Turkey 2002

Day 10 - Tuesday - Pamukkale to Lake Egirdir>

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So, there are a bunch of men that sometimes sit at roadsides, apparently doing nothing. Well, I am building up a theory. In the same way that cows probably sit around and play poker, smoke Cuban cigars and chat about world affairs until a car drives by (at which point they revert to standing, sitting and maybe mooing), I think these Turkish guys are letting rip with firearms to pass the time when no-one's watching. Throughout the coach journeys, I'd noticed road signs that were pitted with dents that look like the result of boredom combined with air gun. Sometimes, they must get really bored, as there were signs with holes clear through them - the result of a real gun? Or maybe it was all innocent, perhaps nothing more sinister than stone chippings after all. We'll never know ...

Pamukkale

Our first sight of Pamukkale (literally 'cotton castle') was from a distance. We parked up below the ridge of white and looked up at the ant-like procession of people down the hillside. We could barely make out the features of Pamukkale from here that we had seen in numerous postcards and pictures in books. It was simply a high ridge that had been dipped in white paint at this stage.

Neil left us at this point, as the tourist police are pretty hot in Pamukkale. If he had done as much as point in the general direction of anything here, he might be arrested for tour-guiding without the appropriate pass. It was no joke - on arrival at the site once before, he had pointed out the location of toilets, was spotted by a local guide who had then reported the bus to the authorities. When they arrived at the gate, Neil was forced to hide at the back of the bus and play tourist, while driver Safet covered for him. They can, and will, cart tour leaders off to the station, fine them and generally inconvenience them and their groups if they feel that they have been attempting to guide a group.

So, Safet drove us up to the entrance and we were given our tickets. The entrance is situated just outside of the Necropolis area, and outside of that were hundreds of sarcophagi that we had already driven past. The Necropolis had a few structures remaining largely in one piece including one building which, with its twin arches, resembled a kind of ancient version of the McDonalds golden arches. There was also a well preserved colonnaded structure.

To our left we could see the theatre through a heat haze, and decided to skip that for a while - it was looking very hot and really quite far away for now! Instead, we stayed on the path which lead us straight to the ultra-white lime rock formations we had come to see.

A view of the Travertines

There was a dubious sign at the beginning that read "Only for walking without shoes and taking photos". So, does that mean no walking with shoes on but photos are OK? Or did it mean that both were not OK? Go barefoot and without camera? We went barefoot, but took the cameras anyway and decided to watch what other people did.

We took loads of photos. Surreptitiously at first, then blatantly. Well, everyone else was and besides, what harm could it do? It was not like being in a museum where the flash might fade colours on a frieze or whatever. Besides, how much more light can you get than brilliant white?

The Travertines - or the 'frozen waterfalls' - are depicted in postcards as flowing with azure waters and with people happily splashing about in the pools in their swimming costumes. The truth is that they have actually been restricted to tourists for a number of years - it's a case of look but don't touch, now.

To try to keep the tourists happy, they have tried to build artificial pools for people to splash about in, into which they have directed warm water. It's not remotely convincing, but for us it didn't matter - we were still able to see the real Travertines and admire them from a distance.

Sign at Pamukalle. It reads 'Entering the Travertines is not certainly allowed to protect this amazing natural beauty as it used to be.'

Once we had walked down the escarpment for some distance, we walked back up against the ever-growing tide of visitors. It was obvious that, unlike other areas of Turkey, people did not think it necessary to cover their shoulders or knees. In fact, many were barely covering anything in an attempt perhaps to maximise the reflective light to top up their tans. Others in the tour would later describe the numbers of people and their attire tacky.

Afterwards, we had lunch in a 'wheel-em-in, wheel-em-out' fast food restaurant that served buffet food for the princely sum of 3 million TL (that's £1.20 folks!). It looked like every visitor to the site had also stopped by here to. I wondered how any of the other local restaurants - if indeed there were any - could even begin to compete with this. Somehow, it all seemed a bit unfair.

Another afternoon's fairly uneventful drive - livened up only by the occasional near-suicidal overtaking manoeuvre by other cars and trucks - took us to our stop for the evening, Lake Egirdir.

Decorative image: White lime stone at Pamukkale

The ultra-bright natural lime rock formations at Pamukkale.