DEMRE

Demre (Myra) is the town where Santa Claus first brought joy.

Actually, it was St Nicholas who lived and worked here, and who was later transmuted into the jolly Christmas elf. An 11th-century church in Demre once held his earthly remains, but most of them were later stolen by holy-relic thieves.

Nicholas was born in nearby Patara, became a priest, rose to the rank of bishop, and did much of his good work here in the Roman town then called Myra, a name derived from myrrh.

Legend has it that he’d drop small bags of gold coins down the chimneys of houses with poor girls who were old enough to marry, but had no dowry. Sanctified for his good works, he became the patron saint of virgins, sailors, children, pawnbrokers and Holy Russia.

Today the Church of St Nicholas is Demre’s most visited site, but there are other things to see in this small coastal Mediterranean town. About 2 km (1.2 miles) inland are the ruins of Roman Myra, with a well-preserved theater and impressive rock-hewn tombs.

Demre (also sometimes called Kale) is a small town, and though it has a few small, serviceable hotels and restaurants, you may choose to see its sights on your way through to Kas or Olimpos.

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