With the car now restored to temporary working order we now loaded our bags and pleased to be leaving the less than four star Grand Sevgi Hotel were relieved to see it for the last time in the rear view mirrors of the car as we made our way to Heirapolis.
This only took a moment or two but at the entrance Hagi (the gadgi) turned the engine off and then it immediately wouldn’t start again and this didn’t look very promising at all especially in consideration of the three hour journey home later today.
It was early and the visitor numbers were proportionately low but there were still a great deal of coaches in the car park and there was some competition to get through the entrance barriers and into the site. We needn’t have worried however because it was big, very big and soon the visitors were dispersing in all directions and there was plenty of personal space for everyone to enjoy.
Our guide rushed us through several centuries of ancient history with rather indifferent haste and the reason for this was that few people were really that interested in the history and wanted only to get to Cleopatra’s thermal pool with its anti-ageing secrets locked in the warm waters of the spa.
“This site is exceptional by virtue of its superlative natural phenomena – warm, heavily mineralized water flowing from springs creating pools and terraces which are visually stunning. It is on this outstanding natural site that Hierapolis, an exceptional example of a Greco-Roman thermal installation, was established. The Christian monuments of Hierapolis constitute an outstanding example of an early Christian architectural complex.” – UNESCO
Heirapolis/Pamukkale is the site of an ancient Hellenistic and then a Roman city because it benefits from a rejuvenating spa of constantly warm water that the ancients were rather fond of. The source of the spring is carefully locked behind bars because as it emerges from the earth’s core it brings with it a lethal cocktail of poisonous toxic gasses that will overcome and kill in seconds but once separated from the noxious fumes the clear water flows down towards the edge of the mountain where it calcifies and forms startlingly white travertine pools of dazzling white calcium deposits like a fresh fall of snow that you mind find in Archangel, Alaska or Alberta.
On its journey it is diverted into Cleopatra’s pool and visitors pay an extortionate amount (just my skinflint opinion) of money to swim in the naturally heated thermal pools in the hope of discovering the secret of everlasting youth.
All around this part of the Eastern Mediterranean there are all sorts of places that claim to be Cleopatra swimming pools and I for one am becoming rather sceptical about the claims. In the days before Ryanair, high speed rail or motorways she seemed to be able to get around much easily than I imagine it really was possible two thousand years ago! Actually, I have done this sort of thing before on Santorini in 2003 and I am convinced that you only need to do it once to achieve everlasting good looks and a second attempt might reverse the process so I declined to do it again here.
At this point we parted company with the Lithuanians and the Dagenham Ladies darts team and left the thermal pool and choose instead to go and visit the ruins of Heirapolis. And how glad we were that we did. It was quite a slog to the top of the old city but at the end of the climb was a restored ancient theatre that surely has to be amongst the best that we have ever seen and that includes Segesta in Sicily and Merida in Spain and also (again in my opinion) the ruins that we had visited yesterday at Ephesus . To miss this treat in preference to swimming in a dubious Cleopatra themed swimming pool was a cultural crime!
With everyone else splashing about in the water we felt rather smug about this as we made our way back down and after stopping for a coffee made our way to the edge of the mountain side and the pure white frost of Pamukkale. A few years ago visitors used to wander all over this site and at Cleopatra’s pool they built a hotel but too many people meant unacceptable damage so with the assistance of funding from UNESCO the hotel was closed down and demolished, the damage caused by diverting the natural spring was reversed and visitors are now restricted to only a small section of the geological wonder. Pamukkale is now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Along with hundreds of other visitors we paddled through the dazzling turquoise pools and winced as we made our way through hidden and sharp travertine surfaces and then we were glad to put our shoes back on and walk awhile through the site. It was good, I enjoyed it but to be honest I am not sure that it was really worth the agony of an eight hour return trip bus trip. And it is only eight hours on a good day but I will tell you about that next time.