Lycian Way Day 6

Unless you're up for a bit of camping it's impossible to walk the whole of Lycian Way. I'm in Demre at the moment. Walking from Finiki, the town on the coast to the east, involves a 20 hr walk through Taurus Mountains where there is no accommodation. I don't really do camping and the mountains are covered in snow so I came by car.

My 'taxi driver' was the host from the bed breakfast in Karaöz. He explained to me that every bit of flat terrain on south coast is covered with green houses and polytunnels. These grow tomatoes, aubergines and peppers in the winter but are left empty in the summer because they are too hot. Potentially this is a brilliant system because it means that the locals that can then forget about vegetables and look after tourists instead (if they turn up).

Demre is in middle of one of those flat places and at times to spot the town amongst the greenhouses. As well as vegetables it also has two UNESCO world heritage sights so instead of walking I did a bit of sightseeing.

Demre was originally the Lycian town of Myra and the location for martyrdom of St Nicolas the inspiration for Father Christmas. The first UNESCO sight I visited was the Church of St Nicolas, a Byzantine Church parts of which date back to the 5th Century. The church, which was partially submerged in gravel when the river changed course, has some amazing murals.

As well as being the inspiration for Santa Claus (whose bones were taken to Bari by the Italians for 'safe-keeping'), St Nicholas is particularly important for Russians. After failing to buy it a Russian prince paid for its restoration in 1862. Russians normally form the bulk of visitors but their numbers have declined to a trickle because of the current embargo.

The second and more monumental sight are the Myra rock tombs immediately to the north of the town. To be honest I've seen hundreds of photographs of these 'buildings' carved into the rock face but hadn't before realised they were tombs. Less unique perhaps but more impressive was the Graeco-Roman amphitheatre immediately in front of tombs. This was both huge and somehow intimate, intimate because it was easy to see how people got to their seats, which were the cheap seats and which was the director's box.

So today I didn't actually walk along the Lycian Way but it was a good day nonetheless. The weather has also been poor so staying in Demre has given it a chance to improve its ways. Tomorrow I continue my journey east and I'm staying somewhere that I don't think will have internet access. Immediately off the coast is a small Greek island where Syrian refugees have landed so the walk could have additional interest.

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