At the top of the limestone terracing in Pamukkale, lies a thing of unassailable beauty: Cleopatra's Havuzu, literally Cleopatra's Pool in English, reachable from all 4 gates of entrance in the surreal white complex of pools, cascading from the calcified steep of the hill above the Menderes River Valley, with ancient ruins, colonnaded streets, temples and necropolis. Cleopatra’s Pool (sometimes called the Pamukkale Antique Pool), was according to the legend, a gift from Marc Antony to none other than mighty Cleopatra.
Photo (c): Nomaddeea
Photo (c): Gloria Parra Sanchez
Photo (c): Nomaddeea
In the 7th Century, an earthquake toppled the surrounding building of Cleopatra's pool, and the massive marble columns crushed into the bubbly water of the pool – where they still lie submerged to this day, making it the only pool in the world where you can swim among columns of great antiquity... to add to the love drama obviously! ....The water .. is so bubbly that is called champagne water, and it sends your skin to baby-soft paradise. Be it summer or winter, at Cleopatra's the water temperature is always 36 C or 97 F. Amen. Now dive in the glory of your dreams! Seriously, don't die without visiting this one! Also don't forget your bath suits collection, as you will splash in the limpid aquamarine pools prior to experiencing bathing in the only pool in the world where Cleopatra once bathed.
Cleopatra's Pool with submerge columns, Photo (C): Nomaddeea
Most tourists know there are only 3 gates of entering the complex, but... there is a secret one ( wink, wink!), used by the guys from the para-sailing teaching crew. I know this 'secret' as one of them made a little obsession for me after seeing me 6 times around the place, and drove me on a scooter to reach Cleopatra's Pool faster. I, in turn am absolutely obsessed with Cleopatra's Legend, and the water trickling and flowing down the white walls leaving behind the “cotton fortresses” of minerals, is still echoing in my mind now as I write. It's an echo of peace. And Pamukkale means Cotton Fortress. Anyway, the guy was a total pester, kept insisting I should fly over Pamukkale with him as an instructor, but at least he made himself useful at the pool, by holding an underwater camera for me and my Spanish friends.
Above: On the limestone, Photo (c): Nomaddeea
Above: Pamukkale bottom pools, Photo (c): Nomaddeea
Above: One of the many pools with warm water in Pamukkale, Photo (c): Nomaddeea
Photo (C): Underwater camera held by the crazy para-sailing guy that gave me a scooter ride to the pool...
Outside of the pool, Photo (c): Gloria Parra Sanchez
To tell you a story, once upon a time I wrote a poem about Cleopatra and her love for Marc Antony. Well, sort of. My love poem was really not that much of a poem, more like random verse:
I'd be your Scheherazade/ If I wasn't afraid/ You'd behead me/ At sunrise /in London/ When you realize/ The mole of Imogen/ is my own/So/ why don't you play Marc Antony/ and I dish you a dinner/ with pearls and vinegar instead?"
Above: At the Roman Theatre in Pamukkale, Photo (c): Gloria Parra Sanchez
From Cleopatra's pool, you get a view to one of the walls of the Roman Theatre, just behind those great columns in front. Marc Antony...was not a fool at all, only a frustrated and undocumented scholar could assume he was just a bluff soldier. Or you can blame it on Shakespeare, considering your bones are in Cleopatra's Antique Pool when you happily gaze at this. Honestly I drew all my theatre inspiration on Cleo's character from this place.
View to the Roman Theatre from Cleopatra's Pool, Photo (c): Nomaddeea
Historians say that Cleopatra put a wager with Marc Antony over which one of the two will provide its beloved with a more expensive dinner. When Cleopatra's turn came ( not that Marc Antony was least prepared for giving his treasures away...)..she set before Antony a sumptuous meal. He laughed and said that although it was indeed extravagant, the cost hardly came to the price tag promised. She responded that this was merely the start. She then ordered her servants to bring in the next course. They carried in a single glass of vinegar and placed it before her. On her ears she was wearing two enormous pearls — the two largest pearls in the world, left to her by oriental kings. She removed one of them, dropped it in the vinegar, and when it was dissolved, swallowed it down. She was about to drop the second pearl in another glass of vinegar when Antony's ally Lucius Plancus, who was refereeing the bet, stopped her and declared her the winner. The pearl's value was 30 million $, in today's value. And is still the most expensive dinner in history. I doubt she used any other version of a fake pearl when trying to impress her lover. After all she was a real Queen.
