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Continuing Westward in Turkiye

October 28th, 2022

We hit the road on the early side today as we had a more than 200 km / 125 mi to drive to get to Pamukkale today.  But first before leaving Fethiye, we stopped to see the Rock Tombs on the hills.  There is a museum but you can see them right from the road directly in front, so we opted to do just that.

Modern Fethiye is located on the site of the Ancient Greek city of Telmessos, with the Tomb of Amyntas located in the south side of the city in the mountainside, in the base of the mountain. The impressive looking tomb was built in 350 BC, and was named after the Greek inscription on the side of it which reads “Amyntou tou Ermagiou”, which translated to English means “Amyntas, son of Hermagios”.

The tomb was built by the Lycians, the people who lived in this part of the Persian Empire at the time. The Lycians were a tightly-knit confederation of independent city-states, including Telmessos.

Do not mistake the name Amyntas for the Macedonian king Amyntas I of Macedon, satrap of Skudra, and Ancestor of Alexander the Great. Amyntas in this context might be the descendant of the King maker of Cyrus the Great, the Median General Harpagos, who became satrap of Lycia, the first of the Harpagid Dynasty, for his services to Cyrus in his conquest.

There are more tombs in this area as well.

We stopped for diesel when we saw it under 26.6₺ (which latter price which seems to be the norm now) but the idiot gas jockey, walked away from the running pump while we used the WC’s.  As we walked back, Fran could see something spilling out and yelled out.  The other gas jockey also noticed it and our fellow ran over and shut it off.  We have no idea how much was spilled and they only gave us a discount of just under one litre!

As we continued northward we encountered this town:

entering the town of “Don’t”

and at the end of the town, as is normal in Europe, we saw this sign:

leaving the town of “Don’t”

After stopping to grocery shop in the larger city of Denzili we carried on.

We arrived in Pamukkale around noon and got parked outside a restaurant with a pool that offers camping for 350₺ night with power, water, showers, Wi-Fi and of course, the pool!

We got set up in the campground, Doug made breakfast and then went to check out the ticket options at Pamukkale while Fran began getting some Wi-Fi things started.

Pamukkale, meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish, referring to the surface of the shimmering, snow-white limestone, shaped over millennia by calcite-rich springs. The area is famous for a carbonate mineral left by the flowing of thermal spring water.

Dripping slowly down the mountainside, mineral-rich waters collect in and cascade down the mineral terraces, into pools below.  Pamukkale’s terraces are made of travertine, a sedimentary rock deposited by mineral water from the hot springs. In this area, there are 17 hot springs with temperatures ranging from 35C / 95 F) to 100 C / 212 F). The water that emerges from the spring is transported 320 m / 1,050’ to the head of the travertine terraces and deposits calcium carbonate on a section 60 to 70 m / 200 to 230) long covering an expanse of 24 m / 79’ to 30 m / 98’. When the water, supersaturated with calcium carbonate, reaches the surface, carbon dioxide de-gasses from it, and calcium carbonate is deposited. Calcium carbonate is deposited by the water as a soft gel which eventually crystallizes into travertine.

It was added as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 along with Hierapolis.  The ancient Greek city of Hierapolis was built on top of the travertine formation which is in total about 2,700 metres (8,860 ft) long, 600 m (1,970 ft) wide and 160 m (525 ft) high. It can be seen from the hills on the opposite side of the valley in the town of Denizli, 20 km away. 

Hierapolis was founded as a thermal spa early in the 2nd century BC within the sphere of the Seleucid Empire. Antiochus the Great sent 2,000 Jewish families to Lydia and Phrygia from Babylon and Mesopotamia, later joined by more from Judea. The Jewish congregation grew in Hierapolis and has been estimated as high as 50,000 in 62 BC. Hierapolis became a healing centre where doctors used the thermal springs as a treatment for their patients. The city began minting bronze coins in the 2nd century BC. These coins give the name Hieropolis. It remains unclear whether this name referred to the original temple or honoured Hiera, the wife of Telephus, son of Heracles and the Mysian princess Auge. This name eventually changed into Hierapolis (“holy city”), In 133 BC, when Attalus III died, he bequeathed his kingdom to Rome. Hierapolis thus became part of the Roman province of Asia. In AD 17, during the rule of Emperor Tiberius, a major earthquake destroyed the city.

Through the influence of the Christian Apostle Paul, a church was founded here while he was at Ephesus. The Christian Apostle Philip spent the last years of his life here. The town’s Martyrium was alleged to have been built upon the spot where Philip was crucified in AD 80. His daughters were also said to have acted as prophetesses in the region. During  the 4th century, the Christians filled Pluto’s Gate (a ploutonion) with stones, suggesting that Christianity had become the dominant religion and had begun displacing other faiths in the area. Originally a see of Phrygia Pacatiana, the Byzantine Emperor Justinian raised the bishop of Hierapolis to the rank of metropolitan in 531. The Roman baths were transformed to a Christian basilica. During the Byzantine period, the city continued to flourish and also remained an important centre for Christianity.

