Cotton castles

Trip Start Nov 09, 2007
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Trip End Feb 03, 2008


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Friday, November 23, 2007

After a fairly uncomfortable night's sleep at Ali's Pension we went downstairs to an even more uncomfortable breakfast, again feeling like interlopers in the family home. At checkout they tried to do some creative exchange rates with the Lira to the Euro (which is what they had quoted me in). The amount in Euros I was quoted should have exchanged to about 65 lira, but I was asked to pay 75 lira. I had outsmarted this though (I had expected some sort of trick like this) and I had the exact amount in Euro to pay. I know it's only 10 lira but a deal is a deal. The woman's face fell when she saw me produce the euro notes.
We took another walk around the island, stopping at a park for the girls to burn off a bit of energy before we got going. I sat on a bench and an elderly Turkish man came over and sat next to me. I had no more than 3 words of Turkish and he had maybe a dozen of English, but we had a nice chat for 10 minutes or so. He told me he was a fisherman, asked when I was from, told me how to count in Turkish all the way up to 50, asked about the children and a few other things. It was a lovely sunny morning, even though it was a bit cold and I enjoyed our conversation.
The drive from Egirdir to Pamukkale was much shorter than the previous day, and we were able to make good time. We decided to go cross-country to avoid Isparta and Jess's navigation skills once again did not fail us. The only dodgy moment was when we reached the town of Gönen and they forgot to put up any signs to tell us how to get out of town on the other side. No matter, we took the opportunity for a nice tour of the town, seeing some prts 2 or 3 times! We stopped for some morning tea and narrowly avoided the throng of shoppers at the street market that had been set up for the day. Jess rolled down her window and asked a passing pedestrian for some directions and we were off again. We passed through some stunning mountain scenery yet again.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the trip was when we came across a road block set up by the Jandarma (paramilitary national police).  I was asked (in Turkish) to produce my driver's license (I worked out what they wanted) and then they asked me to open my boot. Of course I complied with these directions, as one does when confronted with a group of men all carrying military assault rifles and looking very serious. God knows what they were after but it turns out it wasn't me. Whew!
We reached Pamukkale right on lunch time and found our hotel, the Venus Hotel, straight away (well Jess found it, I just followed directions). We grabbed out our overnight bag, cleverly packed so that we could leave the other 27 suitcases in the car. After some great advice from out hosts we headed straight up to Heirapolis and the travertines. Pamukkale means cotton castle, and that's exactly what the travertines look like. Simply amazing. White stone waterfalls. This is a World Heritage listed place and it's easy to see why. The adjacent roman city of Heirapolis, now in ruins, was built to take advantage of the healing powers that the thermal waters of Pamukkale were thought to have.
Perhaps the only downside was that we had arrived at a festival of Germans. I have never seen so many outside of Germany! About 700 buses had turned up, all at the same time and were doing battle in the car park as we arrived. The Germans themselves had broken into about 400 or so (at least!) individual tour groups of 50 people each, each one getting their own guided tour. If only I could speak German, I'd be a world expert on that place by now! As it was we had the official pamphlet to tell us the same information in English.
Tourist used to be able to walk all through the travertines, but the authorities (probably those killjoy Jandarma - hope they are not reading this) realised that it was dangerous, both to the tourists and to the travertines, so now we are limited to a small section where the warm thermal water flows through. We took our shoes off and paddled through the warm water, watching the Germans take off their sandals and socks and paddle too. Quite a few people were slipping on the mossy rocks and this added to the fun.
The girls were all set for a swim in the thermal baths, but they were not allowed to swim on their own, even with us standing right beside the pool, and I hadn't brought my costume. I did threaten to go in in my undies, but the girls didn't want to go swimming THAT much.
There is not a great deal left of the town of Hierapolis, but the theatre is in good condition so we wandered up there to watch the sun set. It was peaceful and delightful, and best of all by this time we had the place to ourselves.
We decided to eat dinner in our own hotel, as they offered a very reasonable set menu for 17 lira. It turned out to be a very wise decision, because the home cooked meal was the best we have eaten in Turkey. Traditional lentil soup followed by vegetables (yummy), then saç (a traditional stew) all washed down by a bottle of local wine.
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