I’ve probably spent more time preparing this post than any other of the admittedly not very many at all on this blog, and yet it’s going to be a short (-ish) and uninformative one. And it turns out that all my preparations have been in vain anyway. All that time was spent trying to figure out just what the hell was going on with all the other tourists at Pamukkale – primarily the Russian ones – but to no avail. The internet has failed me, and with this post, I in turn fail the internet. My Google-fu is apparently too weak.
For as much as Pamukkale is an amazing natural wonder – and it is beautiful and amazing, and definitely worth a look – the images that stick in my mind are not like the ones that feature on its Wikipedia page. They’re the ones that will feature in some bikini-clad Russian girl’s modelling portfolio. Or the ones of guys in budgie-smugglers, trying their best to look like they should be turning up as stills at the beginning of some dodgy behind-the-Iron-Curtain porn flick.
Pamukkale, for those not acquainted with it, is the location of a series of thermal hot springs in Turkey, and the distinguishing feature of these hot springs is their high mineral – especially calcium – content. As the water from the hot springs emerges and streams away (or, given the Turkish heat, evaporates), it leaves behind its mineral content, and so produces travertine – pretty-looking white stuff which in the case of Pamukkale is laid down in pools on the hillside, made all the more attractive by the blue tinge to the mineral-heavy water they hold.
So far, so much Wikipedia-like goodness. Where it gets weird is that it’s apparently not sufficient to come and take photos of the natural beauty. Especially if you’re a Russian tourist. I’d noted with interest as we wandered through the beginnings of the site that all the signs seemed to be in Turkish and Russian, unlike everywhere else I’d been in Turkey, where English features and Russian doesn’t. Walking through the main section of the site, we saw why: Russians made up the majority of attendees, and pretty much all of them were on one or other side of a fancy camera lens, taking studio-style shots of girls in skimpy clothes draping themselves over the travertine.
There were come-hither looks, there were cleavage thrusts, there were girls in 1970s-style swimsuits displaying an apparent lust for deposits of calcium carbonate which, to be honest, struck me as downright unhealthy.
And then there were the rich Russian guys in budgie smugglers doing the same. (One presumes they were rich, based on the very low and very high levels of attractiveness of themselves and their girlfriends, respectively, and based further on the quantity of their jewellery, etc, etc.)
I’ve heard a rumour since that there’s a Russian music video that was filmed at Pamukkale, and that the Russian tourists are imitating its starlets. I’ve heard elsewhere that it was a photo shoot in a popular magazine. But it’s here that my Google-fu has failed me. No combination of Pamukkale and anything MTV, music video, or magazine shoots has brought me any joy. And so it’s the artificial wonder of Pamukkale that’s left the deepest impression on me, not the natural one.
Final random totally unrelated thoughts:
- It’s possible to paraglide over the hot springs. The three of us (two girls I met on the cruise from Olympos to Fethiye, plus me) were going to do it at sunset – right up to having paid for it and sitting in the hotel foyer waiting to be picked up – but the winds apparently changed, and as a result my face is stuck this ugly for the rest of my life and we also couldn’t go paragliding. Devastating. Very jealous of anyone who has actually done it.
- In addition to the “wow, weird but entertaining…” factor, there is another benefit to the weird posing girls and guys: the opportunity to take parody shots. Yes, we did. No, you can’t have copies.
- In addition to the hot springs, Pamukkale also has the ancient Roman ruins of Hierapolis, with a huge amphitheatre and substantial necropolis. Pretty cool. Some of the tombs are remarkably well preserved. Some of them not so much. One of the girls wryly observed as we wandered around that it did feel at times like someone had been having a good time with a baseball bat. But even as a nerd who studied Latin in high school, let’s face it, we’re there for the hot springs more than the ruins.
- Finally, thanks to the two girls I spent my time in Pamukkale with for a fantastically entertaining weekend there, to top off the great trip we’d already spent on the boat. Cheers for the company, and for proving my theory that it’s the people you meet while travelling who really make the difference.