Turkey — Day Twenty-five — Pamukkale & Night Train

Thursday November 1, 2007

The morning was a scurry of activity at the hotel: we had more on our plate than just eating yet another delicious breakfast and showering in abundant hot water. We wanted to leave Pamukkale in the evening on the night train – the Pamukkale Expresi – from Denizli to Istanbul that was to leave at 5pm. Since we wanted a sleeper, we asked Karyn if she knew if there was somewhere in town we could reserve our ticket. There wasn’t a travel agent handy, so she had Ibrahim check availability online and there was only one sleeper unit left! Eek!

Karyn suggested we buy the ticket online, but of course we didn’t have a credit card. We were intensely grateful when Karyn offered to buy the ticket for us, so long as we also paid her the few extra lira to cover her bank charges for her Australian credit card. Since this beat hollow the prospect of a panicky dolmuş ride into Denizli to buy a ticket that may or may not have still been available when we got there, we gladly accepted. Even with the small charge (which Karyn showed us on her statement – she didn’t take a fee on top of it, even though we would have happily paid one), it was still less than $50 each – I think 49YTL each for the ticket and two or three lira for the service fee.

The next order was the hotel we would stay in the next night. As exciting as it was to have arrived in Istanbul that first night and look for our hotel room, we wanted to see if we could get in with the Canadians who would be arriving there that night. We tried to call on Skype, taking advantage of the free wireless, but the connection was a little spotty. Karyn – again, such an awesome hostess – lent us the phone for no charge, even though we were calling long distance. Unfortunately that hotel was full. Karyn then looked online and advised of a few hotels that had space and were reasonable, including one called the ‘Med Cezir’ (pronounced Med Jezeer) which was right in the heart of Sultanahmet. We called, heart in our mouth, and were told by the nice man on the other end of the phone that he was full up for doubles with their own bathroom. We were just about to hang up when he told us he did have a double with a shared bathroom. The price was great, and we wanted this to be done, so we accepted – no deposit, just our names and the advice that we’d be there in the morning. Yay! Now we had somewhere to stay and a way to get there: we could enjoy our day in Pamukkale.

It didn’t seem like it would be difficult to get to the famous travertines since we could even catch a glimpse of them from our bedroom window. Indeed, it was a short walk up through the winding streets, past the little lokanta we were in last night, to the pond at the bottom of the road that led to the travertines. The sun intermittently broke through the high cloud and made the upper hillside sparkle. It was interesting from far off; fascinating from up close. We paid our 5YTL and walked (shoes on) up the gravel path until we reached the white… how do you describe the travertines?

Technically, they are the result of a natural hot spring which carries a large quantity of calcium dissolved in the water. When the water reaches the surface and spills out over the top of the hill, the calcium precipitates out of the water and is deposited on the natural rock as a new kind of rock called ‘travertine’. Over many thousands of years, layers and layers of calcium have created terraced rock pools that shine white in the sun. Perhaps because of the ability of the white pools to reflect the sky, they are coloured the same bright turquoise that we have seen many times in alpine lakes. From a distance, the white structure on the top of the hill looks like a shining fortress, which gives Pamukkale (pamuk: cotton, kale: castle) its name.

We had waffled, as I think many travellers do, if it was worth it to even go to Pamukkale. We had read the reports that the hotels in the area had diverted the mineral water for their own little pools and the reduction in calcium-rich water spilling over the travertines had made them dingy at best, completely ruined at worst. We pro’d and con’d for several days: Denizli was out of the way, but it was on the way to an easy route back to Istanbul. The travertines might not be as spectacular as they were, but it might be our last chance to see even the faded glory of an incredible natural sight. As we took off our sandals and took our first step into the cool white lower pond, we were so glad we came. Up close, you could see that some of the pathways were a little gritty and not all the pools were full. There were some workers digging a ditch of some sort along the edge of the travertines and I was glad to see they are still working on repairing it.

The silt in the bottom of the pool was pleasantly squishy between our toes, and it created fun little swirls as we walked through. The water didn’t get past mid-thigh and we hung out in the pond, watching the clouds roll through and hoping for more sunshine. After not too long, a crowd came down the trail and took over our pond, and it was time to move on. It is a requirement that you walk up the trail without shoes on as the dirt from shoes makes the rock grubbier. Most people adhered to it and I glared daggers at those who didn’t. Really, there was no reason not to take off your shoes: the rocks were surprisingly smooth to walk on, even where the surface was patterned into tiny rock ripples. Frankly, if you don’t want to take your shoes off, don’t walk on the travertine! Not that I was irritated or anything.

