Thursday, July 29: My bus arrives at the Denizli bus station, 7 a.m., without incident. A shuttle picks me up from there, and lo and behold, it is full of Koreans! Of course none of them can speak English except one, and I tell her I am teaching English in Korea, in Daegu. We all are excited to discover each other here in Turkey, at least on the surface. Lately I have tried to adopt a slogan that I hope to believe (aka, in the style of The Secret): “I love Koreans and they love me!” I try to tell this to myself repeatedly in Korea, especially when I’m on the metro or walking down the street and getting glared at by everyone. But, in the end, I too often resort to feelings of irritation at so much of the culture. I do try though, I try so hard.
So. On this shuttle, I’m happy to see these Koreans in Turkey, these people with whom I have been living for 5 months. But. On another level I think, Oh no! I came to Turkey to escape Korea. I cannot, please, I CANNOT, spend an entire day of my vacation on a tour with them. We chat a bit more and then, relief, the shuttle stops and drops them all off at a Korean tourist agency, its windows covered in Hangul, the Korean alphabet. I breathe easier, I admit, and immediately I feel bad that I feel this way. Why do I have such conflict inside of me about this culture? It is a clean and hard-working culture; many Koreans are fun-loving and truly kind-hearted. Yet. I am not comfortable in Korea even after 5 months. Here in Turkey, I am comfortable in one day. It’s NOT ethnocentrism, a feeling that American culture is better than all others, because Turkish and Egyptian cultures, which I love, are certainly not remotely like America. It’s just that I feel more at home in some cultures than in others.
I feel salty and dirty from my overnight bus trip and hold out hope of a shower before the tour starts. I get dropped at a hotel in Pamukkale where the hotel owners allow me to use a filthy room to shower and change clothes. I don’t even care that it’s filthy; I’m happy to clean myself up. I can’t check into a hotel today because this evening, I will take a 3 hour bus to Kuşadası. There, I can check into a hotel. But here in Pamukkale, I’m in transit and have no place to call home.
After showering, I eat a lovely breakfast by the poolside. I see a lone traveler about my age, but he seems engrossed in himself, and I get the feeling he’s not friendly. After breakfast, I sit in the lobby waiting for the tour shuttle, and he introduces himself. His name is Neville, he’s Australian and he’s on a 78-day around-the-world trip. He’s a business/computer teacher in Australia. Later in the day, he tells me he’s taking this around-the-world trip because he was stressed out about work and his marriage fell apart. He needed an escape. My first impression about him is most definitely misguided; he is friendly and easy-going, and we end up hanging out together most of the day. There is no chemistry or anything like that, we are just companionable fellow travelers. The rest of our group is composed of a family of 11 Pakistanis and 2 Korean girls who keep to themselves. Neville and I just have each other.
the red waters of karahayit
Emre, our very young guide for today, takes us first to the Red Waters of Karahayit where Muslim men and women are bathing, fully clothed, and slapping mud all over themselves. I wade in the pool. These waters are considered to have healing properties. I don’t really need healing, so I neglect to slap the mud on myself, but I do wander into some shops and buy a black onyx and mother of pearl ring for 25 lira. I can’t believe this is my 7th day in Turkey and this is my first purchase! I’ve been determined not to buy anything that I will have to carry with me. Happily, I don’t think this ring will be much of a burden. 🙂
We then go to Hierapolis, an ancient Greek city on top of hot springs; it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The hot springs have been used to heal ailments since the 2nd century BC. At the opening of the ancient ruins is the necropolis. Odd that they put all the dead people at the entrance to the city. The city was founded around 190 BC by the king of Pergamum, and was a cure center used later by the Romans and even by the Byzantines.
The city lies along the crest of a hill. We see the necropolis first, tombs galore, including the Tomb of the Gladiators; the slab above the entrance bears images relating to gladiatorial combat: an amphora for oil offered as a prize to the victor, a trident for combat, and a circular shield. We see the marble sarcophagus of Marcus Aurelius, carved with garlands. We see Tumulus, a subterranean funerary chamber. We see poplar trees and a silvery ground cover. We see Roman gates and the Basilica Bath, later converted to a church, and the main street, called Frontinius Street. Emre gives us a funny demonstration of how the public latrines were used and described how men were separated from women by a curtain.
