Reminder: Jack’s slideshow (about our bicycle tour in Mexico) at REI in Boulder is coming up on June 13 at 6:30pm.
With visits to the old cities of Termessos, Olimpos, Sagalassos, Side, and Perge this spring, I feel like I’ve been quite the tourist. This week I visited Pamukkale/Hierapolis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of Turkey’s big tourist draws. However, this time I biked. The schedule was pre-determined — Ferda came by bus to meet me in Pamukkale for the weekend — but the pace was casual. I took a week to get from Antalya to Pamukkale. By bus it was only four hours!
This week reminded me not only of why I like bicycle touring but also why I like Turkey. Antalya and Pamukkale are both huge tourists draws, literally getting millions of visitors from around the world every year. Of course they’re connected by a fast comfortable highway, but they’re also connected by empty roads through welcoming villages. Between the crowded tourist bus destinations I visited three deserted tourist sites — Salda Gölü, Kaklık Mağarası, and Laodikeia — each worthy destinations in their own right.
Outside of Turkey’s urban concrete jungles it’s easy to find roads like this:
In this case the roads took me to Salda Gölü, the 3rd deepest lake in the world, according to locals. That just might mean the 3rd deepest lake in Turkey. Not even a single car came by on this paved road while I stopped for a swim.
Not far before the modern provincial capital of Denizli I stopped one afternoon in Kaklık to fill up my water bottles at a çeşme. I was welcomed by Meryem, Zeki, and their son Muhammed who invited me to spend the night at their house and took me to the unexpected nearby jewel, Kaklık Mağarası. It’s like an underground miniature Pamukkale, and we were the only ones there. It was raining at the time, but that hardly matters in a cave, does it?
Shortly after Denizli, practically in Pamukkale’s back yard, is the ancient city of Laodikeia. I was the only tourist there that afternoon, but apparently it’s a fairly big draw for connoisseurs of the cowboys of the apocalypse (for further information, see the revelations chapter in the bible?).
And then Pamukkale… Well, I was prepared to be disappointed. Tourists have been coming to the travertine deposits for over 2000 years. This natural site is after all why the ancient city of Hierapolis existed just above the pools. Modern Turkey’s tourism ministry started a misguided development project some 25 years ago. The hotels have since been destroyed and apart from the floral and grass landscaping you can hardly tell that Turkey started to build a concrete jungle smack in the middle of one of their few World Heritage Sites.
The biggest remaining problem is that there’s less mineral (calcium-rich) water than before, but where did it go? Certainly that can’t be the water they’re using for the landscaping, can it? I asked a few people, but no one in Pamukkale seemed to have any idea what they were talking about.
Down the road near Yenicekent a mineral water hamam owner explained how the water system at his property changed considerably after one of the earthquakes. Maybe….??
At any rate I’ll let the photos do the wowing for Pamukkale and Hierapolis.