Pamukkale and Hierapolis, Turkey
After we spent the first two days in our hotel in Belek and enjoyed the beach, we left by bus for Pamukkale. There were three buses in our group and the bus drivers were brothers. It was the prerogative of the oldest brother to drive in front - his younger siblings were not allowed to pass him. That would have been disrespectful.
Striking Gold and Evil Eyes
Rouge is actually wearing all the "jewellery" we acquired during our trip - a couple of Blue Eyes and a coin talisman, and even those were gifts.
The blue eye charms Rouge is wearing on her belt are Nazar Boncugu ("Evil Eye Beads" or Evil Eye, Blue Eye, Blue Eye Beads, Glass Eye Bead, Eye of Protection, etc.). These lucky charms are believed to reflect evil and protect the wearer against the "evil" associated with envious or covetous gazes and/or other negative thoughts or energies that may be directed at him. This force of the Evil Eye (or Nazar) is a widely accepted and feared random element in Turkish daily life. Nazar Boncugu are just about everywhere - stores, offices, homes, and of course they are also popular souvenirs. Our bus drivers had some next to their seats, too. Once a Boncuk is found cracked, it means it has done his job and immediately a new one has to replace it.
Of course the first station on our journey was a jeweller's store just outside Antalya where we got a glimpse of the goldsmiths at work. While there were very nice pieces to look at, the stay need not have been quite as long for our taste, since we did not want to buy anything - and that afternoon, we arrived rather late at Pamukkale and did not have as much time there as we´d have liked to. I took this picture of a stork nesting on a telegraph pole while waiting outside for the rest of the group to come out.
Nevertheless it was a little more than a mere sales stop: Gold jewellery is an important factor in Turkish culture. Turkey has the world's third biggest market for it after India and the U.S. and a huge jewellery industry. It is the fifth biggest importer of gold worldwide, and roughly three quarters of Turkey's gold gets used in jewellery production. Tourists visiting the country make up roughly one quarter of the market (...the other tourists, that is, since we resisted all attempts to talk us into buying something). The main market, however, is not foreigners: Gold is a traditional savings instrument in Turkey.
Gold brooches, bracelets and other jewellery are given to women during weddings as dowries, and they are their own to keep even if the husband dies or divorces them. Anatolian families hoard the precious metal as a hedge against inflation and as a precaution for bad times. And just about any jeweller´s store is ready to buy gold items for cash. As one Turkish minister phrased it: "Gold has an indispensable place in the lives of Anatolian people. Babies* in Anatolia recognize gold as soon as they open their eyes to the world; they come across it at all turning points in their lives; in gold, they find their last security and comfort. Gold, for Anatolian people, is the symbol of sharing on good days; on bad days, the power to hold on." (www.turkey-now.org)
*funny typo: I just realized I had accidentally written "Barbies in Anatolia". :-) Rouge is rolling on the floor laughing - after all, Barbie has become the doll archetype of a material girl...
Journey to the Cotton Castle
Our journey took us through the Taurus mountains. Just imagine, both Euphrates and Tigris emerge from this mountain range (though not exactly here or anywhere close to Antalya - the entire mountain range is more than 1000 km long). It was formed by the collision of the European and African continental plates.
One of our stops was at this reservoir lake near Karacaören.
The further we got into the Anatolian highlands, the more the vegetation changed from forest to steppe. The highlands of Anatolia are considered the heartland of the country. It may not look that way in the pictures, but here, fruit trees, cotton, roses and opium are grown. The roses are made into rose oil, rose water, rose jam or lokum (Turkish delight, which comes in many flavours). According to our travel guide, the opium is exported to the USA for medicinal purposes.
A glimpse into one of the souvenir shops where we took a break with some bellydancing costumes and scarves, hats and carpet-style woven purses which - when stuffed - make lovely doll-sized cushions.
Hierapolis, whose name means "sacred city," was believed by the ancients to have been founded by the god Apollo. It was famed for its sacred hot springs, whose vapors were associated with Pluto, god of the underworld.
Today, Hierapolis is a World Heritage Site and popular tourist destination. Usually said to be founded by Eumenes II, king of Pergamum (197-159 BC), Hierapolis may actually have been established closer to the 4th century BC. The name of the city may derive from Hiera, the wife of Telephus (son of Hercules and grandson of Zeus), the mythical founder of Pergamum. Or it may have been called the "sacred city" because of the temples located at the site. (The name Pamukkale is sometimes used just to refer to the white terraces, but the modern name of the whole area is also Pamukkale.)
The temple of Apollo that survives in ruins today dates from the 3rd century AD, but its foundations date from the Hellenistic period. Also worshipped at Hierapolis was Pluto, god of the underworld, probably in relation to the hot gases released by the earth (see the Plutonium, below). The chief religious festival of ancient Hierapolis was the Letoia, in honor of the the goddess Leto, a Greek form of the Mother Goddess. The goddess was honoured with orgiastic rites.
Hierapolis was noted for its textiles, especially wool, and for its purple dye, made from the juice of the madder root. The hot springs at Hierapolis (which still attract visitors today) were believed to have healing properties, and people came to the city to bathe in the rich mineral waters in order to cure various ailments.
Hierapolis was ceded to Rome in 133 BC along with the rest of the Pergamene kingdom, and became part of the Roman province of Asia. The city was destroyed by an earthquake in 60 AD but rebuilt, and it reached its peak in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD.
Hierapolis had a significant Jewish population in ancient times, as evident by numerous inscriptions on tombs and elsewhere in the city (here´s one begind Rouge). It is actually mentioned in the Bible by St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians.
Ancient tradition has it that Philip died in Hierapolis around 80 AD. However, it is not clear which Philip is meant. It could be Philip the Apostle, one of the original 12 disciples, who is said to have been martyred either by upside-down crucifixion or by being hung upside down by his ankles from a tree. Or Philip could be Philip the Evangelist, a later disciple who helped with administrative matters and had four virgin-prophetess daughters (Acts 6:1-7; 21:8-9). Early traditions say this Philip was buried in Hierapolis along with his virgin daughters, but confusingly call him "Philip the Apostle"! In any case, it seems a prominent person mentioned in the Bible did die in Hierapolis. The Martyrium (or Martyrion) of St. Philip, outside the walls by the northern part of the city, was built in the 5th century AD on the supposed site of Philip's martyrdom.
Most of what you see today is from the Roman period, as the original Hellenistic city was destroyed by successive earthquakes in 17 AD and 60 AD.
The necropolis (city of the dead) of Hierapolis is the largest and best preserved in Anatolia. It contains more than 1,200 tombs of various types, including tumuli, sarcophagi and house-shaped tombs from the Hellenistic, Roman and early Christian periods.
Rouge: "Whoa. Someone should really clean up here..."
The Mausoleum of Flavia Zeuxis, a merchant for woven products.
The theater of Hierapolis is well-preserved, especially the stage buildings, which were beautifully decorated with reliefs. Constructed around 200 BC, the theater could hold 20,000 spectators and had reserved seating for distinguished spectators in the front row.