We started off as we mean to go on. With an enjoyable and relaxed morning in the company of Liz, Dave and their animal family [our Dalyan housesit, which we know we are going to enjoy] before we headed off towards Pamukkale which would be our base for a couple of nights.
What were our first impressions while driving along this vast Turkish countryside?
- The main roads were in excellent condition; we found them comparable to other more developed countries! Some dusty local roads are smeared with a liquid tar mixture, and this was usually in more affluent areas.
- There were numerous petrol stations and with the majority being modern and user-friendly. Though pouring your petrol or diesel is not allowed as there is always someone available who will serve you and who gets paid for each vehicle that is filled.
- Alongside the main highways there are many roadside cafes, either in the form of established buildings alongside the petrol stations or they are makeshift huts. We found that the roadside cafes had good Turkish coffee, were good value and the service friendly. During the day we discovered that the cafes were dominated by males just sitting around drinking, playing dominos or just chatting!
- There seemed to us to be an air of productivity in the countryside, though since we have been in Turkey longer, people have commented on the lack of willingness to find people to work [in the towns].
- Amid fields and small villages are these huge mosques! [Will write more about this culture later on, as there is so much to learn yet!]
- The small towns are worth visiting to digest how Turkey ticks along. In my opinion, just visiting the tourist destinations doesn’t give you an accurate insight into the real people and culture of Turkey.
- We discovered a few shops that were still using weaving looms in a town called Buldan, this was fascinating to find and observe. Many traditional Buldan homes still function as weaving workshops where for generation after generation, skills have been passed on. Nestled in the foothills of Babadaÿ Mountain, a plateau fed by the Menderes River produces some of the finest cottons in Western Anatolia. The shop that had the most exquisite lacework in their window was closed. Hopefully, we will find another one.
- Families make use of space alongside the road to dry foods such as tomatoes and chillies. This lovely woman allowed me to photograph what she and her family were doing. She also invited us to share a coffee. A kind gesture which we had to refuse as we were running out of time.
- The numerous cats and dogs just wandering around the streets and the hotel [I will write more about this in another post]
- The vast sweeping vistas of mountains and farming land were breathtaking.
- Many scooters and riders that have a death wish, and others that don’t. Was extraordinary to see how one could carry two adults and two children within their small communities. We did wonder how far they actually wandered away from their homes.
- It seemed to us that it is not compulsory to finish projects. Houses are built first, then the infrastructure will/may be completed. The reverse in most other countries.
- The countryside is like a patchwork quilt, and each small square plot appears to be farmed separately. Some had crops; others had vegetables with animals. Always a few people working together.
- The ground level toilets in a roadside bathroom reminded me of the Japanese variety we came across in Tokyo.
- Massey Ferguson tractors are popular. So is having your wife sitting alongside. A bit of land, a woman, and a tractor seems to be the way to go for a simple and maybe a happy life?.
With our much-loved offline MAPS.ME, we located our hotel around early evening with no trouble at all. The accommodation we used was the Richmond Pamukkale Thermal Resort.
Using Booking.com, we were able to stay here at a very reasonable price in a resort hotel. With breakfast and dinner included in the price. This sort of accommodation was a new experience for us. After this experience, we much prefer to stay in smaller hotels, apartments or use Airbnb. This is no reflection on the hotel, its staff or service which we found no fault in or their buffet type food that was served, as the food that we chose was fresh, varied and delicious. Funny thing with buffet type meals is that we tend to eat more than we would typically do. Does that happen to you?
We did seem to be the only English speaking guests during our 2-night stay, going by how many people replied to our greeting in another language. They appeared to be either Russian and Turkish holidaymakers. What was very visible was the lack of people using the facilities and the resort in general. To us, it had such potential and was so underutilised. Unfortunately, with what is happening in the world, and people’s misconceptions about how safe Turkey is, this is the result. With everyday people that are not involved in the conflict having to pay the price. That price is the lack of jobs due to the falling numbers of tourists visiting, which we were told was a 75 per cent drop from 2016 season to now. In turn, making small businesses barely able to make a living. We do know that the local people do make an effort to support local companies and we shall to by having meals out and going to the markets as part of our weekly shop when we housesit back in Dalyan. At the end of the day, every little bit helps the local economy.
Now, getting back to Pamukkale [translated into Turkish it means the Cotton Palace].
The best way to enjoy an uncrowded visit is to spend the night in Pamukkale, which we did. As the sun poked its head over the mountains, we headed down to breakfast, which was an extensive buffet with many food groups that we would not think of having for breakfast. One of the things we love to do is try new foods or eat differently from what we usually do.
Straight after breakfast, we headed off to explore.
The surreal, brilliant white travertine terraces and warm, limpid pools of Pamukkale hang, like the petrified cascade of a mighty waterfall, from the rim of a steep valley side in Turkey’s picturesque south-west.
Many people love visiting this area just to soak their bodies in rich mineral waters.
Or maybe just to see the wonderment of this natural, historical area [UNESCO] – we are in the latter category. Others believe that tourism is ruining it. It is a double-edged sword, as the town needs the cash injection from tourism, and the negative side is the lack of water to fill the pools. The day we visited the water level was down, and many of the calcite pools were empty.
The pools were an incredible privilege to see in person and with many similarities to the Pink and White Terraces that were in the Rotorua area many years ago before being destroyed by the Mt Tawarewa eruption in 1886. The big difference that we know of is that Pamukkale is man made whereas the Mt Tawarewa ones were naturally formed.
As we walked down the path which is to the right of the above photo, we took time out to sit on a seat and digest this natural wonderland.