The Cotton Castles of Pamukkale, Turkey

The Cotton Castles

A post by Lady Felicity

In November 2019 Greg and I went to Turkey to film an episode of our travel  adventure documentary series. From the title, ‘Turkey: Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities’ you can easily guess what first drew us to the country – but during our short time there we wanted to explore as much of what the country has to offer as possible. One place that really stood out for me while we were researching our journey beforehand was Pamukkale, also known as the ‘Cotton Castles’.

We started our Turkish adventure in Goreme, Cappadocia but to reach Pamukkale we had to catch a short flight from the nearby Nevsehir to Denizli (via Istanbul) which is then about a fifty minute drive to Pamukkale.

Today many people consider  Pamukkale the eighth wonder of the world. Once there, it’s very easy to see why.

Turkey, through my eyes, is mostly a landscape of soft golds, browns and creams. Even the sky had a soft palette to me. Soft sunrise and sunset, it could all have been painted with delicate watercolours. To have that gentle golden brown interrupted with what looks like a snippet from a snow covered arctic wasteland is so unexpected that it can be quite jarring. It just doesn’t look like it belongs there.

Imagine a cliff made up of individual pools which form in large step-like terraces. Imagine it’s all formed from hardened, compacted snow and ice with icicles forming decorative stalactites here and there. The pools sparkling with sometimes crystal clear, other times milky but always quite beautifully blue tinted water. A stream of the water gushes along in a narrow channel alongside the cliff’s sharpest edge. That’s the best I can do to describe what my eyes felt like they were looking at when visiting this incredible place.

Legend said that the formations are solidified cotton, the area’s principal crop, giants left out to dry long ago. In reality, however, it is something much more unusual than snow or cotton.

These travertines are believed to have been formed in a process which lasted 15 thousand years. Underground hot springs located 160m above the plain of Menderes, containing 34’C water rich with calcium bicarbonate, allow water to trickle down the hillside. As it does so there is a chemical reaction that results in the formation of the pure white limestone terraces we see today.

The thermal pools have been a tourist attraction for thousands of years. Only in more recent years, when the site was declared a World Heritage Site, were preservation efforts and methods put in place to protect this natural wonder. The surrounding hotels, erected on top of the ancient city of Hierapolis located above the terraces of Pamukkale were then torn down and where once motorbikes were permitted to drive up and down the white slopes, now all but one footpath through the pools is closed off to the public. This footpath is also restricted to barefoot only.

So much damage took place in the past, I was glad to see they are now doing their best to preserve the site while also allowing admiring tourists to enjoy it.

For those of you who have watched our video (link here) you will already know about the issues we initially had when visiting the Cotton Castles of Pamukkale – that the thermal pools combined with a cool morning created a white blanket of mist. Trying to see the white travertines or the ancient city of Hierapolis through a shroud of mist proved tricky bordering on impossible. Once the afternoon sunshine broke through it though things improved.

We walked along the beautiful path, struggling to connect the snow-like appearance our eyes were seeing with the thermal pool temperatures and hard, rock surface our feet were feeling.

A lot of the pools and much of the path we had largely to ourselves as the majority of people don’t seem to stray too far from the entrance and the first handful of pools located there.

When we first arrived in Hierapolis and struggled to even find the Cotton castles, the mist was that thick, I was so disappointed. How glad I am now that it cleared in time for us to explore them. I now know properly what I would have been missing and it is something, if you’re visiting Turkey, not to miss. Such an incredible natural wonder and one of the many beautiful highlights from our time in Turkey.

Thank you for reading, and safe travels.

Felicity

P.S.
You can watch all of our travel adventures (and ‘Like’, ‘Subscribe’ and ‘Comment’ on YouTube at www.youtube.com/gregandfelicityadventures.
You can also find out about everything else that we do at www.gregandfelicityadventures.com.

The Isle of Man – Too Close To Home?

The Isle of Man – Too Close To Home?

A Blog Post By Greg

 

It was while we were halfway through our Honeymoon in Mexico that I was looking at some of the footage we had taken so far on our adventures and I came up with an idea. Why wouldn’t we edit together the footage into a travel adventure video to release to the world (we had planned on making a video for ourselves and our family anyway), and Felicity really liked the idea. Fast forward to late July 2019 and the video, ‘Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty’ was ready for release on YouTube.

I had released videos on YouTube before. Together we had put out a Steampunk series the year before called ‘The Last Airship’, which to date has had an average of 2,000 views per episode. Within a few days the Mexico video had surpassed the views on any of the videos which had been out for eighteen months at that point, and we quickly realised that we had made something that not only had we enjoyed, but also which other people seemed to be enjoying watching too. Could we, we began to ask ourselves, make this more than just a one off, and actually try to make travel film making a career which would allow us to travel the world?

We decided we wanted to give it a try, and the first step would be to see if we could make another video that people liked, and so we began to discuss our next destination. I pointed out that I had a show on the Isle of Man in October 2019, and that instead of just flying over for a night, we could stay for a few nights and turn it into our next travel video. Felicity wasn’t sure, as after Mexico it seemed a little close to home – and so we agreed to film an episode on the Isle of Man, and then later in the year head a bit further away from home for a third video as well (in the end we opted for Turkey, where we filmed ‘Turkey – Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities‘).

It therefore became my task to try to prove that we could make a travel video on the Isle of Man, as well as in the more far-flung corners of the world. So I tried in the planning to look at the Isle of Man as though we were looking at any other destination we were planning to travel to for a video, to find out what it had to offer, and to see as much of it as we could.

