Well it’s about time that I got back into writing my travel blog. I apologise to anyone who follows my blog but personal reasons have kept me away. So to keep you updated as to what I have been up to I will have posts on trips to Cyprus, Belfast, Istanbul and Berlin and hopefully to wet your appetite the itinerary of our upcoming trip to South Africa, Swaziland and Zambia, but first a little about my second trip to Northern Cyprus last year. We flew with Turkish airlines this time as we had no plans to visit southern Cyprus and also the fact that Ercan in Northern Cyprus was closer to my friends villa where we were staying. As Northern Cyprus is not recognised as a country just an occupied territory claimed by Turkey, Turkish Airlines has to land in Istanbul on mainland Turkey before flying onto Ercan, and as Istanbul is Turkish airlines hub we discovered that their was no additional cost on the price of the ticket if you decided to stay in Istanbul for a while so we took this opportunity and stayed over in Istanbul for three nights, a place which has been on my list to visit for some time. We sourced an apartment on the website AirBnB for our stay which turned out to be in a very good location albeit a little noisy at night due to its proximity to numerous bars and restaurants where they seemed to be competing for the loudest sound system, but as we are partial to a bit of nightlife and music ourselves it wasn’t so bad. Now we had done most of the tourist sights on our trip earlier in the year but there were a couple of places that we had not seen, these being Buffavento Castle and Kyrenia Castle So first our trip up to the top of Buffavento Castle.”
Buffavento castle was built, along with St. Hilarion and Kantara, as a part of the defensive chain against the Arab raids. It is the highest of the three castles, its summit being some 950m above sea level. Like the other two it guarded an important pass through the mountains and it had signal connections with the other two strongholds. When Richard the Lion Heart conquered Cyprus in 1191, the Byzantine despot king of the island Isaac Comnenus is said to have fled there”.
Unlike St Hilarion Castle near Kyrenia which although a ruin is quite in tact Buffavento is a little less so. Also unlike St Hillarion castle where the walk to the top isn’t that bad with fairly gentle slope and with fairly even ground and with a nice place to stop and have a coffee with great views half way up, the trip to the top of Buffavento is a bit tougher, with some very steep sections and very uneven ground, but well worth the effort walk, as the views towards southern Cyprus and of the northern Cyprus coastline are amazing. The trek up probably takes around one and a half hours so I would only recommend it to people who are fairly fit. It goes without saying that good shoes are the order of the day and take plenty of water especially if it’s hot as there is nowhere to purchase anything on your way. Once you have made the trip I’m sure like us you will be suitably hungry and thirsty I can recommend a really nice authentic family run Turkish restaurant called the Buffavento Restaurant, which is located on the road just before the turn up to the castle.
Our last two days in Northern Cyprus were spent visiting Nicosia & Famagusta. The drive from Kyrenia to Nicosia is a easy one along a nice duel carriageway and took around 40 minutes. We decided to visit the old ancient walled part of the city as the historical aspect was alluring. Walking around the old city is like a walk back in time with its narrow streets and many street cafe’s, bars and restaurants and kebab houses it’s well worth the visit in my opinion. Whilst within the city walls make sure you visit Büyük Han (Han means inn) it’s a great example of Oterman architecture and is a rare surviving example of a medieval caravanserai, which is a place where traders and travellers would come and stay and stable there horses and trade there wares. Situated in the centre of the old city it bustles with cafes, shops and traditional craft workshops. In the central courtyard is a Mescrit (Islamic chapel) which is one of only three surviving in Turkey in inns of this type. The city itself is divided completely in two between Turkey and Cyprus by what is know as the green, line but as the border restrictions were lifted in 2003 it is possible to go between the two in effect countries by means of pedestrian crossing at Ledra Palace, or Ledra Street, just make sure you have your passport with you as you will be unable to cross without it. Seeing the streets divided by just a wall between North and South and the building between the two covered in barbed wire is a surreal experience. I do hope that one day the two countries can sort out there differences and Cyprus can become one again, but I fear that having spoken to both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots about the situation I detect by the deep inbreed bitterness on both sides this will be a long way off.
