In no time at all, we were crossing the sea to North Cyprus. The descent to Ercan airport was very long, but everything went OK - until we got outside the airport. We expected to find the man from our car-hire to collect us with ADRIAN BOWER on a board. No such man amongst all the others. How do we do it, we wondered! Like at Istanbul, after a long time, Adrian went back inside the airport, through security, finally getting someone at the information desk to phone the firm (our phones didn't work here). He found that the car-hire man said that as Adrian hadn't confirmed, he thought that we'd cancelled (we did have an email saying car hire confirmed, but Adrian had meant to email back.) The man said that he'd come straight away, but it would take half an hour, and it was a different car (an automatic, which Adrian hates!) So we waited in the breezy warm sunshine outside the little airport (the sort that I can cope with) until the nice young Cypriot driver arrived to drive us to Kyrenia (Girne). This was initially across the large flat plain, but then ascended the 2000 ft mountain range before coming to the outskirts of Kyrenia. He stopped near his office and handed over the car to Adrian. This is where we will hand the car back at the end. Adrian then drove on into Kyrenia through the drab outskirts, with the traffic getting ever busier. Then came the nightmare as we came to small roads, many which were 'no entry' as we neared the harbour, where our hotel (formerly called Harbour View), was. We had expected things to be difficult, but not this difficult! Some of the 'roads' shown on the sat-nav were paths or steps! We went round in circles several times, knowing that we were near to the hotel, but not finding it. Adrian stopped once, and got out to have a look. After another circuit, we stopped in a narrow lane, and found that we were right by the small hotel, now called Breeze Flora, with its tiny entrance - right where he'd stopped before! The pleasant manager welcomed us, and after unloading our bags, went back with Adrian to find somewhere to park (we always knew that this would be difficult). It was now 4.30 new time (5.30 to us) and I was pretty washed out after all the travelling and zig-zagging. We were pleased to find that we had a nice large room with a small balcony looking down past some of the eating places to the harbour and the pinky blue evening sky. We found our kettle, and sat with a cup of tea on the balcony, then we began unpacking and getting settled for our 5 days here, after 3 days of living 'out of bags'.
Adrian had bought some drink at the airport and now some mixers locally, so we sat with our aperitifs on the balcony, enjoying the happy atmosphere below. We then went downstairs, finding that we were right next to the large 'Six Brothers' restaurant mentioned in our Bradt guide. It's apparently run by six brothers, but when I asked the man who showed us 'in', he joked 'I'm the seventh'! We actually ate outside, right above the harbour. Adrian had sea bass and I had calamari and both had an enormous beer - much cheaper than in Istanbul. Afterwards we walked along past the numerous eating places by the harbour. It was noisy, as there was a big football match being shown on screens everywhere, and the shouts from the viewers was just like any football crowd. In the end I asked who was playing, and found that it was two Turkish teams - but the frenzied cheering when a goal was scored, or missed, is the same in any language! Back in our room, the game finished, but then a small group who had passed us, started playing music opposite till very late - so it wasn't a quiet night – and later a baby was crying loudly!
After the pretty evening sky we sit on our narrow balcony
Saturday 3rd November 0 km
We were having our deserved ‘lazy day’! Breakfast was served in a room just across from ours by the rather intense manager and lady helper – there were just four tables. We were given a plate of cheese, tomato and cucumber with very fresh bread. A cheese omelet was brought to go with our tea/coffee – apparently it’s the same each day, but quite adequate. We returned to our room to write the diary from yesterday and to catch up. The place was coming alive down below us, on another sunny, but quite windy day. We walked out along the harbour and round the outside of the ancient castle.
On the way back, we stopped at Canli Balik, one of the many waterside restaurants, and enjoyed fish soup with a small beer for our lunch.
Along the harbour and round the castle
We walked back, calling in at the Tourist Office opposite our hotel to pick up some leaflets on the island. We walked on a bit further, before coming back to our room at 1.30. Later we walked out, passing the ruins of ancient Chysopolitissa Church. Further on we went into the Round Tower, part of the old fortifications, and now used as a gallery exhibiting various works of art for sale.
Lunchtime fish soup, with a beer
Wandering the narrow streets, we came to ‘Sweety’, a shop selling dozens of varieties of Turkish delight. We settled on buying some pistachio flavoured. Adrian now wanted a supermarket, but this was hard to find. In the end we did come to the small shop, crammed with both goods and people and not air-conditioned, but we did manage to get tonic, orange juice and bread. After aperitifs on the balcony we walked out around the harbour looking for a place to eat. We'd settled on one restaurant, and were ready to order when a large group arrived to take up their reserved places. Nobody had come to offer us a drink even, and we imagined getting caught up in this large group. It was too much for Adrian - we upped and left! Further along we came to Corner Restaurant, which was quiet with not many takers, so we settled on that. The food was good – Adrian had sea bream and I had calamari, once more with a beer. We wandered back. Football was being shown on screens at the nearer restaurants, although there was no big match tonight. Back at our hotel the manager was dozing in the lobby. It has amazed us that the door is open even when he isn’t at the desk – very trusting! Once upstairs we began work on the website, while noisy music drifted over from ‘Six Brothers’.
