The Barcelona impression

It’s Easter again. So it would also be the perfect time to travel a little bit and enjoy more the beauty of our world. This time we flew to Barcelona — one of the beautiful pearls in Mediterranean.

Barcelona is the biggest international city in Spain. Located at the sea and among hills and forests it’s also one of the most luxuriant ports in Mediterranean. The coast line there goes from Northeast to Southwest and almost all the streets are built horizontal or vertical to the line. Sitting in the plane and taking a look down, you’ll find the city just like a huge latticework.

In my eyes, Barcelona is a city where you’ll see the architecture and urbanism are nicely combined.  Barcelona is also famous for another name, the city of Gaudi. Perhaps many people have already heard of the name Antoni Gaudi, the brilliant Catalan architect, whose passion, both religious and aesthetic, yielded buildings of extraordinary sensuousness, kind of melted, it’s the lyrical art Nouveau with Gothic spirit. There’re many buildings designed by Gaudi and all of them are so special that can be seen nowhere in other cities. They look different but very natural, colorful and full of crazy ideas. Their physical forms, colorful mosaics influence your emotions and seem to try to tell you their own stories.

The most well-known houses by Gaudi should be Casa Milà (La Pedrera) and Casa Battló. Gaudi used quite a lot of organic, ornamental shapes and patterns and integrated all aspects of art and spirit in them. Casa Milà has very special chimneys, kind of animal-like and kind of human face. But I really like the roof of Casa Battlò. I guess the idea may come from a reptilian creature, for it’s like the back of a gigantic dinosaur, making me somewhat think of the dragon killed by St. Georg. (There’s also a statue in the house.) The façade is also decorated with a mosaic made of broken ceramic tiles starting from golden orange moving into dark green. What is more interesting, the people in Barcelona call it the skeleton house because of its balconies resembling the animal skeletons.

Casa Milà

Casa Milà

Casa Battlo

Casa Battlo

 

And another world-famous symbol of Barcelona was designed by Gaudi too, namely the Sagrada Familia. I’ve heard a lot about it before. Maybe it’s the only large church still under construction since hundreds of years. Gaudi has worked on its design for over 40 years and devoted his last 15 years in building the church. Gaudi started to build it in 1884 until he was killed in a traffic accident in 1926. The church was supposed to have 18 towers, symbolizing different people — 12 Apostles, 4 Evangelists, 1 for Virgin Maria (125m) and the highest one for Jesus Christ (170m). The church is never finished and hopefully should be done in 2026, 100 years after Gaudi’s death. I have to admit that this maybe the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen. It contains an abundance of religious and natural symbolism. Inside on the columns you’ll also see four glory torches with animals on them, symbolizing the four essential elements — fire, earth, water and air.

Sagrada Familia (Inside)

If you like more architecture, you can also take a walk in Park Güell, a small park full of colorful mosaic decorations, figures and houses designed by Gaudi.

Parc Güell

Except of the wonderful architecture, the life in Barcelona comes from the famous street “La Rambla”, the lively pedestrian walk to the port, passing the sections of flower markets, bird stands, and street performers. One of them was quite interesting, he sat in a strange “bike” with a skeleton girl, each time someone threw a coin into his plate he would start to ride that bike and that “girl” began to make really awkward noises.

Photo of La Rambla from internet

At the end of “La Rambla” is the 60m statue of Columbus. On the top of the monument Columbus holds his telescope and sailing diary, pointing to the sea far away. Who knows? Maybe he was trying to show you the direction of America, which he discovered before. 😉

Walking along the streets and passages in Barcelona, you can always feel the art. No wonder it’s also considered to be a city of the art. It’s not very common that a city can wonderfully both combine classics with modern, the culture with the nature. This is not a city of charm; it has a deeper sort of grace, one that comes from understanding that the magnificence of the everyday is the most exalted thing of all. I’m sure everyone who travels there will have a wonderful unforgetable journey.

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Happy New Year, world! — The New Year’s concert of Vienna Philharmonic

New Year's concert

The New Year’s concert of Vienna Philharmonic usually takes place at 1.Jan every year. Although the concert of this year was ended a few days ago, I can still remember the wonderful melody, as if I just heard it. It left endless aftertaste in the audiences. 

