Friday, Dec. 27th, 2013
We settled into our dorm at Swanky Mint Hostel and James found a spot in the bar to donate a few hours to his computer while I somehow managed to locate a nearby Canon store. A few hours later we ended up going out to dinner and then headed back to the hostel before 11 p.m. to pack our backpacks for our morning flight to Turkey.
Saturday, Dec. 28th, 2013
We said goodbye to my favorite city (so far) and took the tram and bus to the airport. Our flight arrived into Istanbul at about 4 p.m. and we took the metro for about an hour before arriving at the Otogar (bus station) to purchase overnight bus tickets to Pamukkale.
We had a good six hours to kill so we thought we would just hang out and relax and find a spot to eat in the bus station rather than go into the city center and get lost, confused, hungry and frustrated.
James decided to play eeny-meany and picked a random joint to have dinner. Since absolutely everything was in Turkish, the Turkish man suggested something off the menu and James agreed.
“What did you just order?” I said with a hint of concern in my voice since I wasn’t sure if James had forgotten we had an 11 hour bus ride coming up shortly.
“I have no idea,” James replied.
Something showed up accompanied by a bucket of bread (it was a good five liter bucket) and James had a blast eating his iskender kebap. We had a cup of Turkish tea to extend our rental time at the table, and then we got the hint that it was time to go.
It was about 6 p.m, which was still about four hours earlier than we wanted.
We found some internet and spent a few hours planning where we would sleep the following night and developing plans for the next few days.
The Pamukkale Bus Company was pretty organized and every seat had a TV with Ratatouille playing in Turkish, so I was happy. The bus ride was 11 hours, and unfortunately the bus stopped at the most random hours of the night.
To my pleasant surprise, the bus also stopped at the most isolated Turkish delight factory in the middle of nowhere. We didn’t exactly sleep, which was maybe due to the number of unnecessary stops, but also maybe due to the buckets of Turkish Delight bombarding our supposed to be sleeping digestive systems.
Thankfully, we arrived safely at the bus station in Pamukkale at about 9 a.m.
Some sketchy looking Turkish man claimed to be the local bus we were asking about, and said he was willing to drop us off at the Venus Hotel so we jumped in.
About 30 minutes later James and I silently realized we were 1) the only tourists on the bus; 2) I was the only chick; and 3) maybe we are shortly going to be the idiots you hear about on the news.
We ended up being dumped on the side of the road somewhere in Pamukkale and found our way to the hotel.
The kind gentleman that owns the joint offered us tea and coffee upon arrival, and so of course running on about 15 minutes of sleep, we hogged the coffee pot.
All of the sudden we were all fueled up and decided we had the energy to see the cotton castle and Hierapolis.
We paid the entrance to the UNESCO World Heritage site and spent the first few hours exploring Hierapolis. Heirapolis is really a literal melting pot – an ancient city where Romans, Jews, Graeco-Macedonians and Anatolians once lived while indulging in the medicinal hot springs.
After exploring Heirapolis we decided to checkout what else the park had to offer. We then discovered the Cleopatra hot springs. We decided we would do like the Romans and spend the entire next day lounging around over the ancient ruins while buoyantly swimming through the slimy mineral filled waters.
On this particular day, all we wanted to do was get James a kebab.
After lining up behind a black mean cat, James got his kebab and we were ready to roll to see the main attraction of Pamukkale, the travertines.
The thing about the travertines is that it looks like you are walking on fresh powder and you would suspect the ground to be freezing. But no. This crazy cotton castle landscape is created by calcite deposits from the hot springs that make their way down the to the foothills 200 meters below. The terraces are 20 meters high, and incredibly stunning.
We walked barefoot along the travertines before exploring the part that tourist buses don’t let their groups explore.
We continued to play in the calcite pools for a few hours. The sunset was absolutely stunning and taking two overnight buses to experience the beauty of this place was definitely worth it.
Darkness set in quickly and we were left to walk 40 minutes in the dark back to our hotel.
Back at the hotel we spent the evening hours ordering up salads, rice stuffed peppers, chicken kebaps and turkish delight. We somehow pulled off an awesome night on no sleep. All excited about what we had seen that day, we didn’t really notice how tired we actually were.
Monday, Dec. 30, 2013
We made our appearance in the lobby at about 9 a.m., chucked our bags in a hidden corner and grabbed some breakfast.
We made the short walk back up to the park where we spent the entire day playing and relaxing before taking the overnight bus back to Istanbul.
Our sore little feet brought us from the bottom entrance of the park to the top of the travertines.
When we got to the top, we stripped down and jumped in the top pool of the travertine cascades and while swimming had the absolute best views for people watching.
Bus loads of tourists were dumped off and poured into the top pools right in front of us. We watched as they tip toed cautiously, sliding and falling and taking selfies while also taking pictures of us weirdos who were actually bathing in the hot springs.
We took photos back at them and for hours we continued this funny relationship while we lounged in the warm pools laughing at one another.
After a while we were done feeling like zoo-animals on display and headed to the socially acceptable place to enjoy swimming in the baths.
It was winter so we somehow scored a half-price pool entrance. We shoved our GoPro and camera in a locker and jumped into the pool.
It was the coolest thing ever. There are pillars and ruins that you swim and hop over.
The pools are jungle green and the water is silky feeling and warm. It’s a crazy experience and we had a blast floating and swimming around.
There wasn’t much of a sunset over the travertines, but we were so preoccupied swimming around over the ruins that we didn’t really care.
After a nice long and relaxing swim, we made the walk back down to the hotel.
James got some chicken skewers, and by 7 p.m. we were making our way back to the bus station.
We jumped on the 9 p.m. bus and rode through the night back to Istanbul, where we would be ring in the New Year and spending the next four nights exploring the historic city.