Ancient Chysopolitissa Church and the Round Tower
Sunday 4th November Along westwards to Kormakitis peninsula - 108 km
Well, the noise was worse than ever, until at least 1.00am – loud chanting along with a rhythmic drum. We didn’t know if it was something special, or just Saturday night. Eventually we got some sleep! The morning was very windy, with the waves crashing over. There was only us at breakfast – others must have been having a Sunday lie in! I had boiled egg instead of omelet, which I enjoyed. The quiet manager chatted to us a bit. He asked if we wanted our room cleaned, if so, to hand in the key when we went out. So that’s why it wasn’t cleaned yesterday! We asked if we could go up the stairs to the roof for the view.
Near the cape we had to take a 4km long unsurfaced track to the actual point, but were very disappointed that the marked lighthouse just looked like a metal pylon!
Lovely quiet lunch stop
We took the southern road back across this arid peninsula before following a cross country route (with one long section of unsurfaced road) back to the fast road to Kyrenia.
The start of the Besparmak walking trail at Cape Kormakitis
Hazard on the road!
Traffic was slow getting into Kyrenia, and we could see that it had rained a lot. We parked the car and walked back to our hotel, to find our beautifully cleaned room – with our key in the door! The two plastic seats were on the balcony – soaking wet! We went back to Sandal tonight to eat, where they had ‘forgotten us’ last night. Tonight the place was empty, the food good (mixed sea food R; giant prawns A), but the bill didn’t come when asked. It appeared that the waiter we asked didn’t speak English.
Shades of grey in the late afternoon
Monday 5th November Castles and museums – our day of culture. - 25km
It was still noisy last night, but didn’t go on so late. We realised that the noise came from ’Six Brothers’, next door. The girl served our breakfast this morning. Mid morning we walked around the harbour to the castle, which is vast. It is thought to date back to 7th century BC. It was full of nooks and crannies, so fun to walk around, if very uneven underfoot.
We prepared to go out for the day in the car – always a lengthy business! It was 10.00 when we walked along to the car, but ¾ hour later before we got going! Adrian spent a long time trying to get the ipod to play, and then making several attempts at different banks to get some more money out. Finally we set off westwards along the coast, finding it all very built-up. We made for Lapta, a large, steep and sprawling town in the hills. The notable thing to me here, and in other places, was the brilliantly bright bougainvillea. We came back down to the coast, coming to a beach where turtles nested. It was very windy , so we didn’t stop for lunch. We turned off onto a smaller road to Kormakitis peninsular – a complete contrast, with no development at all. We followed a wildly bumpy track down to the sea, stopping to have our lunch sitting on rocks on the isolated beach. Waves were crashing in, splashing us, so we had to move quickly! We only had bread (a nice loaf which Adrian had bought), and cheese, but in this lovely situation it was like a feast! Afterwards we both had a paddle in the warm water from the sandy part of the beach. We could see a dark sky above, and had just driven back up the extremely dodgy, bumpy track to the road when there were some huge spots of rain. We didn’t get much, but saw as we drove on that some places had had a lot of rain.
The view from the roof
Housed within its walls is the Shipwreck museum, included in the price (14L - £2 each). This contains the hull and artefacts from a sunken ship, discovered by a diver in 1965, and dating from about 300BC! Amongst many artefacts, a store of almonds, used as food for the sailors, had been found, and this is how the wreck was dated.
Kyrenia Castle with its commanding view of the harbour
From here, we walked on to the Carob museum. This was very difficult to locate – it was just one small door next to one of the fish restaurants on the front, set in a former ancient warehouse. A rather indifferent man took our money (7L - £1 each), as we walked into a wealth of exhibits about this tree, the hard wood of which is used for many things, including wheels. From the seeds, which are all of the same size, a type of molasses is made. Powder from the seeds can be used as cocoa – hence carob bars which you can buy in healthshops.
Almonds and an Amphorae pot found on the sunken 300 BC boat
We walked across from here to eat at Carob restaurant, next to the harbour. It appeared to be Italian run, so it was amazing that they didn’t have the minestrone soup advertised! Adrian settled on calamari, and I had a courgette/aubergine dish. About 1.00 we returned to our room. An hour or so later we left in the car for St Hilarion Castle, up in the mountains. However it was about 2.30 by the time we got going. As we reached the car, Adrian realised that he had left his driving glasses in our room, and we had trouble parking near enough to stop and get them – the taxi man certainly wasn’t going to let us park there. Begrudgingly a man let us stop outside his hotel for a few minutes. Having left the busy town, it was 15 minutes through unspoilt steep mountain greenery until we turned off at a dodgy junction onto a road of constant hairpins up to the castle. This was all through army land, so we had to ignore the armed soldiers. We reached the castle entrance at 3.00, just behind a small party of people. The dour ticket man looked at us in amazement when we said that we wanted tickets. He said that it was too late – the castle closed in an hour, and you needed longer to see it (it is now on winter timetable). He said that the group were let in as they had a guide. He said that we could pay full price (9L - £1.25 each!) for 40 minutes, but we must be back (but he wasn’t even there when we returned!)
It certainly was an amazing castle, set on the near vertical slopes on various levels of the towering pinnacles. We both had our hiking sticks, which helped on the uneven ground and rough steps. At least there were some hand rails, and the views were superb. We drove back into Kyrenia through the busy traffic, stopping at a small supermarket to get one or two things for when we are catering for ourselves in a few days time. We couldn’t find anywhere to park near our hotel, but on the third long circuit of the town we found a nearby spot. As we got out of the car, a busker was playing his guitar above the beach.