The first New Year’s concert in Vienna was held in the Sylvester night in 1847, which was conducted by the famous composer Johann Strauss, Sr. As the New Year’s bell rang, the orchestral played a piece by Josef Haydn as the best wishes for the coming year. And then they played a song by John Georg Scherzer, which supposed to become a folk song later. Next I can imagine that they began to play something really joyful, like waltzes, Polka, Gallops, etc. The concert turned completely into a dancing party. The audiences rose and danced in a happy mood, whirling around the dance floor. Some pieces were asked to give an encore and the party lasted until dawn… 

Yes, this concert, which was held 155 years ago, was the origin of the New Year’s concert of Vienna Philharmonic. Thanks to the scientific and technological progress and innovation since the 80s, people from the whole world can be able to enjoy the concert and share the happiness coming along with it. Most of the pieces performed in the New Year’s concert were composed by the Strauss family and they are usually very popular. And today he can still touch souls with a kind of music that seems to live forever. The concert is always wonderful, sunny, elegant, colorful, meaningful, influencing… 

It’s a kind of beauty, which shows the wonder of the nature through music.

It’s a kind of beauty, which shows a harmonious ensemble from the special style of every different instrument.

It’s a kind of beauty, which shows so many astounding, heart-shaking music pieces, from the notes to intervals, from the intervals to the whole, and at last makes an electric effect on the audiences.

It’s a kind of beauty, which comes from the heart and the musical understanding of the conductor and every musician there.

It’s a kind of beauty, which comes from the fantastic paintings of the Schönbrunn palace, an inspired world woven by light and beauty, seeming to come to life along with the music.

It’s a kind of beauty, which comes from the melody, the dances, the ballet-dancers, the life, the philosophy and the culture. 

And the concert in 2012 was something really special. The conductor was Mariss Jansons, who also conducted the orchestral in 2006. The beginning was quite fresh. If you’re also a fan of the New Year’s concerts, you’ll surely discover that there were three new pieces — “Vaterländischer Marsch”, “Rathaus-Ball-Tänze” and “Entweder – oder!; Polka schnell”. It was quite funny to hear some familiar melody. “Vaterländischer Marsch” began with the enthusiastic melody like the “Radetzky-Marsch”. Then there followed some marches from different periods, just like the soldiers being inspected. In the “Rathaus-Ball-Tänze” there was also some similar melody as “an die schöne blaue Donau”. 

After the pause, “Copenhagen Steam Railway Gallop” was also something new. It made me somewhat think about the other two gallops written by the Strauss family. But it sounded different. At first the cello stroke a tender and soft note and made the atmosphere like parting… Then there came different sounds, bells, whistling, buzzer… But the composer made a complete journey by train with different instruments. If you hear it carefully, you’ll feel as if you would experience the  train, from the start, acceleration to moving ahead in full speed. The music turned faster and faster, which changed the color too, it just became brighter and brighter. The horizon seemed to be broadened chiefly, too. I’ve never heard that piece before but I think I really like it. 

Another thing I’d like to mention is the sleeping beauty suite from Tchaikovsky. I guess I never heard a piece by Tchaikovsky in a New Year’s concert. The two pieces from the suite suited the concert quite well. The Panorama sounded mellow and blur, the waltz was gorgeous… Maybe the best pieces from the suite. 

Victor Hugo said that the architecture is frozen music. (“Notre Dame de Paris”) In the New Year, the soul of the wonderful concert seemed to be frozen in the house of Musikverein and created really consummate artwork. 

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever, and so was the concert of the Vienna Philharmonic.

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Prague — The golden city

 As I was in Prague for the first time, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Is that really Prague? 

The place I was standing was an old street from the old town square to the famous Charles Bridge. The long ancient road went cranking into the distance, with all kinds of small stores, bars, tiny restaurants, hotels… I said they were “tiny”, ‘cause they were really small, maybe only 5 or 6 quarter meters. But despite they were very small; you can find a variety of specialties in Prague, like marionettes (I also bought one), characters made of grass, hand-made cloth, glass decorations… And don’t look down at it; here may be the most popular place in the whole city. Yes, Dvořák, Kafka went through the road before, Kundera and Goethe too. Goethe said once, “Prague is the most beautiful city in the world.” I wouldn’t judge whether he was right, but at least now I enjoyed the landscape here, just as he did before. 