At the top, we were impressed at the quantity of the ruins that cover the plateau: we had read that Heiropolis was darn cool, but this was really neat. We decided to first take a look at the ‘Sacred Pool’ which was located in a very strip-mall looking building. The sacred pool itself looked interesting in that there were indeed mineral waters and actual Roman ruins in the water – broken columns you could swim by and over. The whole thing seemed a little dingy, though, and the prices were obscene, plus there was that whole strip-mall atmosphere. I think that if the ruins in Turkey were more hands-off or somehow less accessible to be touched and leaned on and generally mauled, swimming with ruins would be more attractive. As it was, we felt as though we had had enough of an intimate ruin experience that we didn’t need to get naked with them.

Instead of a swim, we bought two wildly overpriced Magnums and went outside to sit on a tomb and eat our icecream. See what I mean? intimate ruins.

We walked along the cliff edge over to the left and admired a few tombs that were being very sloooooooowly drowned in a rising sea of travertine, or at least until a tourist policeman (well, maybe a park caretaker, but he looked mighty official) told us to keep back from the edge.

Keeping away from the edge wasn’t much of a hardship given the interesting group of ruins, including a colonnaded street, a couple of well-preserved arches, and a hillside just covered in ruined tombs. I think I read on ‘Turkey Travel Planner’ where Tom Brosnahan said that lots of Romans came to Heiropolis to take cures in the spa but many of them died instead. Perhaps it was best we didn’t swim in the sacred pool!

We walked through the triple arches towards the necropolis where we admired the jumble of tombs and tried to decipher the interpretive signs.  The tombs were very interesting and some were even open to visitors!  The magnitude of the excavation was overwhelming.
Tiring of ghosts, we wandered back to the arches and walked up the marble-paved streets, lined with rows of columns and poplars.  It was lovely and graceful and we went twenty minutes without seeing another soul.  

We found stone paths to follow up along the hillside that were paved in huge marble slabs. It took a while to realize that these were city streets that would have served all the now-razed neighbourhoods we were walking through. The streets were laid out in a grid pattern and sometimes we thought we saw the remains of drainage troughs underneath the streets where a slab was broken. I would have liked to follow the street up the hill to more tombs, but we wanted to take a look at the theatre before heading back to the hotel to get packed up for the dolmuş to Denizli. Walking those paths made me feel closer to history than any other place we had been, even Ephesus, and I felt if I could just walk a little further, I could walk right into the past.

Instead we slogged up the normal modern road up to the theatre, where you enter from the top. The theatre was apparently restored by Italian craftsmen in the 1970s and it was the first theatre we’d been to where you didn’t have the run of the place. To prevent people from going down onto the stage, there was a wooden barricade set up on the walkway above the first rows of seats. Frankly, we felt a little gypped. Those Italians did a nice job and all, but as I’ve mentioned, we were spoiled by our access to and intimacy with other ruins.

By this time it was well into the afternoon and we wanted to be on a 3:30pm dolmuş at the latest. Even though it was only a half hour into Denizli, and the dolmuş went every fifteen minutes or so, we wanted enough time to comfortably wrangle our RSFH to the train station and make our 5pm train. We decided to head down the hill where I would take a quick fifteen minutes in the museum and Steve would go back down to the pool with water in it to take some more photos now that it was a bit sunnier.

Fortunately the ticket to the museum was inexpensive, since I certainly didn’t waste any time there: I basically ran through taking photos that I figured I could admire at my leisure. The rooms weren’t well-lit and it’s probably best that Steve didn’t attend, as the detail on the friezes might have eluded him.

The guards looked quite entertained as I left with a quick teşekkür ederim: I’m not sure they’d ever seen someone go through so quickly.

I found Steve in the lower pool as expected. It felt a little sad to walk off the travertines, put our sandals back on, and turn our backs on Pamukkale. We were very glad we came.