St Hilarion Castle
It was after 5.00 when we got back to our room – time for a quick cup of tea! After aperitifs on the balcony, we went out to eat, walking along above the harbour towards the castle, thinking that we might come across somewhere on the way. We reached the castle, and I spotted Kibris Evi restaurant which was mentioned in our guide. We walked up to the terrace and sat down. There was a large group beside us. No sign of any service, but when the waiter did come, he didn’t seem to be very interested in us. We ordered two beers, which he plonked down. Eventually he took our order, but said ‘no fish’! This was a fish restaurant! I suggested stuffed vine leaves – no vine leaves! With that we took our beer, paid and left. Back by the harbour, we walked along, coming to Canli Balik restaurant where we had enjoyed soup at lunchtime the other day. Adrian said ‘we’ll eat here, if we can bring our beer’. We ordered sea bass for Adrian, and stuffed vine leaves for me, after a meze starter – lots of little ‘aperitifs’, which were really good. After our meal, Adrian ordered raki, so we were feeling quite mellow, and were about to leave, when a ‘mele’ started between some waiters in the upper part of the restaurant – a sort of ‘fisticuffs’. Puzzled by it all, we asked our ’Alain Prost’ waiter when we came to pay. He was still obviously upset by it all, saying ‘it’s OK’, but we knew that it wasn’t. Back at our room, music was still playing outside.
Nice to arrive back to
Night time on the harbour
Tuesday 6th November To the extreme west of Turkish Cyprus 197 km
It was a fine and sunny day as we left at 10.20 to drive to the far west of Northern Cyprus. We had trouble in finding the car - it was further along than we'd thought. We stopped to get some petrol, receiving good service as the man filled the tank and cleaned the windscreen. We drove over the mountains to the flat plain on the fast motor road. On the outskirts of Lefkosa (Nicosia) we turned west towards Guzelyurt, being diverted 'around the houses' on a rough road for some roadbuilding. At Guzelyurt we headed for the centre. We found a place to park. It was very hot.
As we walked across to St Mamas church, the ‘call to prayer’ sound started wailing from the neighbouring mosque. Its pure white minarets looked stunning against the cornflower blue sky. We reached the church at the same time as a group. We looked in at the church which was bursting with ornateness. The man asked if we were with the party. When we said no, he said that we had to get tickets, from the nearby archaeological museum (which we knew). At least we'd had a peep. The church housed the icon museum, and we didn't really want to see that! From here we took a small road north, marked as pretty on the map. It went through citrus orchards to the small one-storey town of Syrianochori Yayla with a very white silver roofed mosque and a dry river. Now we drove west across the fertile plain to the sea. We pulled onto rough ground beside the stony beach and ate our bread and cheese lunch balanced on the back of the car boot, with the mountains in the background. We now drove right on to the border with southern Cyprus, winding up into the barren mountains and zigzagging for much further that we'd thought. We could have walked across the border (we had no insurance to drive), but as we were in the middle of nowhere with the scenery on both sides the same, there wasn’t any point. We began our return journey at 2 o'clock. Our first stop was Vouni, the site of a former Persian villa. The road wound round and round to a mountain top high above the sea. It was a glorious visit in perfect weather, and with nobody else about. Incredible to think that it dated from 500BC. It was very rough underfoot, but all quite wonderful. We walked to Aphrodities temple (very much the remains of) a bit further up, looking out to miles of empty wilderness, with not a soul about.
Guzelyurt - St Mamas church and neighbouring mosque
A few more miles brought us to Soli, another ancient site. Time was getting on - it was now 3.15, and with winter timetables, the site closed at 3.30. The lady said that we could stay until 4.00. What we like about these sites, as we remembered from 1999, is that they are all very inexpensive (£1 ea).
The ancient Persian villa at Vouni
This site was ancient basilicas, with fine mosaic floors. A huge covered 'shed' was over them, but sadly the colours have faded, so you had to imagine their former glory. The most stunning was a fine swan. It was too far to walk up to the amphitheatre at this time of day. We now drove back through Lefke, in the centre of a verdant fruit growing area, but we saw no reason to stop. From here we tried small roads just north of the border, but they didn't seem to go through (border closures presumably), so we joined our route of this morning, including again the long diversion on the edge of Lefkosa. As we approached Kyrenia, the traffic was very heavy in both directions. We stopped by the supermarket where Adrian had bought some tonic, for him to get some more. There was a small, packed carpark which we managed to get into (and out of). It was now dark, but we were able to find a parking spot not too far away from our hotel - it was now gone 6.00pm. We had a last aperitif on the balcony here - tomorrow we move on to explore the Karpaz peninsula. We chose to eat at 'Set Fish', above the harbour, next to the Carob Museum. Service was better than most - Adrian had prawn cocktail followed by red mullet and I had fish shish kebab. Most of the eating places were very quiet although there are still quite a few people walking about.
The mosaic floors at Soli
Wednesday 7th November East to the Karpaz Peninsular 151 Km
We packed up ready to leave for our two nights on the Karpaz peninsula, the 'panhandle' that sticks up to the north-east of Cyprus. We left just after 10.00 on a fine, sunny day, which became hot. It was good that we could bring the car close to the hotel for loading, before the 11.00 deadline, when the barriers come up. We left Girne/Kyrenia through all the 'sprawl', trying to locate the spot where our car hire man had dropped us, and will pick us up next Wednesday, which we finally did. Our first stop was to see Hazret Omer Lekke, a white temple at the end of a newly built promenade with palm trees, where things were 'happening'. This is where seven Muslim saints were buried and is apparently busy at pilgrimage times. We had to take off our shoes to enter the small shrine - so tiny that we could have seen it all from the doorway. No-one else was around. Beneath it and approached by the rocky shore was a cave supposedly lived in by one of the prophets. Adrian braved the watery walk to look in.
