Pamukkale

Trip Start Jul 01, 2007
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Trip End Sep 02, 2007


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Saturday, August 18, 2007

We're backing up one and a half days. The night before last we went over to Amishay's house for a visit. They had some Turkish friends that wanted to meet us. One of them spoke very good English and has just finished University in Ankara. She is interested in coming to the US for about 6 months to improve her English, but is confounded by US law on the matter. She'd like to come as an Au Pair, but would like to go to school too. Since my knowledge in this area is pretty scant and I don't need an Au Pair, I'm not sure that I was much help. We did extend an offer to Amishay to come visit us when he is older, maybe in a few years. Since he wouldn't have the support of a group and our Turkish is not likely to improve significantly, I think he'll need some more time to increase his vocabulary. His mother, Nazli, made us some borek to eat. She also served hot milk with sugar and a spoonful of Nescafe. Since I'm not a coffee person, I gave it a pass, but it didn't look too much like coffee, really. The kids all scampered down to the beach to go fishing while the adults talked. The fish all stayed in the water and the kids all stayed out, so that was good. We all hung in with the Turks until about 10:30 and then we had to go had to head for bed.

The next morning we got up relatively early and were on the road for Pamukkale by 8:30. I'm not sure how long the drive ended up taking because there were a few stops. On the way out we took the back roads winding through the mountains and the scenery was fantastic. The first part of our drive took us through the region that supplies/supplied marble for many of the monuments/cities/whatnot throughout the Aegean area. The quarries stand out as white shelves against the rest of the mountain face. Scrap marble is used all over the place in this area including for walls around small homes or animal enclosures. At one point we stopped and picked up a few small pieces from a pile of scraps by the side of the road. Too bad it would be such a pain to ship. They even have a couple marble outlets here. I, of course, was thinking countertop. Josh said he wanted a piece to make a bust. That cracked us up. I wonder if he would make it himself or if he would commission a sculptor.

We got up very high in the mountains and had spectacular views of rocky cliffs and open, mostly cultivated valleys. Population density in Turkey is very low compared to what we are used to. When we do see people on the road, there are usually only one or two and the are just as likely to be acompanied by a donkey carrying firewood or a couple cows or a herd of sheep as they are to be with another person. There are groups of head-scarf wearing women out in many of the fields. We seem to be moving from fig season to high melon season. There are still a lot of figs by the side of the road, but they are shifting from green to purple and watermelon is on the increase. The pommegranites are starting to blush on the trees, but I doubt we will get one that is ripe before we leave. We saw many pine trees that were bare along most of the trunk, but had broad canopies at the top--something we thought looked unusual. In the wildlife department, we saw a number of huge nests at the top of telephone poles that belonged to storks. They dwarf osprey nests; they are just huge.

We stopped for lunch outside Denizli and had fresh-tossed pide and salad. Have I mentioned that there is virtually no fast food of the variety that we are used to in the U.S.? There are very few chain restaurants at all. I think we have seen 5 McDonald's tops and maybe 2 Burger Kings and we've done a lot of traveling around. Road food is generally provided by women who live near big roads. They set up a few tables under a tent and cook for anyone who stops. The restaurant where we stopped yesterday was a little more formal and was co-located with a local bakery and a BP gas station. Nanny took a Turkish toilet picture for the benefit of the blog. She just figured out that they are designed for you to face the back of the stall, not the front. I think that should help her out some. I don't think I mentioned it to the kids, but I've been proud of how quickly and quietly they adapted to lifestyle differences like that one. We have taken to rating the public toilets where we go on cleanliness and amenities like whether or not they have toilet paper or paper towels and the general smell of the place. So far, I think the restrooms at St. Peter's Castle in Bodrum are the winners. It was also free with admission-- an added bonus!

Denizli is a textile center and cotton is grown widely in the area. We saw trucks filled with huge bolts/rolls of cloth and some production facilities. There were also outlet centers. Nanny was looking for kilim pillow covers. We read that many are produced in this area. Unfortunately, since it's not a big tourist area, it was hard for us to find a shop that sold any (unlike in Istanbul where they are everywhere). We stopped at one place, but they didn't have what she wanted.

