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UNESCO World Heritage Site: Pamukkale and Ancient Hierapolis

Pamukkale, Ancient Hierapolis and Selçuk


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Day trip today to the dazzling white hot spring terraces of Pamukkale and the ancient site of Hierapolis.

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It turned out to be one of the busiest days of the year - a feast day for the end of Ramadan, all historic and tourist sites in the country were free entry for Turkish nationals. The place was packed, but I was still very glad we'd come. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site for a reason, after all - it is both spectacular, otherworldly and historically significant. I remembered seeing pictures of the terraces somewhere years and years ago (in childhood or teenage years), without knowing where they were or what they were called, and being transfixed. I imagined what a wonderful thing it would be to visit such a magical place.... it was only recently, when I was in Bulgaria and reading about Turkey, that I came across pictures of Pamukkale again and things clicked into place... here was my magical landscape again; this time a reality to visit!

We walked round Hierapolis first, a very open site with fantastic views of the landscape reaching up to mountains in the distance. Hierapolis was an ancient city within the Classical region of Phrygia. There were remarkably few people here considering the huge amounts around the mineral terraces next door. Very peaceful and pleasant, highlights being a restored theatre and the Nymphaeum Temple.

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The terraces themselves - well, what can I say! The stretches of white calcium carbonate reminded me (and surely most other people) of a glacier; the pools of light turquoise water, filled from hot springs and clouded with minerals, were a sight to behold. So surreal! First of all we walked around, looking at all the terraces people aren't allowed to touch...

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...before moving along to the ones which people are allowed to paddle and bathe in. I wished I had a swimming costume available so I could bathe, but as neither Dave nor I had any swimming stuff with us, we made do with a paddle. I saw one guy walk out of a pool with white mineral silt spread all over his face, chest and arms. Not a bad place to give yourself a facepack!

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It was an exceedingly hot day and by the time we had to leave the terraces we had finished the drinks we'd brought with us. We were so thirsty that although the drinks at the stands outside the exit were expensive, I had no choice but to buy a couple there.

Back in Selçuk in the evening, we had another delicious dinner next to the Roman aqueduct. We returned to the restaurant we'd eaten at the day before yesterday - the owner recognised us from before and was really friendly. While we ate we watched the storks on the aqueduct and noted all the cats and kittens that were wandering around the tables. One table near us had six or seven of them!

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After dinner we walked around the base of the aqueduct, hoping to get a photo of one or more of the storks taking flight from the nests on top, but with no luck. We also admired the view of the Basilica of St John on the hill on the other side of town.

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Posted by 3Traveller 06:38 Archived in Turkey Tagged turkey dave storks selcuk pamukkale natural_wonder hierapolis roman_remains unesco_world_heritage_site thermal_baths extreme_weather Comments (0)

Ephesus Museum

Ephesus and Selçuk


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At the north exit of Ephesus we savoured the air conditioning in the shop for a bit before leaving and taking a bus from the carpark back to Selçuk.

The first thing we did in Selçuk was head to Ephesus Museum, which was excellent. It not only holds treasures from Ephesus, but from the historic sites of Selçuk as well. Highlights included a bust of Socrates (4th cent. AD) and a magnificent statue of Artemis (2nd cent. AD)...

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...the gold and silver coins of the Ayasuluk Hoard (15th cent. AD)...

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...a bronze statue of Eros on the back of a dolphin (2nd cent. BC) and some Bronze Age swords and axe-heads...

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...bone spoons from the Hellenistic or Roman periods and some amber beads and pendants...

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...a curled-up bronze snake from the 1st century AD, an exquisite gold statuette of an un-named goddess (630 - 640 BC) and some gold-leaved diadems (1st-3rd cent. BC).

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Before we went out for dinner, at our hotel reception we arranged a trip for the next day. Ideally I would have loved to do this trip independently; to get a local bus to Pamukkale, spend the night there, look around the twin sites of Heiropolis & Pamukkale the next day and then get a bus back to Selçuk the following morning. But unfortunately we only had one day free, not three, and public transport looked very awkwardly placed for day trips. Oh well, at least we'd get lunch thrown in, and I was still incredibly excited to see the white calcite descending pools of Pamukkale and the historic site of Heiropolis, even if I knew we wouldn't get as much time there as I'd ideally like.

Like the evening before, we ate dinner at an outdoor table next to the aqueduct (at a different restaurant, though). The food was lovely and throughout the meal it was fun to watch the storks in their nests above. We also ended up cat-watching - lots of cats and kittens stalked around the tables and walls, hoping for scraps.

