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The Sacred Pool

Sorry it took me so long to get back to posts about my amazing Turkey trip.  Here is the next installment.

Pamukkale, site of ancient Hierapolis, and the famed hot springs and travertine cliffs.  Adam, Jimmy’s brother had booked us into a small pension, and it was great.  We were greeted at the front desk by a delightful Australian woman, Ann Marie, from Brisbane.  She taught English and managed the hotel.

It was so inexpensive that I opted for my own room so we weren’t all lining up for showers.  Once again the roof of the pension was covered with solar panels, and drums to hold the hot water, and it was very hot water.

Ann Marie warned us that because it was off season many of the restaurant made their food on Monday and served it all week, only reheating it each night.  She recommended we eat at the hotel, and we said, “sure”.  She then recommended a pancake place for lunch, and we went off to find food, and then explore Hieropolis.  Just in case we packed our swimsuits, but we didn’t think to bring towels.

From the terrace we could gaze up at the white travertine cliffs, and we watched the people walking slowly up the cliffs.  Because the travertine is fragile you have to make the walk barefooted, so we opted to drive.

We toured the museum, and looked at a few ruins, but we really wanted to visit the warm pool filled with fallen columns.  We paid the price to swim in the mineral baths, and it was wonderful.  Pat has an underwater camera so she shot photos.  Walter studied a few of me, and declared I “looked dead”.  Which was absolutely true.  I think it was a combination of my skin color and the faintly green tinge of the water.  We swam until closing time.  Here’s a picture of the pool with the columns.


Turns out the spa didn’t offer towels so we dried off with our clothes, then put on the damp clothes and let ourselves air dry the rest of the way.  It was now 5:30, but we had enough daylight to walk up to the theater which had been restored by Italian stone masons. 


It was very impressive, but we were all pretty tired so we opted out of the hike up to the octagonal church where St. Philip was said to have been martyred.

Nor did we reach the well that vents out poison gas.  It has been caged off after some unfortunate “accidents” involving tourists.  I call that evolution in action.  There were apparently big signs warning people that the gas was deadly and a single sniff would kill you, but some people refused to believe the warning.  As Walter said, the last words you often hear in Texas — “Hey fellas, watch this!”

We took some final pictures from the top of the cliffs and tried to capture the extraordinary color of the aquamarine pools.  Here’s a photo though it doesn’t do them justice. 


We then headed back to the hotel where I had a glass of Turkish wine (adequate), and the best meal I ate in Turkey.  It was an Anatolian stew made with beef, tomatoes, green pepper, and rice, and spices that were a symphony on my tongue.  The meal also included lentil soup, a green salad, and a honey/pastry dessert.  And it cost 15 lire, or about eleven dollars American.

Next morning we headed off to Aphrodisius, once of the leading sculpture center of the Roman world, and from there we were heading to Bodrum, site of a Crusader castle on the Aegean Sea.

 Again, I have to mention the cows.  While we were driving we went through a moderately sized city, and there, waiting for the walk light at an intersection was a man with his cow.  He led the cow across the street, and settled down in the median to let her graze while he kept watch.

The other vastly amusing thing was filling up the car for the first time.  There is no “self-serve” in Turkey.  We had three guys pumping the gas, and washing the windshields.  We also got a gift for our fill up — two packages of napkins.  We were actually happy to get them.  There was something blooming in Turkey that had all of our noses running.

A few hours later and we reached Aphrodisias.  I loved this site.  So much of it remained that I felt I could listen and hear the murmur of conversations, the laughter of children, the roar of the crowd in the stadium, smell the food cooking in the agora.  Here are some photos to try and give you the feel. 



Here’s a  picture of the stadium.  It was the largest in the ancient world, and my lens was not capable of doing it justice but maybe you’ll get some sense of the scale.

I also loved the carvings on the pediment that used adorn the theater.  Each face is individual.  I wondered if they were patrons who gave money to the theater, or famous actors, or wealthy citizens of Aphrodisias.

After a late lunch taken on an open patio beneath a trellis of thick branched grape vines, I took over driving, and we went through some high mountains on our way to Bodrum.  And through some awe inspiring thunderstorms too.  I hadn’t driven a stick in a long time, but with the steep inclines and curving roads I soon had my old timing back.  I had forgotten how much I love to drive a stick.

Pat took us into Bodrum proper, and was I ever glad.  The traffic was a nightmare, and we never did find the recommended hotel.  Instead we found a hotel one block from the sea that had a parking lot.  It was the parking lot that made the decision for us.  We again went with separate rooms, and I met my first strange plumping set up.  The shower was just in the bathroom with only a thin curtain to try and contain the water.  It meant most of the bathroom was soaked every time I showered.

