After spending one day in Denizli, we boarded the bus to Neveshir with a cocktail of feelings! I quickly settled down near the window seat, beside me was a man who’s extra friendly and starred a few extra seconds at me now and then, enough to make me feel conscious. My girlfriends took a seat that is diagonally backward to me, I stood up to see if they were okay, as soon as I turned to them, we all cracked up at once…very loudly, only to realize that there were 40 pair of eyes suddenly on us and we were the only three girls on the bus.
In the past 24 hours in Denizli, we swam in Cleopatra’s pool, unknowingly jeopardized relationships, dragged our luggage on the steep roads with nowhere to go, accepted random acts of kindness, took turns to sleep in the bus station, broke a friendship and made new ones.
That one day in Denizli was not a very extraordinary day per se but being able to live in those ordinary moments in a land that is not home felt extraordinary.
We reached Denizli at dawn last evening from Alacati. Though it was only about 6 hours of journey we felt exhausted because we had to change over different modes of transport to reach here. We came out of the Autogar and called our host Mirac for directions. Thank god it was only 20 mins away, we quickly grabbed a taxi. It was pretty cold for a spring evening. Denizli was a laid back historic town with travellers coming here to visit the famous Pamukkale hot springs.
From a busy main road, the driver took a turn into a dark alley while my friend had the maps on, just to be sure he’s taking us to the right place (As women we cannot take a break in safeguarding ourselves can we?) Two lefts, a U-turn, and a right later we finally arrived at our host’s apartment. ”Tesekkur” I told the driver and headed to the entry of the apartment and Mirac quickly gave the access to enter.
It was a 5 floors apartment and our host’s house was on the 4th without an elevator. We climbed up grappling with our trolley bags with all the energy left.
”Merhaba” Mirac said standing at the entrance of the house
“Merhaba” we said in sync, huffing, and puffing also in sync.
”Your room is upstairs”
”Oh no not one more floor” we gathered a little more energy and reached upstairs.
It’s a cute little abode. A kitchen and a bedroom downstairs and an open room upstairs with a balcony almost twice the size of the room. Mirac has kept the house very clean and artistry. On the wall was a hand-painted map of turkey, prominent places were marked with buttons, and notes were written in gold beside each button. On the shelf were souvenirs, knick-knacks, and pieces of art organized size and colour-wise.
The white transparent curtains opened to the balcony that bloomed with the peonies. I’d usually go and take in the smell of the spring but I choose to crash on the bed instead.
”You need some Turkish coffee?” Mirac texted after a while.
”Hell yes, we’ll come downstairs!”
Over coffee, we gathered that he’s a grad student at Pamukkale university and sublets his apartment as a side hustle.
”You are my first Indian guests” he said ”I do watch a lot of Indian films and love Indian music”
Mirac is 3 years younger to me but looks way younger than that. Medium built with dark black eyes, spiked hair, and has a reverent demeanour.
We spoke about this college, his family, about some local places he hangs out with his friends and about life in Denizli. He was curious to learn things about India and aspired to visit here someday.
We all cooked a meal and Mirac played ”why this kolavari di” in the background.
It felt like old friends gettogether.
It was post-midnight when Mirac said ”I’d love to take you, girls, around but I have assignment deadlines so you will be on your own tomorrow”
”Don’t worry about it, we have our day planned!”
“Cool, I don’t have any guests till this weekend so feel free to do a late checkout tomorrow!”
”Kind of you! We have a bus leaving for Nevsehir late tomorrow night. so that will be of great help. Tesekkur. ”
We wished Goodnight and went back upstairs.
”If you need anything, I’m around” the phone beeped after about 20 mins. He’s probably still awake and working on the assignment.
The next day he was out even before we woke up. The text message read ”I made breakfast, the coffee is in the kettle. Have a great day”
We quickly got ready, had breakfast, wrote an elaborate thank you note to Mirac and left for the day.
A lot of people come to this town to visit the hot springs of Pamukkale, I was more intrigued by the ancient city of Laodicea. When they say ancient it is five and a half thousand-year-old city that is mostly in ruins and reborn with archaeological restoration. I feel its like time-travelling, these ruins connect us to the past.
The plan was to visit Pamukkale village, take a bath in the thermal springs, swim in Cleopatra’s pool, hike up to the Herriraplis, hunt for cafes that serve veg food and then head to the ancient Laodicea.
