Musings on my adventures around the world and my ties back in Texas as well as some of the the ideas I have to adapt and create to keep those places close to home.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Frozen waterfall
Originally uploaded by ccarlstead
My mom’s last weekend in Turkey provided another opportunity to visit one of my goals…the small town of Pamukkale. The town isn’t really much, and it definitely wasn’t the reason for the visit. No, we were going to see the reason for the town – the name translates as Cotton Castle. It’s called this because as you reach the center of the town your attention is drawn to this enormous, flowing white structure. I’m not really sure structure is a good word for it. Rather it is an awe inspiring natural formation that came about as natural springs poured mineral rich water over the hillside. The minerals slowly filtered out leaving white deposits of calcium on the hill. Years of this has left a hard formation covering the hillside with a series of pools, hardened waterfalls and formations which remind of some of the salt formations at the edge of the Dead Sea. I’m struggling for the words to explain it to you. Perhaps my pictures will give you a better sense of the impressiveness of the site which is not designated as a Unesco World Heritage Site. Along with that designation came several rules to hopefully maintain the formations and possibly return them to their previous bounty. Hotels at the top were torn down. Water flow is a bit more controlled and directed. Shoes must come off and be carried if you want to walk across the travertines (it is a bit like walking on a really big pumice stone – my feet felt a bit raw after traversing them twice). You’re only allowed to enter the bottom few (shallow) pools and guards with whistles chase off anyone who ventures to high, although we enjoyed cooling off in one for almost an hour after we’d explored the ruins of Hierapolis on top (with a well preserved theater and St. Phillip’s martyrdom site). What a lovely, relaxing and definitely new day that was!


The mud baths!
Originally uploaded by ccarlstead
I’ve learned a new word in Turkish – çağmur – which means mud. And no, it is not because of all the rain we’ve had this year (I’m thrilled the sun has begun to put in a steady appearance). Curious? Mom and I were too. One of the things advertised by our hotel in Pamukkale as an excursion was a trip to the mud bath. Mud bath? What does that mean? Pretty much what it sounds like. We were taken out to a small facility (currently being redone as the tourist season approaches) which consisted of an outdoor thermal pool, an outdoor mud pool, a natural sauna (think of a room covered by cedar planks with a water pipe constantly pumping out water at roughly 50˚C), and the mud baths. In a back room there are eight rectangles laid out in two rows of four. When you request a mud bath the attendant goes in and mixes the mud with hot water, scoops it to the sides of the “tub” and once you lay back with your head resting on the edge proceeds to cover you up to your neck. It was hot and heavy but not as slimy as I had expected. Definitely one of those cleanse by sweating experiences. After rinsing off (with some help to extract myself) in a hot shower (I’m not sure this place has any cold water at all!) we applied a mud mask from the outdoor pool and then jumped back into the thermal pool. Ouch! That stings the sunburn worse than when we went in at the beginning. Clearly the mud bath did something. Whatever it was we were there long enough we should have gotten all the health benefits the minerals there could bring. [A note of caution: if you do go to the mud baths here make sure you get the attendant to leave the door open in the mud bath room, otherwise you’ll come very close to melting!]

113/365: St George's Day

113/365: St George's Day
Originally uploaded by ccarlstead
We had Thursday off this week for National Sovereignty and Children’s Day. It also happened to be St. George’s Day. I had a friend who has had the goal of going up to the top of one of the islands to visit St. George’s monastery. We figured this would be the day to go, and perhaps we would see if people really do head there to make a pilgrimage on this day. I was a bit skeptical, but it turns out to be true. People were pouring onto the island and most of them were heading up to the monastery. We decided to take a carriage ride to the area below the monastery and while waiting for our turn had the chance to enjoy a military band playing in the main square. My only question is, since when does a band need an armed guard? After a bit of a rough ride (there may be no cars on the island but the carriages tear through the streets) we arrived to begin our walk up immediately noticing several things – candles for sale (ok I’m used to those for prayers), ribbons for sale (that seems to be a Muslim thing I’ve seen before for tying on to something as a prayer), daisy chain crowns (seem to have no religious significance), small gold charms for sale all separated into different bins saying “for happiness”, “for baby”…home, car, health, abundance, money, school…, and people selling thread. Thread? What’s that for? As we started going up the steep cobblestone path people were tying an end of the thread to a tree and unwinding it as they walked up leaving a mark of their pilgrimage I guess. A single thread is quite thin but when you get enough of them laid out they can create quite a multicolor web hanging along the side of the path and then soon coating the rocks under our feet. A pilgrimage. Huh, not exactly how I started out thinking about our day, but that is what it began to feel like. Up, up, up to the top to where we joined the line to enter the monastery. Definitely a Greek Orthodox Church. The walls were covered with icons (several of St. George killing the dragon), gilded designs and an open central area. We were swept up by the crowds of people and carried around the edge of the church. Outside and on the way down we came across the tree where many women were trying on their prayer ribbons. Then we came across a sight that I really can’t explain. On the low rock walls people had laid out sugar cubes and stick creating house patterns. Asking for a blessing for their? Wishing to be able to afford a house? Pledging to be a house for God? I truly have no idea, and quite possibly will never know. All in all I have to say that the day was more than I expected in so many ways and definitely a day trip worth taking.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Out of the loop

Life has gotten a bit busy lately, but I just saw my mom off after a month of visiting and touring Turkey. I've seen several new places, but have yet to find time to write about them. Soon...or perhaps I should say sometime. I have managed to create a new book for my niece about Kapadokya and some of the crazy things you can see in the fairy chimneys there. Hopefully she'll enjoy her birthday present.

By Cristi Carlstead