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Demre - TurkeyDemre is officially called and signposted as Kale, which is rather confusing since the nearby village of Simena was formerly also known as Kale. In Roman times Demre was called Myra and in the 5th century AD, Myra was the capital of the province of Lycia. Present day Kale-Demre is an expanding modern town amidst a sea of tomato-growing greenhousesŞahin tepesi (Falcon Hill) is an excellent location for a breathtaking panoramic view on these greenhouses.

Being the most important city of LyciaMyra had its own bishop and in the 4th century AD, this was Saint Nicholas. Nicholas was born in about 300 AD in nearby Patara  as the son of a wealthy merchant. Upon the death of his father, Nicholas spent his inheritance to help the poor and needy. One of his deeds was to give anonymous gifts to dowryless village girls. To do that, he dropped bags of coins down the chimneys of their houses. This gift from heaven allowed them to marry.

After his death St. Nicholas became the patron saint of Greece, Russia, sailors, children, prisoners, pawnbrokers, unmarried girls, etc. Even towns and cities were named after him: Agios Nikolaos (Greece) and Sint-Niklaas (Belgium) to name a few. He became extremely popular in the Lower Countries (Belgium and the Netherlands) for filling the children's clogs with presents on December 6. In Dutch, his name became corrupted to Sinterklaas, which eventually led to Santa Claus. It was the Americans that eventually merged the good saint with the pagan Father Christmas. This is also the reason why Saint Nicholas is known in Turkish as Baba Noel. More on Saint Nicholas can be found at the Saint Nicholas Center.

St. Nicholas' tomb became a place of Christian worship and pilgrimage and a chapel was placed over it. Later this was replaced by a larger church which had to be re-constructed several times during history. The contemporary church is the result of a restoration sponsored by Tsar Nicholas I of Russia in 1862. The most typical Byzantine feature of the church is the synthronon or bishop's throne in the apsis. During tourist season the church and surroundings become flocked with Russian tourists.


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