Everything was going great, we were overwhelmed with random acts of kindness, an old man on the street helped us get a taxi, the lady from a local restaurant went out of the way and made us some tasty veg Gözleme even when it’s not on their menu. She also made us a complimentary dessert with sugar and dought, something that looked like doughnuts. We were feasting on the food, it’s been very long that we had proper food that is not bread, hummus, and tomatoes for 10 days straight.
That is when we got a call from Mirac.
”Hello, you need to check out now, its already late and it’s not okay”
”Wait what! But you said you didn’t have any guests today and that we can checkout late right?
”I have a guest now can you come and clear your stuff?”
I was totally confused and told about the conversation with my girlfriends.
We rushed back to the Mirac’s apartment, Mirac opened the door and stepped back giving us a way to get in.
”Merhaba” I said
He didn’t respond. It looked like no guest was waiting. We went up and started packing our stuff.
Suddenly there was a loud female voice yelling in Turkish! Mirac yelled back, there were sounds of banging utensils, heavy foot taping, and a loud bang at the door.
With a few English words here and there in their conversation, we gathered that she was upset that three girls were staying upstairs & was not too happy about the text messages exchanged. It’s partly a conjecture though.
We finished packing and went down. Mirac was apparently in his room and the young girl stood near the entrance of the bedroom, her hands folded and her lips twitching. She starred us, then at the thank you note we left for Mirac in the morning and again back at us as if asking for an explanation.
We stood there for 2 mins in utter silence just to wish a goodbye. Mirac never came out.
”Hoşça kal Mirac!” I said loudly and left the house.
We settled down on the stairs still confused about what just happened. Why are we made to feel embraced when we did nothing! I felt sorry for Mirac and of course us!
We sat there introspecting in silence for a while.
Loadeiceia I exclaimed. My friends gave a ”with all this luggage! kinda look”
”Come on! We can grab a taxi at the end of the street and keep our luggage in the boot space”
End of the street no taxi! We walked further on the steep roads dragging our huge luggage, next street neither a taxi nor person to take help from! (locals can call for a grab cab)
After reaching the main road, we requested a guy from a store to book a cab and he did! The cab arrived in less than a few mins and we were on the way to Laodicea. Our driver was a kind man, sounded trustworthy to leave our luggage in the boot space. He also said he would drop us at the bus station later.
Laodicea is usually open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. We reached the place at 5:00 pm, but unfortunately, the place was closed early that day. Damnn!
We checked with the security in charge if he could allow us in. We expressed our disappointment about how we came all the way to Denizli, not just for Pamukkale’s thermal springs but Laodecia.
Just then a lady came from inside the gate finishing her tour and stopped by to check what’s happening.
”Hi I’m Melisa” she introduced herself
We introduced and told her how we missed the chance.
“Most people from turkey didn’t know about this place and it’s surprising, that you girls knew about it” Melisa said ”You cannot allow them?” she asked the security In-charge
”I cannot, but they can go till the old Syrian gate and look around”
“That will be nice” we thanks both of them.
The sun was setting on the beautiful landscape; all of us settled on the grass for some fresh Grapefruit and conversations about other prominent places in Turkey, culture, the history and the reforms brought by Ataturk.
The security in-charge, Arslan told how we reminded him of his daughters who stay in Ankara and also added he’d never allowed them to travel like this.
”If they reminded of your daughters then you should allow them inside” Melisa said and he grinned and raised his hands to say he can’t help.
”Maybe this place was destined for you some other time. You girls should come back” she said pushing back her salt and pepper hair behind her ears.
Melisa is a very charming lady, in her mid 40’s and is an ex-pat from Barcelona. Though she was born and raised in Denizli, she had never visited this place before.
There was more grapefruit to feast and warm Chaya!
While leaving, Arslan asked me to leave my phone number so that he could send me the pictures of Laodicea. He felt sorry that we missed going inside (I can easily get the images from Google, I thought, but shared my number anyway).
PS: It has been more than a year now since I came back to India. My phone buzzes even today with the photos of Laodicea, Arslan sends me. I am sure I can never get them on Google.
PS: The only way I stayed in touch with Mirac is through the Airbnb review.
This review said – ”Bhavya and her friends were nice, respectful, and kept the room clean. I couldn’t say a proper goodbye but it was a pleasure hosting them”