Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hieropolis and Pamukkale

We had a very early start today visiting Hierapolis, a city was ceded to Rome in 133 BC along with the rest of the Pergamene kingdom.  Our day began with a long climb to overlook the very steep Greco-Roman theatre that could seat 20,000. Much of the theatre has been renovated.

Further up the hill we visited the remains of the martyrium of St. Philip, built in 5 AD. Here the apostle was crucified and stoned in AD 80. From here we had a lovely view over the whole site.

Back down the hill, revived with an espresso and bun, we stopped to admire the mineral rich thermal pool complete with fragments of ancient marble columns. We were envious of the people swimming in the hot pool that meandered around like a river. Another time we will bring our bathing suits.

Our next discovery was the spectacular white travertine terraces formed when water from the hot springs loses carbon dioxide as it flows down the slopes, leaving deposits of limestone. The layers of white calcium carbonate, build up in steps on the plateau have earned the name Pamukkale or cotton castle. Many people were sitting on the edge of a fast running stream that flowed down the side of the terraces, soaking their feet.  I was braver and took off my shoes and waded into one of the pools. It was pretty tricky work since the travertine is really slippery. I felt like I was going to slip and so did everyone else; however it was good fun and my feet and legs felt really good afterwards. It was magnificent looking down at the layers of sparkling white travertine pools.

There were several well fed and groomed, tagged dogs around the pool. One brindled lab-sized dog was very helpful giving me kisses and trying to steal my socks when I came out of the pool. In fact there were several dogs like this that seemed to have the complete run of the area. Fortunately, they were all very friendly.

The travertine terraces seemed to go on for several kilometres as we walked parallel to them to visit the ancient ruins. The arch of Domitian was at one end of the main street called Frontius Street. So much of this was calcified that they had to take jack hammers to remove the calcification and return the street to its original form.  We passed the baths at the edge of town where visitors had to wash before entering the town in order to prevent diseases. This seems very sensible. In front of us was the necropolis, the largest ancient graveyard in Anatolia with more than 1,200 tombs. Some of the tombs were huge and shaped like houses, while others were smaller sarcophagi. They were scattered all over the hillside.

Sadly, it was time for us to leave this wonderful spot but not before having another glass of refreshing freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, now one of my favourite drinks.

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