The life and death of Santa Claus – The Truth!

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.

Let’s get out of this marina for a while!

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.

The silted up port of Andriake
The wetlands are now a haven for water birds
The ruins date back to the 3rd Century BC

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.

Andriake was a hugely important harbour and trading centre

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.

The remains of this once thriving community have now become an open air museum
The remains of some ancient sarcophagi

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.

One of the bath houses at Andriake
The remains of a large Christian Church
The Synagogue at Andriake
Important port buildings on what was once the waterfront
Steps leading down to the docks

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.

Entering the agora
Some of the shops and businesses around the edge of the agora
Underneath these flagstones lies the immense water cistern
Going down into the water cistern
Imagine, this was once filled with water!
Looking up to where the water used to be drawn from
Jonathan looking down into the tank from the agora

The highlight of our visit was the fabulous museum which was housed in what had been a granary in Lycian times.

The museum of Lycian Civilisations taken from the road to Demre. Who would have thought that the walls of this building have been there since the time of Emperor Hadrian!
The museum was once a granary in Andriake’s heyday
The ancient granary has been beautifully restored
A decorative detail restored to its former beauty

Its seven rooms has been carefully and sensitively restored.

The seven beautifully restored rooms flow into each other
The interior walls stood strong for two thousand years
Remains of the original floor under the glass floor in the first room of the museum

Within its ancient 56 metre by 32 metre walls, are displayed many fascinating treasures and information about the Lycian civilisations.

There were so many interesting things to see
These amphora contained olive oil
Chain from Lycian times still in great condition
More lovely earthenware

After an intriguing morning we drove into Demre for lunch and then made the pilgrimage to the birthplace of St Nicholas (Santa Claus).

Santa Claus was born here!

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.

St Nicholas
Inside the partially restored Church of St Nicholas

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.

The Church of St Nicholas – patron saint of young children and sailors

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).

The Church/museum is much beloved by Russians as St Nicholas is the patron saint of Russia

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.

This is thought to be St Nicholas’s sarcophagus – Russian tourists leave notes and prayers to their patron saint

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.

These frescoes were uncovered by excavations started in 1988
The floor mosaics were really vibrant
We loved the colours in this mosaic

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!

We spent quite a bit of time avoiding Russian tourists
More artefacts from the excavations
There weren’t any exhibits to view
The buildings were worth seeing

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!

Opposite the Church of St Nicholas we found this shop with the western world’s idea of St Nick

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Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

One thought on “The life and death of Santa Claus – The Truth!”

  1. What an amazing place! Hard to see how St Nicholas acquired that fur lined red suit in such a hot climate, though!


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