Back in town, we found our landmark lokanta and set off in what seemed like the right direction to get back to the Venus Hotel. I’m sure you can see where this is going, though we were unsuspecting… that we were most certainly NOT headed in the right direction. On the upside, we saw back streets of Pamukkale that most tourists do not see. On the downside, we were tired and hungry and anxious about the time, and spatted pretty much the entire 20 minutes we wandered around lost. We did ask a little girl the way to go, but she pointed us in the entirely wrong direction, which really didn’t help the situation. Finally coming back to the travertine entrance from around the far left side of town, we saw Karyn and Ibrahim parked in front of a shop. They offered us a ride back to the hotel and then a ride back to the dolmuş stop with the RSFH, which we gratefully accepted.

At the Venus, we hurriedly packed our things and found that we had had a casualty on the trip: my loyal Teva sandals, which had carried me faithfully throughout Turkey, to say nothing of the other adventures, were now officially dead. The sole was separating, they smelled atrocious and they were too heavy to justify carrying back to Canada for interment. I sadly left them on the top of the garbage can in our beautiful room in the Hotel Venus. Farewell, old friends.

Downstairs, we said our goodbyes to the dogs, the mum and dad, and were carted back up into town by Ibrahim. What a nice place! We had just enough time to grab snacks: simit, suyu and a few cookies before hopping on the dolmuş. I hadn’t realized how much time had gone by while we were lost, and even though the dolmuş was going relatively quickly by dolmuş standards, we arrived in the Denizli otogar at about 20 minutes to five.

Wrestling the RSFH and our packs out of the dolmuş, we were assured by the driver and various passerby that the train station (tren istasyonu in Turkish) was just down and across the road. They didn’t say that the sidewalks were GRAVEL or that our wheelie RSFH wouldn’t wheel very well (ok, at all) on gravel. They also didn’t mention that it was rush hour in Denizli, and that crossing six lanes of road would take our lives into our overly full hands.

We were hot and tired and overly-adrenaline’d when we finally ran down the metal mesh stairs (also not very good for the RSFH wheels) onto the platform. Fortunately, we changed our printed confirmation for tickets without incident and got on the train with five minutes to go before five. Needless to say, we were very, very relieved and actually quite pleased with ourselves. It had taken a lot of co-operation, cheerleading and finely choreographed suitcase-lifting to get ourselves to the train on time, and our satisfaction wiped the spat from our minds.

One last push of the suitcase onto the train and into our little room, and we were free from suitcase lifting for at least another twelve hours. What a relief! We ate the contents of our little fridge as we watched… the station.  Had we known the train would leave some twenty minutes late, we might not have panicked so badly.  Insert UTS (ubiquitous Turkish shrug) here.  

Finally, the train started off, leaving the city of Denizli. After about twenty minutes, it screeched to a halt.  We thought it might have stopped abruptly for a station, but official-looking people were running up and down the track outside the train, shouting at each other.  We wondered what all the fuss was about — did someone get left behind?  The conductor eventually told Steve that a passenger’s child had pulled the e-brake.  Hee hee!
After not too long, the train started again and we watched the darkening countryside roll by, before repairing to the dining (cough smoking) car for a well-deserved dinner.

There was a little menu card on the table from which we tried to order, but the waiter was either not familiar with English or (bastardised) Turkish, because he kept indicating things were not available or giving us blank stares. We were pretty sure we had ordered some mezes and perhaps a şiş of indeterminate animal by the time he left.

When he arrived, proudly bearing plates of food, I realized that this was what menu roulette must really be like. Steve just smiled; he’s played this game before. Everything was good, but it was also a surprise: we had two eggplant salads, one of which might have been Imam Bayıldı, a haydari-like dish, a cucumber-yoghurt soup that must have been cacik, and liver. Yes, liver. Now I’m SURE I didn’t point at that item on the menu, but we got it anyway. I have to say the taste was ok, but the texture was… well, it was liver. So it was liver-y. Fortunately Steve likes liver. It was all quite reasonable in both taste and price, though not quite as good as the food on the Istanbul-Ankara train. Finally satisfied, we hung out in the dining car until we were smoked out. There isn’t any smoking allowed in the train carriages themselves, so the smokers hung out either in the gap between cars or in the smoking car, which was fine. Turkish cigarettes are somehow less irritating to my allergies than North American ones.

We found ourselves tired out when we got back to our room and sat talking and watching the lights of the countryside go by. I was a bit anxious about going back in Istanbul as I wasn’t sure I had liked it much the first time through. Istanbul is chaotic, noisy and crammed to the gills with people, and I’d felt out of my element. I also wasn’t keen on introducing the RSFH to the cobbled streets of Sultanahmet – or to the ferry gangplanks, either… but Steve reassured me and I reassured him, since he had similar fears, and we cuddled and felt like successful newlyweds after our trying day. Whatever Istanbul was like, we’d manage it together.

