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“Cotton castles” is what Pamukkale means in Turkish. I was mesmerized by the scale of these geologic formations and felt like my eyes lacked the ability to absorb the beauty! These enchanting pools come from underground hot springs. The calcium-rich thermal water has deposited minerals for millennia, creating blinding white travertine spilling down the mountains. The water gathers in pools dotting the cliffs, which you can carefully navigate once you shed your shoes. One misstep on algae and you’ll find your feet flying out from beneath you, but the sparkling travertine provides firm footing.

To make my experience even more spectacular, I got to fly over the area! Was I para-sailing or para-gliding?!? I don’t know but the views took my breath away. The fellows prepping me moved in close to establish eye contact, and repeated “run-run-run” in hushed but urgent tones. Perhaps they doubted my ability to run, which was perceptive because I’ve never been able to propel my body weight forward at a running pace for any length of time. But from here to the cliff? I’ve got it (never mind my shoe almost came off as I achieved takeoff).

Of course, you know the Greeks and Romans loved their spas. So this place is also the site of ancient Roman ruins, Hierapolis. A Greek ruler who had little interest in ruling, King Attilus III, left his kingdom–which included Hierapolis–to Rome, hoping to avoid bloodshed. Because it gained popularity as a healing center, many people retired or died there. So an unusually large necropolis (or cemetery; from the Greek “city of the dead”) remains, covering two kilometers. It’s a lovely place to wander and view the ornately carved tombs.

And now for Rumi. Have you heard of him? His name was Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi. When our tour guide, Umut, was prepping us to visit the Mevlana museum (because he’s also called “Mevlana” or master–very confusing) he explained that Rumi originated the dance of the whirling dervishes. I said “oh I’m stupid. I thought we were talking about Rumi the poet.” Umut kindly, as always, said ” yes Rhonda–it is the same Rumi.”

Rumi said “there are many roads which lead to God. I have chosen the one of dance and music.” He would precede dancing with a period of fasting and meditation. The dance itself purportedly leads to unparalleled enlightenment! The popularity of this discipline led to the establishment of the order of the whirling dervishes. The dervishes wear a felt hat that symbolizes the tombstone of the ego. They wear black cloaks, representing worldly life, that are shed. The dervishes are left wearing long white robes as they begin their mesmerizing spins.

What a day: from soaring over travertine cliffs to hypnotic spinning! A day that will be added to my all-time favorites.

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