As we flew to Northern Cyprus with Turkish Airlines and Due to the Cyprus dispute, TRNC is recognized only by the EU candidate state Turkey. All other countries recognise the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member state, as the only legitimate government for the whole island. However the Republic of Cyprus de facto controls only the south of the island while the TRNC government controls the north. Our plane had to land in Istanbul on mainland Turkey so as their was no additional cost on our flights we decided to stay in Istanbul for a few days before continuing on to Cyprus. We found a nice apartment on the website AirBnB in the Beyoğlu district, on the Galata side of the Golden Horn river we were also very close to Taxim square with its abundance of good bars and restaurants. Getting around Istanbul is a breeze either by using the Metro or the Trams, you can purchase your tickets at the machines situated at the tram stops (make sure you have the correct change) or tickets can also be purchased at various tobacconists around the city, Taxis are also cheap but make sure the meter is running don’t accept the price the driver will try to charge you. Now, as Turkey is predominantly a Muslim country however in the Islamic faith the drinking of alcohol is forbidden, this especially adhered to in the area around the Grand Bazaar, Aya Sophia, Blue Mosque, New Mosque and Topkapi Palace, where the restaurants don’t sell alcohol. However if you like a beer or a glass of wine like myself its much easier to find a bar or a restaurant selling alcohol in the Galata and Beyoğlu district which is the area where we stayed “happy days”. Now enough on drinking habits. Istanbul has an abundance of sights with plenty to see and do. I found a useful site listing the attractions also some sample itineraries depending on your length of stay so Click Here. for more information. In addition to whats listed, I would also recommend getting lost in what is the myriad called the Grand Bazaar and a boat trip on the river Bosphorus. “Top Tip don’t pay for an expensive private tourist boat offering cruises, but take one of the many local ferries which are equally as good but far cheaper Click Here.” Istanbul is in my opinion a safe city for tourists, just take the usual precautions you would do in any city in the world and you won’t go wrong. Finally here are a few photos to wet your appetite but more can be found on my Flickr photo stream.
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 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.