By now, you may have seen the result, ‘The Isle of Man – Railways, Castles and Seals‘, and you may have noticed, even from the title, that in my early research I found three main areas. We always start researching any new travel with a view to any wildlife in the area, as this is one of Felicity’s big passions, and in particular it is marine wildlife which interests us.

Although we were unfortunately out of season for basking sharks, I found that there is a point on the south of the island which is good for spotting seals – and if you want to hear what that was like when we got there, you can read Felicity’s blog post on them here.

Once we have had a look to see what wildlife is local, we then look into the history. In Mexico, this was the Mayan ruins which we visited for most of the first half of our trip, and in Turkey this meant the underground cities and Greek ruins. On the Isle of Man, this meant the castles.

From our point of view, having grown up, and still living, in the British Isles, these castles were a very familiar style to us. While they seemed familiar to us, and we both worried that this might hurt the travel aspect, each of the castles we visited had their own fascinating stories, some of which you can see in the videos, and some of which I will write about in a future blog post. We were reminded that you don’t have to go a long way, or to somewhere ‘exotic’, in order to find something fascinating to see and learn about.

Finally I found an abundance of historic railways on the island, everything from steam trains to electric railways and mountain railroads. I have always been enamoured with steam trains (part of how I got involved in the world of steampunk), and so it was a joy finding out about all of them, and choosing which ones we could fit in to our travel.

We spent a wonderful week on the Isle of Man, and although it was a very different style of adventure from our others of 2019, (in that it was closer to home, we spoke the language, stayed in one place, and everything felt very familiar), it was still an incredibly fun week. When we got to the editing suite we realised that as we had only been there a week that the video would necessarily be shorter – half an hour as opposed to an hour – but that we had a lot of footage.

Once we finished the video and released it, we were so pleased with the response it received. Far from being a ‘difficult second album’, it had been a joy, both to film and edit. People’s responses so far have been really nice, with some people saying it is their favourite out of our first three videos. It was an important lesson to us that with the right planning we can make travel videos even in places which are more familiar. We are also pleased that both the Isle of Man and the Turkey videos have, in their first twenty days, done even better than the Mexico video did in the same window.

We have learned that we have a chance, if we work hard, to make travel our lives – and so expect our videos and blog posts to continue for a long time to come!

If you want to help us with that, then please head over to YouTube and be sure to ‘subscribe’ to our channel and ‘like’ the videos. Perhaps you could also leave a comment on your favourite of the videos to let us know that that is your favourite one, and why, and that will really help us make more videos that you all enjoy!

In the meantime, thanks for reading, and safe travels!

Greg

P.S.

You can watch all of our travel adventures (and ‘Like’, ‘Subscribe’ and ‘Comment’ on YouTube at www.youtube.com/gregandfelicityadventures.

Palenque: Part 2: A Lost City

Palenque – A Lost City
A post by Greg

If you haven’t already done so, I suggest starting with part one of this blog post series, about our times in the jungles outside of Palenque, where we saw some of the ruins of the ancient Mayan city in the same state in which they were originally found… It’s ok, you can go and read it now, I’ll wait right here for you.

Are you back? Perfect! Then I shall continue with us crossing a small stream out of the jungle, bidding ‘arrivederci’ to our Italian speaking guide, and entering into the main archeological site of Palenque, the part where many of the buildings have been more or less uncovered.

In my first blog post about our trip to Mexico I talked about Teotihuacan, and it is interesting to contrast these two amazing cities for a moment. While we felt the heat of the sun in both, the site of Palenque, surrounded by jungle, about 500 feet above sea level, felt a world away from the desert ruins at over 7,000 feet which we had seen at Teotihuacan.

While the view from the top of the ‘Pyramid of the Moon’ at Teotihuacan opened out, seeing all of the remaining ruins and stretching out across roads and modern buildings, when you look out from the top of the ‘Temple of the Cross’ in Palenque it is a more restricted and isolated view. You can see a number of buildings and some open space, but on all sides this disappears into jungle, and you can’t see roads or modern buildings.

The views from the top of the ‘Temple of the Cross’ in Palenque ‘Pyramid of the Moon’ in Teotihuacan.

There are a number of features which make Palenque unique, however, and the two which I found perhaps most interesting were the tombs of two men, whose deaths were separated by nearly thirteen centuries!

The first, inside the grand ‘Pyramid of Inscriptions’ belongs to Kʼinich Janaab Pakal, a ruler of Palenque who had died in 683. His tomb was not actually discovered until well into the excavations at the site, when an archaeologist named Alberto Ruz Lhuillier noticed that a stone inside the pyramid actually had holes in it, which were plugged with other stones.

Ruz Lhuillier realised that these holes would have been used to lower the large stone into place – suggesting that it was some form of doorway. Moving the stone uncovered the entrance to a stairway, covered in rubble.

The rubble took four years to clear out, until in 1952 Alberto Ruz Lhuillier finally found out just how special his find was as he entered the tomb of Pakal, still intact with statues and, wearing a mask made of jade, the skeleton of Pakal himself.

Facing the entrance to the pyramid of inscriptions is a far smaller tomb, but one which is incredibly poignant. For here is the last resting place of Alberto Ruz Lhuillier himself, after the Mexican Government gave special permission for him to be laid to rest among the ruins he had worked so hard to reveal to the world. To see that the archaeological study of the site has now become part of the history and structure of the site itself is a real connection between the days of Pakal and the modern era!

If you want to see some more of the site, be sure to watch our video ‘Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty’.

Thank you for reading, and safe travels.

Greg

P.S.
You can watch all of our travel adventures (and ‘Like’, ‘Subscribe’ and ‘Comment’ on YouTube at www.youtube.com/gregandfelicityadventures.

You can also find out about everything else that we do at www.gregandfelicityadventures.com.