Travelling through Little Asia in 1765, englishman Richard Chandler spotted Pamukkale for the first time, which he thought to be a white sloped plain, somewhere far away. Closing in, he was surprised to see that what he thought to be a ”white plain” was in fact “a giant frozen waterfall, with a wavy surface, like water instantly stunned and petrified in the flow”.
Tourists that visit west of Turkey today are amazed by the same feeling of astonishment when they see the white lacy terraces of Pamukkale, raising on top of each other. The white fluffy walls reflect themselves in the pools of water, while shapes of the form of frozen falls surround the entire area, on the background of dense clusters of purple oleanders.
Dark mountains with pine forests rise behind them – a landscape that brings to front the white shapes that glow in the sun.
The name Pamukkale means “cotton castle”; some say that it comes from the fluffy aspect of the walls and terraces, even though local legends affirm that a long time ago, giants dried the cotton harvest on this cliffs.
The walls, terraces and stalactites in Pamukkale cover a surface of almost 2,5 km long and 0,5 km wide. They are the result of the activity of numerous hot volcanic springs, which get to surface on a plateau located a little bit higher. The water in this springs is really rich in chalk and other minerals dissolved from rocks by the rain which infiltrates in the ground.
Almost everything that is sunken covers itself with chalk, while the objects that drop in the water seem to transform into rock, in only a couple of days.
Draining over the edge of the plateau, water deposits the chalk on the sides of the surrounding hills. In the past millennium, the consecutive chalk layers have formed the terraces and white stalactites that can be seen today in Pamukkale.
For thousand of years, hot mineral springs and renowned for their unique curative properties; it is said that they heal or at least ameliorate diseases as rheumatism, high blood pressure and heart illnesses.
The reputation of the springs dates back from the year 190 b.C. when Eumenes the 2nd, the King of greek citadel Perdam, located near the western shore of Turkey, founded the city Hierapolis on the plateau where the springs are located. He named it this way in the honor of Hiera, the wife of the legendary founder of Pergam, Telefus.
In the year 129 b.C. Hierapolis was included in the Roman Empire and appreciated as a healing resort by numerous emperors, including Nero and Adrian that used to go there to bathe in the water of the Pamukkale springs. During the reign of Nero, in the year 60 a.C., the city was destroyed by an earthquake. On the same spot a new citadel was built, even bigger and more imposing than the first one. It had wide streets, an amphitheatre, public baths and houses equipped with fresh warm water. In the thermals of the 2nd century, the roman citizen had to pass through rooms with different temperatures. The first was called frigidarium, cold, after which tepidarium came, warm, where the body was greased with different types of oils. The next room was caldarium, a steam place where the oil and dirt were removed from the body with a spatula called strigil.Today, in the area of ancient baths, a museum is located, which reveals an interesting collection of statues, jewelry and various artefacts.
One of the most interesting discoveries in Pamukkale is the temple of Hades, God of subterranean light, located close to the Temple of Apollo, god of sun, music, poetry and medicine. This buildings were constructed pretty close to each other, so that the opposing power of the two gods compensate.
The dark force of Hades must have been considered huge in Pamukkale, because a cave in the area was releasing poisonous steam in that period. Greek historian and geographer Straton affirmed that the gas could instantly kill a bull. The emanations were associated to evil spirits and it was said that eunuch priests that guarded the entrance were the only people that could enter the cave without being harmed. Today it is known that the steam comes from a hot spring and that different streams which irritate the eyes persist inside the cave.
Outside the walls a vast graveyard spreads, with 1200 tombs, most of them really imposing, with an elaborate design. They remind us about the numerous wealthy romans that used to go to Pamukkale in the search for health and never found it.
Tourists that visit Pamukkale today are the followers of the rich romans which lived 2000 years ago. They come to bathe in the warm pools. On the bottom of one of them can be found the remains of a broken roman column.