On White Travertines, Photo (C): Gloria Parra Sanchez
Don't worry, as in those times, extravagance and ultra-rich kingly dinners were the norm for the "Caesars" of that world. In Antony and Cleopatra, Act II, Scene II, Enobarbus describes the Queen: "I will tell you. The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne, Burned on the water: the poop was beaten gold". Cleopatra was, along the centuries, the favorite subject for many painters and later, cartoonists.
In films, Cleopatra was portrayed by actresses as famous as Lilly Palmer, Vivien Leigh, Claudette Colbert & Elizabeth Taylor. The worst part is that most of the films about Cleopatra were expensive flops, with the one starring Elizabeth Taylor being one of the most costly productions ever made ( 5 million $ in total....at least, Cleopatra's pearl in real life was 30 million $ so she could have bought the entire crew 7 plus, times).
Above: Cleopatra testing poisons on her lovers/ the condemned, Oil on Canvas, Aleaxandre Cabanel, 1887
I have no idea why these productions were so poorly planned, with directors replaced at the last moment ( like Rouben Mamoulian being replaced with Mankiewicz after 10 minutes of filming, apparently to save the movie), the entire filming moved to a different country ( Uk-Italy), with changed crew, overly expensive props & sets ( Cleopatra's golden barge was half a million in the one starring Taylor) and Liz Taylor's entrance into Rome as well ...was one of the costliest pieces ever filmed. The main problem I sense was the poor understanding of what was like to be Cleopatra in ancient Egyptian times, packed with the desire to copy an almost impossible opulence, with corrupted crew and actresses with more real life issues than those of the character they were portraying. At least they were attracting the press.
The best thing the spectators got, out of the production shot in Italy with Taylor, is for sure, the real life love affair between Liz and Richard Burton, that drove the paparazzi crazy. It is documented that the paparazzi were residing in trees next to Taylor's villa, just to snap a photo of her, with their cameras, in her resting days, which due to her precarious emotional health, were many. And the decisive photo that showed the affection between Liz and Richard Burton that was playing Marc Antony, was taken by a paparazzo thrown on the ground of a restaurant, who caught them holding hands under a dinner table. Those were the times when the production was moved from the Pinewoods studios in London, where they struggled to build an Alexandria Ptolemaic Castle, to Rome, where Cleopatra's improvised set forum, was larger than the real, near-by, Roman Forum. To such extent was the love affair between Marc Antony and Cleopatra being milked for entertainment, that I bet the only thing of real value out of it, were obviously not the flopped films, but the greater than life love, between 2 other destined for stardom, souls: Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton.
Back to the pearl and my story, we have to thank Mr. Plancus for preserving the second pearl. You can dissolve pearls in vinegar if you leave the pearls in there for some days: antiques were drinking this concoction to heal their stomach. If you heat the vinegar, the pearl will dissolve much more rapidly, especially if you grind it before, and probably Pliny was referring to heated vinegar, unless the ancient Egyptians invented a more sturdy version of vinegar. Anyway, maybe that's why the water at Cleopatra's Pool also treats the stomach. Cleopatra’s magistery of pearl, offered in toast to Antony, was thought to be an aphrodisiac, probably because pearls were associated with the goddess Venus and both were born of the ocean. Yay!
Still gorgeous Pamukkale, Photo (c): Nomaddeea
In return, as his manhood was hurt by the fact that Cleo won the lavish bet, Marc Antony gifted her with the pool in Pamukkale, and with a splendid Roman Theatre that overlooks the pool, where she could enjoy divine sunsets and performances. No big deal right? I find the Roman Theatre in Pamukkale, more beautiful than the one in Ephesus, even though that one is bigger, and it is still functional. Also gorgeous by night as well! You can see the lights from the city of Denizli in the distance!