Prague looks somewhat like Rome, the whole city is distributed on 7 small hills. If you take a look from the palace on the hill or somewhere high enough, you’ll easily discover another specialty of Prague, namely most of the roofs have the same color — vermillion. This special kind of vermillion was made from garnets, looking placid, fresh and bright. And the walls often have a kind of yellow or white like ivory. In the period of Habsburg, well, maybe in the 17 century, vermillion was considered to be a gentle, honorable and noble color, so the royal family and the government encouraged the usage of the color among the masses. This made me think about the Chinese royal family. The emperors always liked the yellow color, so this color was not allowed to be used by any one else. Because of this reason, the yellow roofs and red walls become something special and can only be seen in the classical Chinese palaces. But Prague is different. The royal family and the ordinary people shared the same color. Now you can see houses in vermillion and yellow everywhere, with green trees and a conglomeration of churches of different sizes and styles among them. It’s unique here and may not be seen anywhere else in the world. It doesn’t only show a spirit of democracy, but also a magnificent form of opening up and modernization of the country. This kind of beauty of the city is different, not only because of its imposing, overwhelming architecture or painting-like landscape, but also because it came after the repeated deliberation by the history of thousands of years.

 Walk along the ancient roads in Prague, you’ll feel at ease. Every our footprint lies on the footprints of people in the past hundreds of years. A famous Chinese writer wrote in one of his books: “There was no road in the world at the beginning. After many people went by, it becomes a road.” Since the middle age, you’ll also find architecture in nearly every period, Romantic, Gothic, Barock, etc. It is said that Franz Kafka knew the story of every unknown house here. Some of the houses are also quite small, but with a nice courtyard and corridors in Roman style. At noon, if the weather is good, the sunshine flows though the trees down in the courtyard, making several tiny soft spots. So these are the so-called “spittoon of the sunshine” by Kafka. (“The Metamorphosis”) 

The people in Prague like drinking beer very much, just like the French love the wine. It is said that everyone in Prague would drink 150L beer a year in average. And the Prague citizens like music, just like the Vienna people do. I’ve heard that even in the period of the war, they used to go to the concerts. No wonder you’ll see flyers about classical concerts everywhere. And the black light theater there is also quite famous and is quite an entertainment if you just have a little spare time.

 Besides there’re some special places of interest that I’d like to show you:

 Prague castle

For a long time the Prague castle has always been the residence of the royal family, nowadays it’s an important place of the government and the president. The St. Vitus Cathedral is also there, containing the tombs of many Bohemian kings and holy Roman emperors. It’s the most important Gothic church in the whole country. There you’ll see many wonderful paintings of Mucha, a famous Czech artist. But because of lack of time and a long queue around the church, I haven’t got a chance to get inside and take a look.

Prague castle

The Golden Lane

The golden lane is NOT made of gold. 😉 It was only a street for the alchemists who worked for the royal family before. The houses there are tiny and lovely, just like in a cartoon film. Besides there was a house where Kafka used to live. But you can come by and take a look at the golden lane but you’re not allowed to enter any more.

The Golden Lane

The Charles Bridge

The bridge was built in 1357 and one of the bridges with the most artistic value in the 14 century. You can buy many hand-made artworks, paintings or even portraits. There’re some statues on the bridge. Of course they’re only copies here, for the original ones were taken into the museums. Many tourists go there and touch them. It is said that if you touch them by heart, they’ll bring you the happiness and good luck for a life. So some of them look totally shiny.

The Charles Bridge

The astronomical clock

The clock mechanism itself is composed of three main components: the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; “The Walk of the Apostles”, a clockwork hourly show of figures of the Apostles and other moving sculptures—notably a figure of Death (represented by a skeleton) striking the time; and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months. The clock was burned in the second world war but reconstructed in 1948 and 1979. The Prague citizens believe, if they wouldn’t fix it, it would bring disaster to the city.

The Astronomical Clock

I went to Prague twice last year and added a little bit to my souvenir collections: a marionette and a hand-made clown made of colorful glass. Every time I see them, I’ll remember the wonderful time I spent in this golden city.

