Story: Chau Giang
Although I only spent ten days exploring Turkey, I had many memorable experiences in this magical land nestled between Europe and Asia. The stunning natural site of Pamukkale, home to wonderous calcite terraces and the ancient Greek city of Hiearpolis, was a highlight.
It took more than an hour by plane and another hour by car from Istanbul to reach Pamukkale in the southwest region of Turkey. For thousands of years, travelers have flocked here for the healing properties of its thermal springs and I immediately felt at peace. Although I was tired from my journey, after a tasty kebab I was ready and eager to explore.
HIERAPOLIS – RUINS OF THE GODS
Hierapolis – meaning “holy city” – was built as a thermal spa town by the Greek Attalid dynasty in the 2nd century BCE and was eventually absorbed by Rome. Despite being destroyed by an earthquake in 60 AD, Hierapolis retains the grandeur of the land where it once flourished, with the ruins of imposing city gates, temples, statues of sacred gods and a magnificent outdoor theater. The highlight of the historic site is the Roman theater, which remains intact today and is reached by a lovely meandering trail on a gentle hill flanked by yellow shrubs. On arriving, I was awed by the striking marble construction, able to host around 10,000 spectators with 50 rows of seats among nine sections. It stands as a testament to the amazing artistry and skill of its ancient founders.
Standing on the highest row of seats, I was captivated by the massive stage, with its sophisticated statues and reliefs. The splendid ambiance of the theater stirred a mix of emotions in me, both regret and appreciation for the once- vibrant city now standing in ruins.
PAMUKKALE – THE MARVELOUS GIFT FROM NATURE
Hierapolis is situated atop Pamukkale, which was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. The beautiful colors and topography of this one-of-a-kind wonder, known as “cotton castle” in Turkish, were formed by natural sediments deposited over countless centuries.
Hot springs carrying calcium carbonate flowed over the mountainside to form gleaming layers of white limestone terraces. The mineral-rich water from the springs also dripped down and created hundreds of small, crystal-clear pools, completing the stunning landscape.
Taking off my shoes, I immersed my feet to feel the pure hot water and the rough terrain that was formed over millennia. Pamukkale is a massive natural spa where visitors can enjoy the soothing mineral water that heals both body and soul. Following the white stone edges sparkling under the sun, I saw “clouds” of limestone dotting blue lakes on one side and peaceful towns set among green mountains on the other. It was at that moment that I realized how lucky I was to be taking in the fresh air and enjoying the warm water and serene nature of this enchanting place. In ancient times, Pamukkale was a sacred land because it possessed valuable hot springs that soothed physical and mental suffering. These values haven’t changed over thousands of years, as tourists still flock to this place to marvel at the spectacular landscape and its long-lasting history, nurture their souls and rediscover their inner peace.