We decided that since the ticket was only good for one entry we’d rather go this afternoon while it was warm (24C / 75 F) than in the morning when it was cooler (low of 7C / 45F tonight).  We put our bathing suits on, grabbed a large beach towel, sandals and cameras and walked over to the ticket gate about 1 km away from where we are parked.

We had our hopes pretty high for this based on photos we’d seen online but kept trying to tamper our expectations but it was hard.

Here’s a postcard from the shop of  what we hoped to see:

Well, sadly the majority of the pools were empty – maybe we were here at the wrong time of year?

They charge you 200₺ (about $12 USD) to get it in but that does not include the Hierapolis Museum or the ancient pool/spa.  After entering the park, you reach a point where you must remove your shoes and walk barefoot on the calcium carbonite so as not to damage it.  Sometimes it can get pretty rough (kind of like coral) and much of the time you are walking in running water.

now take off your shoes

It was spectacularly white in most places.   You can stay as long as you want; there are restaurants, ruins, and the museum and several look outs to check out.

We did a fair bit of walking including going to the top (where you can put your shoes back on), and checked out some of the ruins and look outs

and we stopped for a drink and a snack on the large platform.

Here we found the spot to get a photo of where you can see one pool then the next, then the next and so on.

We then walked the other way, saw more ruins and then walked back down the travertines and found an almost empty pool to take a soak in.  It was like an infinity pool as the water spilled over where we were sitting, down into the next pool and so on.

We spent about 2.5 hours there and the weather was about perfect.  In this area it’s still around 25C / 77F during the day but drops to single digits Celsius overnight. On our walk back to the camp spot, we stopped for a beer in a Chinese restaurant owned by a fellow who has spent time in Canada.

A German couple in a ritzy RV showed up while we were gone and we chatted a bit but they left the next day.

So after doing a bit of research later that night, it seems water is on short supply due to the increased local population and so limited for the park.  The photos we all see are from 10-30 years ago!  They claim to keep 8-10 pools open for visitors, however, we only saw 6.  Maintaining them is expensive as algae grow after a time and they need to be cleaned.  It’s sad.  So yeah climate change and too many people are an issue.  It’s still very cool to see this White Mountain but it’s wrong to hype it up so much.

Tomorrow, the 29th is Turkiye’s National holiday and during the evening we could hear parades of cars honking and some music from nearby bars but it didn’t last late.

Saturday, Fran wanted to stay another day to catch up on photos so we did that.  We saw a few hot air balloons launching nearby that morning and every day we saw paragliders enjoying the park views.

We had a chill day, the sun continued to shine, Doug went to look for a bakery at one point and in the afternoon Fran read outside by the pool in the sunshine after catching up on photo editing.

Sunday morning was another glorious but chilly on with temps around 7C / 45F at 7am, but that’s manageable and we saw three more balloons taking off as well as one paraglider over the “White Mountain”.

Doug went for his run and we left Pamukkale around 9 am heading towards the ancient Greek city of Aphrodisias less than 100 km / 60 mi away.

The city, which was founded in the 5th century BC, developed during the Roman Empire, became an important art centre, especially sculpture, between the 1st century BC and the 5th century AD, and became famous for the temple of Aphrodite and the ceremonies held in the name of Aphrodite.

The temple built for the city’s goddess Aphrodite is the oldest marble building in the city. The boundaries of the sanctuary belonging to the temple were clear because of the right of asylum granted to this area. Inscriptions around the temple reveal that this privilege was first given by Julius Caesar and his successor, and later by the Roman Emperor Augustus. 

Due to its location in the earthquake zone, the city of Aphrodisias has been severely affected by many earthquakes throughout its history especially in the 4th and 7th centuries. The 4th century earthquake also changed the water flow channels in the area where Aphrodisias is located, making some parts of the city susceptible to flooding. Evidence of the evacuation system, which seems to have been built with urgency to solve the flooding problem, can still be seen today. After the earthquake in the 7th century, Aphrodisias never fully recovered and fell into disrepair. Over time, the ruins were partially covered by the Geyre village area. At the beginning of the 20th century, a part of Geyre village was emptied again due to an earthquake, and the remains under the evacuated area were revealed. In the 1960s, Geyre moved to its present location and became a town, considering the possibility of an earthquake.

