Legend has it that an ugly unmarried girl tried to kill herself by drowning in the waters of the Pamukkale thermal baths in Turkey. But, instead of dying, she was transformed into a beautiful girl with a fairy tale happy ending. Thus, the waters of Pammukale are not only believed to have healing powers; as superstition will have it, the waters also have beautifying powers.
Whether they have gone to Pamukkale seeking beauty, health, or sheer relaxation, everyone who knows me and my family and visits the place brings back a postcard for us as a token of their having thought of us while beholding the paradisiacal fountains, all of this because of the similarity of my last name Pamoukaghlian with Pamuk-kale (cotton castle in Turkish), as well as the fact that we are descended from Armenians who once lived in Turkey.
I myself only got as far as 3 hours away from Pamukkale in Kusadasi, while cruising the Mediterranean.
The town I shall remember from the fake Versace shirts and dior shoes offered to me the wonder of seeing a picture of the marvelous Panmukkale for the first time in my life.
Immigrants in movies always know the whole stories of their family´s lives in that other place.
They have mailing addresses of far removed relatives and pictures of themselves as kids on some European beach somewhere, wearing those old fashioned swimming costumes of the early 1900s.
Not me. My family is not like one of those. There were no tragic stories at the dinner table about the Armenian massacre and how my late great grandparents had been murdered, my great grand mothers and aunts raped, their villages on the Turkish border pillaged. There was none of that. My granny, who was the only elder presence in my family on my father´s Armenian side, had been brought down to Uruguay as a baby and married off (by her mean stepmother) to an older man; though my grandpa, who was killed by a thief when I was an infant, turned out to be a very nice man.
Perhaps this dream of Pamukkale has to do with that lack of memory, and what we are doing is trying to build those memories in the map of our imagination. We can´t go and look at family records in ancient churches. The Armenian churches in Turkey were ravaged, besides, our name was deformed by customs officers when my grandpa arrived in Uruguay after who knows how many months at sea across the Atlantic. So, there isn´t any way we can reconnect with that, most likely violent past, for violent it must have been, since all Armenians who traveled to America during the early 1900s were fleeing the horrors of the Turkish massacre.
So, now, we dream of visiting Marash, the beautiful land of cotton fields (and also pistacchios as my cherished Armenian Australian friends who have seen the place have told me), the home of my grandfather and his family, and we peruse these unreal visions of Pamukkale in those postcards, thinking that maybe, when we plunge into their cleansing surge, we shall, at last, feel at home.
If you want to learn more about Pamukkale or if you’re considering visiting there, here are some sites I recommend:
- Pamukkale on Wikipedia
- Pamukkale at Hotels Combined
- Legend of Pamukkale at Pamukkale.net
- Pamukkale Travel Info at WikiTravel