2011
03.25

SYNOPSIS:

Nine hours of walking through Travertines and Hierapolis:  About Hierapolis today.

It’s all about color!  Today (by now that was yesterday), the sun was shining and in exactly the right direction all day long which made for a really happy mood and wonderful, even dramatic pictures.  But most of all, as I was walking the three square kilometers of Hierapolis back and forth, and up and down, there finally was color!  The grass was green, the sky was blue, the Travertines were white and so were some pristine marble fragments, the more recently excavated stones glowed in rich beige, and some of the older weather-aged stones displayed a deep black speckled with some white growth.  But most strikingly of all, the entire site was filled with yellow, white and most prominently red flowers.  Spring, it’s here!  I could not help but stop ever so often to just marvel at these red and white flowers, Anemones, I think.  They just made everyone smile.

Hierapolis is the ancient town which sprung up because of the thermal baths.  People came from all over to swim in the sacred pool and to be treated by the priests.  There must have been a lot of prayer and mystic ritual associated with the cure presided over by a whole slew of priests supposedly communing with the gods.  In addition to the springs with healing qualities, there was also a natural outlet of poisonous gases which made for a good show.  The priests demonstrated their “immunity” but could show how small animals would die in front of the spectators as they were exposed to the poison.  How cruel!  It would be interesting to know though how effective the whole cure was.  The extent of the town’s necropolis makes you wonder.  There are 1500 major tombs which only account for the burial of the wealthiest of all people…

Hierapolis must have been a sizable town judging by the 12,000-seat Roman Theater.  That was an impressive place!  One of the best preserved theaters of antiquity I have seen aside from the one in Bosra (see the blog on Lebanon in 2010), and one of the steepest, too.  If you have 12,000 seats in your theater, I would think that multiplying this by four is not an overestimate for the town’s general population.

The main visitor road goes East-West for about 3.5 kilometers hitting the main points of interest of Hierapolis and covering several viewing points down into the Travertines.  Buses drop people off on one end and then drive around to pick them up at the other.  There was a steady stream of visitors from about 11 AM to 4 PM.  But before and after that, the site was relatively calm.  I went a full circle, climbing above the city first, taking in a few more remote areas and then going back along the main road.

My favorite place was the Martyrium of St. Philips, way up the hills and outside the old city walls.  It was an octagonal sanctuary with 32 auxiliary rooms.  The view into town, across the Travertines and to the snow-capped mountains in the distance was spectacular.  I spent over 20 minutes there just sitting and looking; there was not another soul in sight the entire time.

The necropolis was the next most impressive area with hundreds of massive sarcophagi, circular tumuli, and turned upside-down graves.  You could see the number several massive earth quakes did on this area.  Tons of stones were simply lifted and scrambled as if they were pieces of paper.

Hierapolis and the Travertines form a UNESCO protected unit and rightly so.  The thermal springs are still active even at a 1/3 reduced output.  The ancient pool is preserved and today surrounded by a pub–café seating area.  I brought my bathing suit just in case I felt the urge to swim.  It costs $20 but most importantly, all the coffee and beer sipping patrons of the café are staring down at the spectacle you provide as the lone swimmer.  I refrained.

Instead, I had a beer at one of the small bars.  A single woman was sitting at the bar already, also drinking beer and after smiling at her, I pulled a stool next to her and said:  “Do you mind if I join you?  Drinking a beer by yourself is just no fun.”  I have no idea if the woman even spoke English or if she understood what I said. But instead of talking to me, she instantly turned her back to me.  Gee – did she think this was a pickup line?  I really just wanted to chat for a minute…  I guess I overstepped the line.  To minimize the embarrassment and to give her back her space, I took my beer and sat next to the pool becoming one of the beer sipping patrons staring at the three bikinied French women and the one bald guy who enjoyed the splash of the hot spring swimming among some of the columns and architectural pieces the last earthquake had put into the ancient pool.

Nine hours had passed and the barefoot walk down through the Travertines seemed twice as hard as the walk up earlier in the morning.  But that was just because my feet had once again worked overtime.  They are good sports, but they reacted to every irregularity on the ground much more unforgivingly than nine hours ago.  I don’t blame them.

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Today, I made it via dolmus, bus and minibus into Seljuk, the hub from where to see Ephesus.

Fate put me in a pension I really did not want to go to.  But after meeting with the proprietor, an Australian woman my age, maybe this is just where I should be.

For now, good night.

 

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