Aphrodisias was a prosperous ancient city, famous in Roman times for its Sanctuary of Aphrodite.  Its monuments are unusually well-preserved.  A prehistoric settlement mound, which later became the site of the theatre here, makes the earliest habitation of the site around 5000 BC.  By the 6th century BC the Sanctuary of Aphrodite was well established but Aphrodisias remained a village until the 2nd century BC when a new town was laid out on a grid plan.  The city occupied about one square km and and a max population of about 15000. 

The Roman emperor Augustus took the city under his own personal protection late in the first century and the next 250 years saw the construction of most of the monument and buildings on the site. 

The marble quarries for all this building were located about 2-4km / 3 mi away.

This archeological site included the old city itself and a museum of artifacts.  We were pretty impressed with a lot of it but especially The Stadium and the Friezes.

The Friezes were a much loved architectural feature of this city, decorating the colonnades of the main public squares of the city centre.  They ran around the Agora and the palaces, inside the basilica and more.  The hanging garlands are comprised of ribbons, leaves and a variety of fruits and represent prosperity and community celebration.  The garland ends are tied over theatre masks representing characters from popular drama, i.e. various gods, heroes, soldiers and athletes.  The friezes were excavated in a single dig in 1937 by an Italian team and are now on display as a “wall” near the entrance to the site. They used to use bronze, gold or semi-precious stones for the eyes but obviously these have all gone “missing” over the years.

this one is supposed to be Zeus

There were hundreds, yes hundreds, of sarcophagi outside the museum building:

The grounds also included Hadrian’s Bath Complex which was the largest public bathing facility in the city and was built in the second century – there are large marble sections around the baths still visible.

Sebasteion’s grand avenue led up to a high podium, much of which remains.  Atop of this was built a temple dedicated to Emperor Tiberius and his mother, Livia.

The remains of the theatre originally had a seating capacity of 7000.  When built, it had a three level stage; today we only see one.

Check out the actual front row seats we saw here

The bouleuterian (aka the basilica or Council House) served as the town hall for the city’s administration.  Eight over life-size statues were uncovered here and can be seen in the museum:  (note the seating style of the top row here again).

Outside the Basilica were rooms reserved for sculptors workshops.  Some of their work was found and is also on displace in the museum.

The remains of the temple of Aphrodite:

The Agora which is off limits at the moment but you can still see that it is extremely long:

The Stadium is located on the north end of the city and is the best preserved of all ancient stadia in the world.  It is 270 m / 886’ long.

Compare this to:

an ice hockey rink which is 61m / 200’ long and 26m / 85’ wide

or an American football stadium which is 110m / 360’ long and 49m / 160’ wide

The stadium originally had 30 tiers of seats and had space for about 30,000 spectators!  It was built in the first century AD to house traditional Greek athletic contests like boxing, wresting and foot races.  It was also used for gladiatorial combat and wild beast hunts that were popular at the time and performed in honour of the emperor (these smaller events were held in the “arena” portion of the stadium).

The Diocletian Edit of Maximum Prices from 301AD was on display on various sign boards is the complete text of the most remarkable examples of public writings in the ancient world.  This edict of price lists was issued by the Roman Emperor Diocletian and its purpose was to curb rampant inflation by imposing maximum prices on about 1400 goods and services.

It has been translated into both Turkish and English.

The Tetrapylon was a monumental gateway to the Sanctuary of Aphrodite built in 200AD.  It leads from the main north-south street into a large forecourt in front of the Temple.  85% of the structure remains and was reconstructed in 1991.

On site near the entrance/exit, which we left until last, is a museum with many of the sculpture found on site.  Outside the building we saw these reliefs:

 Some of the large statues from the site:

Many statues of Aphrodite herself:

Many more reliefs:


Small statues (some unfinished like this one) found in the workshops:

This was a very good set of ruins and we’d recommend this site.

Then it was on to visit the city of Ephesus, considered the most well preserved Greco-Roman city in the world.  This place had a lot to see.  Its many monumental buildings included a library and a theatre capable of holding 24,000 spectators.

Ephesus was a city in ancient Greece built in the 10th century BC.  During the Classical Greek era, it was one of twelve cities that were members of the Ionian League. The city came under the control of the Roman republic in in 129 BC.

The city was famous in its day for the nearby Temple of Artemis completed around 550 BC), which has been designated one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World but only one pillar remains.  It is often consider one of the largest buildings of the ancient world (we did not visit that site).

Ephesus was recipient city of one of the Pauline epistles addressed in the Book of Revelation. It is believed that the Gospel of John may also been written there The city was destroyed by the Goths in 263 and in 614, it was partially destroyed by an earthquake. In 2015, the ruins were designated a UNESCO site.

