Pamukkale: Soaking Up Some Natural Beauty
Welcome back to my crazy Turkish adventure blog, or should I say “Hosgeldiniz” (ho-sh-gehl-din-iz) which means “welcome.” I left off at the beginning of 2012 with a shoe convention that turned into a very entertaining video.
On January 12th, I got a wonderful surprise-- a package from my favorite American mother (and grandmother) filled with homemade goodies from Wisconsin, all meant as presents for my host mother. So I arranged the various toffees and cheesy popcorn packets on the kitchen table so my host mom would also be surprised when she got home from work. She loved all the great stuff, but needed a little help eating the sweets... I was forced to assist her. This package was one of two that my mother had sent me since I’d been here, and this one happened to be the second one. It wasn’t until it was almost too late before we discovered the location of the first package and did all but a song and a dance to get it back before it was returned back to the US.
Also that same week, Michelle attempted to teach me how to play chess at school. The younger children learn very early how to play and have at least two classes a week, but I have never learned. We decided to play up on the elementary school level of our school that has a few chess boards sitting out in case the kids want to play during breaks. Even though it was the first time I had ever tried to play a real game, I still felt the pressure not to screw up... which apparently we were both doing. The chess teacher came along in the middle of our game and sat next to me to observe. He basically told me every move I was about to make was wrong... which I didn’t doubt. He eventually made us restart and then showed us move by move what we were supposed to do... we haven’t played since then, but I doubt my game has improved much...
Before I get to the main event of this blog, can I just say that I love sweaters and cardigans? A day or two before our trip to Pamukkale, I went shopping with Hannah for some warmer clothes and ended up buying 3 cardigans (They were 15 TL each, which is like 8 US dollars!) and a sweater... I have no regrets.
That Friday morning, the day our trip to Pamukkale started, I went with Demet to Alsancak (downtown Izmir) and she dropped me off at a restaurant where I had breakfast with Hannah, Alfonso, Churrito, and Diana. We made our way to the Pamukkale office/ bus stop where we would catch a bus that would take us to a much larger bus station in another part of the city. Slowly the group grew as people arrived at the station. When Zoe and Vitoria showed up however, we all freaked out. The had something special with them... or, rather, someone. Thus, Tove the girl from South Africa was welcomed into our exchange student family. With the group all together, now making an even 20 with our newest addition, we found the bus that would take us to the city of Denizli and off we went. We stayed with host families in Denizli, but all our touring and sight-seeing was done in Pamukkale, but since it’s mostly a historic site, people don’t really live there. We got to Denizli in 3 hours or so, and eventually got picked up by our new host families (for a few days, anyways). The Mexicans and Brazilians had their first encounter with snow, which was fun to see, considering I’ve never really felt like that; I’ve always just known snow to be part of winter. My host sister, Nurdan, picked me up and drove us to my home for the next 2 days. Denizli was a beautiful city; it was still big, but smaller than Izmir, clean, quiet... I loved it immediately. It only got better when we got to the apartment. The place was so picture perfect, it looked like one of those apartments you’d see in a fancy, modern living magazine or something... I was clean and big and just beautiful. I sad and chatted with Nurdan and my temporary host mom for quite a while drinking tea and told them about me in as much Turkish as I could manage. Maggie and Leticia’s family came over for dinner at our apartment. The food was great, everything was just perfect.
In the morning on Saturday, I ate a Turkish breakfast (complete with cucumbers and tomatoes) and my host mom took me to the meeting point for the bus. The roads weren’t icy enough to clearly see, but icy enough to make one unfortunate motorcyclist slide off his bike. Luckily he was okay, but you’d think they would be more careful in a city that actually gets cold and snowy. Anyways, everyone eventually boarded the bus and off we went to Pamukkale. When we first got there, the guide gave us 20 minutes to play in the snow before entering the museum/sight-seeing part. The Mexicans and Brazilians went nuts throwing snow and making angels. The Americans, Canadian and South African just stood to the side and waited for the most part. I threw a few snowballs (it was perfect packing snow), but overall, the snow wasn’t a big deal for us. We knew it was cold and wet and that won’t change no matter where we are. Since Michelle didn’t have a museum card, I gave her one of mine since I had 2. Without a museum card, you have to pay for all the museums and tourist sites in Turkey, so having one is pretty much vital for us exchange students. The two cards I had had the same photo, same info, same everything... but it worked! The guy even checked the face on the card as we walked through the gate, but he didn’t notice.
