Day 22: Ruins of Myra to Demre

The old and the new in Demre

What a perk to have a bathroom available after waking in a tent! It’s the little things, you know…

After breaking camp, the mayor came out to greet us and pick some green leaves from the bushes. He took these leaves back to his house and came back with a tray of the traditional tulip-shaped glasses containing green tea from those leaves for breakfast. It was such a beautiful display of the green leaves floating in clear water, and when held up to the rising sun it made the city below look magical (because in reality, it is mostly greenhouses and apartment buildings apart from the ruins).

It was a great start to the day, and we waved a fond farewell to the mayor as he directed us back on the Lycian Way path to Myra. We were expecting a pretty short day as we knew we were near the ruins and could see our destination for the night below. Oh, silly expectations!

We missed our turnoff from the road because the marker on the right turn was overgrown, but a friendly local soon put us back on track. The winding path took us through some of the worst maqui (thorny scrub) we’ve seen so far…and we’ve seen a lot! Sherry and Warren especially got scratched up because they were wearing shorts and short-sleeved shirts. This is when having a long-sleeved shirt and pants really pays off.

We finally came to a clearing and saw the fortress of Myra in the distance. It’s quite a magnificent site, and we were relieved to see somewhat of a stone path there with far less thorns.

Outline of Myra castle

There was a giant wall made of stone with red mud bricks in between, which we were later told was a Byzantine building style. What really caught our attention, though, was looking below to the theatre that was undergoing an active reconstruction in Demre right in the midst of the greenhouses and orchards. As much as we like imagining what people did in the ruins we see, it’s really incredible to see it as it would have looked back then.

We continued walking down from the fortress, making our way in gradual hairpins. It was much easier than the thorny path to Myra and an excellent option for anyone who wants to see this site without losing their skin in the process.

We wonder how hardy the people must have been in ancient times to travel these paths and stony steps in sandals.

When we reached the main road we parted company with Andreas, who was continuing the walk while we made our way to find a pansiyon for the night. We were planning to start our walk over the mountain early tomorrow and Sherry planned to do a couple of day hikes in between before meeting us on the other side of the mountain in Finike.

In hindsight, we probably should have just kept going with Andreas and let Sherry head over to Finike by bus. Demre doesn’t have much to recommend it outside the ruins of Myra and the church to St. Nicholas (which is mobbed with Russian visitors, oddly enough). There is only one proper hotel because most visitors come by tour bus for an hour or two and leave. Still, we made the best of it and spent the day photographing the necropolis from the orchard, visiting the tiny first church of St. Nicholas that was recently uncovered underneath a bus parking lot, and making our plans for the mountain hike.

Necropolis of Myra

As for St. Nicholas, he was actually born in Patara but established his church in Demre. There were signs all over for Noel Baba (Father Christmas). The church is an early orthodox one, which is why so many Russians come to see it. The signs around the church are even in Russian, to give an idea of just how many come to visit.

We also learned that Demre was a sarcophagus-factory town because of the limestone, which is why so many empty ones have been discovered here. You can see them casually displayed at various points in the town.

The evening was an enjoyable one, talking about the upcoming walks, things we’ve been thinking with all this free time, and funny stories from our travels. Sherry offered to take every item we wouldn’t need going over the mountain with her so we could save some weight, and we’re glad she did. Every little bit counts when you have to carry that much water.

Mosquitoes in our room buzzing around in the night…at least on the mountain it will be too cold for them!

Daily Stats

Where We Stayed

Demre (though we wouldn’t recommend it)

Hours Walked

2:00

Perks

Fortress and necropolis of Myra were pretty amazing, including the reconstruction of the theater below. The morning sunrise with green tea from the mayor were pretty great, too.

Problems

Too many thorns! You have to be pretty hardy to get through this path unscathed. It might be a better option to just go to Demre, take the path up to the fortress, and see the rest of the ruins before walking on to the next stop on the trail.