Gelemis - Patara is in the heart of the Lycian region, a region boasting thousands of years of history, breathtaking scenery and hundreds of kilometres of unspoiled coastline. 2000 years ago Patara was the largest and most important sea port of the Lycian civilization. According to Mythology Apollo was born here and it is also recorded as the birthplace of St. Nicholas.
As the principle port on the coast of Lycia, Patara has a long history. Excavations are slowly bringing the city’s ancient history to light. The finding of coins and ceramic fragments, during excavations, date the city to at least 7th century BC.
Patara had a three vote right in the Lycian league, as did the cities of Xanthos, Tlos, Olympos and Myra. The league generally held its league conferences in Patara, which was its harbour as well, Patara, which didn’t lose its importance during the Roman Empire, was also the seat of the Roman provincial governor, who turned it into a port from which the Roman fleet maintained contact with the eastern provinces. In the meantime Patara was the harbour where crops harvested in Anatolia were stored and kept for shipment to Rome. The large grain stores built during the reign of Emperor Hadrian are still standing.
During the Roman period, Patara became the capital of both the Lycian and Pamphylian provinces, it also became famous as one of Apollo’s soothsaying centres. Patara’s oracle at the renowned temple of Apollo was said to rival that at Delphi and the temple equaled the reputation of the famous temple on the island of Delos. It was believed that omens were interpreted during the winter in Patara and the summer in Delos. A large bust of Apollo, discovered on the hillside, beyond the city gate, indicates the existence of an Apollo temple, which is yet to be found. During the Byzantine period, Patara again lost none of its importance and became a Christian centre of some significance. It is known for being a place of St. Paul’s missionary work at the end of his third missionary journey as he changed ships en route to Jerusalem. Patara is also the birthplace of St.Nicholas, who was born to a wealthy family from Patara and later went on to become Bishop of Myra.
The old city now forms part of a protected area (along with the beach). The site is fascinating and well worth a few hours exploration. Excavations carry on each year, under the close direction of Professor Fahir Iþik from the university of Antalya. Discoveries so far include: a magnificent theatre, an amazing main street, baths, temple agora, granary, many sargophogii, a bouleutrion (government building, which has received a lot of press coverage), the magnificent triumphal arch and located at the harbour entrance, what is reputed to be one of the oldest lighthouses in the world.
Patara beach is 18km of golden sands backed by the dunes and the Taurus mountains and regularly featured as one of the Mediterranean’s most beautiful and unspoilt beaches. Due to the strict conversation laws there is not a building to be seen, which is what makes this beach so special, endless golden sands, surrounded by nature.The beach is one of the few remaining beaches in the world, where the Loggerhead turtles still come to lay their eggs between May and October, so measures are in place to ensure that it can be enjoyed by holidaymakers and still remain protected for the turtles.
The small café on the beach is run by the local village of Patara (Gelemis), giving employment to local young people. Sunbeds and umbrellas are available for hire. Other facilities include shower, toilets and an attractive café area, all designed to be in keeping with the local surroundings. A percentage of the profits goes back into the village community. In 2007 this money was used to renovate the village school. The project has been a great success and in addition to benefiting all 45 children who attend the school, it will also benefit the wider community, as the smart new playground and garden will be available for local weddings.When you arrive on the beach, you can either choose to hire a sunbed and umberella and stay close to all the beach facilities, or alternatively head off to find your own little part of the stunning 18km stretch of golden sands. The beach of Patara is so large that it never feels crowded.
How to get there: It is a beautiful 20 minute walk from the village to the beach, however many of the accommodations provide a complimentary beach service. There is a mini bus service running from the village centre (small charge payable) and taxis are also always available. ‘Beach service’ buses run from the nearby towns of Kalkan and Kas.
Patara (also known as Gelemis), life slows to a different pace- where time can be forgotten and where visitors can quicky feel at home. It is an informal place, where friendships between the locals and visitors are easily formed resulting in visitors returning year after year to see old friends.
This small village, untouched by mass tourism is set in the foothills of the mountains, next to a wonderful 18km sandy beach, regularly featured as one of the Mediterranean’s most beautiful and unspoilt beaches.Much of life here is geared around agriculture. Most of the locals have olive groves and fruit orchards, green houses filled with tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines and peppers and small plots of land on which they grow seasonal vegetables including beans, chillis, sweetcorn, and sesame.Clusters of traditional beehives can be found in the hills around the village, used for the production of delicious local honey.