Turkey — Day Twenty-four — Pamukkale (Aphrodesias)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

We had a good sleep at the Venus Hotel.  Waking up refreshed and a little more aware of our surroundings, we were even more pleased at the bright and fresh nature of our room (yet again a triple for the price of a double, and the extra bed held all our extra crap).  Karyn confirmed that they are slowly fixing up all the rooms and common area.  Over a delicious breakfast, we had a great chat about the vagrancies of the Lonely Planet.  

Karyn explained that when the LP guy had come to their hotel a few years previous (to write for the 2007 edition), he didn’t even stay in the hotel, just took a look around and left.  Fortunately, he gave them a good write-up, but telling potential travelers that the hotel is pink and romantic doesn’t actually give any idea as to the quality of the rooms or food.  In addition, because the information is collected literally years before the edition is printed, prices are way out of date, which can give travelers a nasty shock upon arriving at the hotel or attraction.  
There doesn’t seem to be any avoidable way of the L.P. being out of date that isn’t prohibitively expensive for them and the consumer (and guide books are expensive enough as it is), and we did get a lot of assistance at least in knowing what to see.  Our frustrations regarding its inaccuracies were echoed by Karyn, and we promptly adopted her nomiker of ‘Lonely Bastard’.  We had a love-hate relationship with our guide book, that’s for sure.
This is one of the reasons I haven’t provided a lot of information about the prices we paid: the information won’t be relevant for long, and we were traveling in the off season.  What seemed like a good deal to us might not be possible to get in the high season.  To say we were there in the ‘shoulder season’ would be an extreme understatement.  In fact, Karyn and Ibrahim were off to Southeast Asia on their ‘summer vacation’ in just a few days.

Karyn also told us our options for getting to Aphrodesias: hire a car and driver for 100YTL or take the bus for 25YTL each. Obviously the bus was the better route, but it would only go if there were a minimum of four people, so we had to cross our fingers that more intrepid people wanted to go see the ruins.

We were just finishing up breakfast at 9:30 when the bus came by for us, happily with two other people in it! We gulped our tea and climbed on board, where we met Sharon and Barb, two lovely Ottowa-onians (?) who had spent the bulk of their month’s holiday in the East, near Van, which sounded really spectacular. We all bonded right away and chatted as the bus went and picked up another man, Tatsi from Japan, who hadn’t much English but had a very good attitude.

We stopped on the way out of town for some very cheap and delicious simit to take with us. I think the simit were about 10 kuruş each, which was the cheapest we had seen anywhere. Fortunately the taste did not reflect the price, and I bought simit for everyone on board, including a surprised Tatsi.  Yum!

The bus ride was quite long, but we filled it with hearing and regaling stories about our various adventures in Turkey: Sharon and Barb had met a man by chance who became their driver, guide and fast friend. Their stories cemented our desire to return to Turkey and see ‘the East’ as they did. They, in fact, are currently planning their next trip at which time they will go up into all the little villages Noori, their driver, said he would take them to, plus the Black Sea and all kinds of other adventures which are in store for them.

They’ve been doing very well travelling without any real Turkish language at all. Turkey is pretty easy to travel in in that regard, though I still like my Turkish words!

We finally arrived at Aphrodesias, or the parking lot for Aphrodesias, and were told to meet our driver at 2pm. Then we all piled into the shuttle… wagon, pulled by a… tractor, which (for free) took us all the way to the gate.

After paying our whopping 4L (less than the L.B. said it charges) admission charge, we entered the ruin by way of a cobbled path that passed a field full of amazingly carved sarcophagi. As it was by now about 11, we decided to take pictures on the way back.

Aphrodesias was the site of a prehistoric community since 5000 BC or so, and had the shrine to Aphrodite since 600 BC, but only became a real town in the 1st or 2nd century AD. The town reached its peak at about the 3rd century AD and was abandoned in the 12th century AD. The little village of Geyre grew up in its place, which moved after an earthquake in the 1950’s, after which time the excavations began in the 1960s to very recently.

