The first stop on this part of my tour was to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the ancient city of Hierapolis, Pamukkale Springs and the Travertine Terraces. Pamukkale is Turkish for “cotton castle” and that is exactly what these incredible terraces look like from a distance. The geological terrace formations are 8,860 feet across, 1,970 feet wide, 525 feet high and can be seen from across the valley 12 miles away.
The terraces are formed by calcium carbonate that is suspended along with other minerals in the water flowing from 17 hot mineral springs high up on the mountain. The springs with temperatures ranging from 95 to 212 Fahrenheit create a continuous water flow that delivers the minerals to the head of the terraces and deposits calcium carbonate that becomes a soft gel which in time crystallizes into travertine. Attached are photos of the milky white terraces with their milky blue and green mineral pools.
North side travertine pools
At the end of the 2nd century B.C., Attalids, King of Pergamon established the thermal spa of Hierapolis. Later Greeks expanded on the city and still later the Romans added their two cents. Pergamon, Greek, and Roman ruins of baths, temples, huge city gates, a monument arch, nymphaeum, necropolis and theater stretch across the area just above and surrounding the travertine terraces.
Later in 330 A.D., the site became a religious center for the Eastern Church under Constantine so there are also ruins of early Christian churches including a cathedral, baptistery, Martyrium of St. Phillip, and lesser churches on the site as well.
The Greeks and Romans built a network of canals, tile pipes and channels to direct the hot mineral water to pools for swimming and basins/baths for soaking in the therapeutic waters. The Temple of Apollo was built over a vent which leaked noxious vapors believed by the ancients to have healing powers. The ancient city must have been spectacular in its day with ornate city gates and a long columned colonnade.
The first photos of ruins you see after the Southern Gate are a few marble columns that are all that left of the gymnasium. The original structure was 270 feet long with a 20 foot high portico, was built in the 1st century and stood until it was destroyed by an earthquake in the 7th century. In the 1300 years since the earthquake, the remains have been covered by a thick calcareous deposit from the runoff of the springs above.
Southern Gate and Gymnasium of Hierapolis
The next series of photos are from the south side of the Travertine Terraces and channels created to direct the mineral waters thru the city and into the terraces. Unfortunately, my photos do not do the beauty of the terraces and mineral pools justice. Seeing the terraces up close and personal is an unforgettable experience.
Travertine Terraces on the south side
Most of the travertine pools are off-limits but you can swim/wade in one small section just below the Roman Baths/Museum with 10,000 of your closest friends. I passed on swimming in the terraces and chose instead to take a dip in what is known as Cleopatra’s Pool. If you believe the legend Cleopatra bathed and swam in this Roman built pool.
Cameras are not allowed in the pool itself so I don’t have a selfie but I did take some photos from the apron of other swimmers in the hot spring fed pool after my quick dip. Notice the marble columns and other stonework scattered in the pool by an ancient earthquake.
Despite the rules to protect the pool from modern chemicals and bacteria (everyone must shower before entering the pool, no sunscreen, makeup, water shoes, food, drink or cameras are allowed in the pool) the experience is still very cool and worth the price of admission and a sunburn.
Just up the hill from Cleopatra’s Pool sits the ruins of the Temple of Apollo. All that survived the earthquakes are the foundation, a few columns and marble statues. Further up the incline is the crown jewel of Hierapolis – the huge Theater. UNESCO has helped with funding to restore the theater and I have included a series of photos beginning with Cleopatra’s Pool, then the Temple of Apollo, and finally the Theater. After this series of photos, there are photos of the northern section of the terraces including the small section open to swimmers and waders.
Temple of Apollo
Next are a series of photos taken as I walked along Frontinus Street (the main North to South street thru the city). These photos include shots of the remains of the Agora, Nymphaeum of Tritons, Latrina, Frontinus Gate, Basilica Baths, Christian Basilica, and the Northern Necropolis including several ornate tombs.
The ingenuity, architectural and engineering acumen of the ancients is simply amazing. They built incredible buildings and monuments that have survived for thousands of years without the benefit of modern machinery or building materials. I wonder how long our modern buildings will stand and if 1000 years from now people will look back and ask, “how did they build that stuff with such primitive tools and materials?”
Frontinus Gate and Street
Agora and North Gate
One last set of photos show how nature eventually wins out over man’s structures. These photos show how the minerals from the hot springs have covered and imprisoned marble columns and stone walls forming a kind of petrified forest of columns and capitals.
Columns and walls over run and covered by mineral deposits
Central Turkey: Konya
Next stop on my tour thru central Turkey was Konya. Konya is one of Turkey’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. The city served as the capital of the Seljuk Turks during the 12th and 13th centuries and is considered one of the great cultural centers of Turkey. The city boast a host of historical treasures including the 12th century Alaeddin Mosque, the old citadel, the remains of the Seljuk Imperial Palace, the Karatay Madrasah museum, Ince Minareli Madrasah, Sircali Madrasah, Sahip Ata Complex, and Archeological Museum.
But I passed by all of these sites because I came to Konya for one purpose. I wanted to visit the Mosque, Mausoleum, and Museum of Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi the great Sufi mystic and poet. Rumi founded the Sufi order known today as the Whirling Dervishes. But the dervish cult doesn’t really interest me. What peaked my curiosity about this man was his poetry.