We continued along the coast road, but thought that something was wrong when we were driving through mountains. We'd mistakenly taken the fast road south. We thought that we'd take an inland road to join up with the coast road, but were stopped by an armed soldier who said that the road was closed by ’guns & bang-bang’, so there was nothing for it but to return the way we'd come. Annoying, especially as we got behind slow moving traffic. We could see how we missed the turn - the coast road was just shown as a 'side road', when it had been the main road. We were amazed and disappointed at the amount of development everywhere. Near Kantara, we took by chance the old coast road which we'd wanted to take. This was lovely, with the azure sea contrasting with the arid land, and quite empty. We hiked down a bumpy track to a beach of large pebbles and with strange rock formations. We had brought our lunch, but not the plates/cutlery so ate a rustic meal of freshly cut bread from breakfast, and hunks of cheese. Still, it was lovely, with no-one else about.
Adrian makes a watery return from visiting the cave at Hazret Omer Lekke
We continued along the old single track road, ridden with pot holes, turning inland to Kantara Castle. This entailed driving an ascending road of continual bends, so I was quite giddy by the time we got there. Adrian woke the man in the kiosk so that we could get tickets. We began climbing on rough steps up the vertical mountainside. It wasn't enjoyable for me, but I did like seeing the whole of the Karpaz peninsula laid out before us, with just a few scattered settlements. Adrian climbed up higher - what a place for a castle (again)!
Lovely spot for an al fresco lunch near Kantara
We then had to zigzag back to the coast - we hadn't come on the road that Adrian thought, so were returning the same way. Now as we continued to our hotel, there were only a few sporadic small developments, mostly it was just empty country. Just before we came to Hotel Theresa, we spotted a pretty little harbour. We reached the hotel at 4.00pm and were greeted by the friendly owner Erdoğan who invited us into the restaurant for a cup of tea before showing us, with much chat, to our simple room for the next two days. We overlook the restaurant and sea, with a narrow balcony on two sides. The sun was just going down dramatically.
The view from vertiginous Kantara castle - Adrian climbed higher and looked down to me
There was only us eating in the restaurant. Erdoğan had got the log fire going, with two places laid nearby. He said that Cypriots thought that it was winter, so didn’t go anywhere! His male helper (his wife had gone to visit their daughter and grandchild in Nicosia) brought us an array of ‘meze’ - lots of little bowls of starters. We were shown two large sea bass which were then cooked for us, with some very good chips. Erdogan was a real philosopher with plenty to say. He reminded me of Manolo in the way he spoke, and of Uncle Ali in his manner. As we left, he was playing chess on his computer. We walked across to our room enjoying the dark silence with a myriad of stars, and just the sound of the waves and cicadas.
Enjoying meze by the log fire
Thursday 8th November To Cape Andreas – the far north-east of Cyprus 106 km
It was lovely to have a 'normal' sheet and light duvet after the rough covering and heavy blanket of the last place. Adrian couldn't make the shower work - Erdoğan came and looked at it while we had breakfast and said that it was fine - it was when Adrian tried it afterwards! We sat overlooking the sea to eat breakfast, including a boiled egg which was soft. This suited me, but was difficult to eat when we had no teaspoon or egg cup!
We left before 10.00, driving along beside the coast on a good road, and then across the peninsula to Dipkarpaz, through the green and beige hills, to the other side. We were disconcerted here to be behind 3 white coaches, with another one following us. However, they all stopped at St Andreas Monastery, and we carried on to Cape Andreas (Zafer Andalari). The road was now a rough and sandy track - and we met the donkeys! Dozens of them, standing in the middle of the road, so you had to stop, then they pushed their noses in the car searching for food!
The view from breakfast and from our balcony
It was 11.00 when we reached the Cape, with its desolate huge rocky 'stump'. A fabulous place to sit on a rock for our tea/coffee with nobody about - just damsel flies, a few butterflies, some birds - and donkey poo! Shame about the broken glass too. We saw the sign stating that this was the other end of the 255km walking trail which we had seen at Cape Kormakiti.
The Karpaz peninsula wild donkeys
Leaving this heaven, we drove the four bumpy km back to St Andreas Monastery. This legendary place was a bit touristy, with lots of stalls lining one side of the area in front of the monastery. It is apparently a place of pilgrimage likened to Lourdes for Cypriots. Legend says that St Andreas (Andrew) was travelling on a boat which ran out of water. He put into shore here and hit the rock with his staff and water poured from it. We had a drink from this so-called 'spring'. There was a little church, and candles to light and hope for a miracle. Whatever else, it was in a lovely situation above the waves, and there was only one coach party while we were there!
We were now in the National Park and enjoying the lack of building and of traffic. We were following the coast, with waves splashing up from the aquamarine sea.
On the way to Cape Andreas
Idyllic Cape Andreas with the other end of the Besparmak walking trail (255km)
Driving back from here, we took a rough track down to huge, sandy Golden Beach. We ate our bread and cheese lunch sitting on a broken board-walk surrounded by sea holly and other prickly plants. Little lizards scampered about in the sand. We walked to the sea for a paddle.
