|Guess what these are. Hint: they are 2,000 years old. We've had fun exploring!|
|Kas Marina from hilltop|
|Kas old harbor (no yachts allowed)|
Greek island Kastellorizon
in background. Close, huh?
|Saint Nicholas statue|
According to the entrance brochure Saint Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra. He was born during the second half of the third century A.D. and canonized after his death (well, duh! When was the last time someone was canonized as a saint while he or she was still alive). Or he was born at the turn of the fourth century; the literature we read gives both estimates. He became the most popular saint in many European countries, especially old Russia. He became known as Santa Claus among Dutch and English speaking peoples. Centuries later he won the affection of Americans and became regarded as one of the saints protecting New York (thanks to all the Dutch settlers in that region). The North European tradition of Santa Claus, the protector of children who made them happy, and the belief in Saint Nicholas led to the creation of a semi-religious and very popular legendary character. The large sleigh of Santa Claus pulled by reindeer indicates that this character originates from the ancient beliefs of northern countries. The real Saint Nicholas of Myra lived on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea where it never snows. From a person who protects children in need, he was converted into a sympathetic old man believed to bring Christmas gifts.
|One of many frescoes inside Noel Baba|
|UGLY bracing attempting to preserve church|
|Interior Church of Saint Nicholas|
I won't go into all the details about the complex regarding narthexes, naos, bema, apses and synthronon because the only person who might find these of interest would be Bill's brother who is a Catholic priest and knowledgeable about church construction........other than to mention the outer narthex was rebuilt during the restoration in 1862, whereas the inner narthex maintains its original design. Per the brochure: "The oldest wall frescoes depicting the prophet and ecumenical councils are on the vaults of the inner narthex." Since this is predominately a Muslim country, I assume that 'the prophet' refers to Jesus. Islam does recognize Jesus as a prophet.
|The actual sarcophogus|
|Russian religious tourist|
|Respectful religious Russians|
|More Russian tourists inside church|
Nicholas is the patron saint of Russia. We got a kick out of the fact that the museum gift shop and all nearby souvenir shops price the merchandise in US dollars. This is very unusual; everything is normally priced in either Turkish Lira or Euros. US dollars normally are not used in this part of the world. Except by the Russians. The Russians still love US dollars and prefer our currency over Euros. One of the few countries left in the world that likes US dollars.
|Lycian rock tombs at Myra|
|One of many carvings|
|Such detailed carvings at this old theater!|
|Bill inside theater; rock tombs upper right.|
Emperor Hadrian visited Myra in 131 A.D. and built a huge granary at Andraki composed of seven rooms and decorated with portraits of himself and his wife, who accompanied him on this visit. This granary is still visible as one drives along the main highway into the western side of Demre (from Kas). But if you don't know what you are looking at then it just looks like another stack of old rocks.
|Fortress at top; rock tombs spaced about the mountainside;|
two-tier theater with double vaulted corridor/stairs on left;
stage behind the arched openings at bottom;
note where people are standing at right shows how deep it was silted in.
|Lycian rock tombs at Myra|
Myra lost one-third of its population during a terrible plague that swept through Anatolia in 542-43 A.D. (This region is part of the large area known as Anatolia.) The city fell to the caliph Harun ar-Rashid in 808 A.D. after a siege; and Myra quickly went into decline. Around 1100 A.D. Myra was overtaken by Seljuk invaders. Because of Muslim raids, flooding and earthquakes, Myra was mostly abandoned by the 11th century.
At Myra there are numerous well-preserved Lycian rock tombs. Until recently tourists could actually climb up to the tombs and examine these at close quarters. Today the tombs are marked off with a barrier of yellow tape to keep visitors from climbing into the tombs. This did not prevent some of the younger tourists from going around the yellow tape barrier and having their photo taken standing in the tomb entryways. There were no security guards to prevent this activity and the archaeologists were busy with their digging and did not stop to prevent the tourists from going where they should not.
|The grassy areas in front show how deep it was buried|
There supposedly is something called the Painted Tomb near the river necropolis at Myra. It supposedly portrays a man and his family in stone relief both inside and out of the tomb. I say 'supposedly' because we did not find this particular tomb. High above the archaeological site sits a fortress (Roman?) but we did not see a way to get up there.
|Myra is an active dig|
|Archaeologist still working behind theater stage area|
I would love to see into the future and know what they will discover and re-construct in the next 50 years. We know so little about the Lycians and their culture. (More about ancient Lycia in my next posting.)
|Bill at Myra; note fortress far upper right;|
many rock tombs in mountainside; inside theater.
|Double vaulted corridor to upper rows of seats|
|Face carved on a corner. I love this guy.|
One in particular caught my eye. It was different from anything we have seen elsewhere. There was a face carved on the very corner. Quite striking. Wish there had been more information available about this particular stone; such as where it might have been displayed and what the meaning might have been.
|Jamie imitating the corner face carving|
|Many, many face carvings all around the site|
|Carvings not just of faces|
|Rock tomb out in the middle of a field, all by itself.|
After Myra we stopped back in Demre for lunch. Then drove back towards Kas.
|Isolated Lycian rock tomb|
How cool was that! We happened across an isolated rock tomb way off the beaten path. As we drove through the area we noticed several more individual tombs, but not a cluster as in Myra.
Üçağız is pronounced EWCH-ah-uhz (try saying that 3 times fast) and translates as 'three mouths' for the three rivers that empty here into the Mediterranean Sea. The ancient city situated here was called Teimiussa. There are more Lycian tombs over 2,000 years old and even a Lycian necropolis. And a sunken Roman city just beneath the surface of the water, which is accessible only via a boat tour. None of us felt like doing a boat tour so missed out on seeing the sunken Roman city. Ditto for getting out to see the castle that is really a Roman fortress on the hilltop on the peninsula. There are no roads or walking paths to get out there. We saw the fortress last week from our boat, but did not feel comfortable taking our boat into that tiny reef-strewn bay crowded with all the tourist boats. And we did not want to go on a tourist boat today either, so that fortress will be skipped. You can see it from land or sea; you just can't get there unless you take a tour boat.
I am glad we drove down to see Üçağız. It was a charming little village. The government wisely prohibits any new building construction here. Wish we had waited to have lunch there instead of eating in Demre. This little village deserved further exploration, more than the quick drive through that we did. Instead, we stopped at a tiny produce market where I bought peaches, cherries, melon, green beans and other things that had not been in the supermarket in Kas. First time we have purchased fruits and vegetables at actual local prices. Amazing how much produce 6 bucks will buy at a local Turkish village market.
Old Teimiussa is well off the beaten path. And it is well worth the trip.