The central part of Aphrodesias is actually the village square, and contains a gift shop, rather nice washrooms, a few scruffy cats and the Museum. There are also several options for where to start your explorations. I got left behind a little (taking pictures of the kitties), when I heard shrieks and laughter coming from up the trail. I found my people had discovered that a shrub with very ‘Day of the Triffids’ pods on them. When disturbed by a foot or stick, the little pods shot up into the air and landed sometimes metres away from the original plant. Bizarre!

Hearing the high-pitched squealings of a multitude of primary-schoolchildren on the theatre, we decided to approach the ruins from a more circuitous route. We headed on a goat track up to the left, joined by a shaggy dog whom Barb referred to as ‘Monsieur Woof Woof’ to his great delight.

The little path led us to some interesting places: we saw a chunk of stone carved like a leaf just stuck in the dirt; we saw a lone section of city wall; we saw a marble wall in the middle of nowhere with beautiful panels of carving, with an old wooden chair propped up against it; we saw huge snails and seed pods that looked like snail shells. We finally ended up following a very dubious-looking trail that led to the rear part of a very complete colonnaded walkway: we weren’t sure if Tatsi thought we were really cool for leaving the beaten path or absolutely crazy Canadians bushwhacking through the back forty of Aphrodesias. From there we looked at the well-preserved baths and the enormously grand theatre, which we had all to ourselves for about ten minutes. Steve and I had really good luck all through with getting spectacular ruins to ourselves.

At this point, Tatsi abandoned us to go on ahead, so I guess the verdict must have been ‘crazy’.

We went around the back of the theatre to more baths and more ruins, and a particularly charming kitty that followed up for quite a while, pausing to sit picturesque-ly on bits of broken ruin. I pulled a few ticks off his ears, which gave me the bug-induced willies, but it was for a good cause.

After more ruin-wandering, at which time Mr. Woof Woof returned and the cat sensibly left, we headed over to the stadium which was incredible: it had seated some 30,000 people to watch sporting events (athletic and gladiatorial) in relative comfort. There were designated seats, and guilds would have areas designated for them to sit as well. Barb and Sharon were politely chatted up by a tour guide who was taking a little break from giving a private tour to some Americans, proving correct their statements about being hit on by Turks of all walks. They had had some interesting experiences to say the least!

As we were getting close to time, we took a very quick look at Aphrodesias’ most famous ruin, that of the monumental gateway — the Tetrapylon of Trajan — that led pilgrims to the Temple of Aphrodite. It was beautifully restored, though somehow a little small after the Library of Celcus.

Passing yet more kitties and friezes, we found ourselves with a whole fifteen minutes in the Museum. Fortunately, that was all you really needed for a quick look at the Statues With Heads, if you passed over the majority of Statues Without Heads. We were able to get the tractor back to the parking lot only a few minutes late. Frankly, after the wonders we had seen, taking pictures of the sarcophagi didn’t seem so interesting.

In the parking lot, there were (surprise!) handicraft stalls selling trinkets, among which were some very sweet little whistles shaped like birds, much after the fashion of the whistles in the book ‘Birds Without Wings’ which I received for Christmas last year. We bought two, as they were very cheap and very cute.

Back on the bus, we had a little discussion about lunch, which is to say Barb and Sharon tried to explain to our driver (who had very little English) that they wanted to go to a cheap, village restaurant rather than a tourist place. As they had no Turkish, this involved a lot of them speaking clearly and loudly, and a lot of me looking up words in the phrasebook, like ‘inexpensive’ (which is ucuz, pronounced ‘oojooz’) and saying things like ‘lokanta’ which I already knew (restaurant).

He seemed to understand, and we drove off in the opposite direction from which we came. After a while, we came to a small town, where we pulled off the main road in front of a greasy spoon. Barb seemed a little dubious, but Sharon explained that the more quaint places were just for tourists, so we went in.

We were the only women in there, and definitely the only tourists, but it was full of locals which seemed like a good sign. The menu was a large piece of paper under the glass on the tables, which conveniently had pictures of each dish along with the Turkish name. We all had the special casserole except Tatsi, who had pide.

We taught Barb and Sharon the Turkish name for cherry juice, as they had also developed an addiction to vişne suyu. The vişne suyu was an unfamiliar brand (did you know the ubiquitous Cappy is made by Coke?) and came in glass bottles for the first time.  It was divine.

