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Chris Sayer’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 08 May 2016

Location: Turkey

MapWe headed west from Kusadasi, away from the coast and towards the central Turkish region called Antolia, with the small town of Pammakale as our destination for the night. Approaching Pammakale, we could see some white topped hills in the distance, about two hundred meters high and a kilometre long. Is that snow? As the view became closer and clearer, it became stranger. Are those hills actually painted white with a giant brush?

At the top of these hills is the ancient Roman city of Hierapolis, now in ruins but being excavated since the late 1950s. As Jim Baba would say, more crumblies. The Romans chose this location to build a city to take advantage of several hot water springs that seemed to have magical healing powers. We now know that this water is rich in minerals, especially calcium, and as it cascades over the hills it has left a white residue over the centuries. “Pammakale” means “cotton castle” and this weird geological phenomenon has become a huge tourist attraction, in conjunction with the Roman ruins surrounding it.

The highlight of Hierapolis is its amphitheatre. Smaller than the one at Ephesus, it is all the more impressive because its stage area is still intact. Large columns hold up facades and archways of stone, with intricate carvings and statues. Entrances and exits are clearly visible at side of stage and also for the flat area at the very bottom of the structure, where animals would’ve been let loose, such as lions. Apparently many Christians met their demise here. The tiers for the seating were so steep it seemed that we were looking straight down to the performance area. The very top seats also had a commanding view beyond the ruined city, to the calcified hilltops and the large city of Denizli about 30 kilometres away. The horizon was dominated by the mighty Taurus Mountains, which we will cross tomorrow.

To complete our Pammakale experience, we went to the hilltop to get up close to these mystical waters. We removed our shoes and socks to walk over the smooth, white, limestone surface and wade in ankle-deep pools. The water was warm and invigorating. I wondered if it was performing its magic on my previously injured left foot? Surely, this place must be unique in the world.