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Posted by 3Traveller 01:45 Archived in Turkey Tagged birds turkey museum dave ephesus storks selcuk roman_remains Comments (0)

UNESCO World Heritage Site: Ephesus

Ephesus


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Edit from March 2019: The entrance price for the main site is 60 Turkish lira (£8/ $11/ 9.7 euros). One or two of the individual attractions have their own entrance fees, but no more than 30 lira each I believe.

After an absolutely fabulous day exploring the ancient city of Ephesus and looking round the excellent Ephesus Museum back in Selçuk, I have some tips for any future visitors who might read this.

Arrive at the south entrance and exit at the north, especially on a hot day like we experienced today. Ephesus goes downhill from south to north... we were glad we had heeded this advice when we saw people struggling up past us from the other direction.

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Buy your water from a supermarket in Selçuk first, not at the site itself. You can buy water at the north entrance, but needless to say it is more expensive than what you can get in Selçuk or another nearby town. You will need a lot! We stocked up on water and Diet Coke at a supermarket in Selçuk - between 6 and 8 litres in total - and by the time we left we had only one litre left.

Go independently if you can - unless you have very little time and need to just be zoomed around it by a tour guide, or unless you want a an individual or small group in-depth tour on a particular theme, in which case having an expert to guide you makes a lot of sense. If you've arrived in Selçuk by yourself, it's easy (and in my opinion better) to explore the site independently rather than with a tour group. Here's why;

- Ephesus is only about two km from Selçuk, so it's mega-easy to get a taxi there (or walk or cycle, if it takes your fancy).

- There are plenty of information signs dotted around the site.

- You get so much more time to wander around and see what you want, when you want. No regrets afterwards about things you didn't manage to see properly or at all.

- There are so many surprisingly quiet areas away from the main, crowded ones. Some only a few steps away, some down longer pathways. Dave and I loved this. Seeing as it was July, we expected the place to be jam-packed - we got there first thing, meaning that it wasn't that crowded at first, but later on it did become very busy.

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Sitting high above the Great Theatre, with the circle far below us and the beautiful scenery stretching in the distance beyond, was a highlight of mine.

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So were the Temple of Hadrian and the Temple of Domitian...

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...the Terrace Houses of Roman times...

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...the Library of Celsus...

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...plus just wandering around the peaceful, off-the-main-path parts of the site such as the Bouleuterion (a small auditorium used for musical performances and council meetings), the Water Palace, the Inscriptions Museum, the Church of Mary and more.

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I also loved the wonderful views.

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A couple of other pictures from the site. The first is of a detail from the Gate of Heracles, the second is of the avenue of trees by the north exit, the third is a general picture of the area just inside the south entrance, the fourth is of the Processional Way, the fifth was taken in front of the Great Theatre, the sixth is of the Varius Baths, and the final one is a shot with the Library of Celsus in the background.

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By the time we left, tired but happy, six hours had gone by! Then back to Selçuk to go to the museum, relax and have dinner...

Posted by 3Traveller 05:50 Archived in Turkey Tagged turkey dave ephesus roman_remains unesco_world_heritage_site Comments (0)

Selçuk: aqueduct, storks, basilica and fortress

Izmir and Selçuk


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On Friday morning in Izmir we had time for breakfast before we walked to Basmane Station for our train to Selçuk. The walk was very hot - Izmir was the hottest place yet, even hotter than the interior, something I was surprised about. We passed through a beautiful large park, though, which was nice and shady on places.

The train was very shiny and modern, with more legroom than on British trains. There were TV screens showing some brilliant silent, funny, animated clips of animals saving themselves from predators by grouping together, with a caption afterwards (in English) saying 'better to travel in groups' and then 'go by bus'. When the screens weren't showing those, they were showing clips of whales, dolphins and deep sea creatures swimming underwater - not animated, they looked like they had been shot for a nature documentary.

Our journey was only an hour, but these clips made it seem even quicker. The scenery helped, too; we passed loads of orchards and fields of lush-looking crops with mountains in the background. I couldn't quite work out what some of these crops were, though I think some of the orchards were of fig trees, and some of the fields were of vines.

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I was completely charmed when we arrived in Selçuk and we walked out of the station to be greeted by the sight of what I assumed were aqueduct remains.... and topped with stork nests with storks perched in them! I'd seen storks before in Bulgaria, of course, but the only times I'd seen them in their nests I was in a car and therefore unable to take any photos.

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Artemis Hotel, our destination, was only round the corner. It was very good, and the first place we'd stayed at that had air conditioning in our bedroom rather than a fan. We had showers and rested for a bit before heading out again.