The Mighty Roman Theatre, Photo (c): Nomaddeea
People from all over the world come to Pamukkale & Cleoaptra's Pool to treat a great number of skin issues, depression, heart diseases, arteriosclerosis, blood pressure, rheumatism, skin, eye, rickets, paralysis, nervous and vascular diseases. It has also been observed that drinking water from the pool prevents stomach spasms. All I know is that I felt a lot better mentally and emotionally, the air is very clean and it fills you with joy for no apparent reason.
Photo (c): Gloria Parra Sanchez
Photo (c) : Nomaddeea
Photo (c) : Gloria Parra Sanchez
It is one of the most visited destinations in Turkey with over 2 million visitors annually, some traveling from great distance, such as my Thai friends that I toured on a stormy day in Pamukkale, sadly on dry pools. We were lucky enough to be the only tourists that day, which was quite a privilege, considering you have the whole background to yourself. And even if the pools were dry, Pamukkale has that kind of energy that pervades you no matter the weather. Actually this is how Pamukkale looks on 'dry pools' and empty of tourists. Pretty gorgeous I would say. There's something angelic about the light that shines through. That's why Hierapolis, the city of the sun, located on top of the same hill as Cleopatra's pool, was named this way.
On a cold day, Photo (c): Nomaddeea
Dry Pools, Photo (c): Nomaddeea
The cold was bearable, and the bonus is that you can have a hot tea right when you enter the travertine area again: panoramic view from there as well.
Pamukkale, Top Panoramic View, Photo (c): Nomaddeea
View from Pamukkale's Tea House, Photo (c): Nomaddeea
My friend Gloria who was living with me in Turkey at the time, joked we would end up visiting Pamukkale so many times we would know it by heart. Honestly feel I might have lived or visited the place in another life. Reincarnation fan here! And actually when me and my Thai friends were going up, we noticed that the 2 huge pools at the base had the water in place as well, so we were not that 'unlucky". Plus, we got the Roman Theatre at dusk. Nothing beats it.
The Roman Theatre at dusk, Photo (c): Nomaddeea
Now, not that I'm extolling the beauty of the place, but both the millennial deposits of limestone, by the (almost) ever flowing warm springs with mineral rich waters, and Cleopatra's pool are unheralded to one's eyes. They take your breath away. You can find travertine water terraces throughout the world, but none is as picturesque and almost utopia as Cleopatra's Pool. The placement of the pool in the Greek-Roman spa city of Hierapolis, known for thousands of years for its beauty and curative properties is also unique.
Necropolis Photo Shoot, Photo (c): Gloria Parra Sanchez
Once upon a time, Hierapolis ( the city of the Sun) became part of the Roman province of Asia, and one of the most prominent cities in the Roman Empire in the arts, philosophy & trade. During that time, new building projects were started: 2 Roman baths, 1 gymnasium, several temples ( The Nymphaeum & Apollo Temple) & a main street with a colonnade. Even Christian Apostle Paul built a church here! Known also as the Holy City in Greek times, was founded as a thermal spa early in the 2nd century BC. Lots of photo-shoots take place here as well, including ours.
Hadrian's Entrance, Pamukkale, Bridal Photo shooting, (c): Nomaddeea
I often said perfection is unattainable. I quit saying this non-sense once I saw the wonders that nature can do. Also, due to nature conservation, please bare in mind that your footwear will travel with you in a bag or backpack when you explore this site, it would be a pity to stain those beautiful bright & white calcareous formations. You could almost eat them!
Cotton Castle, Photo (C): Nomaddeea
Dedicate around 3 hours to your climb towards Cleo's pool & Hierapolis which is to be found at the very top of the hill, left from the pool, as you will take so many pictures, even if you say you won't. You will. Our Filipino guy that toured me and my traveling glutton Gloria, on our first day in Pamukkale on the occasion of the biggest Red Moon in November, almost lost his mind with how many pics we could take. Both at going, and on returning with the night fall..the “perigee full moon” – was too good to be true! a phenomenon that occurs when a full moon coincides with the moon being the closest it gets to the Earth on its orbit: it is a tiny bit bigger than an average super-moon and brighter with 15%.