After getting settled we went walking along the stoney beach, and scouted for a place to eat dinner.  We had to stop in awe to watch the sun set behind the castle.  We ended up eating at a restaurant that had tables right at the water’s edge.  The food was only so so, but the setting was magnificent.  The water seemed to be murmuring as it softly lapped the stones.


Instead of stray cats there were stray dogs and I fed a lot of my dinner to three cute pups.  Pat and I tried for drinks, and it was a failure because we asked for margaritas, and they have no idea how to make margaritas.  They were nice and switched them out for gin and tonic, but I swear, Walter has a future in Turkey opening a restaurant and serving his delicious margaritas.  We also discovered the Bodrum was way more expensive then the other areas of Turkey through which we had travelled.  We were tired from a long day of driving and so we called it a night.

The next morning we realized we were tired, and didn’t want to drive again so we decided to add an extra day in Bodrum.  It probably wasn’t the best choice because there actually wasn’t that much to do in Bodrum, but we did get a chance to rest.

In the morning we headed off to explore the castle.  It was founded by the Knights of St. John, and I had these weird flashbacks where I felt like I was in England except there were palm trees in the garden, and the Aegean was the most remarkable shade of aquamarine.  Here are some photos including a shot of the stone cannon balls.

Inside the castle was a museum devoted to a bronze age ship they had brought up from the Aegean.  It carried a gold seal with the name of Nefertiti on it, there were Sumerian seals, wax tablets inside book covers complete with a small silver “pen” to make cuneiform marks on the wax.  This find proved there was enormous trade between Greece and Egypt in 3000 B.C.
After the castle we walked to the site of the Mausoleum of Mausolus (from whose name comes the word mausoleum.  The mausoleum was one of the ancient wonders of the world.  Here’s a picture of a model of what it would have looked like before all the stones were looted by the Crusaders. 


I confess to feeling some envy as Walter and Pat compared notes on the other ancient wonders sites they had visited.  Pat has been to Egypt.  Walter has seen the temple of Zeus in Greece.  This was my first ancient wonder.  I obviously need to travel more.

We paused for lunch at a seafood restaurant and were treated to the spectacle of a procession taking a young boy to be circumcised.  There were flutes and drums, the boy was dressed in traditional dress and mounted on a white horse.  It looked like the horse was being led by his father.  At first Pat and I thought it was a wedding processional, but when we asked the restaurant’s owner he turned bright red, and just made a snipping gesture before scurrying away.  Only forward western women would be graceless enough to ask about a circumcision procession.

After lunch Pat and I went off separately to shop.  I was searching for a gold charm to add to my bracelet.  My dad had begun the tradition of bringing me a charm from every place he travelled and I’ve continued the practice.  But the gold was cheap and overpriced, and I settled for a pastry and Turkish coffee instead while seated on a terrace over the sea.

Before dinner we set on the beach and drink gin and tonics and visited with an English couple who’d come to Turkey for a long weekend.  I was desperately jealous of folks who live in Europe .  It’s such an effort for us to get anywhere, and they can just pop over to Turkey for a weekend.  The couple were charming, but they displayed that white, British racism that is always so jarring.  You’re going along having a perfectly lovely conversation with somebody, and then they say something hateful.  Maybe it’s because England is so small, and that makes them feel overwhelmed by immigrants.

This night we decided to walk over to the yacht  marina next to the castle and try for a better meal.  We found a seafood restaurant with a nice terrace and Walter and I shared the big seafood platter — red mullet, sea bass, squid, a locale crab, and something else that I can’t remember.  I’d never had red mullet and it was fantastic.  My sea bass was also excellent.  The crab had the consistency of mashed potatoes and a muddy taste.  That I didn’t finish.  The food was very good, but very expensive.

The highlight of the evening was our waiter, Leonardo who conceived a passion for Pat.  I went off to the restroom, and was accosted by Leonardo on my way back to the table.  The conversation went something like this.  “You know, your friend, Patricia.  I think she is very beautiful, very sympathetic.”   Then hastening to add, “This is not that you’re not attractive.  You’re very attractive too, but she… well, my heart… she just touches my heart.  Would you talk with her and see if she will go out with me after I get off work?”
I told him I would and I dutifully relayed the message.  When Leonardo brought us dessert he asked Pat if I had spoken to her.  He then knelt down at the side of her chair, and waxed rhapsodic.  “I get off at midnight.  Please come and meet me.  We will go to a club for dancing.”

Pat said she would think about it, but ultimately she decided she didn’t want to go walking halfway across Bodrum at midnight to go dancing and add to her list of Turkish adventures.  Walter and I teased her mercilessly about how she broke Leo’s heart.  I have to say, he was really cute.

The next morning, Easter Sunday, we headed off toward Selcuk with planned stops at a three ancient sites; a temple on Lake Bafa, a temple of Zeus and the temple to Apollo in Didyma.


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