Yesterday, after Butterfly Valley, we stopped back at the island of Gemiler, also known as the home of St Nicholas of Myra or the original Santa Claus. Old St Nicholas has quite a story. Gemiler Adasi, on the Turkish Turquoise Coast, was probably the final resting place of St Nick. Beginning in the mid 90’s, a Japanese group came to study and excavate the Byzantine ruins on St Nicholas’s Island.
On this island of 1000m by 400m, there are four churches. There is no tillable land and seemingly little water. There were quays but these are now all under water, so there must have been trade from nearby ports and islands. The Japanese archaeologists wonder if religious tourism was the reason for the abundance of homes and churches. Gemiler is on the route between Venice and Jerusalem, a beautiful stopping off point.
St Nicholas born in 273 AD, was credited with several miracles but also with selfless generosity. He heard that a good man was unable to provide his daughters with a dowry, meaning that they might have to turn to prostitution to survive. Each time one of the daughters was coming of age, St Nick would throw a purse of gold into the window. The girls’ father became suspicious and St Nick decided to throw the third purse of gold down the chimney, so he wouldn’t be caught. The young woman had washed her stockings and they were drying by the fireplace and the purse of gold coins landed directly in her stocking.
St Nicholas is also the patron saint of sailors, which makes him special to us. His bones are no longer at Germiler but were spirited away by Crusaders to Bari and Venice circa 1087, because these sea faring knights were afraid they might not be able to visit his tomb in the future. Knowing the Muslims would not touch pork, they stole his bones from his grave and packed them in the middle of salted pork for their voyage home. Their ship was searched but their ruse worked. Today, Turkey is asking Bari to return the bones of St Nicholas.
We also stopped in Cold Bay after lunch, a small bay which has a frigid spring feeding into it. The gulet inched in so close to the cliff. Then many of the young men on the boat went up to the cliff top and jumped in. It was quite a show to end the day.
We are off to my childhood homes in Izmir tomorrow. We will say an early Happy Birthday to Graham Sommerville, Hope it is a good day.
How many shopping days until Christmas? About 112, so you had better get planning.