Tag Archives: Hierapolis

Ruins, Ruins and the Cotton Castle

It’s hot. Very hot. 40 degrees Celsius hot. The kind of hot that can fry eggs on the sidewalk, and probably also burn some toast to go with it. So hot that one of us even had to use sun block.

After reminiscing football miracles and harems, we move south to Selcuk (11 hours by bus from Istanbul) and then east to the little town of Pamukkale (three hours by bus from Selcuk). We’re writing this as a 2 town-in-1 post combo because, well, we’re kind of lazy, it’s too hot to think, and both towns have something in common – ruins. We read somewhere that Turkey is so old and has so many ruins that if you dig a hole anywhere, you’ll probably hit some ruins. That’s obviously an exaggeration, but Turkey does have a lot of ruins.

Byzantine era aqueduct ruins in Selcuk.

Upon closer inspection, you’ll notice that storks have nested on top of these ruins

Ephesus, which is just outside of Selcuk town has the largest collection of Roman ruins in Eastern Mediterranean, even though it’s estimated that only 15 percent of the ancient city has been excavated. With a population of more than 250,000 in the 1st century BC, Ephesus was one of the largest and most happening cities in the Mediterranean world. It had a terraced housing estate, amenities like a library, theatre, brothel, public baths, hospital, as well as many temples, including the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Sara became our tour guide, with a little help from the Lonely Planet

Not sure what this is

Temple of Hadrian, which is known for its intricate carvings

Medusa sits on the second arch at the temple to ward off evil spirits

Library of Celsius. The library held 12,000 scrolls, making it the third largest library in the ancient world after Alexandria and Pergamum

Terraced houses. Each house had running water (hot and cold!) as well as beautiful frescoes and mosaics

Restoration of the houses is ongoing. Here they’re restoring a jigsaw puzzle

There was going to be a party for some VIPs that night

The theatre, which was used primarily for municipal meetings

Hierapolis, on the other hand was essentially a huge hill-top spa and leisure centre in Pamukkale founded by the King of Pergamum in 190 BC. The main attraction here was the natural thermal springs which was believed to have curative properties. There was a huge swimming pool, a gymnasium, a threatre as well as a huge latrine.

Ancient swimming pool, and modern bikinis

Ancient latrines (toilets). Apparently taking a dump with your friends used to be a popular past time

Columns. Was too hot to care about what ancient buildings they belonged to

Most of the hilltop looks like this

You’re probably really, really, really tired of looking at ruins by now. So are we. In all honesty, they’re just not our thing, ruins. But we found something that we like a lot more: travertine. One will never fully appreciate the wonders of calcium carbonate deposited by mineral springs until one dips in a pool of fresh travertine. And Pamukkale is one of a number of places in the world where one can do this. Indeed, many have been dipping in travertine here for thousands of years. Meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish, Pamukkale is both the name given to the bright-white hillside leading to Hierapolis (above), as well as the small town on the bottom of the hill whose main trades are carpets and tourism.

A white hill… can you imagine?

Although the springs and travertine deposits are a natural occurrence here, we suspect that the hill slope was modified (probably by the ancient fellows who used to run Hierapolis) to make it more amenable for recreation. There’s a man-made looking drain that keeps most of the water moving along the main path parallel to the ridge, and there are several man-made looking pools that are suitable for wading in.

Many types of people throng Pamukkale. Some wear shirts, some go shirtless, and some go half-shirtless

A continuous sheet of water cascades down the broad path. In order to limit the impacts on the travertine, no footwear is allowed

There are numerous pools on the hill slope. We’re still not sure if travertine is good for the skin, but the thing to do is to lather yourself in it

It’s quite hard to wash off and leaves a pesky white residue

Some people prefer to keep dry and cool though (because we were due for a 12-hour bus ride on the same day)

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