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Paris — The city of the fine art

 I’ve been in Paris three times. The first time I traveled there I was only 9 years old. It’s a wonderful city, full of the atmosphere of art. The first impression that the city left me was just like the famous painting “Impression, soleil levant” by Claude Monet.Paris is a very generous, grandiose city. I can remember a speech of a famous architect before, she said, if you travel to a new country, the first thing, which tries to contact with you, is the architecture of the country. With the special style of the culture, it tells you the history, the finest art there; it can be more real than any images on your books. With more cultural content and feeling, it walks into your heart. 

Why is Paris so beautiful? In my opinion, it lies in the fantastic architecture, which combines the history with the art; it lies in many poets, writers, who melt their mind and feeling into their marvelous works; it lies in the fashion power, which leads you to a dazzling special world… The sunshine, the night, the dream and the idleness of Paris build a harmonious ensemble, which attracts many tourists every year. It is a city, which has all but exhausted the superlatives that can reasonably be applied to any city. 

Seine in the evening

The river Seine is an important waterway in Paris. It played an important role in the birth of Paris, Seine and Paris is a whole, just like the heart and its arteries. It’s like a belt, softly holding the city in its arms. The French used to say, there would be no France without Paris, but the Parisians say, there would be no Paris without the Seine. If you’re just walking through the city, please just take a little time, sitting by the Seine, enjoying the beautiful landscape around, you would feel that you were so close to the heart of Paris. (If you like, you can also take a round trip on the river.)

And there’re about 30 bridges across the river, many of them were rebuilt a few times, but their names remind people of the history in different epochs. The most beautiful one is Alexander III, decorated with flowers, angels and goddesses of the ocean. It was a symbol of the peace between France and Russia.

Seine

Notre Dame de Paris

At the Seine you’ll see the famous Notre Dame de Paris. Maybe you’ve already read the story by Victor Hugo about Esmeralda, Frollo, Pheobus and Quasimodo. Yes, it happened right here. It’s such a grand beauty and magnificent monument that it’s considered to be one of the world’s greatest cathedrals. The entire cathedral was first finished in 1351 but it suffered quite a lot of damages in the next 300 years. It is designed in gothic style and consists of three parts, the gallery of Kings, the great western rose and the dual towers. In the sunshine, the cathedral looks lustrous, serene, solemn, mysterious and peaceful. In front of it there’s a big square and it’s a world of artists, painting, making music or selling their works.

Notre Dame de Paris

Louvré

I’ve been to many museums in different countries, but the Louvré is really something special, so that I usually spent a whole day in it. That’s a master work at Seine, like a graceful noble lady, watching her admirers with the kind of Mona-Lisa smile. She is also a goddness of intelligence, bringing the artists inspiration; or maybe it’s even a school, from the dawn to the evening, welcoming thousands of students from everywhere. It’s hard to describe the museum in details because it’s too wonderful that men’s words can express. It’s also very huge, so that because of my poor direction feeling I always got lost in it…

Louvré

Musée de l’Armée

On the way from Notre Dame de Paris to the museum of Rodin you’ll come across the museum of the army. It was built in 1670 and used to be a hospital for army in the period of Louis XIV. Here you’ll find the grave of the famous hero — Napoleon.

Versailles

People usually say, if you don’t visit Versailles, then you can’t say you’ve been in Paris.Versailles is one of the most luxurious palaces I’ve ever seen and absolutely a shooting star in France. It’s an incredible example of classical French gardens and baroque architecture. Outside the whole palace is surrounded by splendid gardens, adorned with statues and fountains and inside the rooms are all covered with complex ornaments, gold and jewels. To show off his wealth, King Louis XIV hired many great architects to build the palace. It becomes then a symbol to embody majesty and power of the French monarchy. The most wonderful highlight in the palace should be in my opinion the hall of mirrors. The great hall was an exception and designed in Rococo style. There’re 483 mirrors in total, which reflect the wonderful paintings and the sunshine from the garden. Then I understood why King Louis XIV was called the King of the sun… It suited his taste very well. 🙂 It makes me somewhat think of the French opera “Le roi danse”.

Here you can also see the bedroom of Marie Antoinette. I can remember the film “Marie Antoinette” I watched a few years ago. She came to Paris to marry King Louis XVI. In her short life she was always an innocent girl who didn’t care about any other but only herself, which lead to her tragedy at the end.

