I am going to try and do a minimum of commentary and just let my pictures do the talking for me. This past weekend I visited the ancient city of Myra which is also where Saint Nikolaus (Santa Claus) spent his entire ministry career.
The weather the entire time was gorgeous and the small local town of Demre was about what I expected. My first real surprise came when I walked to Santa Square. I turned a corner and it was almost like I entered a complete different world. If I were to describe the change in two words they would be “Russian” and “Empty.”
I turned a corner and what I was seeing immediately went from a typical Turkish town to this:
Although nearly every door on the side of every building was promoting the sale of icons or other memorabilia, there was only one shop open. There was only one person working that shop and they were watching me make my gradual, zig zagging way in their direction. Most of what they were selling was very Russian or Eastern European in nature but I could find one or two grudging nods to the “western” concept of Santa.
Being their only customer, and with them even seeming surprised somebody actually came out, I felt obligated to buy something (an English language guide to the city). Her Turkish accent sounded Russian and she was delightfully surprised I was able to say “thank you” and “God bless you” in what was surely horribly accented Russian. I then made my way into her shop which didn’t even have lights on until I came close. Clearly there was another individual hiding somewhere in the shadows.
The shop was one end of a large, four story building and I made my way past the shopfront end back into what still felt like a ghost town. Imagine one store open in an empty mall. For those in Rochester, just imagine Irondequoit Mall. The roof did provide a nice vantage of the area and I snapped a few from there before heading down to see if St Nikolaus Church was open.
The church was open. I spent a few hours in there doing some exploring and a little photography but mostly I simply soaked in the solitude and beauty of such an ancient sacred space. There was one early moment when I couldn’t help bursting into laughter. The idea of Santa Claus as a “teacher of abstinence” was just too much.