St Andreas Monastery with the fabled spring
Before the road crossed back to the other side, we passed again 'Alani Piknik', a large picnic site with picnic tables, beside a little chapel, with a lagoon washing in from the sea. We now drove back through Dipkarpaz to the other side of the peninsula. Just as we reached it, we came to the ruins of St Philon church. 'Lego' workmen were working on it - so we couldn't go in. It is an EEC project (what are they spending money in Northern Cyprus for?) We could spot some mosaic flooring in the distance. There were excavations around - this had once been the large Phoenician town of Karpasias.
Lunch and a paddle at Golden Beach
We carried on along this very badly pot-holed road to where it ended at Aphendrika where there were more ruins of several ancient churches. It was quiet and peaceful in the late afternoon sun with just bird song and the braying of donkeys.
St Philon Church
It was now 3.30, so time to drive the 24km back to Hotel Theresa, stopping to get fuel in Dipkarpaz. Further on we came to a police check. They called us over, but didn't want to see us, so said 'Go away'! Back at our room, we watched from the balcony as the sun went down.
Ruins of ancient churches at Aphendrika
There was no fire when we went cross to eat tonight. Erdoğan said that it was warm – it was no warmer than last night! Again we were served a meze selection, followed by fish, which he said was the same as before – but it was certainly cooked differently! Back in our room, we finished the website for Istanbul.
Friday 9th November Back to Kyrenia via Salamis 137 km
We were awake early so got up and sorted the email list for our website, as it hadn't transferred to this new computer. We then sent the email for Istanbul and for Cyprus 1999. We went over for our last breakfast at 'Hotel Theresa', which included a good Cypriot omelet, made by Erdoğan. Adrian had picked up one or two bits from breakfast to take with us. Erdoğan said - 'what's in that bag?', when Adrian said, he went and fetched us a bottle of red wine! Adrian then paid him and said goodbye, as he was going out. We'd enjoyed hearing all his philosphying. We left before 10.00, stopping at Ayios Thyrsos church, just along from us. Near the ruined church is the new church built in 1911, both photogenic.
We then made for Ayios Trias Basilica in Siphani. This was free to walk around - it just had a dodgy entrance to drive through! We'd read that there were mosaic floors here, but to protect them, they had been covered by gravel, so we couldn't see them. It was in a nice position with olive trees above the blue sea, and looked lovely with the blue sky.
By Ayios Thyrsos church looking back to Hotel Theresa
We drove on along small roads through the rural hills. We came to a large picnic site beneath the trees, built in the fifties and with stone tables in need of attention! We had only a cat for company as we drank our tea/coffee.
Ayios Trias Basilica in Siphani
Our next stop was Panaghia Kanakarya Church at Boltasli - of 5th century origins but now derelict. It had been destroyed by Arabs in 7th century, rebuilt and then damaged by an earthquake in 1160. It was being voluntarily maintained by an elderly gent who said that he spoke 6 languages. He came each day to look after it, and was washing away the pigeon poo from the doorway when we arrived. It was his escape from caring for his wife who had had a stroke. His English was quite difficult to understand, but he had plenty to say and enjoyed having someone to talk to.
We continued on our way towards Famagusta, stopping at a large picnic area by the sea at Long Beach. The sandy beach was completely wild and unspoilt but today it was very windy - it's known as a good kitesurfing spot. It must have rained heavily as the ground was really wet. We sat at a covered picnic table under eucalypts to eat our lunch - bread and cheese again!
Panaghia Kanakarya Church at Boltasli with its trusty caretaker
We had now come back into urbanisation and development. We reached the vast ancient site of Salamis at 1.15. We only intended seeing part of the ruins, but what we saw was very impressive. There were dozens of upright columns around what had been the gymnasium. The theatre was complete with its tiered rows of seating. Again a lovely situation above the sea.
Long Beach near Famagusta
We left here at 2.30 and made for the fast road to Kyrenia, stopping at Supreme supermarket on the outskirts, (our pick-up point on Wednesday) where we stocked up for the next few days. The shop seemed very English orientated and we heard several English voices in there. It was only 4km from here to The Farm House, where we are staying for the next 5 days. We drove up the small road looking for the property, when we were stopped by Sadik the cheery owner. He spoke good English and showed us around the delightful and well finished house and surroundings. A supply of food had been left for us, including oranges and lemons from the garden, which we can help ourselves to - we didn't need to have bought so much! He left, and soon his son-in-law Muzo - a joint owner of this family business, came and chatted more - he spoke equally good English and had a bubbly and fun personality.
The ancient and impressive site of Salamis
We were delighted with the spaciousness of the house. There are two bedrooms (the house sleeps four), a large living and kitchen area and a bathroom. There is a kettle, washing machine and large fridge (in fact two!) Although 5.30, we enjoyed a cup of tea before settling in. Later we sat on the terrace with aperitifs, surrounded by all the greenery. We got a simple supper of fried sardines, salad and fresh bread, with a bottle of wine, enjoying the absolute quiet, except for the cikadas.
Settling in to 'The Farm House', Kyrenia
Saturday 10th November Enjoying ‘The Farm House’ 0 km
We were looking forward to a lazy, catching up day. It had been good staying in the different hotels, but nice to be getting our own food as we wanted it. We ate our breakfast on the lower terrace - cereal and toast like at home.