Mirrors hall in Versailles

Fontainebleau

That’s also an important palace I’d like to mention. Although it’s not as beautiful as Versailles, it’s famous for its beautiful landscape. The palace was used as a hunting place for the Kings. The interior design is a fine example of Renaissance. By the way, if you have a little time, don’t forget to go to Barbizon near the Fontainebleau forest. It was the origin of the famous École de Barbizon in 19 century. There’s still a small bar, where some great painters used to visit.

Fontainebleau

Of course Paris has still other places of interest, e.g. Eiffel tower, Triumphal Arch, the museum of Rodin, Cézanne, The Orsay museum, etc. Well informed, eloquent and oh-so-romantic, Paris is truly a philosopher, a poet, a crooner. Suddenly I thought about an essay by Ernest Miller Hemingway: “if you’re lucky enough, so that you’ve been in Paris as you’re young, then Paris will follow you forever, because it’s like a flowing dinner.”

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Learning from Santa Claus – Dream and Reality

 Santa Claus is a special character and he always comes with the Christmas tree, Christmas socks and tells the people — Christmas is coming. 

In the western countries, Santa Claus is a beautiful legend and symbolizes the hope, dream and love. Every year he brings the kids the presents to spread this spirit. I think everyone will experience three parts of his life — at first, to believe in Santa, then not believe in Santa and at last to become a Santa himself. Does Santa really exist? It’s a question many kids may ask their parents. I still can remember the famous editorial published in 1897,America. It was a reply to a child, whose friends didn’t believe in Santa. The newspaper editor said, it was wrong, Santa did “exist” and he would never die. 

Actually Santa is at the beginning not a fiction character. He carried the kindness from people’s hearts and spread it around. Especially nowadays he’s more a job than a character from the tales. In some countries there are still organizations of Santa Claus. The people there are busy replying to children’s letters from different cities and getting Christmas well prepared. It’s an occupation to be admired. The “Santas” are popular everywhere and bring happiness to the children but I’m just thinking about the part-time “Santas”. Actually very few of us can ever say “I’m totally and 100% satisfied with my job.” Sometimes you earn well with a job but it’s quite boring. Sometimes a job may let you feel your existence and personal value but you don’t get enough money to afford a living. Sometimes a job seems a great challenge but the lasting overtime and never-ending study may make you very tired.   

If you don’t feel happy in your job, or your work isn’t recognized, or even you feel boring, let’s see how those Santas do. Beyond their own occupation they choose it as the second job. The moment that they’re wearing a red hat, glued with white beard and sending the gifts, they’re happy. We can ask ourselves, what about me? What about my dreams? Learning a musical instrument? — No time; traveling around the world? — No enough money; Doing something good to the environment — just let it delay… It’s too normal, so normal that you are too tired to dream and you don’t want your childhood dreams to torture yourself any more… 

I read an essay before. A man was CEO of an international company and earned very well. Some day he suddenly couldn’t find the meaning of his life, so he took a vacation for half a year and left the city he used to live in and traveled to a very poor place. He taught the children there and changed their lives. In the moment he deeply felt the true worth of his life. Yes, our job is only a job, if it can’t give us all we want, it’s very normal, but why can’t we search for what we desire in our spare time? 

Another example from another book: a young man worked as an officer in a government, but he liked making music very much. After he got to understand the difficulty as a music producer, he gave up his original idea of the resignation and went to a pub instead to play as a keyboardist after work or in his vacation. If you really like something, even you can’t make money from it, it doesn’t matter at all. The most important thing is, it makes you happy and that’s all. 

Some people say, if a dream meets the reality, there’s nothing we can do. Actually I think it’s not true. A dream would never exist without the reality base. If you have a dream, do you think about it, how can you get closer to your dream? A dream doesn’t change the reality; it comes true from the reality. At the very beginning, a dream is a baby, little and weak, but it lies in your own hand whether you want it grow up.  

If you see “Santa Claus” next time, can you imagine that he doesn’t only spread the hope, the love, but also a wish that a true “Christmas present” is to be competed for? Today is Christmas, despite the hustle and bustle of the Christmas Rush, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. So what is your “Christmas present” for yourself?