The perigee Moon in Pamukkale, Photo (c): Nomaddeea
On the way down from Pamukkale, if you are around 5 to 7 p/m on the white travertine, you will hear the imams singing like there is no tomorrow, from the adjacent village of Karakhayit. I grew to love their song, and so did Leonard Cohen;). Add to it, the almost lunar landscape around you, and you get a picture perfect moment!
Lunar Landscape, Pamukkale, Photo (c): Nomaddeea
Bonus: if you go to Karakhayit ( just 5 minutes away ride with a mini-bus), they have a wonderful pomegranate wine on sale, and you can also enjoy an apple chai, paired with local pancakes made in front of you. Actually in that area of Turkey, pomegranates ( literally 'nar' in turkish), are as common as the apples. Plus, you can shop oil olive based creams. In Karakhaiyt there is a meadow of olives that belongs to the village, so all the production is local. But, if you don't make it to Karakhaiyt, make sure you serve dinner on the road taking you to the main entrance of Pamukkale's Complex. There are plenty of local restaurants to pick from. We went to the Otoman House, pictured below. The scenery is nice inside, but I was not impressed by the food.
Pamukkale local restaurant, Photo (c): Nomaddeea
Now, remember, we started from the pearls! I am also a fan of pearls ( and emeralds ...well...& everything in between)...and pearls were held in great estate in Cleopatra's time.
Pamukkale's Top View, at dusk, Photo (c): Gloria Parra Sanchez
Seneca (On Benefits) complains that the ears of women were trained to carry pearls in pairs, with another fastened above, and that women were not content unless the value of two or three estates were hanging from each lobe. Caesar himself was said to have invaded Britain for the fresh-water pearls to be found there and "in comparing their size he sometimes weighed them with his own hand". Drinking pearls was one of the decadent extravagances of the time, an urban legend, that is: even Emperor Caligula was doing it, saying one either ought to be frugal, or a Caesar ( you can check the tale in The Twelve Caesars written by Suetonius around 121 AD).
"The Caesars", Pamukkale, Photo (c): Gloria Parra Sanchez
On the other hand, Cesar attempted to restrict the wearing of pearls, only "to those of a designated position and age, and on set days", that is, he was keeping pearls for those of wealth & prestige. In 46 BC, when he returned from Egypt to Rome, he was joined by Cleopatra and their infant son. After his triumphs that year, he dedicated a cuirass ( breast plate & back plate of a bust), made completely of British pearls in the Temple of Venus Genetrix. An appropriate symbol of the goddess, the breastplate was intended to recall & surpass Pompey's earlier display, and he also displayed a golden bust of Cleopatra. Venus also was honored in the Pantheon & it was this statue that Pliny was talking about, that received the second of Cleopatra's pearls, which would have been lost had not Lucius Plancus, who judged the wager, intervened.
On the Cotton Castle, Photo (c): Gloria Parra Sanchez
As for me, I hope one day, I'll play in Pamukkale one of Shakespeare's plays. Preferably Antony & Cleopatra, to make justice to the play's setting. The Roman Theatre there is under Italian archaeological protection, so, it is with them that a producer would need to trade ;). Actors dream to play at the Globe in London, but I...want to play in an antique Roman theatre...i'm too old fashioned for this world.
The Roman Theatre, Pamukkale, Photo (c): Nomaddeea
Marc Antony stood at the pinnacle of power, fighting to be the most powerful man in the known world, and Cleopatra VII Philopator was the queen of one ancient civilization (Egypt), and heir to the unmatched cultural achievements of another, (Greece). Their love affair, their war together, their defeat and, finally, their suicides have been told and retold for centuries. Shakespeare dedicated them an entire play, making their doom romance even more famous and as tragic as the final from Romeo & Juliet.