I had put in a load of washing - very welcome after 10 days away. There was an airer, but just as I started to hang things up, there was a clap of thunder and a sudden shower of rain. Sadik arrived at that moment, with his cheery call, and said to put it under the shelter of the adjoining unfinished property.We had tea/coffee on the terrace then walked around the ‘garden’, with its orange, lemon, pomegranate, almond and walnut trees.
Breakfast on the terrace at The Farm House
Sunday 11th November Not how we’d planned our visit to Nicosia! 67 Km
There was a storm in the night which I heard, but Adrian didn't. The day was fine, but not particularly warm. I made scrambled egg for breakfast, which we ate on the lower terrace. Adrian was having trouble with his visa card on his new computer. We had an email from my distant relative Peter Neild in San Diego telling of the wild fires in California around Paradise, where my ancestor William Lawson had made a gold claim in 1852. We had visited that area in 2009, and there had been a fire then. We had spoken then to people who had lost their house and were trying to rebuild it. We later heard that the whole of Paradise had been destroyed – 6,500 houses and over 40 people had died. We left at 9.30 for Lefkosa (Nicosia), driving over the mountain range then across the plain. Half an hour later we arrived at Nicosia, but it was not the day to visit! We found one road closed off after another, and feared the worst. It turned out to be a big road running race! The police had closed the roads, but didn't give any idea of where to go! We needed to get to the centre, but couldn't think of a way of getting there. I was all for giving up, and trying Famagusta today instead and Adrian was finding it all too much. Round and round we went, so we didn't know where we were, and the sat-nav wasn't helping! Eventually, by following some other cars, we got past the walls, but didn't know where! We followed one tiny little road after another, and in the end managed to squeeze into a spot at the side of the road. The biggest worry now was that we may not find the car again! It was now 10.45 and we were in a crummy, dowdy little back street. We'd been following a tanker lorry all around the narrow streets, and as we walked along trying to find our way, there he was again! It reminded us of the song 'Directions' by lovely Colum Sands, but in that case it was a man with a bag of coal!
I made a ‘Cypriot salad’ for lunch, which again we ate on the lower terrace. Adrian took the opportunity to clean the car, but the day had become quite cloudy. We walked a short way up the road. We did some work on the website then I cooked a vegetable ‘tagine’ for supper.
Citrus fruit for the picking
'Cypriot salad' a la Rosie
We walked along past the crumbling, run down houses, some with upper balconies, and some with brightly coloured washing hanging out. Children were playing happily. We found ourselves by St. Sophia Cathedral. This is now Selimiye Camii Mosque, with two minarets added where the towers should have been. Everything Christian had been removed years ago, so there wasn't much to see - just vast white walls. The most interesting part was the huge carved entrance portal, where we had to remove shoes and collect a scarf. The floor was carpeted in a bright covering, which made walking around pleasant. Next door was the Bedestan (the Old St Nicholas Church), but it was closed as it is Sunday.
Wandering the drab streets of Nicosia we come across the oil tanker again!
We continued wandering the narrow streets as far as the 'Green Line', the line which divides North (Turkish) and South(Greek) Cyprus. Here we had to wait to show our passports, and then again on the Greek side. It all looked very casual. The roads up to the border had been lined with tourist shops, as was the Greek side. However, the southern side looked far more western and affluent, with tattoo shops, and stores selling postcards and smart handbags. There were dozens of eating places, including Kentucky Fried Chicken, and generally far more 'grot'! We knew which we preferred, and which had more character.
St. Sophia Cathedral, now Selimiye Camii Mosque, and neighbouring Bedestan, formerly St Nicholas Church
Being Sunday, the cafes were very busy, mostly with young people drinking coffee. We had brought a sandwich with us so found a welcome seat to sit on and eat these, watching the well dressed children and the pampered dogs.
A smart street on the North side of the border in Nicosia
Looking back to the border crossing from South Nicosia
We wandered back, crossing the border into Northern Nicosia. Along the little streets here were attractive fruit and vegetable stores. We came to the Venetian Column, topped by a sphere, added by the British. Being Remembrance Sunday, we had been thinking of past soldiers, and well remember the Cyprus conflict from our youth.
A café in South Nicosia
Looking into 'No man's Land' between the two borders
Walking along more little streets, we stopped for Adrian to look at the sat-nav to see where the car was parked, when, looking up, we saw it just in front of us! There was no problem getting out of Nicosia at all! We followed a different road back across the plain, joining the road over the mountains and back to 'The Farm House' arriving at 3.15. Time for a cup of tea on the terrace. It was chillier this evening. We still sat on the terrace with our aperitifs. The message about the wildfires in California from distant cousin Peter Neild got us looking up our visit to Paradise in 2009. Later we worked more on the website.
Happy images in North Nicosia near the Venetian Column
Monday 12th November Bellapais Abbey and a walk above it 7 km
The day was sunny, but cool at first, becoming pleasantly warm. We ate breakfast on the upper terrace. We left to visit Bellapais Abbey, in the hills immediately behind us. We went to leave at 9.45. I stopped to take a photo of the gateway, when my camera started playing up, so Adrian had to spend a little while fixing that.
We passed some nice properties as we drove up the road - this is an upmarket part of Kyrenia. The first view of Bellapais Abbey was certainly a 'wow'.
Our entrance gates
It is said to be really peaceful, but would have been more so in the past without the tourists and accompanying shops. The Abbey was probably built around the 13th century by Augustine Monks turned out of Jerusalem by Saladin and was subsequently destroyed in the 16th century, not by Cromwell, but by Ottoman invaders. From the car park there were magnificent views down over sprawling Kyrenia.