We were brought fresh, warm bread and the typical salad with lemon juice just before our casseroles arrived, boiling and sizzling in red-hot ceramic pots. After they had cooled enough to touch, we ate them with huge enjoyment – çok nefis indeed!

The casserole was followed by a sweet pastry covered in honey and halva – it was delicious too, but way too sweet for me. The driver explained in broken English and charades that the tea was free, from him. How nice! The total bill, each, for drinks, bread, salad, roasted green peppers, casserole, dessert and chai was a whole 10YTL each. We were very impressed with our driver’s lokanta selection, and told him so, as best each of us could.

We all paid the driver 30L each instead of the 25L fare, in order to give him a good tip. Back in Pamukkale by just after 4pm, we made arrangements with our newfound Ottowa-onians to meet at 7:30 for a light dinner or drinks, or something of that social sort.

Once back in the room, Steve and I settled down for a quick cuddle and chat before seeing the town (which we still hadn’t managed). Unfortunately, we both drifted off, and woke at 7:15, completely groggy and exhausted. We weren’t really in any mood for drinks, or dinner given the size of our lunch, but felt that our current course of action was more fitting for a pair of octenegarians than newlywed thirty-somethings.

We dragged ourselves down into the lounge, where Barb and Sharon turned up a few minutes later, and directed us to a small restaurant called ‘Mehmet’s Heaven’ which was certainly nice enough. We had some adequate (and not too filling) mezes, and Steve and I uncharacteristically got a bottle of local red to share between us. It was very drinkable to my palate, but quite dull to Steve’s, which is typical of our shared wine experience.

Conversation was very interesting: Barb works for Statscan and Sharon is a museum curator, and both are quite up on Canadian politics. Steve held his own in the discussion, but I was a little at sea, except when complaining about the high cost of real estate. Since our new friends were heading to Istanbul the next day, early, and were also flying out Monday, we tentatively arranged for the girls to go to a hammam (Turkish bath) in Istanbul, as I had been too chicken to go on my own. We also got the name and number of their hotel, as their rates seemed good and we had been waffling over what hotel to try and book at for several days.

More than a tiny bit tipsy, we left the restaurant after 11pm, said goodbye, and staggered gracefully down the road and into bed.

Turkey — Day Twenty-three — Selçuk & Tire to Pamukkale

Tuesday, October 30, 2007.

