Monday, 19 August 2013

Pamukkale - The Cotton Castle

This is Pammukale

One massive white mountain in the middle of the Turkish countryside. It doesn't feel quite so strange  until you're standing on its peak, looking out at the rolling green hills and pastures surrounding which prompt you to wonder "how the hell did this get here?!".

Sunset on Cotton Castle.
And now for your science lesson of the day:
In this area, there are 17 hot water springs in which the temperature ranges from 35 °C to 100 °C. The water that emerges from the springs is naturally carried to the head of the travertine terraces (a fault in the Earth's crust that allows the water from below to escape through) and deposits calcium carbonate on a section 60 to 70 metres long covering an expanse of about 300 metres. When the water, supersaturated with calcium carbonate, reaches the surface, carbon dioxide degasses from it, and calcium carbonate is deposited. Calcium carbonate is deposited by the water as a soft jelly, but this eventually hardens into travertine which is the rock that makes up this white mountain. Due to its strange natural appearance, the Turkish name Pamukkale literally means 'cotton castle'.

The ancient city.
Ancient societies attributed healing powers to the hot springs and so founded a thermal station on the site in the late 2nd century. The history of Hierapolis followed the same course as many Hellenistic cities in Asia Minor. The Romans acquired full control of it in 129 BC and it prospered under its new rulers. It was a cosmopolitan city where Anatolians, Graeco-Macedonians, Romans and Jews intermingled. The hot springs which attracted throngs of people, also served as a place for scouring and dying wool, and hydrotherapy which was accompanied by religious practices that turned into some sort of a local cult.

Alex and Martino getting right down to business in trying out the mineral properties of the hot springs.
We travelled to Pamukkale with Martino, as he was also working his way to the west coast and then up north to Istanbul. We all booked the same bus and headed there in the evening. The trip began with 120 of us packing onto a coach that seats 56 (no one going to Pamukkale realised we were supposed to get a dolmus to Nevşehir to then get on our bus. So we all just jumped on the Antalya bus and demanded we be dropped along the way). It was a really nice ride, made even better by FINALLY receiving ice-cream! On top of that it was the gooey Turkish kind and pistacio flavoured. At 6am we were dropped on the side of a highway as our bus was continuing on to Izmir. We thought we'd have to then walk the 9km to Pamukkale, but out if nowhere 6 mini buses turned up and began screaming hotel names to everyone. In the confusion we just jumped onto a random bus, which just happened to drop everyone outside the hotel we'd booked (winner).

Water runs down the hill like a liquid carpet.
We only wanted to stay one night as we'd been advised that you don't need more than a day there. We booked the cheapest hotel we could find. It turned out to be the best one on offer! It had a really nice pool, spa and sauna. (As it was 40 degrees outside the spa was thankfully cooled so it was like a cold bubble pool. We were once again exhausted so slept for a couple hours then chilled by the pool. All the tours go to the mineral pools during the day, so we waited out until late in the afternoon. When we arrived it was still bustling with people, but after a couple hours of walking around the ruins of the old city the mountain became almost deserted. We swam in the warm mineral pools until the sun set. The snow-like appearance of the white calcium deposits during the day, become reflective washes of oranges and purples during the evening sunset. It was incredibly beautiful. After Alex dropped me down one of the flowing mineral rivers, where I scarred half of my back, we descended off the gorgeous mountain and headed back to the village for some dinner and then a much needed nights sleep.

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