April 26 continued ....

 It was late afternoon when the smaller local bus dropped us on the highway by a dirt road. A sign close by pointed in the direction of the Venus Hotel. A cowboy looking fellow with longish brown-blond hair rode up on a motorcycle. He seemed to fit on it as comfortably as John Wayne did on a horse. He greeted us and told us he was from Venus Hotel and would show us the way down. Instead of riding his bike as we walked, he got off and pushed it ... walking along side and making us feel welcome to this area of Turkey.

As we came in the gate, entering the garden, Karyn came out and welcomed us with her Aussie accent and big friendly smile. "We have to ask," we said, "How does a girl from Australia end up helping to run a hotel in Pamukkale, Turkey?" It wasnít the first time the question had been asked, and she smiled. "Two years ago I was a tourist here looking at the travertines. When I came down the road I met Ibrahim on his motorbike. We got talking and here I am."

Venus Hotel, Pamukkale
Venus Hotel, Pamukkale Venus Hotel, Pamukkale

She showed us to our top floor corner room with the balcony overlooking the garden and pool, restaurant and Turkish lounge area. As we stood on the balcony a red fire truck went slowly by down the narrow dirt road. "It doesnít put out many fires," she told us, "but it is most helpful when someone needs a ladder or their pool filled." With an invitation to help with local plans, she left us to settle in.

Even though we had been sitting down all day, a day of travelling can be very tiring. We immediately felt comfortable here and the idea of sitting out on the balcony was most inviting. Venus Hotel has wifi, so we took the time to contact home through the computer and do some journaling.

We thought we heard something like an ice cream truck playing a little ditty coming up the street. Looking down from our perch we saw that it wasnít ice cream at all but water. A pickup truck was loaded with all sizes from large water jugs to cases of small bottles.

We had heard that the food at the Venus Hotel was fresh, simple and delicious. An Edinburgh couple who had dinner here the previous night sat waiting in anticipation again and encouraged us to do the same. We did and were not disappointed. Karyn with her friendly youíre-one-of-the-family-now manners told us what "mom" was offering for dinner tonight. Soup, salad, a choice of main course, dessert. We could have it all or what portions we wanted. To drink there was wine by the bottle or glass, beer, soft drinks, milk, water and of course tea. The kitchen is in the basement of the hotel with a window that peeks above ground level. To put in our order Karyn when over to the window, crouched down and other than starting with the word "mom" gave the order in Turkish. Every so often, Ibrahim, would slide into the saddle of his motorcycle and ride up to the highway and escort driverís and their vehicles down, or come down with more foot travellers. The hotel began to fill up with a friendly gathering of people.

April 27

Karyn and Ibrahim were both on the job when we went down for breakfast and we appreciated all their efforts. Around the pool we noticed the fruit on the trees was the same as those little round green things we had purchased from the three wheeled cart vendor in Antalya. We asked Karyn about them. "Oh, those are plums," she said, and then added, "Some Turkish people eat them at this stage instead of letting them ripen. They know they give them belly aches and associated problems, but," she shrugged like a mother who has tried but failed to get through, "they still eat them."

Venus Hotel, Pamukkale Pamukkale

After an enjoyable breakfast and some friendly chatter with the Edinburgh couple we met at dinner plus another very nice Edinburgh couple we put on sunblock, packed our water and Ted and headed out to see the main sights of Pamukkale.

Nicknamed "Cottoncastle", although people from northern climates might think more of snow and ice than cotton, travertines, or calcium deposits, are formed as hot mineral-laden waters cool in the open air. The calcium precipitates from the water, adheres to the soil or cascades over the edges like icicles and continually builds upon itself.

Travertines, Pamukkale Travertines, Pamukkale

In the past tourists were allowed to roam and swim wherever they wanted. Today it is more controlled. From our hotel we took a path up from the bottom of the travertines (tour buses degorge their passengers at the top) removing our shoes when we reached the first pool. The water, for the most part only came up to our knees ... getting deeper in the centre. The bottom of the pools felt like soft white bread flour, whereas the calcium on the slopes with water pouring over was hard and felt like a lizardís skin.

Travertines, Pamukkale Travertines, Pamukkale Travertines, Pamukkale
Pamukkale Pamukkale

We made our way up passed other pools and a growing number of tourists testing the top pools.

Karyn and Ibrahim told us the water is also used to feed swimming pools in the area (including theirs) and eventually for irrigation in the valley,

At the top is a swimming pool where for 18 Turkish Lira (about 10 Euro) visitors may swim and lounge in warm therapeutic waters among Roman columns, stones and capitals. This same vast source of water heated by volcanic lava attracted Romans and it was here they built their city "Hierapolis".

