Day 18: A Close Shave
Pamukkale Travel Blog› entry 26 of 260 › view all entries
The next morning I took an early bus to Pamukkale. I had made sure to buy a ticket from an office in the centre, so that I would get a free transfer to the bus station.
The bus was, simply put, terrific. I didn't have much high hopes about the buses in Turkey, after my not-so-good experiences in Ukraine and Bulgaria. But this was excellent! Only three seats in a row, so there was ample room. Still, a bit skimpy in the leg room, but the width of the seats made that I wasn't constantly rubbing legs with the guy next to me.
There was a TV in the backrest of the seat in front of me, like you have in planes these days, with a wide variety of films, TV, music and games.
But best of all: they had internet in the bus.
With buses like these I can see myself taking a night bus again every once in a while. Long distance travel in Turkey is back on the map, baby!
As if I needed any more confirmation that Izmir had been a mistake, the town of Pamukkale turned out to be a very friendly, laid back place. So friendly and laid back in fact, that I immediately decided to add an extra day to my stay.
I had booked a hotel via the Internet the day before, which had plenty of good recommendations.
The owner asked if I was interested in some home cooking tonight. Sure, why not? The kebabs are getting a bit boring already, so I wouldn't mind some proper Turkish food for a change.
Anyway, first it was time for some sightseeing. Pamukkale is one of the most photographed places in Turkey, its famous travertine pools adorning each and every holiday brochure you see. And at the top of the travertines there are the ruins of the ancient city of Hierapolis, so all in all a good combination of natural beauty and ancient history.
The travertine shelves and pools are created by the calcium rich thermal waters from the pamukkale spring.
Well, to start with the bad news: wat you see in holiday brochures does not necessarily reflect reality. Yes, the travertines are beautifully white like petrified waterfalls, or an outdoor cave, but no, you cannot wander around them freely and bathe in the pools. The site was added to UNESCO's World Heritage list in 1988 and since then drastic measures have been taken to ensure the future of the site.
First off, the natural travertines are a restricted area. So the photos of hundreds of people wandering around the pools and bathing in them are a thing of the past. Instead a number of artificial pools have been created for people to splash around in.
However, in order to ensure the millions of visitors each year can continue to enjoy the travertines, they are regularly drained in order to kill off the algae and ensure the pristine white colour. And I can appreciate the reasoning for artificially influencing a natural phenomenon, but why do they have to drain all the pools when I visit? All but a few far-off pools were completely empty, and while still spectacular, they were nothing like the white basins filled with pale blue water that you see in all the brochures and postcards. I couldn't help but wonder if it was really necessary to drain all the pools at the same time. I mean, surely they can rotate it so that, say, sometimes the northern part of the travertines contain water and sometimes the south? But I think it is more that they try to have the travertines the prettiest when the most people visit, i.
I spoke with the hotel owner about this and he told me that it is never advertised when the travertines contain water and when they don't. It is as much a guess for the villagers as it is for anyone.
So I guess I will just have to buy the postcard then. Or do some serious photoshopping.
The ruins of Hierapolis sprawl beyond the travertines and much of it is overlooked by most day-trippers.
I was impressed. The theatre is one of the better preserved theatres of the classical period and the Roman baths building has been fully restored and now houses a small museum.
The Romans had built a pool at the site of the spring, and this pool has now been modernised and is open for public again. You can swim in the healing warm water of the Pamukkale spring, with the remains of Roman columns and walls underneath you.
I really liked this place. You can wander around the site for hours, as there are colonnaded streets , half-restored gates, a second theatre (totally ruined) and an extensive necropolis all sprawled along the hills. And with the white hill-side of the travertine pools in the front, and snow-capped mountains in the distance, this definitely is one of the more photogenic places I have been to.
Back in town I passed a barber shop and the owner asked if I wanted a shave. Now I don't particularly like shaving, so while travelling I don't do it every morning. However, my facial hair growth is limited to about three separate places on the chin and cheeks, so my stubble looks rather ridiculous, hence daily shaving is actually a necessity if I don't want to look like a complete idiot.
Fortunately in Turkey it is very normal to get shaved in barber shops. Many locals do it, so I figured I might as well indulge and get a shave. And while I'm at it, let's do the whole head as well.
It is always fun getting a haircut while on the road, and this one was particularly filled with much laughter and joking. The guy shaved the head, then the chin, clipped the eyebrows and then even gave me a facial massage. Not sure if that is standard in this country - maybe he liked me.
Back in the hotel I was treated to some delicious home cooking. Don't get me wrong, food has been excellent so far in Turkey, but there is a difference between a kebab from a kebab shop and a kebab made by 'mama', if you get my drift.
I spent the rest of the evening drinking beers and chatting with the friendly hotel owner.