23.04.2012 - 25.04.2012
Melrose Guesthouse. We arrived here on a day when the travertines were free for the Turks, and there was an air show as well. The small town was packed,
and when we got to our hotel they had overbooked and did not have a room. They did put us up for free in a relative's guest house next door, not nearly as nice, but the price was right. Our current room is probably the best one we have had in Turkey thus far, with a big round bed covered with bright red pillows and spread. Hugh Heffner, roll over. There is also a terrace overlooking snow capped mountains. I wasn't expecting such an impressive landscape as none of the guidebooks mentioned it.
Incredibly, the proprietress, Leyla, who is Turkish, was actually born and raised in Wangen. As my ongoing readers know, Wangen is a small place in southern Germany that is home to our friends, Antonette and Joachim, whom we visited just prior to Istanbul. She didn't know them, but still...
Leyla returned to Turkey when she was 10, and we had an interesting discussion with her about feeling caught between two cultures, similar to the talk with Alex in Ayvalik. It was hard for her when she first attended school because her turkish was not very good, and they put her in a younger grade. At that time, all the girls had to dress in black and she wasn't used to that. Things are much easier now, but she still doesn't feel completely Turkish. For example, she always has to be on time, and follow through with what she says she will do, which is not the same for many Turks. She can imagine how she wants the guesthouse to look, and she thinks this too would be difficult for most of her countrymen/women. In the beginning, these things created problems with her husband, but now she says, he is just like her.
Rather than going up to the travertines on a very crowded day, we arranged a side trip to Aphrodisias It was a bit of a haul as the ruins are about a 100K drive, but on the way there we took the longer scenic route through the mountains. We shared our mini bus ride with three young foreign exchange students, an American studying in Ankara, as well as a couple of Aussies.
The ruins only had a scattering of people, and the setting rivaled Pergamum with snow peaks in the distance and green fields all around. The city, is dedicated to Aphrodite, goddess of love, desire, and beauty, and the place lives up to her name.
Temple, and on right, Torso of Achilles
On the grounds there is also a museum which has statues and busts of local prominent figures, (from 2500 years ago), as well as various Gods including Aphrodite.
Today was our day to ascend the travertines, and it was a blast. You can see it below, but it is essentially a mountain of snow white chalk and mineral deposits, that was created by thermal springs that bubble up in several places, putting out a constant stream of warm, mineral laden water that washes over the rocks.
To prevent destruction of the site, everyone is asked to take off their shoes, and so barefoot, we continued up the ramp, which is like a white staircase. It is interspersed with a dozen or so small pools, each one a different temperature, but all relatively warm.
We didn't know about the pools, and so didn't wear bathing suits, but no matter, we went into every one of them, clothes and all. We smeared ourselves with the loose chalk at the bottom of each of them so we didn't get too sunburned, and it wasn't crowded so we had many of them to ourselves. Unfortunately, it was difficult to capture the full effects our pool romps with pictures. My hands and clothes were too dirty to handle the camera, and I was, frankly, a bit embarrassed to ask a stranger to do it.
As we soaked up the mildly radioactive (we hope) waters, we gazed out at the green valley below and the snow peaks on the opposite side. Hard to beat it.
Slowly we made our way to the plateau above, where we put our shoes back on and walked to Hieropolis, a Roman city that was later home to Jews, Christians, and finally Muslims. Further on, we came to an ancient, steeply banked theater, that probably seated 30,000 or more back in the day. Complete with subterranean passages, near perfect acoustics and sightlines to the stage, it is an architectural marvel. I imagined the cheers and shouting of a gladitorial contest, as I sat on the uppermost seats, looking out toward the travertines and the high mountains in the distance. Those Romans obviously had a highly developed sense of style and aesthetics.
After taking all of this in, we continued past more deserted ruins of the ancient city, and then back down the white staircase in what was then (2,000 + years ago), the center of town.
A late lunch of spinach and feta crepes completed a near perfect day, certainly one of the highlights of our time in this fascinating country.