After an excellent breakfast Turkish style consisting of a small omelette, a borek (a sort of pastry cigar stuffed with cheese), a slice of cheese, olives, slices of tomato, cucumber, apple and orange, dates and dried apricots we left the hotel towards 8.30am and drove up the hill to the south gate of Pamukkale where we managed to park close to the entrance. We had hoped to be the early birds but there were already a dozen coaches parked there. We wandered around the ruins of Hierapolis (pleasure city extraordinary of the ancient world in the second century BC).
An artist’s impression of Hierapolis in its heyday.
Views of the ruins including a drainage channel (the ancients had very sophisticated plumbing systems including very public conveniences where people sat in a row and exchanged gossip!)
The ruins cover such a large area that it would have taken us most of the day to explore them as well as visit the museum. We were more interested in seeing the calcium carbonate formations which have given the site its name of cotton (pamuk) castle (kale). Calcareous mineral deposits from the springs welling up at the top of the escarpment have created a series of terraces and pools over the last few centuries.
Today it is a Unesco world heritage-designated site and efforts are being made to protect the fragile eco-system. This includes diverting the course of the water several times a day so that calcium deposits form over a much wider area.
An ages-old method of diverting a watercourse, proving that simple is best.
I took off my shoes (obligatory if you want to walk on the terraces) and paddled part of the way over the ledges to take some photos. The water was warm but it was hard going on the feet as the rock surface was not exactly smooth.
An obliging group of Chinese tourists posed, albeit uknowingly, for me, seated along the edge of one the water channels.
Then we went to the thermal baths area and sat in the shade for a cup of coffee and watched the bathers swimming over pieces of temple columns and other bits of fallen masonry. The water in the pool was 36 degrees C and very deep in places. We’ll definitely come back another time and sample this particular delight for ourselves.
We walked back to the car along the edge of the terraces.
Across the other side of the valley we caught the occasional glimpse of the snow-covered peaks of the mountains when the clouds parted sufficiently for us to see them.
We had first visited Pamukkale in 1989 when there were many more pools in which you could actually bathe. However, unscrupulous guest houses siphoned off the water supply to the terraces to use in their own pools and the terraces started to suffer serious damage. These have now been demolished, leaving only the one thermal pool and access to the terraces is security-patrolled. We were glad to have seen it in its former glory but it was still a thrilling experience to visit it again. Much of the site remains still to be excavated but lack of funds has prevented this.