18.04.2017 - 26.04.2017 10 °C
Having had the chance to get a ‘feel’ for public transport in this region we made some decisions about filling the gaps in our itinerary. Our first move was to catch the bus to Izmir the next morning. We stayed just one night in this city on the Aegean coast before taking the train to Denizli the following day.
Our hotel was very close to the railway station so it was an easy walk to catch our train to Denizli the next morning. I think the ticket price was the equivalent of around $9 NZD and was cheaper than the buses.
We had booked two nights in Pamukkale. Regular local buses travel the 20km between Denizli and Pamukkale so it was very simple to make the connection.
This narrative from Wikipedia provides a very good description of Pamukkale.
Pamukkale, meaning "cotton castle" in Turkish, is a natural site in Denizli Province in southwestern Turkey. The city contains hot springs and travertines, terraces of carbonate minerals left by the flowing water. It is located in Turkey's Inner Aegean region, in the River Menderes valley, which has a temperate climate for most of the year.
The ancient Greco-Roman city of Hierapolis was built on top of the white "castle" which is in total about 2,700 metres (8,860 ft) long, 600 m (1,970 ft) wide and 160 m (525 ft) high. It can be seen from the hills on the opposite side of the valley in the town of Denizli, 20 km away.
Whether as Pamukkale (Cotton Castle) or ancient Hierapolis (Holy City), this village has been drawing the weary to its thermal springs for more than 23 centuries. The Turkish name refers to the surface of the shimmering, snow-white limestone, shaped over millennia by calcium-rich springs. Dripping slowly down the vast mountainside, mineral-rich waters foam and collect in terraces, spilling over cascades of stalactites into milky pools below. Legend has it that the formations are solidified cotton (the area’s principal crop) that giants left out to dry.
Overshadowed by natural wonder, Pamukkale’s well-preserved Roman ruins and museum have been remarkably underestimated and unadvertised; tourist brochures over the past 20 years have mainly featured photos of people bathing in the calcium pools. Aside from a small footpath running up the mountain face, the terraces are all currently off-limits, having suffered erosion and water pollution at the feet of tourists. While it is not open for bathing, the site is still worth a visit. Although many travellers come to Pamukkale only as a hasty day trip from Kuşadası or Selçuk.
Tourism is and has been a major industry. People have bathed in its pools for thousands of years. As recently as the mid-20th century, hotels were built over the ruins of Hierapolis, causing considerable damage. An approach road was built from the valley over the terraces, and motor bikes were allowed to go up and down the slopes. When the area was declared a World Heritage Site, the hotels were demolished and the road removed and replaced with artificial pools. Wearing shoes in the water is prohibited to protect the deposits.
It certainly was an amazing place. The white terraces provided a backdrop to the town similar to that of a ski village. The town itself was very quiet with what seemed a small number of visitors staying overnight. The tourist buses however rolled in and out all day with a constant stream of people filing up the terraces.
We chose our second day to explore the terraces and Hierapolis. We have to say that this was one of the most amazing ‘ruins’ we have visited. The lack of people, the freedom of access, along with the backdrop of spring wild flowers, made it a great experience. We think that the ‘hoards’ on the buses file up to view the terraces and eat ice cream then head straight back to the bus as there are very view people walking around such a significant site!
In the early stages of tourism in Pamukkale a road took people to the plateau above the terraces however this has now been closed and and a series of 'engineeerred' travertines have been developed. In order to protect these visitors are required to walk up in bare feet. Much of the warm, calcium-rich water that built the travertines has been diverted to other (usually commercial) uses, so today most of the travertine cliffs are dry.
We stayed in a great little hotel (The Bellamaritimo) owned by a young Turkish man. He was a wonderful host and provided a very comfortable and welcoming stay. Halim had been a tourist guide prior to taking over the hotel from his father and had lots of suggestions for the rest of out time in Turkey.
On the evening of our third day, we caught the night bus to Göreme (Cappadocia). We spent a rainy day in the comfort of the hotel's dining and living areas catching up on some admin while waiting for our bus to depart. The bus left from the station in Denizli at 10.00pm arriving in Göreme at 7.30 the following morning. We were both pleasantly surprised at the amount of sleep we must have had as we felt fresh for 'most' of the following day.