First chore of the day: stuffing every last purchase into an unsuspecting rolly suitcase.  That’s two, no THREE carpets, twelve or more pillow cases, a multitude of glass eyes, three little drums, a number of books including a hardback Koran, two red flag tshirts, a little jar of honey and god knows what else.  
The suitcase weighed quite a bit.  
As we wrestled sixty pounds of creaking, wheeled nylon box down one flight of stairs, we got our first glimpse of how incredibly stupid we were to attempt to haul all this sh*t home ourselves.  If it hadn’t been for that very prideful streak combined with an rancid teaspoon of Scots thriftiness we might have pleaded our case to Urdal or Nazmi and made arrangements to ship at least the big carpet home.  Needless to say, we didn’t, much to our intense dismay over the next five days.  
Breathing hard and a little flushed after the suitcase match (a draw, on points), we left the suitcase in the lobby of the Bella and hauled our sorry rumps back up the stairs for a last exquisite breakfast.  We were honestly not worried about leaving the behometh down in the lobby: not only did we have perfect faith in the Bella staff, but any poor thief would have had a paralyzing hernia before he got it out the door.  
It was a sad thought that we were leaving Selçuk, but we were also looking forward to the Tire market (Tee-ray, not what you drive on) that the Cliftons had raved about.
Thankful that we were leaving our red suitcase of death behind, we walked down the hill from the hotel, turned right and then crossed the street to the left just past where the market had been — ah, the otogar! Just where we were hoping it would be!
It was easy enough to find the Tire dolmuş; it was very conveniently labeled.  For just a few lira, we climbed aboard the empty dolmuş and had our pick of window seats. It seemed like a few seconds later that we saw familiar faces climbing on the bus — the Cliftons! They seemed happy enough to see us, though I suspect that they may have come to the conclusion that we were stalking them… 
The dolmuş crept out of Selçuk, taking every possible opportunity to dart across three lanes of traffic to pull over on the side of the highway to fit one more person in.  It left the main road and wandered around villages so tiny they didn’t have a name, picking up all kinds of people as it went.  It seemed that tourists got on in Selçuk and locals got on everywhere else.
We were glad enough to be popped out of the crush at the market in Tire.  With a small break for the little, clean bathroom by the mosque, we set off up the hill into the market proper.  Now this was an ethnic market!  Having read that Tire was known for its felt-makers, and having had such a lovely experience in Konya, we wandered around the lower part of the hill, looking for them.  
There were blacksmiths and saddlers and finally! felt makers.  Unlike the art creations made by Ikonium, these were practical items: saddle pads and slippers.  Not unlovely indeed, but not nearly as decorative as Ikonium.  We did find one decorative felt-maker but the items were just not up to Mehmet’s standard and we declined to buy.  I was actually very tempted by all the practical items I saw.  If I had but owned a horse (or even a larger dog), I would have gladly bought a bridle or two, or some of the blue-dyed leather collars. Perhaps a giant copper pot, lined with tin?  
The livestock area was a little sadder, though just as practical: droopy chickens in cages, panting goats leaning against a stone wall, and one resigned sheep.  The smell was of droppings and despair, but I couldn’t complain  — not given the quantity of tavuk and kuzu I had consumed over the past three weeks.  All things considered, I am much more comfortable with creatures that live a free-range life, spend an unhappy (but pain-free) day at the market, and then are killed and used in an atmosphere not redolent of the abattoir.  
We decided to climb the hill to see the older part of the market and to see what was around the corner.  This market was incredibly interesting!  I stopped at a few places to attempt to ask for the decorative metal skewers which had served our kuzu şiş at some restaurant or another.  Not only did I covet them myself, but they seemed like a good masculine gifts (Turkish girly gifts being readily available).  The only problem with this was that my trusty guidebook failed me on the matter of ‘skewer’.  The closest I could get was ‘fork’ or çatal, which I requested in several shops and stands.  I was met alternately with the UTS, a quizzical look, apologies (at not having the skewers or not being able to understand me, I’m not quite sure) and, in one case, a man who abruptly left his shop to return five minutes later with plain but serviceable skewers which I respectfully declined.
On a more positive note, I found some delightful chunks of olive oil soap which the man indicated to me was from local olives for something like a lira each, which seemed incredibly cheap.  Since we had run out of Olay, we needed some soap (especially given the non-deodorizing properties of the Turkish deodorant).  
The wonderful thing about the Tire market was that it was mostly there for the Turks, unlike the other markets we had seen, which were mostly for the tourists.  The upside was also its downside, however: if we lived in the area, we would have been buying food and soap and clothes and bridles and chickens and every other thing we saw.  Not living in the area meant there wasn’t too much that was practical for us to purchase and take home — the tourist’s dilemma, for sure.  Just walking around and up and down the streets was a magical experience, even if we left with surprisingly empty hands.  
Empty hands, maybe — empty stomachs, no way!  We found a little hole-in-the-wall which was selling what the L.P. reported to be Tire’s specialty.  It was a little awkward being the only non-Turks (and only non-man) in the shop, but everyone was friendly and a nice farmer got up and moved to a shared table so that Steve and I could sit alone at a table.  We stuffed ourselves on delish kebap and were pleased to see a Turkish couple come in and the woman sat beside me.  I wondered if my presence made it easier or harder for her to come in and eat?  