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We walked for about ten minutes to St John's Basilica, stopping for ice creams and cold drinks on the way. Constructed in the 6th century AD by the Emperor Justinian I, it covers the believed burial site of John the Apostle.

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The ruins are quite extensive and lie on a hill with some fantastic views of the valley stretching all the way to the sea less than 10 km away. The scenery looked quite Biblical to me, or at least how I imagine the more fruitful parts of the Middle East might look today. We could see in a field a long upright pillar; all that remains of the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven Ancient Wonders of the World.

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From the basilica we could go further up Ayasuluk Hill to the fortress, so we did. Partially reconstructed, it dates from Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman times; before then there were other fortresses on this site, going back to the Neolithic Age. We saw remains of water cisterns, a small mosque, dwellings and some other things.

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Part of the walls were roped off, but we got even better views from what we could access than from the basilica.

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After another short rest to recover from the heat at our hotel, we had a lovely dinner at a small restaurant round the corner. We shared some stuffed vine leaves, yoghurt with herbs and olive oil and a bowl of 'sea beans' (samphire- not something I expected to find here, but I suppose we are near the coast!) and some complementary bread. To add to that, I had a vegetarian Pide (Turkish pizza) and Dave had a mixed kebab.

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We shared the only dessert on the menu, a gorgeous concoction of coconut, ground semolina and milk squished together into flattened balls, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce.

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Posted by 3Traveller 03:22 Archived in Turkey Tagged birds trains mosque hotel basilica turkey izmir dave storks selcuk fortifications roman_remains turkish_cuisine Comments (0)

Grand Bazaar and the Istanbul Archaeology Museum

Istanbul


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The Grand Bazaar was a wonderful experience, just as I expected. I almost couldn't believe I was finally there! It turned out to be like a giant covered market, with some courtyards attached and also some stalls spilling out into nearby streets.

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We arrived in the gold section, appropriately filled with goldsmiths and silversmiths, and after looking at the windows for a bit (there were some where the entirety of their windows were filled with glittering gold bangles), we made our way round the other sections. Leather, fabric, Turkish rugs and pillows, antiques, colourful lamps... It was so atmospheric. I bought a beautiful white and turquoise- patterned tablecloth/runner for 40 lira, haggled down from 150; then for Dave's birthday I bought him six skewers that he'd chosen, each one having a different shaped end (a duck and a pig were two). Then at a different stall/shop Dave looked at telescopes, but they were way too expensive to buy, even after haggling. One antiques shop had two massive globes which I was very taken by, but they looked extremely unwieldy and expensive, so I never even asked for the price.

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At this point we sat down for some Turkish coffee, which came with a mini glass of water held within a beautiful silver holder and a small platter with two pieces of Turkish Delight.

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Our last purchase from the interior was from another antiques shop; two absolutely gorgeous engraved cups, made from silver-plated bronze. The stall holder said they were made in Afghanistan.

After this we looked round lots of shoe and clothes stalls lining the streets on one side. I bought something I'd been hoping to find; a pair of loose cotton trousers. I bought them for 20 lira, down from 40 - he agreed so quickly I suspect I could have had them for even less, but no matter. It still worked out at about £5!

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After the clothes stalls we came across a large courtyard containing the book and paper market! The books were nearly all in Turkish, but I spotted some notebooks made from parchment, so I simply had to get myself one...

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We headed back to the hostel then to have a bit of a rest. On the way there we stopped for some corn-on-the-cob at one of the many street sellers who sell them. Each stall has a massive vat of boiled ones in water, and a grill with a pile of pre-grilled ones next to it. It also has a metal tray of cooked chestnuts.

After our rest we went to the Archaeological Museum.

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This consists of the main museum (with one of the best collections of Ancient Greek and Roman statuary in the world, plus an interesting 'Istanbul Through The Ages' exhibition)...

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...a tile pavilion...

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...a collection of Ancient Greek and Roman sarcophagy...

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...and the Ancient Orient Museum, containing fantastic artifacts from the Ancient Egyptians, Hittites, Sumerians and other pre-Islamic cultures.

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Special mention to a clay tablet with the oldest love poem ever written carved into it. This is Sumerian and dates from between 2037 - 2029 BC.

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For dinner that evening we returned to the café at Arasta Bazaar. Dave had a lamb kebab, I had a mixed one and we shared Turkish yoghurt with honey for dessert. Just outside the bazaar we stopped at a calligrapher's stall and Dave got him to write our names on a piece of white leather.

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Posted by 3Traveller 08:35 Archived in Turkey Tagged market turkey museum istanbul bazaar dave roman_remains unesco_world_heritage_site turkish_cuisine Comments (0)

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