Our tickets to The Netherlands were booked and “winterising” and cleaning the boat was almost completed so we decided to give ourselves a day off.
We hired a car and headed for the Demre district round about an hour from Kas where there were several ancient sites that we thought sounded fascinating. The first was just a few kilometres south of Demre town – the ancient harbour settlement of Andriake.
Dating back to the Lycian Union in the 3rd Century BC, this hugely important harbour and trading centre of what was once called Myra (present day Demre). The port of Andriake became particularly significant around the time of the Roman Emperor Hadrian at the turn of the 2nd Century AD.
The river silted up and gradually trading stopped and the port ceased to function. The remains of this once thriving community have now become an open air museum with some buildings restored and with many ruins spread out over a large site.
There were lots of what had been shops, homes, at least two churches, several bath houses, a synagogue and an agora (market place) with an amazing restored underground water cistern which you could climb down into.
The tank was 24 metres long, 12 metres wide and 6 metres deep and the immense amount of water it contained must have kept all the businesses, shops and homes built in and around the agora well supplied with copious amounts of fresh water.
The highlight of our visit was the fabulous museum which was housed in what had been a granary in Lycian times.
Its seven rooms has been carefully and sensitively restored.
Within its ancient 56 metre by 32 metre walls, are displayed many fascinating treasures and information about the Lycian civilisations.
After an intriguing morning we drove into Demre for lunch and then made the pilgrimage to the birthplace of St Nicholas (Santa Claus).
Now I hear what you’re saying, – Santa Claus comes from the North Pole – but I’m sorry to tell you that’s just not true.
Saint Nicholas, a Christian Bishop and patron saint of young children and sailors (and others including pawnbrokers and prostitutes!) was born in Demre in the year 270 AD. His legendary habit of gift giving (often through windows but sometimes down the chimney) was the inspiration behind the much loved figure of Santa Claus or Father Christmas.
Around 200 years after he died, the Church of St Nicholas in Demre was built over the site of the church where he had served as bishop. It is now a museum and still a sacred place of worship, much beloved particularly by Russians as St Nicholas is also patron saint of Russia (as well as Amsterdam, Aberdeen and a host of other places).
He was buried on the site of the original Church but in 1087 most of his bones were taken to Bari in Italy. The remaining fragments were taken to Venice during the first Crusade.
Excavations at this ancient site have been going on since 1988 and have revealed some treasures including some beautiful frescoes, vibrant mosaic floors and a desecrated sarcophagus, thought to be the original burial place of St Nicholas.
There were a couple of big Russian tourist groups going round at the same time as us which was a bit confronting in this time of Covid as there wasn’t much social distancing going on!
From there we were heading to the famous rock tombs just in the outskirts of Demre but decided that there were too many tourist groups with the same idea so instead we headed to the ancient city of Patara, on the other side of Kas.
Perhaps too much history for one blog so look out for photos of this wonderful site in my next blog!