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Chris Sayer’s Travel Diary

Monday, 13 Apr 2009

Location: Paumukkale, Turkey

MapDay 12 April 12
Ephesus was a city in the present-day western Turkey, a few hundred year B.C. The Romans made it capital of Asia Minor and its population was around 250,000. Today we walked its streets just as the Romans did, we walked through their arched doors, we even sat on their stone lavatories. This amazingly preserved site just out of Kusadasi on the Turkish western coast was just incredible at every turn in the main street that takes you through the stone city. We were gobsmacked, along with the thousands of other tourists, delivered by dozens of buses and lead by dozens of tourguides holding up their uniquely numbered sign as a shepherd would do for his flock. Our tourguide, Baris, kept us nice and close, so he didn’t need a sign. Of course, it’s like Disneyland just outside the main gates.
Photos cannot do it justice, but the ruins were more intact than Troy (of course much younger, its only 2,000 years old). The façade to the library has been reconstructed from the original pieces, like a jigsaw puzzle, and the Great Theatre down the street was huge, intact, and incredible. Artists like Sting and Elton have actually played concerts in this place in recent years – the acoustics are so perfect, and its 2,000 years old. Finally we walked though some terraced houses that have been recently excavated, and it was like eavesdropping on the extravagant Roman lifestyle from 2,000 years ago. Two storey’s high, with colourful mosaic floors and walled frescoes, columns and walled rooms. It really did feel like we were connecting with people from 20 centuries ago.
There is so much to see, and absorb, at Ephesus, and the history is mindblowing. St Paul and Jesus’ mother Mary supposedly lived here in the middle of 1st century – Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians here, that appears in the bible. They say that this place is the best-preserved classical city of the eastern Mediterranean.


Day 13 April 13
Kusadasi to Pammukale 189 kms on the bike.
After a much appreciated “rest” day in Kusadasi (with Ephesus on that day), we’re back on the bikes and heading inland, away from the western Agean Sea coast. By lunchtime we reach our destination – the little village of Pamukkale, population only 2,500. The reason why we’re here is two-fold – the ruins of the ancient city of Hieropolis, and the travertines. The latter is so other-worldly that it’s hard to explain, while the former is yet another ancient Roman city in ruins but so well preserved.
Travertines are created by calcium rich water reaching the surface from deep below the earth, and as it instantly cools the calcium deposits on the hillside, forming a marble-white surface. Of course the water is also thermal (ie hot) and it was these thermal springs that brought the Romans to build the city of Hieropolis directly adjacent. The sight of the white cliffs was quite weird but spectacular, but the Roman ruins were exceptional. Again, like Ephesus, we walked the streets of Hieropolis as if we were one of its citizens. Huge archways and tombs, but the most incredible was the theatre – the third one we’ve seen in 3 days, and the most spectacular. Not as big as the one at Ephesus, but more intact and much steeper seating, making it much higher. It reminded me of sitting at the Docklands Stadium in Melbourne – the tiers were so steep that you were quite close to the stage. To sit where Romans sat 2,000 years ago to watch a theatrical performance, was quite something for us. We were mesmerised.
Back to our hotel at Pamukkale for a swim, and like any hotel in this area, it has taken advantage of the thermal springs and it has it’s own hot-water pools. Unfiltered, which means that the water contains a fine silt that settles out into an orange, sulphur-smelling mud. Apparently very therapeutic. Who cares, so much fun playing in hot mud and then showering off for a Turkish banquet that night. And yet another raki – Turkish liquor as the traditional nightcap.