First sight of Bellapais Abbey
There were only a couple of tour groups when we were at the abbey, so we often had the place to ourselves, which was lovely. It made us think of Montserrat in the mountains near Barcelona. Certainly a very photogenic place!
The view to Kyrenia from Bellapais car park
Lawrence Durrell had lived close by for a while in the fifties, but we couldn't make out which was his house as we walked around the village afterwards. We drove further up to the start of a walk we had note of in our book. There was no map of it, only directions, so at 11.15 we set off on the rough track which was the continuation of the road we'd come on. One or two 4x4s drove past us, but it was very quiet with just birdsong. We heard the occasional dog barking, and then the wailing from a mosque, but that was it. Having walked for some way up the track, the route turned along an uneven path. We took this for some way, but it didn't seem to go. We had been hoping to make this a round walk, but thought it best to return the way we had come. We really enjoyed the views down to the coast, getting glimpses of Bellapais Abbey and of Kyrenia Castle and even the little temple Hazret Omer Lekke beside the sea, which we had visited the other day.
Peaceful Bellapais Abbey
We got back to the car at 12.15 and drove back down to The Farm House, arriving at 12.50. Time for beans on toast for lunch in the garden - I had bought a tin of Heinz beans (reduced) in the supermarket the other day! We spent a relaxing afternoon, enjoying the sun until it went behind the neighbouring building.
Walking above Bellapais Abbey, with a distant view of temple Hazret Omer Lekke
Tuesday 13th November Gazimagusta/Famagusta - the best & the worst of Cyprus 156km
We found a bit of sun on the terrace to eat our breakfast of poached egg by - interesting, as they were frozen when I took them out of the fridge! We left at 9.00 for Famagusta on our last full day in Northern Cyprus. We drove on small roads to the eastern side of Kyrenia. This is an area of smart houses with massive bougainvilleas. In between were frequent groves of olives. Muzo had given us a bottle from their own olive trees. We drove back over the dramatic Kyrenia mountains to the plain below, then across to Famagusta, following the way we had come the other day. We went through the unremarkable outskirts of the city with its apartment blocks, and nothing very pretty. At 10.30 we arrived at one of the gateways through the city walls - the Land Gate.
It was impressive as we drove over the large dry moat, finding a nearby carpark. One nice thing about Famagusta is that there is plenty of free parking, with no crazy cars driving around, so it feels very relaxed and unhurried. There was a tourist information inside the walls here. We got (another) map of the city before walking into the 'gate'. This was quite amazing with its complicated layout of the massively thick structure. The area had been restored 2017-8 with EEC funds - they'd made a good job!
Approaching the Land Gate (a newer one) in Famagusta's vast walls
From here we walked along a road lined with fashion and jewellery stores and with a few eating places, arriving at the church of St Peter and St Paul. Our book said that this was closed, but it had been partially restored by USaid and was now used as an art gallery.
Famagusta's impenetrable walls at the complicated Land Gate
Not far away was St Nicholas Cathedral, now the Lala Mustafa Pasa Mosque. The outside looked like a fine English Cathedral, with the addition of a minaret, along with the chanting, (or call to prayer). As we got to the entrance, a man inside beckoned to two women visitors to come in. We went to follow, when another gent said 'no, not at prayer time'. We tried saying that another man had beckoned to us, but he didn't understand. We could see most of the inside anyway. Beside the church is a Fig tree said to have been planted in 1250.
The church of St Peter and St Paul, now used as an art gallery
We returned to the church of St Peter and St Paul. A large poster outside had advertised Dervish dancing every day at certain hours, one being midday. Seeing that nothing was happening, Adrian asked one of the art gallery guides. She replied that they never knew when the dancers were coming, they just turned up. It didn't seem as though they were going to turn up now, so we made our way, through the ruins of the Venetian Palace, to Historia restaurant in front of the cathedral, and mentioned in our book. We sat outside, being cajoled by one of the eager waiters. The price looked good, and Adrian enjoyed his swordfish, but my fish was very mediocre. The accompanying 'meze' turned out to be a few beetroot slices, a small pot of humus and another of yogurt/cucumber. At least a beer was included with the meal.
St Nicholas Cathedral, now the Lala Mustafa Pasa Mosque with Rosie sitting beneath the ancient fig tree outside
We now made our way to The Sea Gate, in the city walls. The walls of Famagusta are the most impressive we have seen. They are 3 km around, 18m high, 9m thick, double walls in places with a moat in between, and at other places with huge earth embankments behind. They were truly impenetrable and are still intact. However when the 100, 000 strong Ottoman army attacked in the 17th century they camped outside there for 10 months until they starved the inhabitants out! We had to climb up very many steps here to get an amazing view over the rooftops to the cathedral.
Nice setting for lunch!
Having climbed down again, we walked on to Othello's Tower, the supposed inspiration for Shakespeare's play, but didn't go inside.
