Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Pergamon and Pamukkale

Neither of these places is conveniently close to Selcuk where we were staying but it seemed better to have one base rather than change hotels each night.

Ali was our guide again for Pergamon with Ahmet our driver. We were ready to start when we realised that my seatbelt wouldn’t close. As there seemed to be no other seatbelt points in the back apart from our two, this car being a fairly small sedan, we needed to go to Kusadasi on the coast to pick up a change of car, which took the better part of an hour. Next day we found there were bits for a middle seatbelt down the back of the seat. We were not being very creative on this one.

Then off through the countryside to Pergamon. It is a fairly awe inspiring place, based on the Greek Parthenon and perched high on its own acropolis with amazing views far out across the country. Apart from a massive basalt wall, little remained intact, but reconstructions of the marble columns and still fallen remains give a really good idea of its size and majesty.

As the place was discovered by Germans, the actual altar of the temple of Zeus is now in a dedicated museum in Berlin, as is much else from the site, and two large alabaster jars are now in Hagia Sophia. A large flat area led to fabulous views and to the edge of the remarkably steep theatre, built into the natural hillside. One could also look down on the sanctuary of Dionysius. Along the edge we walked through a series of arches with side rooms, used for storage I think, but also vaulting holding up the terraces above.


Pergamon entry road N
Entry into Pergamon
pergamon, acropolis
The Parthenon
Sanctuary of Dionysius
Sanctuary of Dionysius
Pergamon medusa and sister N
Medusa and one sister. The third face has disappeared. Used to avert evil.

pergamon, theatre N
The very steep theatre
pergamon, ruin and tree
Remains of a wall and tower

From there we proceded to the Asclepion below. Here were long approaches lined with shops and houses, springs of water, an underground tunnel leading to the treatment centre, which was circular and surrounded by the sounds of running water. We were amused that death was apparently forbidden here, so really sick people went elsewhere while the curable were given the health spa treatment; taking the waters and bathing, reading in the extensive library, being entertained in the theatre, massage and other treatments as designed by Galen according to the analysis of the patients’ dreams, whispered to them by the gods as they slept. Sounds very modern to me.

pergamon, way to Asklepion
The way to the Asclepion
pergamon, theatre at Asklepion
The theatre for entertainment
pergamon, steps at theater, asklepion
Steps of the theatre

Pergamon was one of the seven churches named in the Apocalypse, and also named as the Altar of the Devil. The church is the tiny round church of St John right next to a huge red building that was the temple of Isis for visiting devotees from Egypt, but the altar of the devil is presumed to be the altar of Zeus.

pergamon, church of St John

Church of St John

The following day was for Pamukkale, meaning Cotton Castle for the billows of white calcium carbonate that form terraces and pools on the hillside. This is an extraordinary natural and historic spring with the travertine terraces cascading down the hill, contrasting white and azure. People are allowed in some areas and they have even formed pools for them, but others are kept as pristine as possible. Hotels have now been banned from the top of the site as they were polluting the springs. Our guide, Zricky, was a delight and the best of the tour.

What was unexpected was the approach through the ancient city of Hierapolis, first the monumental necropolis (seemed to be the place to come before you died. Maybe like the Gold Coast) and then the city, again rather dedicated to healing with its baths and springs. It was a scorching day and the option of the shuttle to Pamukkale was irresistible, so we saw very little of Hierapolis itself, arriving to a type of holiday site at the top where people were still taking dips in the warm waters of the springs, named Cleopatra’s Pool in honour of her visit to rid herself of wrinkles.

Hieropolis, sarcophagi, N
Pamukkale, Cleopatra's pool
Modern day partakers of the waters
Pamukkale, spring
The spring

Then to the edge of the hill where the travertines were covered by a wash of water from the springs and people were walking and lying in the water. I paddled. My feet should now be wrinkle free. Beyond that were the marvellous pools and terraces, like an outdoor Jenolan Caves for the Australians among you. The pictures say more than words.

PanPanakke N

Pamukkale, walking on the travertines N
Walking on the travertines
Pamukkale, terraces 2 N Pamukkale travertines 3
Cascades of pools
Pamukkale, terraces N
Pamukkale travertines 1
The calcium carbonate structures
Pamukkale travertines 2
Water drips, carrying more minerals

In leaving, we walked past natural channels built up by the minerals in the water and through massive Byzantine gates in walls constructed in the 6th century to keep the acquisitive out of this special place.

Pamukkale, Theatre
The ancient Hierapolois theatre
Pamukkale, Byzantine Gate N
Massive Byzantine walls and gate
Pamukkale walls and channels
Gate and natural channels

As we left the Pamukkale site we visited a nearby hotel complex for lunch and saw the natural red travertines formed when iron oxide is present. I am glad the rather lurid  yellow was not the colour at Pamukkale itself. Of interest as well was the local housing. As is often the case in Turkey, small high-rise apartments are the norm. In areas of great heat they build a roof over the flat rooftop where they can sleep and eat in the very hot weather. In addition, almost all apartments have a subsidised solar powered hot water tank, leading to some interesting rooflines, but providing cheap hot water for up to 300 days a year.

Pamukkale, red terraces
Red terrace at hotel
house rooftop
Roof over the roof
hot water and TV
Solar hot water

Next: I will attempt to condense all Istanbul into one post.

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