Pamukkale : Another of Mother Nature's Curious Little Poems
Pamukkale Travel Blog› entry 199 of 268 › view all entries
Turkey is a country which for me, and I think others too, doesnâ€™t quite hit you with the scale of its geographical spread until one steps out of the bubble of Istanbul and is forced to start to really scrutinise the map of The Rest of The Country. Travelling through Turkey one is constantly drawn into conversations by those desperately re-jigging and trimming itineraries having realised the truth of the time old travel equation that when The Things One Wishes To Do are set against the finite quantity of Time available the latter will always end in a negative value. â€˜So is such and such worth it?â€™ â€¦ â€˜Would you say so and so is worth a visit or is it skipable?â€™ are the constant enquiries of those heading the way youâ€˜ve just come from.
Pamukkale is one such â€˜Do we? Donâ€™t we?â€™ destination. So nipping this one in the bud; I.e. â€˜Should you or shouldnâ€™t you?â€™, Iâ€™ll state the case as follows : if youâ€™re heading through the area in one direction or the other (say within a 3-4 hour drive radius) then I would say certainly set aside one evening and one nights stay, out of curiosity, to settle in your own mind what â€˜all the fuss is aboutâ€™. But if Pamukkale would represent a longish bus ride away from the natural trajectory of your route then you may be mildly disappointed and regretful of not having carried on further, faster the way you were heading. Wherever you find yourself pondering the â€˜Do we, donâ€™t we?â€˜ question, just try not to get over-excited by the extremely dreamy photographs universally pinned to the walls of tourism agencies, and reproduced in postcards as the days of people being allowed to descend into and step and swim around in the famous â€˜mirrors to the heavensâ€™ Travertine calcium pools have necessarily ceased in aid of the long term preservation of the site.
For my part, Pamukkale is a short experience but one rich in visual interest. A quick stop to read one of Mother Natureâ€™s curious little poems that she so often chooses to scrawl upon this earth often in the most unlikely of locations. Here amidst a landscape, beaten to a fine, hazy gold and dusty brown mantle by the constant attentions of the sun, and fringed by likewise arid hillscapes on all sides of the visible panorama, she has come up trumps with quite a contrary little work of art. On the flanks of one central hill natural spring waters rich in calcium deposits, coursing down the slopes century after century have slowly crafted shelf upon shelf of natural pools formed of snowy-white calcium accretions.
Shoes off, Prash (my great 24-hour-friend) and I stroll slowly, steady-footedly along the long white calcium causeway that leads the busy procession of tourists up through the calcium baths.
Prash and I are much amused by the extremely humorous swimwear catalogue bordering on porn-star poses that a lot of the ladies (predominantly Russian) set about striking for their cameras.
Eventually we slip 'n' grip our way to reach the hill summit. Sandals back on and glad to escape the overcrowding, over posing of the Travertine pools. Historically it is the perceived restorative qualities of these waters and pools that aside from the advantages of the hill top elevation led to the establishment over time of the settlements and townships that would culminate in the Roman city of Hierapolis.
By the time we reach them (long gone 16.00pm) there is hardly anyone around walking amidst the far scattered patches of ruins and the place is largely your our as the sun begins its hot, long drawn out descent. A further spread of calcium basins, bereft of water by conservation planning and the sun, can be seen here and there are some pleasant manicured walking and seating areas lining the south facing hill crest so that you can sit and take in the impressive views in peace.
The experience of strolling amidst the ruins of Hierapolis for me was marked by a pleasurable difference to the crush and chaos of Ephesus although I confess that my interest was passive at best. Attention given more to lively conversation with Prash rather than any deep engagement with Roman antiquity. However what the ruins of Hierapolis lack in a certain grandeur and photogenic tightness of preservation by comparison to Ephesus, they make up for by having been permitted to retain - at this time of day anyway - that certain grace and calm of the grave that should rightly be their lot. And I appreciate this. That often mentioned perfect evening gold now washing over the stone piles and broken pillars and platforms, a little life was breathed into their otherwise sad formations.
At the heart of the complex, as is often the case in such sites, sitâ€™s a rather splendidly preserved Roman theatre which offers Prash and I a perfect seat to rest and take in the views. With such a landscape encompassed from this vantage point I wonder how the 12,000 strong audiences that once sat here ever managed to drop their eyes to the activities playing out on the stage below. The only performance today, that of an over enthusiastic tour guide inflicting his seeming limitless knowledge upon a large group of Russian tourists to our right. Prash and I marvel that they donâ€™t collectively rise to pitch him down the stone seating slope to his death for having talked at them for 20 minutes at least without cease in the unrelenting heat of the evening sun.
Itâ€™s been a pleasant way to spend a late afternoon through to a sunset that approaches as we return down through the calcium pools. I am fascinated in equal measure by the strange and varied micro-landscapes that the calcium â€˜wrinklesâ€™ have crafted upon the earths surface and by the watery reflections of happy families with their grinning children now mirrored more crisply in the pool waters for the now gentler attentions of the sun. Late evening is probably the prettiest time to witness the play of light on the pools, artificial or otherwise, and I would strongly advise that you do not rush to the site immediately upon arrival in Pamukkale for this reason. Also finally by this time (although by no means fully) the horrible crowds that throng here at midday (despite the heat) will have thinned sufficiently for you to be happy in what you will experience and could make the difference between whether you felt it was a worthwhile stop or not after all.
[ Pamukkale Info : Both the Travertine calcium pools and the ruins of Hierapolis constitute the same site for tourism purposes covered by the same 20TL (Â£8) entry fee valid for one visit. Within the site is the original Roman â€˜Antique Poolâ€™ available for bathing in for an additional 15TL (Â£6) until 19.00 although I didnâ€™t do this. Again, I would recommend no rush in Pamukkale, even within a less than 24hr visit. Get to your guest house of choice and relax at first. Many have swimming pools. I stayed at the DÃ¶rt Mavsim ( â€˜Four Seasonsâ€™ ) for 15TL (Â£6), clean, friendly, nice pool etc. 5TL (Â£2) for breakfast.
Buses to anywhere you care to think of can be booked that evening easily for onward travel the next morning. All transport connections will have you first deposited about 10 minutes drive south of Pamukkale at the main Denizli Bus Station, make sure your ticket provider assists you in finding your correct onwards bus or bus platform. On this point, when you travel to Pamukkale almost all providers will drop you at Denizli, NOT direct in Pamukkale - even if like me you have asked and been assured that this will not be the case.