We headed from Antalya to Pamukkale, a bit of a one-horse town half way to the coast. The Romans built a very large city there, Hierapolis, at the top of the travertines. What are the travertines, you might ask? Well, it’s a bit of a complex answer and I didn’t really know until we got there. Even when we got there it wasn’t quite obvious what the place was about.
The travertines are white cliffs of calcium carbonate that is constantly being deposited by the hot springs along the top of the cliffs. The town of Pamukkale is at the bottom of the springs and you walk up the travertines to get to the Roman ruins.
Everyone takes their shoes off to walk up the hill because it is mostly white and almost entirely covered with running water. From a millimetre deep to ankle deep. There are pools built into the slope which you can sit in (the bottom is quite like clay sludge but white) or walk past. Although it sounds as though it might be slippery, the surface is very easy to grip and the deposits of calcium make beautiful patterns.
One of the less-white bits. The water is occasionally diverted to let the sun bleach different areas.
I visited twice. First Luke, Lucas and I walked up the first afternoon and looked around (it’s 20 TLR/$10 to get in) , enjoying the novelty of the place and the views at sunset where the white cliffs turn a gorgeous pink.
Pink – but not this pink. Since I got Photoshop re-installed on my laptop I’ve been going a bit crazy with colour. It was very beautiful in real life though!
Then Lucas and I walked up the following morning but he kept going to the ruins and I sat in one of the pools with my kindle observing the other tourists and, surprisingly, being asked to be in a photo with a couple of young fellows from Istanbul.
Obviously not a photo of me, but it gives you a bit of an idea what the pools are like. I don’t know if you can tell but there’s water running down the cliff-face. Sunglasses are NOT optional.
I have done some calculations based on my observations of the people there and determined the following:
10% of people were there to swim/bathe.
10% were there purely to walk the length and take photos of the view.
80% were there to take pictures of their girlfriends/be photographed by their boyfriends in the smallest bikinis available, perched in precisely the same back-arched, one-knee-drawn-up, reclining position that seems incredibly popular everywhere in Turkey. I like to think of it as the ‘men’s magazine’ angle.
In fact everywhere we’ve been the numbers are pretty much the same. Go somewhere scenic, get your girlfriend into as small an amount of clothing as is socially acceptable in the situation and then snap away – preferably at an angle where she’s on one side of a busy thoroughfare and you’re on the other so traffic grinds to a halt and everyone has to pause and admire the impending melanomas.
Nevermind, I’m just jealous because tanning in Australia is a life-threatening hobby whereas everyone here seems oblivious to the existence of hats and old age.
The beginning of the walk, where you take off your shoes. There’s a channel for the water to run into where it goes down to a duck pond in a park. It’s maybe hard to see here that the whole slope is covered in water. Made for a cool feet on a hot day!
Behind Luke you can see a bit of Pamukkale and the aforementioned duck pond, in which you can paddle about in those swan-shaped boats that work like pedalling a bicycle.
Pamukkale wasn’t a terribly endearing place. People start shouting at you the second you get off the bus (to eat, buy, stay) and it’s obvious that most people here survive off tourism, which must contribute to the general sense of desperation. However I was really charmed by the travertines and I would say they’re definitely good for at least a day’s visit and it’s really worth being there for sunset. There’s only about 5 minutes of magical light but it’s worth it, and despite the signs saying it’s only open til 8pm people were up there under floodlights quite late. Although because it’s all white hardly any heat is absorbed and the pools cool swiftly at sundown leading to very cold feet by the time you climb down.
I’m glad we went and it was nice to have two opportunities to walk up the hill. With my growing issues with chlorine in pools (massively itchy skin afterwards) but my deep love of water and swimming, I take my chances where I can get them and the travertines were certainly unique!