Emerging back onto the street, we watched the fish sellers for a while.  While most of the other merchants sat back on their haunches, quietly waiting for customers, the fish guys were LOUD.  They yelled at each other, threw fish at each other and every so often broke into song, the lyrics of which I would have given a pocketful of lira to understand.  Their stalls all had electric lightbulbs dangling above the piles of piscine… probably to make them look shinier and fresher, not that they looked (or smelled) bad in the slightest.  
We eventually tired of the fish show and decided to wander slowly down to the dolmuş station and catch our ride back to Selçuk as we knew our train left at five in the evening and it was almost two.  Ok, Steve wanted to get back to Selçuk asap; I wanted to look around and covet things some more. We managed not to spat and found ourselves at the dolmuş station intact.  After lazily inquiring where the Selçuk dolmuş was leaving from, we were surprised to be hustled down the hill and across the street where our intrepid guide threw himself in front of a white minivan to stop the bus.  It agreeably screeched to a halt and we clambered aboard, short of breath and temper, passed our money to the front and… stood.  
The dolmuş was so dolmuş-ed that I ended up sitting in the stairwell while Steve’s bum clung to half a seat at the back.  The reverse trip gradually sloughed passengers by ones and twos and we were both able to sit after not too long.  By the time we reached Selçuk we were even able to sit together, and we were all made up and happy again.  We stopped by the Van to say goodbye to Marco and his brother (who was pining for the German girl) and had a satisfactory short visit. Our happiness continued right up until the point where we walked back up to the Bella and reacquainted ourselves with our luggage — from this point forward to be known as the Red Suitcase From Hell (RSFH).  
Pulling only a few vital back muscles, we loaded our RSFH into the hotel’s minibus and then out again at the train station.  If it weren’t for the unforgiving burden, it would have been an easy ten-minute walk.  As it was, we were grateful all over again for the Bella’s free ride policy.  
Purchasing our train tickets to Denizli was completely straightforward.  We just walked up to the ticket window, asked for tickets and paid our what, 15 lira each?  It was very inexpensive and we were there only a half hour in advance.  It appeared that most tourists took the bus instead: the bus shaved an hour off the trip but cost a little more.  It wasn’t the price that was a factor: our last bus trip hadn’t been the most pleasant ever, especially compared to our last (and first) train trip.  We wanted to stay a little off the tourist trail and see a different slice of countryside.  Plus we like the pace of the trains in Turkey.  Very civilized!
This trip was not to change our mind — other than the disc-rupturing lift of the RSFH onto the train, the stowing it in the aisle (and hanging onto it the entire trip in order to have it not crush the person across the aisle on every slight corner), and the resigned (but not unfriendly) looks of the people who had to squeeze past it in the aisle, it was all very civilized!  
We were able to buy snacks and drinks for cheap and we chatted a bit with a pair of Korean girls who hadn’t made any arrangements for somewhere to sleep or how to get from Denizli, where the train ended, to Pamukkale, where they wanted to stay.  We had been thinking of following in Bill & Nancy’s footsteps once again, but the people at the Bella had recommended the Venus Hotel in Pamukkale and in fact had called ahead to make us reservations for two nights and arranged for the Venus people to pick us up in Denizli.  Since the L.P. concurred that it was a nice, pink, and apparently romantic place to stay, we were game.  
The train pulled in just after ten at night and we were greeted right away when we hauled our RSFH off the train (off is easier than on!) by an older Turkish couple who identified themselves as being from the Venus.  They helped us schlep our crap out to the parking lot, followed nervously by the two Korean girls.  They were suspicious that the kind offer of the Venus people to give them a lift to Pamukkale came with strings, and Steve and I acted as translators as we were most fluent in the only common language.  
Satisfied at last, the Koreans followed the four of us out to a tiny sedan with a tiny trunk.  Apparently the only strings were to be the straps from my backpack straps which I used to tie my precariously-lodged pack to the hinges of the open, stuffed trunk, which the Turkish mum thought was very ingenious.  The mum sat in the front, with at least two backpacks and a suitcase in her lap, and the four tourists crammed into the back, with one Korean on the other’s lap.  It was insane.  Seatbelts were a joke.  The Turks looked very entertained, and indeed it was nothing short of hilarious, at least until the top Korean started looking a little green around the edges.  
Fortunately, it only took some fifteen minutes to get to Pamukkale, and nothing drastic or messy happened.  We popped out of the little car in front of a very sweet looking hotel with an arbor-ed terrace and an empty pool.  It was right across the street from the Melrose Allgau Hotel, which had been our other choice.  The Koreans were invited to go find the hotel of their choice but they sensibly opted to check in at the Venus.  
We were greeted by several large golden retrievers (it seemed like dozens) and the owners, Ibrahim and Karen, a young couple — she’s Australian — who were about our age and incredibly nice.  The hotel was lovely, with fresh tiles, paint and an open airy room with a spotless bathroom and distant view of the travertines, lit up in the night.  We asked for a restaurant recommendation as the snacks on the train were no substitute for a real dinner.  Ibrahim’s mum, who was part of the collection party, made it clear that she was ready, willing and able to make us some dinner instead.  It was late and we agreed eagerly, which was a very good thing — the casserole was delicious.  
We were absolutely beat and so were only enticed to chat with the other guests (Germans), Ibrahim, Karen and Ibrahim’s brother (?) for an hour or so before we hauled ourselves into our comfy bed and fell fast asleep.