At the far end of the hill crest, we reach the travertines. In the earth beneath Pamukkale and Hierapolis, there is a huge source of water heated by volcanic lava; it dissolves pure white calcium, becomes saturated with it, and carries it to the surface of the earth, where it flows out and runs down a steep hillside. When the calcium cools, it solidifies and forms white calcium cascades that turn to stone. These are the travertines. Pamukkale’s nickname is “Cotton Castle” because of these unusual stone formations.
Emre leaves us when we exit Hierapolis and tells us we can explore for an hour. Neville and I walk down to the travertines, first removing our shoes as required. Countless tourists wade in the ankle-deep pools, clad in bikinis. It’s said that the travertines have been abused over time by people, and many of the pools are now restricted. Visitors today only have access to the ankle-deep wading pools. It’s difficult to walk barefoot over the gravelly surface of the pools. The crowds of tourists look pretty tacky. Neville says sarcastically, Everyone thinks they’re a model! This is because girls in bikinis are posing in every sort of position for photos. After we walk almost to the end of the pools, feet punctured with pebble marks, we backtrack to meet the rest of the group near the Antique Pool, where we could have taken a swim for 20 Turkish lira, but didn’t. As we reassemble, Emre informs us that we have to walk all the way through the pools again to get to our lunch destination. Everyone protests that we already took this walk, but alas there is no other way to get there. So we walk again across all the travertines, gingerly trying to minimize the pain from the gravel on our bare feet.
Earlier, before we separated from Emre, he kept smiling and looking at me. It was funny; maybe he was just trying to figure out where I was from or something. As we take the long trek back across the pools, he walks beside me and we chat. He asks me where I’m from and I repeat my story once again. I tell him how difficult it’s been in Korea. I also mention how nice it’s been to get male attention in Turkey, something I have sorely lacked in Korea. He says, I’m sure you do get attention here. You have such a soft voice.
I can’t help but laugh at this. Everyone knows I have a really loud voice; I must, because people are always telling me to shhhh… Keep it down! Anyway, maybe today I have been quieter than normal. Sweet.
We go to lunch at a huge covered, but open-air, buffet place; the food is mediocre at best, as is the atmosphere. It’s hot and still. The two Korean girls sit together, as does the Pakistani family. Neville and I, the non-belongers, stick together like two lost souls. After lunch we stop at another onyx factory to get yet another sales pitch.
the bus ride from hell
When I get dropped at the bus station to take the 3-hour bus to Kuşadası, there is some confusion about my ticket, none of which I understand. A 12-year-old boy is manning the tourist office and he finally prints me my ticket, after answering 3 phone calls. I sit fidgeting, bursting with impatience and irritation. I think, this is sure to be screwed up! Where are the adults?? On the bus, I get moved to several different seats like a pawn on a chess board, and finally I’m told to sit in the very back where the seats are 5-across. My seat is flat up against the right window, and right behind one of the exits from the bus. In front of me is a metal panel. My knees are right up against it.
At first there are only 3 of us on this 5-person seat, but at the next stop, a mother and her two children get on, so there are suddenly six of us! I can’t move with this metal panel in front. The bus is stifling hot and we ride for 2 long hours without a break. Finally, when the bus attendant comes by, I say, Toilet? He doesn’t understand. Toilet? Toilet? Are we going to stop for a toilet? I guess I figure if I repeat it enough he will understand. Someone finally does translate and he asks the driver to make a stop at a gas station. I get out along with about 20 other people. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks a stop is long overdue!
This is the most miserable 3-hour ride of my entire trip in Turkey. As a matter of fact, this is my least favorite place, my least favorite group of people (except Neville), and my least favorite day.
Finally, we arrive at the Ozdelick Hotel in Kuşadası at 9 pm. The hotel dinner ends at 9:30, so I drop my bag and rush downstairs to gobble down the buffet dinner. I sit on the patio looking out at the Aegean Sea and have a glass of wine. I see the Pakistani family at another table; surely they must have had a better bus trip than I did. I am so exhausted and irritable, I go straight to my room after dinner and get comfortable. Sleep.