28 October 2013

June 15: Gemiler Island

It’s 6 a.m. The captain starts up the motor to take our gulet to Gemiler Island. I put on a jacket and come up on deck in the cool, moist morning air, grateful for the thermos of coffee that the crew brings out. I love mornings, and here I am on a gulet on the Aegean Sea. I pull my coat close, sip my coffee, and enjoy the solitude and the views and the low murmurings of the crew talking in Turkish.

The sun comes up and so do all of our tourmates, and we enjoy breakfast on the gulet. By 9 a.m. we arrive at Gemiler Island, also known as "Saint Nicholas Island". Modern archaeologists believe that this island may be the location of the tomb of St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas was known as a gift-giver, placing coins in the shoes that people left out for him. This is the model for Santa Claus, whose name is derived from Saint Nicholas. His feast day is December 6.

These signs mark the bottom of the trail to the ruins. (You can see John in the left of the photo, already tackling the steep path.)

Gemiler Island

Note the turquoise blue sign: “During your visit please fallow the path.” Hmm, where is the editor? I typed in the content of the other blue sign, correcting errors.

Gemiler Island, or St. Nicholas Island

This island became a residential area during the early Byzantine Period. Some medieval sources claim that Saint Nicholas, known as Santa Claus, came here or lived here for some time, which enhances the present prominence of the island.

Some sources name the region as Symbola. There are various religious buildings and numerous small houses on the island. Four large churches, many vaulted tombs, the corridor connecting Churches No. 3 and No. 4 and the church No. 2 with frescoes dedicated to Saint Nicholas are among sights worth visiting.

From the early Byzantine Period until the 12th century AD, the island was inhabited and was an important port of call, especially for vessels sailing from Italy and other Western Mediterranean countries with pilgrims destined for the Sacred Lands in Palestine. The island was deemed significant also because of existing cults of certain saints.

The aid and interest of our esteemed guests are requested in the protection of the island from devastation and pollution.


History reminder: Byzantine was the Greek-speaking Roman empire, lasting from about the third century AD through the time of the Middle Ages, and was the ruling force in Turkey until 1453.

The path is very steep, winding up to the top of the hill where the churches were built around the 6th century AD. It’s worth the hard hike, because the ruins and the views are amazing.

I took this photo of our gulet after walking a little ways up the path.

Gemiler Island

One of the old churches.

Gemiler Island

Gemiler Island

The corridor connecting two of the churches.

Gemiler Island

Church ruins.

Gemiler Island

Gemiler Island

The view of our gulet.

Gemiler Island

Ali leading us to another church.

Gemiler Island

What remains of one of the frescoes.

Gemiler Island

Note the cross in this photo:

Gemiler Island

The view.

Gemiler Island

A vaulted tomb.

Gemiler Island

Church ruins against the view.

Gemiler Island

Gemiler Island

Ali talks to us.

Gemiler Island

Our gulets.

Gemiler Island

Me.

Patty

Us.

John and Patty

Church ruins.

Gemiler Island

We hiked back to our gulets and had a couple hours to swim and snorkle around the cove. It was really cool, because some of the ruins were underwater.

Too soon, it was time to leave for our next adventure. This was taken from our gulet, looking back at Gemiler Island.

Gemiler Island

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