A stay in Patara will give you chance to meet local people, listen to their stories and learn about their customs. You are encouraged to celebrate local culture and traditions, including weddings, engagements and festivals You will learn a little about the way of life as it has been in rural Turkey for many years.
The village is situated in Patara National Park, therefore building is severely restricted. It is a short but very pleasant walk to the beach, however most accommodations offer complimentary transport and there is a local mini bus service running from the centre of the village. The village is in a wooded valley, surrounded by open countryside.In the centre of the village is the ‘cay’ (tea) garden where the locals meet to put the world to rights. There is the mosque, from which the evocative sound of the call to prayer can be heard several times a day. There are a few small shops, a post office, a couple of barbers and a handful of restaurants and lokantas in which to enjoy simple, but delicious meals. Visitors will delight in the variety of fresh local produce. Fresh herbs, such as wild thyme, oregano, fennel and sage, flourish in the mountains. The traditional local cuisine makes full use of the abundant fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs grown locally. The village is quiet and evenings can be spent enjoying a meal at one of the restaurants, followed by a drink or a ‘cay’ (tea) and an ice cream, chatting with the locals in the village tea garden, before returning to your chosen accommodation and relaxing with your hosts and fellow guests.
On the evenings when a little more sophistication is desired, Kalkan with its abundance of rooftop and harbourside restaurants and its warren of narrow streets filled with small boutiques and gift shops, is only a short drive away.
The Bouleuterion at Patara.
(Parliament Building of Lycian League)
The Lycian Assembly building is situated in front of the agora and opposite of the theatre in the ancient city of Patara. It is widely believed that the building was the centre of Lycian social and the political life, and perhaps the earliest ever example of a parliamentary building. For centuries the building was buried under a protective blanket of sand blowing across from the dunes of Patara Beach, it is therefore, in remarkably good condition.
Recent excavations have revealed that the Assembly has a large rectangular foundation, made of local limestone, as well as utilising existing natural rocks for additional support.
Detailed measurements from the site reveal that the foundation is built on a slight slope; the North East corner is 39cm higher than the South West corner. The west edifice measures 42.8m by 30.6m. There are also clear foundations of some 17m high that once supported a roof that, according to inscriptions on his tomb, was built by the famous Lycian architect, Dionysus.
Stone seating rows arranged in a semi circle line the back of the building like that of a theatre. It is believed that the seating capacity was 1500 people. Also still in tact is a throne-like perch where the effective president of the assembly would have sat. In front of the marble covered pit there is a stage section. The smaller entrances are to the north and the south, the grand main entrances are arched stone vaults looking towards the agora to one side, and the theatre to the other. Their stoa design is also evident in the theatre.
Though at first glance the architectural style belongs more to the Roman period, detailed study has shown that the building was actually built as a bouleuterion; original construction work dates back to the Late Hellenistic period when Patara was capital city of the Lycian League. During Roman times the building was modified and used as an odeon but translated inscriptions uncovered during the excavation testify that the structure was used as the Lycian National Assembly up until the 4th century AD.
St. Nicholas (Father Christmas)
Around 300Ad, during a prosperous era for Patara, a rich wheat merchant had a son and named him Nicholas. Many years later after the death of his father Nicholas inherited a large estate and decided to use it to aid the poor. At around the same time, one of Patara’s wealthiest men fell into poverty to such an extent that he lacked the means even to gather dowries for his daughters. He felt so desperate that he even considered selling his daughters. Nicholas decided to help them – he entered their house secretly in order to remain annonymous and spare the family’s honour. While they were sleeping, he crept in through an open window and left a bag of gold, to cover the dowry of the eldest daughter. Later he then helped the two younger daughters in the same way, but as the windows were closed he dropped the small sacks of gold down the chimney. The small bags of gold landed in their shoes which were drying infront of the fireplace. This is one of the many stories that started the legend of St. Nicholas delivering gifts to children. Now on the 6th December every year, children in many countries in Northern Europe eagerly await a visit from St.Nicholas leaving small gifts in their shoes. At St. Nicholas church in Myra (Turkey) there is a church ceremony every year on the 6th of December.