The mythical founder of the city in the 10th century BC was a prince of Athens named Androklo who had to leave his country after the death of his father, King Kodros. According to the legend, he founded Ephesus on the place where the oracle of Delphi became reality (“A fish and a boar will show you the way”). Androklos drove away most of the native inhabitants of the city and united his people with the remainder. He was a successful warrior, and as a king he was able to join the twelve cities of Ionia together into the Ionian League. During his reign the city began to prosper.

The city went through many phases of rule from Roman to a general of Mithridates, the king of Pontus, who ordered every Roman citizen in the province to be killed which led to the slaughter of 80,000 Roman citizens in Asia, or any person who spoke with a Latin accent. Many had lived in Ephesus, and statues and monument of Roman citizens in Ephesus were also destroyed. But when they saw how badly the people of the city of Chios had been treated by Zenobius, another general of Mithridates, they refused entry to his army. As the people expected nothing good of him, they threw him into prison and murdered him. Mithridates took revenge and inflicted terrible punishments. However, the Greek cities were given freedom and several substantial rights. Ephesus became, for a short time, self-governing. When Mithridates was defeated by a Roman consul, Ephesus came back under Roman rule in 86 BC. Sulla imposed a huge indemnity, along with five years of back taxes, which left Asian cities heavily in debt for a long time to come.

Mark Antony was welcomed by Ephesus for periods when he was proconsul and in 33 BC with Cleopatra when he gathered his fleet of 800 ships before the battle of Actium with Octavius.  When Augustus became emperor in 27 BC, the most important change was when he made Ephesus the capital of proconsular Asia (which covered western Asia Minor). Ephesus then entered an era of prosperity, becoming both the seat of the governor and a major centre of commerce and became second in importance and size only to Rome.

A legend, which was first mentioned by Epiphanius of Salamis, in the 4th century, purported that Mary, the mother of Jesus, may have spent the last years of her life in Ephesus. The Ephesians derived the argument from John’s presence in the city, and Jesus’ instructions to John to take care of his mother, Mary, after his death. Epiphanius, however, was keen to point out that, while the Bible says John was leaving for Asia, it does not say specifically that Mary went with him. He later stated that she was buried in Jerusalem. 

Exploring the site you first come across a street that passes by the council house and its buildings:

Along this street there is also the remains of a prytaneum which contained a two small temples and the office of the leading government dignitary.  It had rooms for banquets complete with food preparation rooms as well in.

There was a large monument to Memmius, the grandson of the Roman Dictator Sulla.

The Curetes Street runs between mountains and is 210m / 689‘long made of marble block paving.  There were shops behind the porticos where tradesman, artisan and inn keepers offered goods and services.  At one end is the Hercules gate:

We saw the end of the aqueduct where it reached a Hydreion – a water reservoir

A large fountain in honour of Artemis which originally was 9.5m / 31’ tall:

We had splurged and bought the extra ticket here to see the Terrace Houses.  Terrace House Number 2 is still under excavation with a roof over it that you can wander along a glass boardwalk seeing the homes/rooms inside.  This terrace house had units within it up the side of a hill (think condominium).  It is today defined as a 4000 square metre (43,056 square foot) rental property over three terraces.  They were built in the early first century AD.  They contained a water supply and drainage through wells.  Many of the reception rooms were well decorated with mosaics and frescoes.  A series of earthquakes in the 3rd century AD put a sudden end to the dwellings however this resulted in a partial undisturbed inventory of domestic utensils for us to see today.

The quite impressive looking was the Temple of Hadrian:

As well as Hadrian’s Gate just outside the Library

The Library of Celsus is an ancient Roman building in Ephesus. The building was commissioned in the 110s A.D. by a consul, Gaius Julius Aquila, as a funerary monument for his father, former proconsul of Asia Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, and completed during the reign of Hadrian, sometime after Aquila’s death. The library is considered an architectural marvel, and is one of the only remaining examples of a library from the Roman Empire. The Library of Celsus was the third-largest library in the Roman world and believed to have held around twelve thousand scrolls. Celsus is buried in a crypt beneath the library in a decorated marble sarcophagus. The interior measured roughly 180 square metres (2,000 square feet).

The interior of the library and its contents were destroyed in a fire that resulted either from an earthquake or a Gothic invasion in 262 A.D. and the façade by an earthquake in the tenth or eleventh century. It lay in ruins for centuries until the façade was re-erected by archaeologists between 1970 and 1978.

There was also a 500m long street that connected the Harbour to the Great Theatre (the harbour is no more).

Outside the Theatre was a fountain house:

The great theatre with three tiers of seating :

This was quite an extensive day of ruins and we were quite “ruined” out.  Both sites were definitely worth it though but we think we should have spread them out over two days.

We drove into the nearby city of Selçuk where we spent the night in a quiet parking lot in a resident area in the city.