose Hotel, dropped our stuff, enjoyed our customary post bus ride drinks, and got a shuttle ride to the South Entrance of the Hierapolis complex. Hierapolis was founded around 190 BC by Eumenes II, king of Pergamum. It evolved into a medicinal center that prospered under the Romans and the Byzantines. Recurrent earthquakes affected the city and it was abandoned after a major tremor in 1334. Highlights included the Roman theatre, Temple of Apollo, and Antique Pool. The theatre was built in two stages between 60 AD and 352 AD by emperors Hadrian and Septimius Severus. It had seating for 15,000 and featured an imperial (VIP) box, which is where I imagine Joaquin Phoenix giving a thumbs down to a defeated gladiator. The Temple of Apollo had an oracle tended by eunuch priests. The source of inspiration was an adjoining spring called the Plutonium, dedicated to Pluto, god of the underworld. The spring released poisonous gas, seen as a direct line to Hades. Temples dedicated to Apollo were often built over sites with geological activity, such as at Delphi. The focus of Hierapolis was its sacred pool, which is now a swimming pool. Visitors can still swim amid submerged sections of original fluted marble columns (as I did). The pool was shaped by a 7th century AD earthquake. The water temperature is warm (96.8F).

Antique Pool

Antique Pool

The highlight of Pamukkale is the network of white travertines that wind down the mountain. Travertines are terraces of carbonate material deposited by mineral springs. Pamukkale means “cotton castle” in Turkish. Hierapolis was built on top of the white mountain which can be seen from Denizli, 20 km away. From a distance, it looks like an otherworldly ski resort. People have bathed in these pools for thousands of years. In the mid-twentieth century, hotels were built over the ruins of Hierapolis, causing significant damage to the travertines. An approach road was even paved over the terraces. When the site was adopted by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 1988, the hotels were dismantled and the road was removed and replaced with artificial pools. Other travertine terraces include Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone NP, Badab-e Surt in Iran, and Huanglong in China

Although initially reluctant, BA, Ezra, and I ended up walking down the dedicated path over the travertines. Wearing shoes in the water is strictly prohibited to protect the mineral deposits. Watchful guards angrily blow their whistles at unsuspecting tourists who ignore the rules.

Lodging: Melrose Hotel

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