Above the travertines and the pool, we walked up to the remains of the Roman ruins of Hierapolis whose name means "sacred city". The name of the city may have been derived from Hiera, wife of Telephus who was the son of Hercules and grandson of Zeus. The name "Pamukkale" is a modern one and using it sets one apart from the locals.

There is evidence of civilization here since the 4th century BC. There is evidence that it once had a strong Jewish community, and it is mentioned in the Christian bible (Colossian 4:12-13). In the 6th century AD itís population declined and after an earthquake in 1334 it was abandoned to the elements and the mineral waters. Today it is a World Heritage Site and a major tourist attraction in Turkey.

We walked up to the impressive Roman theatre. Built of stone and marble in the third century AD, incorporating parts of an earlier and smaller theatre, it had some restoration in 352 AD. The acoustics are excellent in this semi-circle which could hold 12,000 people.

Pamukkale (Hierapolis)
Pamukkale (Hierapolis) Pamukkale (Hierapolis) Pamukkale (Hierapolis)

Terry stood on one side of the theatre while Sherrie stood on the other and in speaking voices, not any louder than if we were standing across our livingroom, we could hear each other clearly.

Pamukkale (Hierapolis) Pamukkale (Hierapolis) Pamukkale (Hierapolis)

Eight steep sets of stairs climb up 44 rows of seating. The stone seats have a hang-over which made bum and foot placement more comfortable. In the centre at stage level was a semi-circle with high backed seating for audience members of importance.

Beyond the theatre, an ancient Roman back street led us through the North Byzantine Gate which formed part of a fortification system built at Hierapolis at the end of the 4th century AD and was matched by a similar gate at the other end of the city. The gate is characterized by an elegant arch which is decorated by a circle enclosing a cross-like symbol. Christian symbols also appear on the architrave of the facade. Heads of lions, a panther and a Gorgon, once belonging to older buildings, found in front of the gate, were reused to ward off evil influences.

Pamukkale (Hierapolis) Pamukkale (Hierapolis) - city gate  
Pamukkale (Hierapolis) - latrine Pamukkale (Hierapolis) - latrine

Down the wide stone Frontinus Street we found the latrine built in the first century AD. The inside of the building was reached by an entrance at either end. With everyone sporting togas was it hard to identify the guys from the girls in the artistís renderings at the entrances? The room is divided lengthwise by a row of columns that supported a roof composed of travertine blocks. Along the outside walls we could see the grooves into which seats with holes were fitted. A channel running the length of the building below the seats would have been a running drain sluicing liquids into a drain system under Frontinus Street. In front of the seats another small channel had clean running water available for hygiene purposes (soft and fluffy double sized toilet paper rolls endorsed by kittens and bears had not been invented yet). The floor of the latrine was also made of travertine blocks and displayed heavy signs of wear. A popular spot in its day.

Walking through the triple arches and past the large olive press, we admired the stately cypress trees and brilliant poppies growing wild and then made our way back along the edge of the hill to the beginning of the travertines.

Pamukkale (Hierapolis) Pamukkale (Hierapolis)
Pamukkale travertines Pamukkale travertines

Again the tourist crowds grew bigger. We waded through them and the upper travertines where you are required to go in barefoot and then made our way back the way we came. Once down to the highway, we took another route through the little and quiet town of Pamukkale missed by those who whiz by in tour buses and rental cars aiming for the parking lot within the Pamukkale Hierapolis Park.

Nearing the hotel, three little boys, outside their home, spotted our camera and gestured that they wanted their picture taken. One of the boys shied away and went back near his turtle while the other two proudly posed and giggled with delight when we showed them the results.

Everything was quiet in the hotel and garden where Karyn was taking a well deserved cat nap. It didnít last long. Ibrahim soon arrived on his motorcycle guiding a van with tourists and Karyn was awakened to check them in while Ibrahim left again to greet more guests filling up this exceptional hotel and itís not yet the height of tourist season. Ibrahim saved us the time and hassle of making our own bus arrangements and having to go elsewhere to pick up tickets for tomorrow. He did it all with phone calls and a ride on his motorbike. While he was working, we were enjoying yet another delicious dinner.

Pamukkale Venus Hotel, Pamukkale

Suggestion for those who are visiting Pamukkale; book ahead for the Venus Hotel and make a two or more nightís stay part of the experience.

click here to continue to April 28 and Selcuk, Turkey ...   

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