Looking from the top of Sea Gate to the cathedral and to the docks
We now headed back across the city, stopping by the twin churches of the Templars and Hospiltallers and seeing many more ruins, including the church of St Francis, the Turkish Baths and the Royal Palace. A bit like Rome, there were ruins everywhere. Passing the cathedral again, we reached the car at 2 o'clock. We were now able to drive right around inside the city walls, passing even more ruins. Adrian particularly had enjoyed Famagusta, but now we drove south a short way, coming to a large fenced off area called Varosha, which had once been Greek, but was now derelict. This had been an affluent fashionable area with hotels, houses and flats along 6km of pristine beach. It served no military purpose but was taken over by the Turkish Military in 1974 when most of the 35,000 strong, mainly Greek Cypriot Community, fled fearing a massacre. It was then fenced off as a bargaining card but nothing has happened 44 years on. Nobody except the UN and the Military have been allowed back in since. A huge crumbling tower block stood eerily in front of us. It was a horrendous site - after the best, the worst of Cyprus.
Othello's Tower and the twin churches of the Templars and Hospitallers
Making our way back around the outside of the city walls, we hunted hard until we saw a small steam engine. This had apparently been imported to Cyprus in 1904 for use on the railway which had been built by the British to transport copper to Famagusta for export. It had used coal brought from England.
Now it was time to return to our place, but we diverted a little to pass St Barnabas Monastery, near Salamis, which was in use as a monastery until 1976, but is now an icon museum. Nearby was the site of the ruins of Enkomi, dating from 2,000 BC! There wasn't much to see now, but the thought of it was mind boggling!
An abandoned building and a view of Varosha from above showing some of the area abandoned (courtesy of Wikipedia)
We drove back across the plain and the mountains, stopping at Supreme supermarket for some bread. We could see that it had rained heavily, and when we reached The Farm House it appeared that we had no electricity. This didn't bear thinking about on our last night, so we were greatly relieved to find that it was just the trip switch. It had become quite chilly, so we warmed up with a cup of tea. Later we skyped Ruby to wish her a happy 17th birthday then worked a bit more on the website.
St Barnabas Monastery, near Salamis
The ruins of Enkomi, dating from 2,000 BC
Wednesday 14th November Home
It was a fine morning, a bit blowy. We ate our last breakfast on the terrace and enjoyed having time to pack up as we had a late flight.
I made toasted sandwiches for lunch, which we ate sitting in the sun. We even had time to work a bit on the website. Just as I had made a cup of tea, Muzo arrived to say goodbye. He had quite a chat to Adrian. Jets were flying overhead - he said rehearsing for tomorrow's National Day. We had enjoyed his jovial nature. He would have chatted longer, but it was time to drive to Supreme car park for 4.00pm. Here we were met by our arranged taxi to take us on the hours drive to Larnaca Airport in South Cyprus. The sun was descending as a red ball behind the Kyrenia mountains, and then a sliver of moon rose. The driver was silent but pleasant. He drove fast, playing music which didn't appeal to us! We arrived at the British run zone, where an English woman looked at our passports, speaking English to the driver before waving us on. We reached Larnaca Airport, which was large compared with Ercan, where we'd arrived in Cyprus, but was still quiet and peaceful. It seemed very English, and most of the passengers were English, returning from their package holidays.
Early morning view from our kitchen window
Last lunch, in the sun
Our EasyJet flight was OK. We missed not having a screen to watch films, as we'd had on the outward journey, which always helps the time to pass. We took off and landed a bit early. It was dark for our 4½ hour flight. As we went to alight from the plane, a passenger had become unwell, and was being tended competently by the staff. We had an enjoyable buggy ride past passport control, right to baggage claim. Everybody seemed quite jolly. We had bit of a problem finding the car park to collect our car - a different car park and level from usual. The M25 was clear and OK until about half way when suddenly the signs told us junction 13- 15 was closed (we should have left at junction 14!). We had to go via the M3 & Bracknell, and Adrian was just remembering a time when the slip road on to the M4 was closed - when we reached it and it was again! This time the area closed was huge leaving just one small lane open and in the confusion, we followed a lorry down to the M4 eastwards, so had an unnecessary journey as far as Maidenhead and back, driving at 50mph, because of roadworks (so did the lorry we were following!) We finally reached our home in Hermitage and got to bed at 2.00 am, which was 4.00 am to us! It had been a really nice trip - next day we came down to the reality of dozens of phone calls and various problems to solve.
Filling in time at Larnaca airport
A few notes on Northern Cyprus Coastal range of mountains Large flat inland plain Masses of ancient sites Lots of mosques Ruined churches Churches adapted to mosques, with minarets Friendly people Many well fed cats English the second language with signs written in Turkish and English Most people spoke English Although it is effectively a European/Asian country they drive on the left
Breeze Flora Kyrenia
Difficult to find and to park Central by the harbour in Kyrenia Small balcony above the harbour Noisy at night No bedside table Nowhere to put toiletries Lots of storage space Roomy Had a fridge Clean, but room only cleaned if key left No hot water, especially in morning No sheet to cover, just thick cotton covering Pleasant but slightly intense manager
Hotel Theresa, Karpaz peninsular
Charismatic, very chatty owner Only us staying there Right on coast, with small beach Log fire lit for us first night No menu – meze (little starters) then fresh fish Clean and simple Room quite small Balcony on two side with view of sea No shelf in bathroom No bedside light Only bin a swing bin in bathroom with badly fitting lid (for loo paper and all).
The Farm House, Kyrenia
Lovely! Self catering property Spacious Nice cheerful owners ‘Green’ garden with citrus trees Well restored and maintained Had everything we needed (except cushions & hairdyer!) Well equipped View to mountains Washing machine Nowhere in shower to put things Property very shady – fine in summer, but had to hunt for sun