Thursday, July 15, 2010

ruins galore

It's been a very ruin filled week. After leaving Ayvalik we headed to Selcuk. The buses don't go directly there though, so we had to take a bus to Izmir and then change to a mini bus to Selcuk. Selcuk is the closest town to the ancient city of Ephesus, which is why we were going there. After calling the local camping place, which refused to tell me the price of camping, we decided to stay in a hostel. The room was lovely, and it had a shower and air conditioning, both of which were very welcome after one night on a bus and two camping. Our first day and a half in Selcuk, Mark started and finished at least one book, we visited the Ephesus museum, the ruins of the impressive basilica of St. John, found a camping pad, saw the remains of the aquaduct and its nesting storks, and wandered the market. And this was the day and a half we had given ourselves for down time. Apparently we are horrible at doing nothing.

Ephesus is about a 4km walk from the center of town. We got there fairly early in the morning, so it was empty when we started. It didn't take long though for large groups of tourists led by guides bearing umbrellas started to flood in. The area is absolutely amazing. There's a theater, a smaller theater called the odeon, the library of celsus (the image seen on all postcards) which has been reconstructed by the Austrians, the latrines, the baths and more. By far the best place was the terrace houses. There is an extra charge to get in, but it's well worth it. The houses were built into the side of the hill, and seem to be part of an ongoing archeological restoration. They've been piecing together various bits of the marble wall siding and frescos that fell off the walls. There mosaics on the floor are just as incredible as the decoration on the walls. Walking up the hill, we passed more ruins, which are in a more ruinous state than the ones below. Only an arch or a pillar remains standing.

The road back proved longer than the road there, and we had enough time to get our packs before walking to the bus station. When our bus turned up, however, there wasn't enough room for everyone. The bus station in Izmir had oversold the bus. And so we had to wait for the next bus, which turned out to be a half sized mini bus, and more like a dolmus (shared taxi) than a bus, stoping for everyone by the side of the road. But it had airconditioning, and it got us there.

As we got off the bus in Pamukkale (cotton castle) we were mobbed by people wanting us to stay with them. Fortunatly we had called ahead, and one of the guys in the crowd was for the dort mevsim pension where we were planning to stay, so he put us in his van and drove us there. It was a good deal - 7 lira a person to put up the tent, as well as use of the internet and swimming pool.

Pamukkale was created by a very calcium rich spring which now puts forth 260 liters of water a second. It used to produce even more. When it comes in contact with oxygen the calcium precipitates out of the water as calcium carbonate, which then settled on the hill making white pools and just generally covering the place. The romans thought the water was healing, so they built a spa city named heiropolis above it, and so now you can visit the natural wonder of pamukkale, and the roman ruins as well.

We spent the entire day there. The entrance is at the bottom of the hill, and then you walk up through the white area. Shoes are not allowed because it damages the site, and so as Mark pointed out, we saw our first barefoot security guard. We visited all of the ruins, including the octaganal temple of St. Phillip the Apostle, supposedly built on the site where he was martyred. It was up a large hill, and there was no one else around. We saw the theater and the ruined temple of apollo, and were shocked at the price to swim in the ancient pool and so didn't, and visited frontius street and a bit of the necropolis while consuming about 5 liters of water. It was hot. On the way back down we watched the sun start to set as we swam in some of the man-made travertines (pools).

Our second morning in Pamukkale we spent most of the time in the calcium rich swimming pool - fed by the same spring up the hill. I feel I should somehow have stronger bones after sitting in all that calcium. Midday we caught a ride back up into the village to catch a bus to the seaside town of Fehtiye.

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