Day two of our road trip in Turkey aboard our van Frieda: after a cosy sleep despite the chilly weather, we met Jan and Jack for breakfast at their incredibly cute lodgings in Selçuk, Turkey.
The breakfast was sumptuous – lots of different cheeses, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, local honey, jams, preserves and copious amounts of delicious breads, fluffy omelettes and endless cups of Turkish tea.
On the road in cold and misty weather, we headed for Pammukale – famous for its mineral-rich thermal waters flowing down white travertine terraces.
The weather cleared up a little by early afternoon and before long we had arrived in the small and unassuming village of Pammukale where Jan and Jack checked into their hotel.
The beautiful natural rock pools in terraces created by hot springs has been drawing visitors since several centuries BCE. It was a place that I had wanted to visit for a long time.
What I hadn’t realised until we arrived was that the Ancient Greek city of Hierapolis was built on a hill directly above the wonderful travertine terraces.
As it was quite late in the afternoon, bitterly cold and the ruins extremely extensive, we decided to take advantage of the offer of a lift in a battery powered “cart”.
The young man who took us round told us that he had trained as a medical technician but had found it hard to find a job in his profession because in Turkey it was very important to have the right contacts (family or friends in “high places”) to make recommendations.
He was very knowledgeable about the well preserved Roman ruins and we enjoyed his commentary as he drove us round.
He told us that Hierapolis was founded as a thermal spa early in the 2nd century BC and it became an important healing centre where patients suffering all sorts of ailments were treated in the hot mineral spring water.
We stopped at a massive necropolis containing more than 1,200 tombs and sarcophagi – evidently the hot springs didn’t cure everyone!
Our next stop was at a tiny pool covered with a stone lid where we were able to feel the soft, and deliciously warm spring water.
A little further on we alighted from our “wagon” again to walk the magnificent paved Main Street which ran close to a cliff that looked out on to the travertine terraces below.
At both ends of the main street there were monumental gates flanked by square towers built of massive blocks of stone. Nearby was the Domitian Gate – the grand entrance to the Roman city – which had circular towers with three arches. It was all very impressive.
The most spectacular sight for me however, was the fabulous amphitheatre – constructed under the reign of Hadrian after the earthquake of 60 AD.
The facade is a spectacular 300 feet (91 metres) long, the full extent of which still remains standing. In the auditorium there are row upon row of seats which could accommodate 15,000 people. What a magnificent sight!
There were other areas we were unable to see – The temple of Apollo appeared to be closed to visitors and the recently unearthed entrance to the shrine dedicated to Pluto, was still being excavated.
As closing time was nearly upon us we also missed seeing the tomb of St Philip the Apostle but before we left we managed a quick look at the “antique “ pool which was originally one of fifteen frequented by people seeking cures and general good health by bathing in and drinking the waters.
Wisps of steam were rising from the hot waters of the large atmospheric pool. Despite the freezing weather there was one man in the pool enjoying the warm and silky water.
As we walked round the perimeter of the pool we noticed pieces of columns and other bits of masonry on the bottom of the pool. Apparently these fragments were a result of an earthquake in the 7th century AD when a marble portico with Ionic arrangement fell into the spring.
From the antique pool we travelled the short way to the magnificent travertine terraces.
Since becoming a UNESCO world heritage site in 1988, access to the area has become very strict to protect the travertine terraces. Tourists are only allowed to cross them in bare feet on a designated path. Artificial pools have been constructed in the valley below for bathing.
It was too cold to peel off our socks and shoes and roll up our trouser legs to walk across the terraces but we were content to walk along a side path to view this amazing phenomenon.
The terraced formation is 2,700 metres (8,860 ft) long, 600 m (1,970 ft) wide and 160 m (525 ft) high and even though it was a cloudy day the terraces shimmered and sparkled like snow.
Jan had done some research and found a great wine bar in the town very close to the hotel.
We enjoyed some delicious local wine sitting as close to the large wood fired stove as we could get.
Mouth-watering piping hot Tarhana soup was served before the main meal which was very welcome in such an icy cold night. Tarhana is made by adding vegetables, herbs and spices to yogurt and then letting the mixture dry out and once ready, crushing it to a powder. The powder is mixed with broth or hot water and various seasonings -including fresh mint – are added. Absolutely delightful!
The following day we left for Konya, home of the mystical Sufi dancers. Our journey there took us through the Taurus mountains and we saw lots of snow on the ground although fortunately it didn’t actually snow while we were driving.
There wasn’t any sign of snow when we arrived in Konya – thank goodness. We soon found a nice hotel for Jan and Jack with a car park only a stone’s throw away where we could spend the night.