The first thing we did was walk along the travestines... well above them really since we couldn’t walk on it anymore due to too many dirty feet turning the land from a pearly white to dirty brownish-green. Then, afterwards, we went to the part we COULD walk on, took off our shoes and socks, and got to walk in the hot water puddles and shallow pools. It was truly beautiful. The different between Kapadokya and Pamukkale was that most of what we experienced in Kapadokya was man-made. The underground cities were carved out. Some of it was natural (like the fairy chimneys) but otherwise Pamukkale’s most beautiful aspects were all created naturally over time... that was a comparison I made. This stuff is like 12,000 years old or more!
Our feet were freezing before the travestines, and it was actually very relieving during and afterwards. This time, we were prepared for cold weather, but doesn’t mean we still weren’t cold. After about 45 minutes of that, we put our shoes back on and headed to Cleopatra’s Pool nearby, also called the Antik pool. It was said that Cleopatra herself once swam in the pool and that’s where she got her beauty from. We changed into our swimming suits, which was a VERY cold endeavor, considering the changing rooms were tile floor outside in the cold. Bare feet on cold tile is never fun, especially when it’s outside in winter. No one wanted to take their camera into the water, but I knew that if I didn’t, I would regret it later... I was the only one in there who had one, so I took pictures of everyone so we could all have something to remember it. It was SO warm in the water, but since my camera couldn’t get wet, I had to keep my right hand out of the water the whole time. By the end, I could barely feel my fingers and my hand was turning blue, but the pictures made it totally worth it. They all turned out so pretty!
We stayed in there for quite a while, obviously not wanting to face the cold ground and air that was waiting for us. But when we did finally get out, we suffered. I couldn’t feel my feet for a good 10 minutes. Everyone scrambled to get changed back into dry clothes and back to normal body temperature as fast as possible... I’m sure if there were bystanders, they would have found it quite humorous, but none of us were laughing. After we ate lunch at a buffet place, we made our way back to Denizli and back to our host families.
My host mom picked me up, then drove through the city to pick up Nurdan, who was getting her hair and makeup done for the festivities later in the night. That night, we had a dinner to go to where they were giving awards to the architects in the area for their years of service. My host sister was receiving a pin for her 1st year. I got myself gussied up as fast as I could when we got home. We drove all the way back to Pamukkale to a big hotel resort thing. There were SO many tourists from SO many countries... there was a group of American teenagers in the lobby while we were waiting for the room to be ready, and all I wanted to do was go talk to them and hang out with them. That feeling of wanting to escape eventually let up later that evening. It happens sometimes though, and not just to me, but there are times for all of us when all we want is just to feel like we’re not all that different from everyone else around us... surrounded by our own language and people that understand where you come from. It doesn’t mean I wasn’t happy with Turkey or the trip or anything.. it’s just another twist in the roller coaster of exchange. Anyways, at the dinner, we ate dinner and danced, then they gave out the awards, then we danced some more. They were people closer to my age, only a few years older if that, and I was having fun. I loved having an older host sister for a change... it was a totally different experience, even just for that short time. I loved having both a host mom and a host dad. I loved my house in Denizli. I loved the city itself. I really didn’t want to go after such a short time, and a lot of the other students felt the same way about their families and the city. Here's a photo of my host sister, Nurdan, and I at the dinner party:
On Sunday morning, we all joined up at a restaurant for a big buffet brunch with our families and the Rotarians from that area. We ate, chatted, a lot of random pictures were taken and we handed out pins we’d brought from home. Hannah made an awesome speech in Turkish, thanking everyone for their awesome hospitality, and eventually, it was time to say goodbye to our new acquaintances and we left for the bus station in Denizli that would take us back to the huge station in Izmir. Here is a picture of me and my host family from Denizli:
I managed to tell my real host mom back in Izmir (Demet) all about the trip in Turkish, which was a good feeling for me. We finished the night off by watching Harry Potter 7- part 2... and yes, I cried at the end, even though I've already seen it... and when the movie was done, I went to bed.