Samos / Ephesus / Pamukkale

Samos was the final stepping stone into Turkey, our afternoon there memorable only for time spent with Spyros, our malevolent taxi driver, whose idea of safety was to finger his beads wherever conventional wisdom might have suggested brakes. It was good only in so far as – as my life flashed before my eyes – I was able to revisit the highlights of my trip without having to develop rolls of film, and made an excellent digestive, helping to restore equilibrium after a particularly heady souvlaki.

Ferrying into Kusadasi, it was hard to believe we farewelling Greece for Turkey, about to enter the eastern most reaches of Europe. In Selçuk, near Ephesus, we stayed in a guesthouse with amazing Turkish food (to match the amazing rats and spiders in our room), and close access to the ruins of ancient Ephesus. It was also the place we met Dieter, a stoned fifty-year-old Zimbabwean, whose girlfriend was a pregnant Thai dwarf. He was also an ex-tourist operator, and had lived extensively in Turkey, and he helped plot the next stages of our Turkish delight.

Having loved Ephesus (in the scorching heat), our next stop was Pamukkale, site of the Hierapolis ruins, and, popularly, a series of hot springs, perfectly arranged for Germans to swim around sunken Roman ruins in bikinis. Our first long Turkish bus ride was an experience in itself, the landscape so varied as to be constantly fascinating, from the insanely rugged to the spectacularly green and abundant. Equally fascinating was the customer service. A bus ticket (very reasonably priced) including frequent watering, and, for the sweatier and smellier traveller (of which I was neither) a generous perfuming, which I couldn’t help but think would be appropriate for some of the schoolchildren who catch the 461 back home.

As wonderful as the ruins of Hierapolis were, and as interesting as the white calcium pools were to paddle in, the highlight of our time in Pamukkale (other than the scary children playing with knives on the shuttle bus) would have to be the aforementioned Germans. The weather was so hot and the landscape so barren, it might have been a mirage. They invaded by the gleaming bus loads, waxed, toned and tanned for the occasion, parading around in bikinis and budgie-smugglers, posing briefly for a photo and each other, before returning to their luxurious Star Destroyer coaches and disappearing. So renowned are the hot springs for their healing properties that these creatures evidently wanted to seize the moment and take advantage of their newfound vigour somewhere other than the perfect Roman ruins, utterly deserted, yet only two minutes away!

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