This Frozen World, Like Snow in Midsummer
Pamukkale, honestly, took my breath away.Trundling through the plains and mountains of Central Turkey, a vast white slope emerges from nowhere, as if a giant hand lifted up a ski slope and deposited it among Anatolian farmland.
But this frozen world isn’t made of snow.
In Turkish, Pamukkale means “cotton castle”, and the calcite-rich waters which tumble down from the mineral hot springs at the top of the cliff leave ripples of brilliant white minerals below your feet, and form flawless infinity pools.
Some are so beautiful they look manmade.
But they’re not.They’re natural.
Below the minerals is travertine limestone, formed over long ages.
When the Greeks first built a city there, Hierapolis, to heal themselves with the soft, warm water and this surreal landscape, this frozen world, they were already fully-formed.
The bubbling slopes look frozen in mid-flow. Which, I guess, in geological time they are.
Calcites glitter like ice in the sunlight, smoother than quartz.
Warm water drips like icicles.
In human time, or small human time, the slopes beckon you to climb them.
We pad up through the flowing waters in bare feet, Zac pausing to smear his face with the soft, white sand that accumulates in these natural pools, and pausing again to body block the waters that rush down the narrow channels, cooling as they come.
In the ripples and rivulets of minerals beneath our feet, pools form again, in microcosm, almost fractals.
At the top, the ruins of Hierapolis extend right down to the top of the pools, some of them travertine limestone, others still glittering bright.
We have bathed where Greeks, Phrygians, Romans and countless longlost people bathed before us, felt the same sense of wonder that they did.
Because, even in high summer, even with the tour groups in full flow, Pamukkale is a place of wonder.
Like the sun rising over Uluru, the painted lakes of Flores, the caves of Jeita, Lebanon, and Konglor in Laos, like an undersea volcano or a reef wall dropping into darkness below my fins, it left me simply gobsmacked that a place like this exists.