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Thursday, 3 July 2014

Pamukkale & Hierapolis

Pamukkale Terraces & Hierapolis Archaeology

Pamukkale Terraces
Where has all the water gone?
 Come for the Terraces, stay for the Theatre! This is probably the best ancient theatre in any archaeology site in Turkey.  The Pamukkale thermal area is beneath the ancient city of Hierapolis and cascades down the terraces on a steep hillside. 
Pamukkale thermal area
Boardwalk Empire
Day 12 brought us to the Pamukkale  terraces and hot springs, which have been used since the 2nd century BC as a spa and a healing centre.  The Hierapolis ruins and terraces are part of a "civilized park" with palm trees and park benches, boardwalks and birds. There were lots of silica patterns but no water!!! The Pamukkale Terraces would not be worth the price of admission! Moreover, it was another cloudy day and the temperature was less than 8°C.

Hierapolis Theatre

Hierapolis Theatre
Thespian Theatrics
There was one massive building in all of Hierapolis (Greek for "holy city") and everyone was hiking up the hill to get into it. Enter through the gate and you will be blown away! This theatre not only had 15,000 semi-circular seats but a complete building as well.
The theatre was built in 129 CE for a visit by Emperor Hadrian. and finished in 206 CE.  
Hierapolis Theatre Scaenae
The Roman Scaenae
It had a three-storey scaenae adorned by a colonnade with statues and lintels with friezes. Scaenae, origin of our word scene, is the scene and costume changing rooms of the theatre. The "scene" at Ephesus and most other archaeology sites is missing. Priene has part of the scaenae building but Hierapolis shows what it should look like.  While this is an Ancient Rome archaeology site, the frieze below is written in Greek.  This area was formerly part of Greece and most people spoke Greek.  Alexander the Great had conquered all of Anatolia (Turkey) in 334 BC.  Ionia (the Turkish Coast including Priene, Miletus and Didyma) was part of Greece. 

This is one of the best and most complete theatres we have ever seen. And in our opinion, the best thing to see here. No, the theatre has not been standing here since 206 CE. It had collapsed during an earthquake in the 4th century CE but 90% of the stones were still lying there when archeologists during the last century decided to re-construct it.
Hierapolis Theatre Scaenae
The Greek Scene
Why cannot this be done at other sites, whether they are in Turkey or Italy? Because over the centuries, people carted away the blocks and columns to use in constructing later buildings. In Italy it was the Christians who tore down the temples (not the barbarians) because they despised them as pagan. The only temples that survived were those converted to churches.
Ancient Hierapolis Hot Springs
Tourists in Hot Water
Coming down from the theatre the easy way (on the road), there were lots of ruins. At the main complex there are bathrooms, restaurants and a treed and pleasant picnic area overlooking an antique thermal pool where you can swim for an extra fee (TRY 15).

Hierapolis Plateia

Hierapolis Plateia
Hierapolis Plateia
There were a couple other evocative places in Hierapolis. Still standing is the monumental triple arched Frontinus Gate, built by Julius Frontinus (84-86 CE), proconsul (governor) of Asia Minor.

It was made from travertine, a form of limestone deposited by mineral springs, especially hot springs. Travertine was used a lot in Ancient Rome as well. In fact, the largest building in the world made mainly from travertine was the Colosseum in Rome, which could hold about 75,000 unruly fanaticus (Latin for mad, enthusiastic, inspired by a god), the origin of our word "fanatics" − shortened to "fans" as we call them today

The old Roman Plateia is paved with large stones with roadside columns − roadside shops no longer included. Plateia is Greek for town square, like Plateia Syntagma in Athens.  A wide (14 m) road leads from Frontinus Gate to the other side of town.  The calcite from the hot springs had once covered the road − hot springs used to be everywhere. They had to remove it with some kind of pneumatic drill.

Pamukkale Terraces

Pamukkale Terraces
The Real Pamukkale Terraces
On our way back we walked on a long boardwalk along thirsty thermal pools. Finally when we got to the middle of the national park, several large rectangular pools with hot water so the tourists could walk through them all the way down the slope to the town Even if you have been to a thermal area, this is unique. In thermal national parks, such as in New Zealand and United States, tourists are not allowed in or on the terraces at all. We were disappointed that the water was not the brilliant turquoise colour shown in the over-saturated photos on the internet. But perhaps this was also due to the lack of sun. If you were there let us know what you think.
Pamukkale Terraces
The Unreal Pamukkale Terraces
Water in the Pamukkale Terraces gets diverted to different areas every day so perhaps you will have better luck. Personally, I would have preferred to see the beautiful, rimmed pools with a little bit of water. Finally at the very end - far beyond the end of the boardwalk - there were some pools of aquamarine water that I was able to capture with just a slight zoom (150mm). However, without the sun, the pictures didn't do it justice.  Of course, nothing beats Photoshop for adding light and saturation.   

Melrose Hotel

We really like small family-owned hotels, our choice throughout Turkey. 
Melrose Hotel: Ummu
Ummu of Melrose Hotel
The owners − Mehmet (husband) and Ummu (wife) − are very jovial and spoke English very well. The rooms of the Melrose Hotel were comfortable and clean.
Very few people actually sleep over in Pamukkale because most tourists are on tours and day trip from the big city, Denizli.  As a result, there isn't much in the way of restaurants, et al in Pamukkale. However, the restaurant in Melrose Hotel is one of the best in town. They knew what to buy and everything was homemade. The soup was so delicious! The kofte (meatballs) meal was delicious and included stuffed vine leaves with a tomato paste unlike like any other. The tomato paste was homemade with fresh tomatoes, sun-dried, boiled, then sun-dried again.
Melrose Hotel Dining Room
Cozy Dining Room at the Melrose Hotel
The dining room was a beautiful, cozy, enclosed den, which was essential for the cold weather we had. However, in better weather you can sit in the outside patio or by the pool.
Each breakfast was different and delicious. They had one of the best halvah of our trip. Another speciality of Turkey is tahini pekmez (tahini and grape molasses). This is a traditional Turkish condiment made with a blend of sesame seed paste and concentrated grape juice that's typically served for breakfast. Here is the recipe for this quintessential Turkish cuisine.  There were some filo-dough based dishes that were scrumptious as well.
The family ate in the same dining room and we struck up conversations with them and some of the other guests. Ummu had migrated to Germany to work when she was younger. She said she would have liked to go to university. But the hotel is a family business and very time consuming. They have just finished renovating another building to create another hotel closer to the Pamukkale Terraces. 

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