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Featuring a Gateway to Hell!

“Any animal that passes inside meets instant death. I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell.” (Strabo)

One of the first things I blogged on from our Turkey trip, was a visit to the incredible Pamukkale, a truly unique display of cascading calcium carbonate known as the Cotton Castle.

But the ‘castle’ itself exists within a larger site, the Hierapolis.

Ah yes, I too, am disappointed that I did not bring my crown.

The site is incredibly special, mostly because of the hot spring and various associated gases that bubble out of the ground.

When you think ‘location that really makes me believe in the Gods’, Hierapolis has got to be pretty far up on anyone’s list.

The hot springs have been occupied (presumably not permanently), since at least the 2nd century BCE, but recent excavations suggest that people were hanging around the Hierapolis way back in the Iron age.

By the 7th century BC, the Phrygians had built a temple to the mother goddess Cybele, and over time this was assimilated into a growing Greek city.

By the early years of the AD (CE?), things had progressed to the point where it was absolutely necessary to install a theatre complete with 15,000 seats.

Which, after a whole lot of time, and a whole lot of restoration, looks something like this:

It’s kind of hard to tell the scale from here…

… so I’ve provided this man for you.

It’s clear there are just a lot of ruins lying around, with the restoration process still very much underway.

Anyway, the absolute best thing about the site is the fact that it contains a literal gateway to hell (or, about as literal as we can get given the current constraints of reality).

Known as the Ploutonion, i.e., the gate of Pluto, god of the underworld, the site is built over a cave that emits a hefty amount of carbon dioxide.

Animals were led into the cave and died rapidly, but- because of SCIENCE (aka, the fact that carbon dioxide is heavier than air)- the taller-than-a-goat holy priests would be able to escape with their lives.

And use this fact to consolidate their powers.

The quote at the top of the page is from historian Strabo, who apparently loved throwing birds (and was also kind of a jerk.)

As mentioned in the Pamukkale post, we went to the site on a very-long-bus-tour, which I would absolutely recommend ONLY if you have zero other ways of getting there (or like us, couldn’t manage more than a day). Even though we booked a ‘no shopping’ tour that took me ages to find online, our little group still ended up spending an hour in an insanely overpriced shop (and there was weird attitude when we didn’t want to buy anything), plus due to the strange juggling-between-busses situation that they had going, we had to wait for over an hour at the evening food stop. Oh, and also wait for nearly an hour because some idiots decided to leave the tour and go for a paragliding ride and the rest of us were forced into their schedule.

It was only about 45 bucks a person, which is not horrible, and we did get to see the things, but at a pretty rapid pace. Still, unless you had some extra time or a lot of extra money, I’m not actually convinced there’s a better way???

Despite the rush, we did manage to find a short time to take a break and drink some orange juice/ ask the man at the juice counter how many oranges make up a juice and then request that you get given those oranges instead of the juice and slowly much through your pile of orange quarters.

Like a totally normal person.

Because we’d realized pretty quickly that the time at the site would be insufficient, we triaged the whole things, and planned a quick stop in wonder of the Cotton, then a brief spin around the museum, a race up to the theatre and plutonium, and finally- at the very end- a swim in Cleopatra’s pool.

Which was beautiful and salty and warm unlike the very freezing air outside the pool.

After many many hours back in the bus, we were returned to Antalya.

In our brief tour of the city the night before, we’d come across several kiosks selling something called helvasi, and committed to eating it the next day (along with a rice pudding that also made its way into our stomachs).

I literally cannot say enough good things about this desert. A sweet semolina pudding- plain or flavoured with pistachio or chocolate, covered in tahini sauce and nuts, and nestled on chewy turkish icecream.

I think we managed to eat three or four of them over our next very-limited-few days in Turkey.

It’s frankly insane that this does not exist in the UK.

28th December, 2022

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