The White Cliffs Of The Cotton Castle

Pamukkale Travel Blog

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The travertines reflecting from city pond

As the first hours of 2009 waned on, Adnan and I drank a few beers and talked in his room. We were going to watch a movie but never got around to it. We did stay up rather late, though, and as a result it was a bit later getting up in the morning than I had planned. But by now this routine was not a surprise. Still, I had enough time to have breakfast with the fam before catching buses to the town of Pamukkale. In Turkish it means "cotton castle," and is so named for the gleaming white hillside overlooking the town. Covering the hills are thick deposits of calcium that have formed unique pools jutting out like miniature ledges. I had seen pictures of these things before and geologically they are called travertines. Apparently there is only one other place on earth that has such features. Historically these pools attracted pilgrims who sought a panacea in the curative waters, and consequently they were overtouristed and subsequently damaged.

The travertines
Therefore their access has been somewhat restricted and a ticket booth with a hefty entrance fee was set up.

By this time I had caught a full-blown cold and my energy levels were quite low. The bus to Pamukkale actually bypassed the town and park entrance, going all the way to the resort town of Karahayıt. The bus conductor then stopped a bus heading the other direction and ushered me and two Spanish tourists on it for free to go back to the village. I felt like it was enough to see the hillside and travertines from the village view, so I decided not to climb the hill or pay the entrance fee. As a consequence, I also missed out on seeing the ruins of Hierapolis, an ancient Phrygian city that also took advantage of the travertine thermal springs and built on the plateau directly above them.

Close-up of travertines
 Thus Pamukkale's place among resort towns has some ancient history associated with it.  If that wasn't enough, it's also supposedly the final resting place of the disciple Saint Philip. Perhaps if it hadn't been for my cold and a little traveler's burnout I would have seen it. The whole area spread out over 5 kilometers so it also would have entailed a lot of walking, and it was already afternoon. So these excuses and justifications aside, it was a worthwhile trip just to see the cliffside and walk around the little town.

Pamukkale town was definitely touristy, but because it was off-season and most people were up on the hill, I almost had the place to myself. I enjoyed some coffee at a little cafe and later had a snack of mercimek and lahmacun. I walked up a road leading to the southern entrance of the park, where I saw some good views of the calcium-encrusted hills and a nearby canyon as well as the village and distant mountains.

Sunset over Pamukkale
As dusk settled in, the orange hues bounced off the white calcium deposits and made for a memorable sunset. I hitched a ride back in a black van with a man from Ankara. He didn't speak English but his unmistakeable hand gestures indicated how he felt towards the reigning American president, but not having met anyone (regardless of nationality) since my travels began who was a Bush supporter, it certainly did not shock me. At least he was friendly towards me, and I should add that everyone else has been as well when I tell them I am American.

Back in Denizli I had a hard time finding the bus stop so good-natured Adnan came to pick me up. We went downtown and walked around the main square. I called another Couchsurfer in town named Abdo and we all met at a cafe near the center and had some warm drinks before making a plan to go back to Adnan's to watch a movie.

Denizli central square
We settled for a Turkish film called Mustafa Hakkinda Herşey, which was a psychodrama about a man's plan for revenge when, after learning his wife was killed in a car accident, he discovers the surviving passenger was the man she was having an affair with. I thought it was pretty good and luckily Adnan had downloaded English subtitles and somehow synchronized them to the movie. And thus concluded the first day of the year for me.

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The travertines reflecting from ci…
The travertines reflecting from c…
The travertines
The travertines
Close-up of travertines
Close-up of travertines
Sunset over Pamukkale
Sunset over Pamukkale
Denizli central square
Denizli central square
Pamukkale
photo by: EmyG