Hierapolis, the mysterious ancient healing centre

The east side of the travertines open for tourists, they are huge and sparkle like crystals.

On a drive from a small city Denizli on a scorching hot day a scene strikes the eye with such awe that it leaves a person speechless. Situated right in the heart of the empty dry fields of the Anatolian plateau is a geothermal hotspot which manifests itself in the form of a completely abnormal formation of a wet pure white blanket amidst the otherwise normal and boring hilly plains.

A view from the road on the south side.

The place is called the Cotton Castle or Pamuk Kale (Pamukkale) attributing its name to the white sheets of calcium deposits making travertines and also due to the cultivation of cotton in the area. It is rightly recognized as one of the most unique places in the world. Just the mere appearance is so peculiar it leaves you wonderstruck.

The water is crystal clear, warm and twinkles diamond like, the experience is surreal!

The tourists visitng it were not the only people who noticed its uniqueness. The ancient Romans saw it as a site of hot springs and established a city named Hierapolis there. It was a centre of healing for the sick, who used to bathe in the warm and pleasant spring water.

Bustling with tourists the thermal pools are usually crowded.

There is only one more site in the Roman world similar to it, situated in Italy the Terme di Saturnia which dwarf in comparison to the scale of the carbonate deposits in Pamukkale. The Romans certainly valued the area to build a large healing centre.

The site of the ancient city main fountain of Hierapolis.

Pamukkale-Hierapolis is stranger than stranger things. The huge ruin city complex added to the geological calcium pools also was a site where many of the sick didn’t recover and a huge necropolis also gradually was added there too. Some were deliberately killed by the toxic carbon dioxide gases too. The place has an eerie feel to it, there is a vivid and unmistakable transportation back to ancient times, I have visited the place 3 times and every time was a novel experience.

The theatre restored, it was huge.

.The area to explore is massive. The museum holds many intriguing details with much of the interesting marble carvings lying at the back of the museum in a store shed. I was about to jump into the archeological workplace but the “keep out” sign and a guard dog got the better of me! It is a long walk across the ancient ruins from the gymnasium to the necropolis and original entrance of the city, up towards the restored theatre and Tomb of St. Philip.

Cleopatra’s pool harbouring the broken columns of the city.

The travertines form two sections. One is open for bathing in the thermal pools and walking across for tourists, the other section is completely closed but interesting to explore too. Paragliding is also a popular activity there too to witness the massive site and geography from air.There is a pool below the location where the original fountain of the city was located called Cleopatra’s pool. Swimming there is also interesting and intriguing. Last time I was there in 2018 it started raining a heavy downpour, with lightning cracking wildly and even striking the pool, it was an intense and frightful adventure, no wonder the Romans believed that Zeus sent down bolts from the heavens.

The necropolis and the three arches showing the main entrance of the city. Cypress trees are said to represent death and mourning.

The city also showcases a rigid clash of ideologies. Hierapolis was where the disciples of Jesus Christ came to preach to the the pagan Romans. It is believed one of the disciples Philip was sacrificed by the Romans there and his tomb lies on a hill amid the ruins of a church.

The map of the city as it was.

The place is so odd that I would suggest anyone to save up and visit it once. The experience is surreal and hauntingly alive with phantoms of the ancient times

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