Somewhere in January 2016, I was taking a bus from Istanbul, when my eyes fell randomly on a bus going to Denizli. I found the name of Denizli curious, I zapped it on google and Pamukkale emerged from the online shadows, just at a distance of 20 minutes from the city of Denizli, where surprisingly I got the opportunity to live for 2 months, due to a theatre course I was holding for University students. And it turned out to be the seedbed of my creativity: I auditioned in London for a drama school with Cleopatra's character and got in. What a drama!
Cleo's character is of course disputed, some say she was just a whore from Egypt, making use of her femininity to gain power. All of those who say that were Roman jealous men and some frustrated scholars, also men! Indeed, only for a small part of her reign was she secure on the throne, at the head of a kingdom utterly dependent on Roman goodwill. It is in fact very hard to study in detail any woman from the Greco-Roman world. Some even venture to say her mind did not asses her intellect. Wake up though, Cleopatra's education lied in the hands of her father: she spoke 9 languages, and had a divine voice paired with a creative mind. I bet she had some humor to herself, in addition to killing impulses. Her mere presence seized the room, it was not her physical appearance that would make you turn, but her voice and quick intellect, as Plutarch was saying!
Bridal Photo Shoot in Hierapolis/City of the Sun/Pamukkale, (c): Nomaddeea
The parties Cleopatra was throwing, and the extravagant crowd appearances, are a testament to the enduring fascination we all have with her. One of these appearances, enthralled history itself: she wore a mauve dress sewed with gold, on a golden ship, recounted as " even the air from the city stopped and went to admire Cleopatra'suite down the river, leaving Marc Antony alone in a public market with nothing to stare at but himself". That's when he fell in love with her.
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema: Antony and Cleopatra
I might add, that's when we all collectively fell in love with her. Or I fell in love with her when she rolled out of a carpet to meet Julius Caesar. Truth be told, I love to study in depth all the layers needed to portray a theatre character! Julius Caesar is recalled as a remarkably successful man in a world of men, and Cleo as a clever, endearing presence, that succeeded in a world of men. She must have been pretty tough if she survived in history after all. Had history been written by women, there would certainly be a turn around, and if Cleopatra made it anyhow to nowadays, then her intelligence bares no excuse for a lack! Augustus, the adopted son of Julius Caesar was a cold unscrupulous bastard even in a world of men!
Back to Pamukkale... to get to Pamukkale by plane, you can use Denizli's Cardak airport from Istanbul, or the train from Izmir, via Selcuk. You can reside in nearby Denizli if you wish, there are plenty of nice spots in which you can relax, but you can also stay in the pleasant Pamukkale village at Melrose Hotel or at Hotel Hal-Tur. If you chose Denizli, there are frequent buses and minibuses every 40 minutes between Denizli’s bus station and Pamukkale. So, get ready for a languros trip ;)
Pamukkale's Hot Pools, Photo (c): Gloria Parra Sanchez
PS: if you don't wanna hike to get to Cleopatra's pool, you can walk through the ruins and palm-trees, using the northern entrance on the Hierapolis Hill, as I do not guarantee that you will also have a crazy dude obsessed with you enough to tell you about secret entrances, and from which you will have to eventually ward off. Lol. Keep in mind that the pool is open to service daily, between 9 a/am and 5 p/m only. You can however get out of the complex at around 9 p/m. The entrance fee is about 35 Turkish lira for the complex of Pamukkale ( which includes Necropolis, Hierapolis, the White Travertine, the Roman Theatre & The Pool) & an additional fee of 32 Turkish lira if you wish to swim & relax in the pool. I recommend the pool for a separate day if you really want to enjoy it. Before you get to the pool if you come from the travertines direction, you can visit a wonderful museum with antique jewels, theatre statues ( headless actors for ex), greek ancient statues ( Hades), and different objects excavated from the area, also connected to nearby Laodikeia. Both the complex and the pool are open to service every day, and the entire place is an UNESCO World Heritage site.
View from Cleopatras' Pool, Photo (c): NomaDDeea
Is only the beginning
Special thanks to Pamukkale Belediyesi for hosting me and Gloria Parra Sanchez during our trainings on theatre, painting and Spanglish :)
Love you all.
©2017 by Deea Wolf. All rights reserved.