Wednesday, 3 April 2013

The rites of spring

Wildflowers at Hierapolis
Yesterday it was our turn to be ticked off by the marina staff for flying a sub-standard Turkish flag. We'd heard of others who'd had their faded and/or ragged courtesy flags lowered and tossed onto the pontoon. No ambiguity about the message. Turks take respect for their flag seriously, and its red should be as vivid as field poppies or young blood - not dried blood, as ours was. No problem. New flag hoisted that afternoon, with due respect.

Refreshing the flag is probably a seasonal rite here, as much as lifting your boat to have its bottom cleaned and its hull and topsides polished. We're due to be lifted in four days. The yard gets busier and busier. We've locked in tradesmen to clean the fuel tanks (remembering last year's drama) and "polish" the fuel, and to tune the rig which was new last year and has stretched. Alex is a fair way towards getting the solar and wind power up and running, and of the few jobs that remain, most are straightforward. Except, of course, we're talking about a boat...straightforward does not seem to exist in the boating vocabulary.

Ed and Sue Kelly (right) at the northern entrance to Hierapolis
To keep a sense of perspective, you need to get out among the ruins. Remember how fleeting life is? Back in the 1st century BC, the citizens of a luxury spa resort called Hierapolis thought it was really important to have a solidly-built house in which to rest their (dead) bodies. On Sunday, with Ed and Sue Kelly, we walked through fields of wildflowers and shattered stone mansions which are what remains of their illusions after earthquakes and centuries of pillaging and weathering have done their work.

Hierapolis tombs - they are spread along a 2km road

Hierapolis (about three hours north of Marmaris, near Denizli) had one of the biggest graveyards in Asia Minor, not to mention a huge marketplace and grandiose baths. On the first day of spring, hang gliders floated over its scattered ruins and the limestone terraces of Pamakkale which cascade down from Hierapolis in spooky mimicry of a glacier....and everywhere there were people, and life was good for them, and for us.

Local tourists at Hierapolis

Paddling on the travertine terraces

Turkey is so chock full of ruins that you can get a bit blase about yet another ancient city. But not one place we've been to thus far has failed to astonish us at some point. The warm mineral waters at Pamakkale which were (and still are) reputed to be therapeutic are certainly lovely to dangle your feet in, and the icing-sugar terraces are one of the marvels of Turkey. But Hierapolis's city fathers, who came from the very splendid city of Pergamon further to the north, built the most amazing theatre which Italian archeologists are restoring - and that's what took us by surprise, even more so than the often-photographed terraces.

Hierapolis theatre now (above) and as it was in 1955 (below)

A statue of Triton, taken from Hierapolis theatre

While we were on the road, Kevin and Mei slipped away on Whisper HR, the first of our Netsel marina winter crowd to set off cruising this season. They're headed towards Croatia, and then perhaps Italy next winter. We've enjoyed their company but we're learning that what you say is not "goodbye" but "see you down the track".

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