An afternoon in Denizli…

Berkay’s family are from Denizli, most live in a small village but his uncle, aunt & their kids live in the city centre, so we’ve visited a few times over the past few years. Three weeks ago we visited again, just for the day. Usually whenever we go to Turkey we have at least one BBQ, it used to be our favourite thing to do when we lived there, so it seemed only fitting that we spend the first day of our holiday doing exactly that!

We went to this park just outside of the city centre, and surprisingly had it pretty much all to ourselves! We had visited before on a Sunday and it was really busy, but this time it was a Saturday and during Ramadan, so I guess not many people were out having BBQ’s during the day! We didn’t have any trouble finding a nice spot to park in, or an empty bench.
img_3655 img_3662
The thing about Turkish family BBQ picnics is they make a whole day of it, and they take EVERYTHING, including the kitchen sink! Berkay’s family came prepared with some simit, nuts, sunflower seeds, biscuits etc to tide us over while the food was cooking, and a few of us went for a little walk and came across a plum tree where we picked some fresh sour Eriks, eaten dipped in a bit of salt. The women prepared the salad and the men got to work on cooking the meat – both of which were delicious, we even shared some with a passing by stray dog!
img_3657 img_3664
After lunch we went for a walk through the pine trees, where there were really nice views of the surrounding mountains. We wandered to a little playground area within the park, where they had a huge metal tunnel slide, swings etc…it was really funny to see all the adults embracing their inner-child and playing. When we got back from our walk, we sat with a cup of Turkish tea, which had been brewing for hours (literally..) on a special device on the hot coals.
img_3659
img_3666 img_3665
Mid afternoon, we packed up the cars and headed into the city centre, to a park next to the huge Pamukkale University campus. The park is called Çamlık Parkı and is a forest recreation area. Berkay’s uncle works for the forestry team as a firefighter so he knows the park well. It had picnic area’s, a small lake, ice cream stands, seating areas, water features, a cafe, playgrounds and the most beautiful flowers and trees – it was really stunning and clearly very well looked after. While we were there we saw a lot of graduation students taking photos in their caps and gowns, what a beautiful backdrop for their photos!
img_3674
The park also had a mini zoo with peacocks, ducks, rabbits, emus, camels, fluffy chickens, goats, donkeys etc!
img_3673 img_3672img_3671 img_3670
It was a nice day just being sat under the pine trees in the shade, Berkay enjoyed catching up with his uncle and we got to spend the day outside surrounded by beautiful nature…
I do like the city of Denizli, it is a good mix of modern and traditional Turkey.

The Denizli Teleferik – Cable Car

The Denzli teleferik (cable car) was something I didn’t even know existed until last year. Whilst visiting Berkay’s family in the city last May, we took a slight detour with his younger cousin who came along for the adventure!

Built in 2015, the cable car was made to help more people appreciate and spend time in the beautiful nature surrounding the area. It’s not too far from the city centre, and takes you 1400m above ground.
  
Turkey isn’t really known for it’s health and safety, so I admit that I was a little nervous when we parked the car and I realised just how high up this thing was going to take me, that was, if the steps from the car park up to the lower cable car station didn’t kill me first! I’m So unfit.

It was nice inside, very modern with really nice toilets, something that always excites me. You have no idea how many petrol stations I’ve had to rely on for a semi-decent toilet while visiting places! We queued up and bought our tickets, which were very cheap, 6tl each for a return trip, or free for kids under 6 years old. Imagine how much you’d pay for a similar trip to this in the UK? It certainly wouldn’t be less than £1.20!

It was quite busy but we didn’t have to wait long, less than a minute and we were ushered into one of the little cars, and set off on our journey!

There are 24 of the cars, one comes along every 30 seconds, and up to 800 people an hour can travel on the teleferik.

The journey from bottom to top takes 7 minutes and provides you with lovely views, you can even spot Pamukkale in the very far distance. Unfortunately the day we went it was very misty and cloudy so my photos aren’t great, they really don’t do it justice!
  
When you reach the top there is a cafe/restaurant with a look out point where you can enjoy the view with a tea. Alternatively, a free shuttle bus service to a park area called Bağbaşı Yaylası further back in the mountain runs every few minutes (or you can walk to it instead). We joined the queue for the dolmus-type bus, it was only a 5 minute journey and then we arrived at the park.

The park has bungalow cabins to rent overnight, tents you can stay in, play areas, a cafe, little shop huts, a kebab restaurant and a newer activity park built in the forest trees with climbing and rope obstacles. It was nice to walk around and would be great for kids, but we only stayed about 20 minutes then walked back to the bus to head back to the cable car.
  
