I gripped my fiancé’s hand tightly as we took our first tentative steps across the smooth wet crystallised rock.
Our bare feet on the carbonate mineral generated by thermal spring water, and the scorching September sunshine in the aesthetically-aethereal Aegean area of this ancient land… “Paradise” felt like an understatement.
You’d be forgiven for thinking, at first glance, that it’s just perfectly pure snow, or thick, glistening ice. But in the thirty-one degree heat of this aestival Aegean atmosphere, snow and ice are a world away. No: this is calcium carbonate, crystallised into travertine.
The calcite-filled waters of hot springs, pouring from 200-metre high cliffs, create stunning stalactites and petrified waterfalls. Filled with pools and sloping step-like surfaces, with a brilliant white covering, they produce a spectacularly luscious landscape second to none, unrivalled across continents.
The native Turkish name translates to “cotton castle”, and, surrounded by an other-worldly wealth of white, it’s easy to see why Pamukkale is a UNESCO-protected World Heritage Site.
As if the sheer geological beauty of nature weren’t enough, adjacent to Pamukkale stands Hierapolis, the ancient Graeco-Roman city, itself an attestation to the ingenuity of the ancients.
The juxtaposition of incredible natural beauty and magnificent man-made artistry is most fitting in the country that is geographically and culturally the gateway between East and West, and the epitome of antiquity preserved through modernity.
I notice an elderly Turkish man has left his smartphone on a bench, and I tell him so. He is grateful, and despite our language barrier, offers fruits to me and my fiance from his picnic basket. We thank him and accept, waving and smiling as he returns to his wife, who is watching her grandchildren play in one of the shallow natural pools. Splashing about, their laughter fills the air with much-needed mirth; 2020 has not been easy for anybody, old or young.
Together in Turkey, After a Year
Being in a long-distance relationship with my fiancé right now (he’s living in Russia, and I’m based in England), this is the first time we have been able to meet in exactly one year and one day, because of the pandemic and international travel restrictions. September, 2020: we are finally re-united, in beautiful Turkey.
And this long-awaited trip has been the only good thing about 2020. It has truly been a horrible year: I’ve lost some of my nearest and dearest, without the chance of even seeing them to say goodbye.
Here, the sky is such a heavenly azure, endlessly cloudless and calm. The thought of soon returning to England with its incessant rainfall – not knowing when this pandemic will be over, and not knowing when I can see my fiancé again – is momentarily banished.
Biting into the perfectly plump figs, their juice running down our chins, we contemplate walking over the crystals one last time before heading back.
Their glistening makes us forget all about the pandemic. These stalactites have been here long before all of us, and will be here when we’re long gone.
Written by: Kimia Etemadi
Kimia is a writer, translator, interpreter and teacher from Manchester, England. She loves travelling, learning languages, and experiencing different cultures. She has lived in six countries and visited more than forty.
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