From Denizli, Pamukkale is about a 15 minute drive and we were very grateful to get out of the car. We trooped up the hill, while exclaiming about the white formations on the mountain in front of us. Pamukkale means "cotton castle" and it is a World Heritage site. The waters that come from the top of the mountain are rich in minerals including calcium carbonate and they leave deposits all over the face of the mountain as they cascade down the hill. In ancient times there was a city called Hieropolis at the top and it was, among other things, a tourist center for people who came to take the waters. Cleopatra, again, likede the waters here. I guess she enjoyed traveling around and taking waters different places. There has been some concern that modern tourism will ruin the site and we read in one of the guide books that they were roped off. That wasn't true yesterday when we were there. It was "hot as the bloody blue blazes" as they say and the place was crawling with bikini babes and guys in Speedos splashing around in the pools and in the sluice that runs down the mountain. The kids just loved the water and had a great time splashing around in it. You have to walk without your shoes to protect the white deposits, but in spite of all the water, you get pretty good traction from the texture of the deposits. It was a little uncomfortable at times, but generally bearable. There is some sort of building project going on at the bottom where they seem to be building new pools, perhaps those pools will open soon and they will redirect the visitors off the actual formations. Nanny commented that she thought all of the white from the calcium deposits was increasing our sun exposure up there.

We wanted to see Hieropolis before we left for the day, so we pried the kids loose from the pools and endured Alex's wrath. We bought some ice cream and water and got in the car to drive to Hieropolis. As it turns out, it really is right at the top of the mountain and we could have walked from where we were. Oh well. We showed our tickets to the guy at the top of the hill and he let us go in at the other entrance. We all started to fall apart a little after that. We had to break up a little. Josh and Alex scampered over to the stadium to get a closeup of that. Nanny went to the museum. Kate and I hung out in the shade and cat-napped. Tempers seemed to cool a bit after that. The stadium was in better shape than any of the others that we have seen so far. The type of stone was more golden in color than the others we have seen. Josh says the pictures can't do it justice. There was also a Plutonium (an oraclular cave dedicated to the god of the dead) over the hill, but it was too damn hot to walk over there. We have read that you can't go in to it anyway because of the poisonous gas, so we don't think we missed much. We may also be suffering from "Ruin fatigue."

We made a quick stop at a shop that sold "Colin's Jeans" because we wanted to see if there was anything there that we needed to pick up for Alex's friend Colin. We didn't find anything, but there was a playground and they kids took a break for a bit. We chose major roads for the drive home because roads here are not great and not well lit. I think the route was longer, but it was definitely faster. We didn't stop for dinner, but had some snacks in the car and some leftover pide from lunch. We listened to Harry Potter. Kate accidently chucked her earrings down the heat/cool vent on the dashboard in the car and was traumatized.

This morning the rental car guys called up and told us they would arrive in 10 minutes to swap out our car so we had to very quickly clean all of our stuff out from the big trip yesterday. We found Josh's "lost" Ephesus coin, but were unable to recover the lost earrings.

Kate: I loved Pamukkale. The view was amazing. There snow-white rock that was like thick, layered wall. It looked like snow was on the ground, but it was really hard rock. There were pools of sky-blue water on rock terraces and you could hang your arms over the side. The water was comfortably warm which I found relaxing. It was a lot of fun to stand under the water falls. It felt like a massage on my back and shoulders. The hike up the mountain was tiring, but it was nice being next to pools because you could take a dip if you got hot.

Alex: I am good at doing yoga. I am the only one who can do "boat." The mosquitos love me. They have been biting me. Pamukkale was great. We walked up and down the stream, put on our bathing suits and had fun swimming. Then we went to Hieropolis and Josh and I went to the Coliseum. It was great. It had really, really great views. It was smaller than the other coliseums, but you could see all these beautiful views and it was taller than the other coliseum. Bye for now.

Josh: I had a great time at the mineral waters at Pamukkale. There was a river that ran all the way down the hill. I walked through it most of the way up. We didn't go to the full top, but we played around in assorted called travertines and water running swiftly on the ground. It was very fun to lie in. When we were near the bottom and we were leaving. Kate and I were the Pamukkale Crocodiles. We were floating in the pool and using our fingertips to propel us through the pool. After we had done that, we went over to some ruins which were very intact. You can read about the coliseum in his blog, but we mostly sat in the shade and tried to figure out where the Plutonium was. We had a great time at Pamukkale. After that we got some drinks and had a blast at a little playground. Kate and I blasted ourselves up and down on the seesaw and we did tricks on a double-sided swing. Pamukkale was the best place yet.

An interesting addendum to this entry: I was looking at CNN.Com to check on the story about a Turkish plane being hijacked (we were not on board) and I clicked on a blog entry about Law & Order (who wouldn't?) and I got this message:

"Access to this site has been suspended in accordance with decision no: 2007/195 of T.C. Fatih 2.Civil Court of First Instance." (It was also posted in Turkish)

So, apparently, Freedom of Speech is not an absolute right here. This particular entry was supposed to have had something about an upcoming plotline that dealt with abortion. I wonder who is in charge of cruising the 'net for offensive material and killing pages.
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