Famagusta lies on the east coast of the island right in the border between North and South, it too has a ancient walled city at its centre very similar in many ways to Nicosia’s old town, it too is well worth the visit. But Famagusta has a far more infamous tourist attraction and that is the abandoned town of Verosia. Once a booming seaside resort with grand hotels, shops and restaurants and miles of sandy beaches it now lies abandoned, a ghost town. All its occupants fled during the Turkish invasion in 1974 and left everything thinking that they would return in a few days once the emergency was over, but that didn’t happen and to this day 40 years on it still remains empty. A looted car showroom still stocks a 1974 model, just surreal. You cannot go into the city as its heavily guarded but you can peer through the fencing along its perimeter. A good viewpoint is to stand on the beach next to the Palm Beach Resort Hotel, and if the tide is out there is a spit of sand on which you can stand to view this remarkable sight.
Today we decided to tackle the climb to the top of St Hilarion Castle. The castle sits on top of a mountain overlooking Kyrenia, rumour has it that Walt Disney took his inspiration from the jagged exterior for the film snow white, so with water at the ready it was time to accend its lofty heights. In the middle section of the castle you can take a rest, have a browse around the little gift shop and get a drink, but you pay the price, as a bottle of water is twice the cost it is at ground level “I suppose it is to pay the poor souls wages who has to carry up the supplies”. So after a short break it was time to tackle the accent to the upper level and then for those who have any stamina left the final climb to the top to Prince Johns Tower. Top Tip suitable shoes are a must as I discovered by just turning up in flip flops, albeit good ones, so my trip to the top was somewhat precarious at times. From the middle section the steps get more and more uneven and at times non existant. The final push to the top of Prince Johns Tower is well worth the effort as it affords some stunning views over Kyrenia aparently on clear days you even see the Taurus Mountains in Turkey some 100 km away, but unfortunately for me this wasn’t possible. At night the castle is illuminated and can be seen from miles around it looks like it is floating in the sky.
After our decent back to ground level, we took the drive over the mountain (just continue on the road you came on) on the advise of a friend of mine who lives on the island, as my friend told me the drive affords some amazing views, the road is very winding in places so just be aware, also around about 15-20 km along the road you can see a remnant of the Turkish invasion in 1974 which is a tank that has gone off the side of the road, you cannot miss it but it is like I said some way along the mountain road. There are also some very good imformation boards at the side of the road by the tank detailing the history of the island and the invasion.
Our first full day in Northern Cyprus was to explore the coastal town of Kyrenia its a small town with an impressive Byzantine castle at the entrance of the old harbour. with many waterside bars and restaurants along the waters edge, very picturesque indeed we spent some time meandering around the harbour and the small streets, after which we deposited ourselves in a very nice harbour side restaurant for a nice cool beer and some lunch and to watch the world go by. The town of Kyrenia was founded in 1200BC in 1191 the castle was captured by Richard the Lionheart on his way to Jerusaem on his third crusade. (he was a bit of a lad was our Richard) During British rule the town became the haunt of retiring (ex colonial) civil servants but when Turkey invaded in 1974 almost all greek Cypriots and british retirees fled. In the evening there is a nice little market selling local arts and crafts its only small but is worth visiting, Tip if you do plan on visiting the market get there early to witness the magnificent sunset over the mediterranean sea.
Night Market Kyrenia
Sunset over Kyrenia
This time our trip takes us on a relatively short trip from home, to us that is to the island of Cyprus. Its somwhere we have always wanted to go but the cost of package holidays or flights have previoulsy been relitively expensive, but now with both budget airlines Ryanair and EasyJet flying to the island their are some good deals to be had.
firstly a litte about the history of why Cyprus is divided between the Turkish and the Greeks is an interesting one and causes much debate between the two countries. (The following information is taken from the Lonely Planet Guide Book)
It started back in 1521 when the Ottoman Empire took over Cyprus and some 20,000 Turks settled on the island In 1821 Greek Cypriots side with Greece in a revolt against the Turkish and the islands’s Orthodox clergy are executed and 20,000 Christians flee the island. In 1878 Britain leases Cyprus from Turkey and in 1914 Britain formally annexes Cyprus. In 1914 Turkey sides with Germany, and Britain offers Cyprus to Greece as an incentive to support the British. Then in 1974 Turkey invades taking a thrid of the island with no rights of passage between the north and south. Then in 2003 the north’s leader Rauf Denktas announces a suprise decision to allow both sides to visit the opposing parts of the island the first peaceful crossing in 29 years.
Another example in my opinion of relegion, goverments, interferance as it clearly appears the Greeks and the Turks got along nicely in years gone by. So things are slowly, very slowly getting their. Here is a link to a documentary I found on YouTube Famagusta. The hostage city of Europe which is very interesting veiwing
So stay safe, and keep following.