Santa

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The Rise of the planet of the Apes

Picture from the film

Maybe this film is supposed to be the best I’ve seen recently. Many special effects came into use but it just made the audiences feel very real.

Humans are the conquers of the planet, so they can take any animal to make their experiments. But it finally caused the punishment from the nature. The female chimpanzee, which took the medicine was very smart. But there was still mistrust between her and the scientists. She was killed at last although she just wanted to protect her baby. The little chimpanzee baby was very cute and Will adopted him and took after him. But as Caesar (the chimpanzee) grew up, the neighbors began to fear with him. He was forced to be sent to an animal sanctuary. The most moving scene was that Caesar drew a window on the wall of the sanctuary.  You can deeply feel how strong his willing was to go home again. But after he cleared his drawing later, he was already totally disappointed with the humans, so the war began.

Caesar was always a chimpanzee with a kind and brave heart. He didn’t mean to hurt anyone even though he had to escape or to fight, because he only wanted to go home. In the film the chimpanzees performance were really amazing and real. Especially Caesar’s facial expressions and gesture were just incredible and it surely took the heart of every audience away. He was a revolutionist that was just awakened.

The war between humans and chimpanzees was tremendous. It was misunderstanding again. People took the guns, the helicopters, chasing after the chimpanzees. During the fight the friendship among the chimpanzees was also very moving. Their intelligence caught up with the human but there was still something emotional in it. Finally the chimpanzees arrived at the forest, their home. Caesar refused Will’s protection because he was home, his real home. He stood at the top of the highest tree, watching his beautiful new world…

The film was made with many visual effects but much more than it, it questioned people’s heart. Only a film, which shows the real emotion is a good film, otherwise it may draw large audiences and earn a nice box office but it’s not valuable at all and will soon be forgotten.

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Pamukkale – The cotton castle

The Turkish word Pamukkale can be translated into “the cotton castle”. Actually it doesn’t have anything to do with cottons but a travertine mountain with warm springs. Once you have been there, you’ll surely be amazed by the god’s unique creation. Pamukkale is unusual, natural and historical, just like a sparkling white castle.

Pamukkale

I guess it’s the most beautiful highlight in Turkey, which attracts a large number of tourists from different countries every year. Pamukkale has a wonderful legend, which comes from the Greek mythology. The handsome Aeolian shepherd Endymion fell in love with the Titan goddess of moon Selene. He was thinking about a date with her all the time so that he totally forgot to milk his goats. The milk flew over the mountain, which made the mountain pure white, white as cotton.

Edymion and Selene (Victor Florence Pollet 1811-1882)

In Pamukkale, you can see water comes from all kinds of mineral springs flowing here. The water is very clear and contains calcium which precipitates forming mountains. As time went by, it made ditches in the ground. You have to take your shoes off to enter the mountain. There are unbelievably white rocks everywhere, walking on them makes your feet a little bit uncomfortable, but just think; you just get a free foot massage. Hundreds of pools are gathered here with different temperature. The ones above are warmer than at the foot of the mountain, perhaps because the warm water flow loses its temperature while flowing down.


Besides the calcium warm pools there’s something you shouldn’t miss, namely the legendry pool of the Egyptian queen Cleopatra. It’s not very big, but nicely decorated with isles, ancient Greek columns and exotic palm trees. It is said that a woman, who once swims in Cleopatra’s pool, would get ten years younger, because its mineral water was as helpful for the skin and looked as donkey milk which the famous queen used to swim in. The entrance fee was 25 TL each (about 11€).

From kusadasitravel.info

The ancient pool (From kusadasitravel.info)

If you have time, walking around Hierapolis is also a nice experience. It was an ancient Greco-Roman city located on the top of the hot springs. In the past, the Greek and Roman nobles discovered Pamukkale and were totally impressed by its beauty and natural warm water. Year by year many spa locations, libraries, gymnasiums, etc were built. Unfortunately the city was destroyed by an earthquake and abandoned in the 14. Century. But through the main street, the old theater, the Domitian gate, the temple of Apollo, you will still deeply feel the prosperity and flourish in the past time.

Hierapolis main street

The theater of Hierapolis with a sleeping dog
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