Pamukkale & Ephesus
02.01.2010 - 04.01.2010
After ending the year with a respectful tour to Gallipoli I started the new year of with an overnight bus ride to Selcuk. Near Selcuk lies two things I wanted to see the ancient city of Ephesus and the natural wonder of Pamukkale. Arriving here I found my hostel (ANZ Guesthouse) with a typically Turkish feel, the owner ran the hostel, the carpet store and a kebab store. Very Turkish! He was however a great guy and almost falls over himself to help you out and make sure you get to do everything that you want.
The ancient city of Ephesus is supposedly the largest collection of roman ruins in the Mediterranean and is wiute well persevered putting anything that I saw in Greece to shame. Depending on which historian you subscribe to the city was founded somewhere between the 10th and 6th centuries BC and has outlived many empires during its glory days. During the Roman Empire it was the second biggest city after Rome. Nowadays the most impressive ruins that have been restored include the library, the stadium, the temple of Hadrian and the theatre, the latter believed to the largest in the ancient world holding 44,000 people. Now to put that into perspective approximately 2200 years ago the Romans had a theatre that seated more people than Subiaco oval – surely that is reason alone to get something done! The stadium here is also massive with a capacity believed to be around 25,000 (i.e. bigger than the WACA – really Perth is not stacking up so well). The library entrance is completely rebuilt and provides a very grand entrance to deceive for its relatively small size but all in all quite nice. The temple of Hadrian is marked by the gate which is almost perfectly restored carries with it caricatures of the emperor’s responsible for its building and repairs. The entire site runs down two streets and is approximately 3km’s in length and provides a good idea of how things would have looked in its glory days. This was definitely worth the visit despite some of the worst weather you could imagine with cats and dogs coming in sideways due to the wind, rendering both the audio and literary guides useless, still no cold is the main thing.
The town site here is also home to one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Temple of Artemis. This giant temple was first built around 2600 years in honour of the god Artemis, twin of Apollo. The temple is said to have been approximately 115m long and 55m wide making it about three times the size of the Parthenon. The temple was first destroyed in 356 BC by a an named Herostratus, purely to ensure his name was associated with history (this is also where the term herostratic fame comes from). Incredibly on this same night Alexander the Great was born and after coming to power and learning of the temples destruction on that night he offered to help pay for the restoration. The Ephesians refused apparently saying that one god could not help another god! The temple was later restored after his death only to be destroyed by the Goths again in the 2nd century. The temple was rebuilt again and suffered its final faint when apparently St John was praying to exercise its demons and the temple half collapsed around him, this was the signal that converted the Ephesians to christianity and the remains of the temple were used to build St john’s basilica also now near the town. Sadly all that remains today is some foundations and one pillar that I cannot say confidently hasn’t been reconstructed just for its significance.
The next day it was off to Pamukkale which was about 3 hours drive by bus which is not ideal but the place itself I was very much looking forward to visiting as in every photo I had seen it looked simply amazing. Some places just can’t be described and this is another one of those and something that certainly didn’t disappoint, definitely one of the top 5 things I have been lucky enough to see.
The name means cotton castle a reference to the precipitated calcium carbonate terraces that form here as the salt saturated water flows over them and cools down. The water then cascades down these terraces and provides a very magical setting. The water in the pools is a very nice 33 °C and despite the rain and wind I couldn’t resist having a dip in the supposed therapeutic waters.
With such a gorgeous setting it’s no surprise that the Romans decided to found a city here, Hierapolis in the 2nd century BC. With the therapeutic baths ever present the city quickly became a centre for healing. Due to the high earthquake activity in the area the ruins were completely destroyed however they are now in the process of being restored. The restoration is being undertaken by both Italian and Turkish teams working in competition (no idea why) rather than together on the operation. To date part of the wall, the Greek style theatre and Domitian gate have been nicely restored.
Due to the long bus trip here we didn’t have much time to walk around the ruins but after seeing ruins through Greece and Turkey the terraced baths were by far the best attraction for me. Next its off to Cappadocia to check out the caves and underground cities there.