North Cyprus, 17-21 December 2005




North Cyprus is occupied by Turkey since 1974 and is not recognized by the international community either as a part of Turkey or an independent state. We flew to Ercan (NE of Lefkosa, the N. Cyprus part of Nicosia). We rented a car and recorded our GPS tracks shown in yellow.






We stayed in the charming town of Girne (Kyrenia) with a picturesque harbor. All towns have both Turkish and Greek names and both are used.


Some say this is the most unspoiled harbor in the Mediterranean.





In the foreground is the old chain tower from which an iron chain was suspended across the harbor entrance to block hostile shipping. A similar chain (although larger) was used in Istanbul to control shipping in the Bosphorus.










The crusader castle in Girne.






The North Cyprus part of Nicosia is called Lefkosa. The two parts are separated by ugly walls, barbed wire and check points. There are many wonderful old buildings in Lefkosa with Romanesque arches and columns like these.








The Gothic Santa Sophia church was converted into a mosque. Between the two minarets, both the flags of Turkey and The Republic of North Cyprus (as North Cyprus calls itself) are flown.






On a mountain slope in clear view of the
Greek Republic of Cyprus it says (left of the flag) something like: “How happy is he who can say he is a Turk.”







The abbey of Bellapais lies east of Girne and is a very romantic spot. It is a 14th century crusader building. The name is actually a corruption of “Abbeye de la Paix” (abbey of peace).










Cloisters of the abbey of Bellapais.






Local tourists asked us to take their picture so we asked the same from them. We befriended Nili, a student at the University of Famagusta on the eastern side of North Cyprus.







When we told Nili we were planning to tour Famagusta the next day, she insisted on showing us around. Here she is with Yvonne with the St. Nicholas cathedral in the background – again with a minaret as it was used as a mosque.







Yvonne and Nili in a former Gothic church, now a mosque.







We had lunch (delicious salads and bread) in a very nice restaurant.






The St. Nicholas cathedral was built in the 14th century and is a graceful and elegant building. It’s now the Lala Mustapha Pasha Mosque with a single incongruous minaret added to one of the Gothic towers.







On the right are the twin churches of the Crusader orders of the Hospitallers and the Templars. Cyprus played an important role during and after the crusades.








These massive flying buttresses reveal the sturdiness of these Gothic churches and their resilience during earth quakes.







These beach front hotels are empty; this is no-man’s land separating the two Cypruses.  The guard barely visible in front of his shack (right, center) got quite agitated at our picture taking.




North of Famagusta is the site of Salamis which is said to be founded in the 12th century BCE by a hero of the Trojan war who named it after his home, the island of Salamis in Greece. Salamis became the first city of Cyprus in classical times. It’s been systematically excavated only from 1952-74 and vast tracks of the city are yet to be uncovered. To the left are columns belonging to the Gymnasium complex.









The 20,000 seat amphitheater wasn’t discovered until 1959.








Yvonne and Nili at the top of the amphitheater with the gymnasium columns in the background.










Sunset at Salamis.






A drive along the north coast of Cyprus toward the eastern end passes by many wonderful Byzantine churches. This is the church of Ayios Philon dating from the 10th century. Philon was a 5th century bishop who converted the locals to Christianity.







These are indigenous Cyprus donkeys.






On the eastern tip of the island is the Apostolos Andreas Monastery. It’s the Lourdes of Cyprus with both Muslim and Christian pilgrims coming from afar seeking cures for their afflictions. Numerous wax effigies of adults, children, limbs and even a cow testify to the efficacy.




St. Hilarion castle near Girne is the best preserved and most romantic of the hilltop crusader castles of Cyprus. It was started by the Byzantines in the 11th century and has been used as a fortification as recently as 1964 as a stronghold for Turkish Cypriots. Walt Disney is said to have used it as inspiration for the palace in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.






One of the most picturesque spots of the castle is the Queen’s Window, named after the Lusignan queen Elinor. The Lusignans after losing their kingdom of Jerusalem to Saladin went to Cyprus and ruled here for some 300 years.