We woke up to the view of the Pammukale mountain, though it’s only a 200m high cliff and the translation of Pamukkale is cotton castle. Our guide for the day, Mehmet, who was taking us on a private tour assured that we’d have long stretches to walk through so we’d better gear up! Little did he know we were going to tire him out with our questions and inability to miss any spot the UNESCO World Heritage Site – Hierapolis had to offer.
Hierapolis, it has been deduced, was similar to a medicinal and rejuvenation centre for the people of those times, replete with supposedly magical calcium carbonate water springing from the Pamukkale travertines, a theatre – the size, acoustics and beauty of which more than makes up for the steep climb to reach it – bazaar lanes and wine crushers, gymnasiums and cemetery, bathhouses and even Cleopatra’s pool, which was undoubtedly the most popular spot during our visit, combining the myths of eternal beauty and immortality and feeding off the biggest of human weaknesses, but who am I to judge! The ruse seemed to have worked in 2 BC, so why not 2020? Having stepped into the travertines of Pamukkale, I finally relived the innumerable moments I’d scoured the internet to look at the Pamukkale mountain, forgetting the name most times. Snappity snap a few pictures and we were ready for our next stop – the city of Aphrodisias.
The name took us aback too, wondering what part of the word aphrodisiac was borrowed from the city – turns out, all of it! While Hierapolis was awash with columnades and magnificent architecture, Aphrodisias was more of the scholar’s hideout with plain architecture but statues and figurines in marble beyond amazement. And may I say, that their stadium was way more mindblowing than Hierapolis’, solely due to the unexpected vastness of it! They’ve now set up a museum which houses statues which are the best of the lot, or let’s just say the most accessible of the lot, for closer examination. Our guide seemed quite popular among the staff there or maybe it was just Turks being Turks, all friendly and polite, unlike us grumpy-faced Indians, until we see white skin, of course!
The hour-long drive back to Pamukkale was silent, to say the least, but we did manage to tell apart fig trees from pomegranate even in the setting Sun, stop roadside to taste dried figs while our guide washed down a single piece of spiced ragi chip with mint and lots of water! Oh, also. We managed to shop for some of the famed cotton, despite our feet crying out for some air and rest!