Wednesday, 26 September 2012

A Turkish Delight - Part II

For part one of this series, go here.

After a 5 hour bus ride through dramatic mountain ranges on tiny, winding, (barrier free!) roads, we arrived in Denizli. A humid, dusty and somewhat industrial city, Denizli's claim to fame is it's proximity to Pamakkule, the world heritage site notorious for its imposing travertine terraces.

The moniker Pamukkale, which is Turkish for "Cotton Castle", is more than applicable given the attraction's white, fluffy appearance. And if this natural wonder weren't enough to satisfy one's "experience" palette, perched on top are the well preserved ruins of the ancient Byzantine city Hierapolis, and a natural ancient swimming pool.

As you can imagine, it was quiet a day.

We started with Hierapolis, as it was at the entrance, and explored the ruins for about 2 hours. The hike up to the entrance of the ancient theatre (below) was a feat in itself, but the view was well worth it.

We soldiered on, relieved to be going down hill.

Eventually we stumbled upon the main promenade of the ancient city.

The main road through Hierapolis and latrine to the right.
The latrine at Hierapolis
Entrance to the ancient city and what used to be baths on the right of the entrance.

After nosing around here for a while, we headed for the ancient pool and arrived knackered and overheated, before quickly shoving our sweaty clothes in a locker.

Picture this:

You step into warm water with gravel underfoot. The deeper you wade, the warmer it becomes. The narrow river like entrance spills into a large pool, in which (thanks to a 7th century earthquake) submerged columns and ruins sit.

Humans bob up and down in the warm bubbling water like vegetables in a pot of simmering soup, and in the deepest, hottest corner (thought to be the source), the bottom drops out from beneath your feet to form a fizzy, almost belching trench.

It. Was. Amazing.

It is rumoured not only that Cleopatra swam in this pool, but also that it's mineral waters, fed by a hot spring, is a healer. The water is safe to drink and is used to make many beauty products (all sold onsite of course), and indeed there we're people filling empty bottles to take home with them.

We swam until closing time, and I can honestly say I felt like a new woman as I emerged. Gone was the grotty, sweaty shell of a human being that went in -  I felt refreshed, relaxed and clean.

We hurried to the travertine terraces, just as the sun began to go down and caught a spectacular sunset. The white surfaces blanketed in warm sunlight was breathtaking.

The bottom of the pools are covered in a thick clay like mud that felt oh so wrong, but lovely at the same time, as clumps of it stuck between my toes.

Many people complain that tourism has ruined the site, that it was much more beautiful before the Lonely Planet brigade began coming in droves. Some of the pools are slightly discoloured compared to the photos I have seen from years ago, (and many of the pools are empty, drained so that over time the sunshine on the surface can rectify this problem), but to me it was still a phenomenal experience. Unforgettable.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

A Turkish Delight - Part I

Where east meets west. Where religious and secular cultures coexist. A country of many contradictions - Turkey is certainly a delight.

We began our trip in Bodrum on the southwest coast. Situated on the Aegean, the town which was once a quiet fishing village is now known mostly for its glittering nightlife and the myriad of boat trips that leave from it's ancient harbour.

We spent the first few days on one of said boat trips, a traditional Turkish gulet, exploring the Aegean peninsula and islets that surround Bodrum.

English Harbour
Cleopatra Island
Cleopatra Island

The deck of our gulet was comfortable, although not opulent by any means. The large table in the middle was the hub of activity and where we ate all our meals, and surrounding it were large lounging cushions and the bow and stern.

Below deck, on other hand, was tiny, cramped and hot. It was like camping at sea. With a mattress. But hotter. It was hard to get a photo to demonstrate this just because the cabin was so tiny. Below was the best I could do.

We decided almost straight away that rather the stay on board for the entire week, we would instead opt for the short 3 day trip instead, and head back to Bodrum.

The fact that there were loads of wasps the further along we went (I was stung twice) also played a small part in that decision. What can I say? I'm not very good at roughing it. We did get to see the spots I was most looking forward to though, including Cleopatra Island shown above.

Once we were back in Bodrum, we did lots of poolside lounging in the day (I know, hard life), and sightseeing in the early evening because it was so hot.

The seaside town is very picturesque, like a live watercolour painting - hilly with white stucco houses dotted about and bougainvillea hanging on every fence. Our B&B, Su Hotel, was no exception, and the poolside bar proved to be quite dangerous on a hot day.

Bodrum Castle, with it's underwater archaeological museum and bird's eye views of the harbour lived up to expectations, and we spent the the rest of our free time delving into beach side bars and shops.

Before I knew it, it was time to leave Bodrum and venture north. I was sad to leave the sea, being an island girl at heart, but I was also extremely excited about the next stop on our travels. Stay tuned...

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