The advice we received before coming to Cappadocia was that we should stay in a typical cave hotel room if possible. The advantage of arriving early in the day meant that we got the pick of the rooms at the Castle Cave Hotel where we had booked for the next four nights. Our room was carved into the top of one of the typically featured rock formations in the centre of Göreme. We were treated to stunning views over the town and surrounding area. Any issues we might have had with wifi, heating and plumbing were well compensated for!
We enjoyed coffee and gozleme for breakfast at a little café run by a nice guy with a good knowledge of NZ and a sense of humour! Following this we checked out the ‘facilities’ available in the town. Göreme is very much geared to the tourist and was still a little quiet at this time of the year. We often asked the question, "do you see many people from NZ?" Many responded with, "not a lot in the last 2 to 3 years!"
Our afternoon was spent walking among the amazing hills and valleys around Göreme.
We spotted a nice looking Korean restaurant for dinner! We were looking for some Asian flavours as a change from Kebab!
Cappadoccia is well service by local buses that will get you to most places for around 3.5TL ($1.50 NZD). We decided on a visit to Ürgüp the next day which is just a quick 20 minute drive away. Ürgüp is well known for the local wine it produces. The town is not quite as set up for the tourist as Göreme. It is evident that some see the potential for development, particulary in the line of accommodation, although it is obvious that the troubles occurring in Turkey at present are making progress difficult on the tourism front!
We couldn’t leave Cappadocia without trying a Testi Kabab (Clay Pot Kebab). This is a dish from Central Anatolia and the Mid-Western Black Sea region, consisting of a mixture of meat and vegetables cooked in a clay pot or jug over fire (testi means jug in Turkish). The pot is sealed with bread dough or foil and is broken when serving. We popped down to a restaurant at the bottom of the hill which had a roaring fire going (it had been very cold) and got the table closest to it! These dishes are prepared in the morning and cooked slowly for four hours. Then as they are ordered they are given a ‘boost’ back in the fire and served piping hot!
Very Tasty Testi!
We were doing our best to try and avoid an organised tour but after some research it was a ‘no brainer’ to take one of the options we had discussed with Fatih, our host at the hotel.
The highlights of this full day tour were visits to:
DERINKUYU UNDERGROUND CITY
Derinkuyu is Cappadocia's biggest underground city with approximately 7 floors and 85m deep. It contains all the usual rooms found in an underground city (stables, cellars, storage rooms, refectories, churches, wineries etc). Apart from these, a large room with a barrel vaulted ceiling on the second floor was a missionary school, the rooms to the left being study rooms. From the 3rd and 4th floors onwards the descent is by way of vertical staircases, which lead to a cruciform plan church on the lowest floor. The 55m deep ventilation shaft was also used as a well. Not every floor was provided with surface access in order to protect the dwellers from poisoning during raids. Derinkuyu Underground City was opened to visitors in 1965 but so far only 10% can be visited.
IHLARA VALLEY - TREK
Early Christians constructed their rock houses and temples by carving the tuffs in the valley of Ihlara. Through this valley runs the Melendiz River. The waters of the river are named Ihlara as Peristrema meaning 'The people of circulating waters'. To search the source of the water in Ihlara, is in fact like trying to reveal the meaning of life. It takes 2 1/2hrs to walk from the Ihlara Vadisi to Belisirma and about 3hrs to walk from Belisirma to Selime.
Selime Monastery is an astonishing rock cut structure incorporating a vast kitchen and soaring chimney. A church has a gallery all around it, stables with feeding troughs and other evidence of the troglodyte lifestyle.
We had a small group which quickly got to know each other…. a family from Bulgaria, a young university couple from Istanbul, a lovely young lady from India celebrating her birthday with a trip to Turkey, another young lady from Algeria also having a birthday trip to Turkey and a Mother, daughter and Aunt on a surprise trip organised by the daughter! Our guide Effa not only had great knowledge but a wonderful sense of humour. We had a great day and were happy with our decision to take the tour.
The following day was a quiet day. We had planned another walk amongst the Fairy Chimneys in Rose Valley however Lynelle was feeling a bit off colour and Denis had taken a chunk of skin off his heel so was a bit uncomfortable in walking shoes!
The weather was improving and we were rewarded with a beautiful evening and glorious morning before heading back to Istanbul.
We were picked up early afternoon and delivered comfortably to Kayseri Airport for our flight to Istanbul.
Göreme was a beauftiful spot and were pleased we had chosen to spend four days here. As our host Fatih said, “not so long time but also not so short”!
In the words of Goldilocks, "just right!"