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Myra and Father Christmas


Myra and Father Christmas  

On a recent road trip along the D400 to Marmaris earlier this year, we were surprised to see a signpost stating that Noel Baba's church and museum were extremely close to where we were visiting. So, we decided to add this place to our already packed itinerary.  

First on the list was Myra, now known as Demre. It is about 50 km east of Kas and 80 km southwest of Cirali. Driving along the road, we were once more reminded of why this region of Antalya is known as Turkey's fruit and vegetable capital; numerous greenhouses line either side of the road. These greenhouses grow oranges, lemons, bananas, plums, tomatoes, cucumbers, and fields full of olive trees. Antalya is one of the most progressive cities in Turkey with its approach to growing a vast range of fruit and vegetables.  

Signposts dot the journey along rickety, old roads, but we are safe knowing we are going in the right direction and soon we are greeted by the incredible sight. Huge rocks with the most intricate carvings and openings- we have arrived at Myra Antik Kenti.   

Friends advised us to purchase a museum card that gives you a year's free entry into many historical sites around Turkey. At 60 tl, it's well worth the price. You need to show your Ikamet (residence card) and they take your name. All very easy!  

The archaeology here is absolutely breath-taking. Lycian tombs carved into the rockface jostle side by side with the Roman theatre. Looking up, we were amazed at the ingenuity and agility of these ancient people. The name 'Myra' was derived from the spice myrrh and was the Lycian capital city. It's not really a baby-friendly site as we couldn't push the pram around; however, the site is easily traversable, and we had no difficulty climbing the huge rocks and steps that led to the Roman theatre.  

Back to Father Christmas  

Noel Baba, or Father Christmas to us Brits, Sinterklaas to the Dutch and Santa Claus to the North American, was a 4th Century Bishop who lived and worked in Myra. He was born in Patara and became a priest, then was promoted to Bishop. He did much of his work in the Roman town of Myra with legend saying that he would drop bags of gold down the chimneys of houses with poor girls living in them. These girls had no hope of marriage as they had no dowry. Another legend says that he would leave gold coins in poor people's shoes who left them out for him. Eventually, he was sanctified for his good works and was known as St. Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors, virgins, children, pawnbrokers and Holy Russia. It is thought that his remains were stolen from an 11th-century church in Demre, which is now the Santa Claus Museum. 

 This area of Turkey is full of antiquity and is well worth a visit. We rented through airbnb but saw numerous guest houses and apartments/villas we could have chosen.