Cotton Castles

Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
Trip End Aug 01, 2007

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Flag of Turkey  ,
Wednesday, August 23, 2006

He Said:

After experiencing sweaty and seriously delayed overnight trains in both Bulgarian and Romanian rail cars in the last few weeks, we had a bit of trepidation heading to the station in Istanbul to catch our overnight train to Pamukkale. Much to our delight the train was great! Powerful A/C, comfy beds, big windows, and a refrigerator in our compartment as well as a shower at the end of the car made the 15-hour journey super comfortable and restful. Sleeper cars in Turkey are wonderful!

This train ride brought us into the Southern Aegean region where many of Turkey's top tourist destinations are located. Our first stop was the site of Pamukkale. The translation of the name Pamukkale is "cotton castle" and from the pictures you can see it is quite accurate. Actually from a distance the entire hillside looks snow covered. The warm calcium-rich water bubbling out of springs on the hillside has cascaded over the rocks for centuries, as it cools it leaves mineral deposits which form a series of natural shelves and pools. The place is totally unique and a deservedly a hugely popular tourist site. Not surprisingly, its popularity with the tourist hoards in the past had put much of its beauty in jeopardy. Recently, the Turkish government did some modifications to the site to control the water flows so they could refresh damaged areas to leave new sparkling white deposits. It's convenient that they can repair almost any damage just by turning on the water!

The location was popular in ancient times as well; the Romans built a large spa city called Hierapolis here over 2000 years ago because of the alleged curative properties of the waters. Hmmmmmmm...sounds like the Katie and Todd dream destination, a spa AND Roman ruins!!! Well not exactly, we didn't spot anyone offering massages, pedicures, or aromatherapy. There were some beautiful soaking pools and a number of ruins above the mineral terraces, including a jaw-dropping Roman theater that could seat over 12,000 people!!! The theater is incredible, almost fully intact, perched on a steep hillside with an amazing view of the valley below. Seeing places like that embodies everything I enjoy about ancient Rome. The sheer scale, beauty and majesty of many of their cities are so powerful. I can't wait for what we will see tomorrow when we move on to Selcuk to view the ancient city of Ephesus.

She Said:

Okay, so Todd really loves overnight trains with sleeper cars (maybe more than Roman ruins). It's like he thinks is it summer camp or something. Every time we get on one, he has to inspect the cabin, open everything, and then do a walk of the whole car. But Turkish trains are SOOOOOOOOOO much nicer than any of the other trains we have been on so far.

Walking up the calcium deposits at Pamukkale was like being on another planet. We hiked up from the bottom of the mountain, and once you get to the midway point, no shoes are allowed. You basically hike about mile barefoot through little pools and up slopes with water running down them that look like little waterfalls. It's strange because you keep expecting the rocks to be slippery, but for some reason, there is no moss or mildew to make it that way. The whole site is extremely impressive, and is certainly one of the most amazing things we have seen thus far. Since we hiked up late in the afternoon to try to avoid the heat and the buses full of thousands of package tourists, we were able to see the sunset and take some great photos of the bright white surfaces against the hot pinks and oranges of the setting sun... see attached pics.
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