We made a brief stop at the look-out point for more photos, then back on the cable car for the journey down which was just as pleasant as the journey up!

It’s a shame it wasn’t a sunnier day as it would make the photos look better, although I’ve recently seen photos of the area in the snow and how amazing the view was then – I guess the cable car runs in all seasons, other than strong winds.

Apparently 1.5 million people had visited the Denizli Teleferik in the 2 years since it opened, quite an impressive number. I hope it continues to be successful as I loved it and really want to go on it again. It’s location is also handy for those visiting Pamukkale to take a slight detour to it.
  
For those of us who are regulars to Fethiye, you have probably heard about the plans to install a similar cable car going up to Babadağ mountain, and after going on this one I am so excited to have a go on that when it opens! I believe work has already started to build it. From what I could see of the one in Denizli, it hadn’t affected the nature around the area too much, something that is always a worry when it comes to major work on the forest areas. I only hope that the price of the Fethiye one will be similar, and not significantly more expensive to take advantage of the high tourism in the area. I can see it being very popular with both tourists and locals in Fethiye and it will definitely be something to add to my bucket list!

Pamukkale – a Natural wonder?

Pamukkale, meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish, is a place of natural beauty in Denizli province. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and tourist hot spot for many visitors to Turkey, who travel from all over the world to see it.

We have visited Pamukkale twice, once in 2011, and once in 2016. The site itself is in a purpose built touristy town, which now doesn’t really have any other purpose other than to provide basic accommodation for a night or two for visitors of the site. All around there are gift shops selling souvenirs like fridge magnets, postcards and posters showing Pamukkale during its glory days, bright white travertine terraces filled with turquoise blue waters. I think perhaps they need to reevaluate their advertising material though, as I will discuss later on.

When you approach Pamukkale from the main road, you see the huge white ‘cotton castle’ hills which look quite dramatic against the rest of the surroundings – it seems very out of place, but strikingly beautiful and different. There is a lake around the bottom, which has ducks, frogs, turtles, fish and other wildlife swimming around. When we visited back in 2011, the water appeared a different colour, and the bushes were growing around with beautiful pink flowers, but when we visited last year, the water was definitely more ‘green’ with less flowers, as you can see from the below two photos. The last time we were there, we had a go in one of the pedalo’s that were available to rent for 30 minutes – it was a spur of the moment thing and quite funny! It got us a closer look at the wildlife, and we spotted a few small turtles swimming around us. After the pedalo, we stopped for an icecream, real Turkish dondurma, the thick, almost stretchy kind, which was lovely. We sat on the grass eating it, admiring the view and were approached by two ducks and a cat, all wanting to share with us! 
 
  
There are two main entrances to the protected Pamukkale site itself, one at the bottom, one at the top – we have used both. The entrance fee is currently 35tl, and it is open from 8am-9pm in summer, 8.30am – 5pm in winter according to the website. 
The views from the top of Pamukkale are amazing, my photo doesn’t really do it justice. You can see for miles and miles, and you seem to be a lot higher up than it looks from below.

To walk on the white formations themselves, you have to remove your shoes, so make sure you bring a bag or rucksack to put them in. There are security guards armed with loud whistles who aren’t afraid to blow them straight at you if you don’t comply with the no shoes rule!

You’d expect it to be cool, it looks like it should be made of ice, so seeing such a thing in the middle of 30oc temperatures seems bizarre, but of course it isn’t ice at all, it’s made of travertine, a kind of limestone deposit from the calcium-rich natural hot mineral springs. Some parts are smooth and slippery under your feet, other parts are solidified and feel sharp and spikey, so the walk down/up isn’t really an easy one. In summer, particularly in the afternoons when the tour groups arrive, the place gets very busy, but we visited in April and October so avoided too many people both times, luckily. The white deposits do look beautiful, and its certainly a brilliant place with great photo opportunities and beauty, however, I do find it a bit disappointing, as the natural beauty seems to be threatened.
 
 
 
Apparently, back in the 60’s and 70’s hotels were built at the top of Pamukkale, which stole the vital water supply to fill their own thermal pools and spas and this had a huge detrimental effect on the site. There was also a road built through the site, with motorbikes allowed to drive up and down! The hotels and road were demolished when the site became protected and the damage became obvious, but I don’t think it’s ever recovered, and in an effort to restore the natual beauty, they have actually ‘faked’ a lot. If you google Pamukkale, or look at any souvenir fridge magnets, postcards or poster adverts as I mentioned earlier, you will find images of people in their swimming costumes laying out on the natural terraces, bathing in the travertines, basking in the sun. This is no longer possible, as it was found that the bathing, suncreams, oils, perfumes, shoes and general human interference, was affecting the natural beauty and discolouring the once pure white deposits.
  
