(see previous installment of this story HERE )
I found this to be one of my favourite towns on the whole island. I don't know if it was the right combination of sea and hills, sights and regular neighbourhoods, or just the right amount of bustle for my taste. As soon as I got off the mini-bus I was pleased.
All I knew was that there was an old fortress to visit, and a monestary. So the first thing I did was to search out the tourist office. It is in a tiny corner of an old turret, in a small port with all kinds of quaint shops and local sights. I wandered along it in absolute delight, then came upon a nice cafe where I sat in the glass enclosure outside nursing my obligatory morning cappuccino.
(black arrow points to the port)
The historical information about the town I read says that, due to that big key that stretches out, this location had a very strong natural defense. To the right of the port is a fortress/castle that dates back to about 900. It took me almost the whole morning to tour it!
The interesting thing about Cyprus, to my mind, is that it's been conquered and settled so many different time by so many different countries. Each one, whether the Greeks, Romans, Armenians, Greeks again, Alexander for a while, Richard the Lionheart, Greeks once more, Turks, put their own unique stamp on the buildings. In fact they often took apart each other's fortresses to redesign them! So this castle in Kyrenia is like a living historical map of the island.
Here's a photo from above I stole from the internet
Inside the walls is an open square, and each side served a different function (soldiers guarding the sea side, clergy, royalty, servants).
(CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE)
At one corner stands a Byzantine chapel. The thing about the successive occupations of Cyprus, and the resulting deconstruction, is that some facets didn't survive. A lot of Christian monuments on the north side, for example, have been modified by adding turrets and/or domes, and are now mosques. This tiny chapel, however, stands untouched
Every section of the castle has a spooky stone staircase leading down into various rooms. A very good effort has been made to show the changes over time, with illustrations and mannequins placed much as the people would have been. There is even a Turkish dungeon, where Queen Eleanor imprisoned a couple of poor souls for over a year. It's basically two pits dug 20m into the stone, 7m X 10m, with nothing but bare rock. The scene is dramatically demonstrated today with mannequin figures. I had a seriously creepy feeling after looking at that and reading the sad story . .. no photos, sorry!
(for more info on this castle fortress go here Brief history of Kyrenia / Girne castle )
I took some time to view other sights close by the fortress, like the icon museum, before heading up the hill to the monestary. When travelling I refuse to take taxis any time I normally wouldn't at home; the monestary is 6km up the hill and it was already mid-afternoon (my last mini bus to Famagusta left at 6:00). So I decided to take a taxi up the hill, but to walk down.
View of the monestary and surrounding neighbourhood from a street below
(CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE)
I started down the hill back to where the bus company was. The map was confusing and I started getting nervous that I would make it back in time. With only 45 minutes to go I stopped at a gas station to ask directions and found out I was still like 2 km away! Oh no. I hadn't had any lunch either. There was a buffet-style restaurant on my route. I wanted to order a tasty sandwich to go, and a couple of beers. As I've said before, speed is not really in the locals' vocabulary, the pace on Cyprus is the epitomy of 'island time'. We fumbled through the language barrier with me trying to order, then a nice Brit couple order a chicken sandwich for me, explaining I was in a hurry. I showed them my map and where I needed to be before 6:00; they told me it was possible but I would have to rush.
With my trusty food and beer in hand I raced down the hill into town, ended up making it with plenty of time to spare.
Next time . . . . Lefkosa