A friend of mine had sent me a link to his poetry read by Deepak Chopra, Madonna, Demi Moore, Martin Sheen, Debra Winger and others all set to some very haunting music. I had never heard of Mevlana (Rumi) or his poetry but thought the audio beautiful and calming so decided to go learn more about this 12th century mystic myself and added Konya to my itinerary for Turkey. Photos of the Museum, Mosque and Mausoleum are attached. If you are interested in hearing the poetry readings you can find them on YouTube “A Gift of Love” Deepak & Friends.
Poetry and writings of Rumi
Mausoleum of Mevlana Celaeddin-I Rumi
Mosque complex in Konya
Dеераk & Friеnds "A Gift Оf Lоvе "Мusic Insрirеd Вy The Lоvе Pоеms Of Rumi
After spending several hours exploring the mosque, mausoleum, and the museum (photos attached) I drove on to the crown jewel of my Turkey tour – Cappadocia. My home for the next two nights was a very nice luxury cave hotel suite which included my own in-suite whirlpool tub and hammam.
People have continuously inhabited Cappadocia for over 4000 years. But what makes this place so unique and fascinating is how the people burrowed underground and adapted to survive. The local Hitites began building their underground cities to hide from the invading Egyptian army in 2000BC. The underground cities were needed again and expanded in 500BC to evade the invading Persians. And the final persecuted group to use these cave cities were the early Christians hiding from the Romans and later Arabs converting people to Islam at the point of a sword.
Persecution of the Christian minority finally ended in the 12th century once the Turks arrived and became the dominant political and social force in what is now Turkey. Since then the underground chambers have been used for storage and in the 20th century as a tourist attraction.
I began my exploration of Cappadocia by air before dawn. I left my hotel at 4 am bound for a launch site for a sunrise hot air balloon fly over of the underground city and its many ferry towers and rock formations. I was surprised to find not just a few balloons being inflated in the predawn quite but hundreds of crews using propane tanks to heat and inflate their giant balloons. And each balloon had 40 eager tourists chomping at the bit to hop on and lift off.
I was assigned to a balloon with 39 Taiwanese. They all spoke English and although not part of their group they made an effort to make me feel comfortable which I appreciated. The flight only lasted an hour but it was spectacular. We flew over stunning rock formations carved and shaped by wind and rain thru tens of thousands of years. We had a bird’s eye view of many of the cave communities. Watched several young couples sharing wedding vows in outdoor sunrise ceremonies from 500 feet above. But mother nature provided the headliner with an incredible sunrise.
Pre-dawn balloons prep
Flying over Cappadocia
I consider myself very fortunate to have scheduled the balloon trip this calm cloudless day. The next two mornings the entire balloon fleet was grounded due to high winds and there were thousands of very disappointed tourists who missed one of the best experiences of my life.
Once the balloon landed we were treated to a champagne breakfast then returned to our hotels to prepare for the rest of our day. My day included a full-day tour of South Cappadocia. Thru the day, we hiked the length of the Red and Rose Valleys, the Cavusin Village (one of the oldest settlements in the region) and explored several of the cave houses, hiked thru Love Valley and Pigeon Valley, visited Kaymakli Underground City and Uchisar Castle.
At the end of the day, I was tired but very pumped up and not ready to quit so I attended a dinner and traditional folk show in one of the large cavernous underground restaurants.
Next morning was devoted to touring North Cappadocia. We began by visiting the Goreme Open Air Museum which consists of five incredible Byzantine Orthodox churches artfully carved out of the earth by hand. These churches were started by St. Basel and his brother St. Gregory who built both churches and monasteries.
After visiting Goreme we moved on to Devrent Valley and Pasabag where we marveled at nature’s handy work of rocks carved by rain and wind into animal shapes and fairy-tale like rock formations.
And we ended the day by visiting the ancient towns of Urgup and Avanos famous for their red clay pottery.
I have included photos of my incredible sunrise balloon tour, my hikes above ground, my explorations underground, the traditional folk show, and other assorted photos. Cappadocia concluded my Turkey Plan B Tour so next morning I was off to Beirut to begin a week in Lebanon. But that excursion will be the topic of my next blog.
One last amusing moment during this leg of my Turkey Tour involved a small language misunderstanding. After dinner in Pamukkale, I stopped by the garden bar of my hotel for a beer and to watch the entertainment provided by a wedding party. As I was placing my order for a beer the waiter said “one beer Rockie?” And I said, Yes and wondered how he knew my name? He came back and asked for clarification, “Beer, one or two Rockie?” To which I said, I may drink two but let’s bring them one at a time. Which seemed to confuse him but he spoke very little English and I speak no Turkish.
After a few minutes, he delivered my beer and two shot glasses of a clear liquid spirit (one a single shot the other a double shot). I looked at the beer, and shots sat before me and asked, “What are these?” to which he replied “Rockie”. Yes I am Rockie but what are these? He pointed to the shots and said Rockie. And I shook my head and pointed at myself and said no I’m Rockie and I didn’t order these shots.
We both figured it out at the same time. He didn’t know my name he was asking me if I wanted to try Turkey’s signature drink which they call Rocki (not sure of the spelling) and when I nodded that yes I was Rockie he thought I was agreeing to try a shot. Then when he asked one or two he was referring to a single shot or double of Rocki not beer. Language can be a little tricky sometimes. But not to be impolite I downed both the single and double shots. And learned that Turkish Rocki is actually Greek Ouzzo.