Understandably, you are now only able to walk on very specific sections of the site, and the security guards I mentioned above are strict at enforcing this. There are pools you are allowed to walk and paddle in, all the way down the side of the walk way from top to bottom, but these pools are all man-made which is really disappointing to me. Even though I understand why they had to intervene and prevent further damage to the natural beauty of the site, I feel like they could have made more of an effort to make the man made pools mimic the natural, flowy, waterfall like terraces. Instead, they are were all made the same size, shape, height, and water diverted over them to encourage the deposits to form. Sure, it’s still fun to paddle in them and get some good photos, but the thing is, I’m not sure if people realise these pools were man made! The below photos were taken in 2011 but show the height and uniform shape of the man made pools.

 
The natural pools do still remain in tact, but are rarely, if ever, filled with water as the flow is diverted down through a man-made channel and dam to other section, it’s a shame the water isn’t left to flow naturally. The photo on the right isn’t one I took, just one I found on the internet, presumably taken a few decades ago. The photo on the left is one I took of the same pools as they looked in 2011, almost dry and no longer able to be bathed in like the adverts or tour operators all suggest.
 
Sadly, despite being a protected world heritage site, the efforts they have gone to to prevent further damage to the natural beauty of Pamukkale and its travertines do not seem to be working. The photo on the left below is one I took in 2011, the one on the right from almost exactly the same angle in 2016, showing even more discoluration and erosion occuring over the years, and the pools all dried out. 
 
I know I sound very negative but I do still think Pamukkale is well worth a visit, just go in with realistic expectations. While researching to write this post I looked on Tripadvisor and found many, many bad reviews complaining about the ‘dry pools’ and commenting how it doesn’t look like adverts they were shown when booking the trip. My advise is definitely go and visit, but just know that it no longer looks as it did 30-40 years ago when those pictures were taken, I don’t know why they don’t update them to be honest as it’s still impressive, just different.
 
The travertines aren’t the only things that have aged in the last 6 years – check out the two photos of us at Pamukkale taken 5.5 years apart.

Right at the top of the the white terraces of Pamukkale sit the ruins of the ancient Greek-Roman city Hierapolis.  During the Roman period, Hierapolis had very much a spa and health focus with lots of baths. People flocked to the baths as they thought they had healing properties, which is ironic as Hierapolis has the largest necropolis/cemetery! It is thought many people traveled to the city to spend their last days, hence the large cemetery. One of the thermal pools remains and is open to the public for a fee – according to the website its 32tl per person to swim, but we have never done this as we thought it was way too expensive, but there are seating areas and a cafe for people who don’t wish to swim, it’s a very pretty place surrounded by greenery and flowers. The pool is very warm from the hot springs, and is still thought to have health benefits. I’m not sure how much of the pool is actually natural – but it’s said that Cleopatra swam there, or close by, hence it’s advertised name ‘Cleopatra’s pool’. Ruins in the pool apparently fell during major earthquakes, some of the marble columns are even thought to have fallen from the Temple of Apollo, making the pool sacred.

As well as the pool, many other beautiful ruins can be seen at Hierapolis. There are lots to explore, ancient streets, temples, statues, necropolis, gates, churches and the most impressive, a huge theatre which can seat thousands. You can walk right to the top of the theatre for amazing views but we have never done this. There is also a museum which you can enter for a small fee with even more to explore. Honestly there are so many impressive detailed ruins to see over quite a large area, you could spend a whole day just walking around slowly seeing it all. My photos don’t really do it justice, as by the time we’ve walked around Pamukkale and have been in the sun for an hour or two, we are too hot and bothered to walk around the ruins as well, as there isn’t much shade. We definitely need to go back and see a bit more, maybe in a cooler month, and definitely climb the stairs to the top of the theatre.

Back in October when we were there, they actually had moped’s to hire to help get around the ruins quicker as they cover such a distance, and although handy, I’m not so sure it’s a good idea!
 
 


All things considered I really do think Pamukkale is worth a visit, even though its a long way from the resorts in Fethiye etc. It’s the single most visited tourist spot in Turkey, apparently, and it’s easy to see why, but don’t go in expecting it to look as it did 40 years ago, or you will be disappointed. If possible, try and stick around the site for sunset because I’ve heard that is especially beautiful to witness there.

It’s lovely to see the beautiful natural creations, however, the inevitable interference from humans, for the purpose of tourism in particular, has threatened this natural beauty – with it being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, I hope it will continue to be protected.