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We will send regular newsletters to our members who have signed up for receiving it during the registration. In 'mymerhaba' newsletter, our editorial staff provides updates, with regard to any information related to places worth visiting, viewing, or otherwise worth knowing, for those who care to know more....

Northern Cyprus Over Thanksgiving

by Fred Moore – November 2009

Once more we decide to visit Northern Cyprus. This time with friends Allison and Maxine; Allison is an attorney and Maxine is a Librarian. Here’s the scene; Fred is in the company of three ladies on holiday, four days, three nights on a somewhat undefined adventure.

Allison has researched and compiled our holiday package; airfare round-trip, rental car from the airport and our hotel. We fly Pegasus Airlines from Adana, Turkey to Ercan, Northern Cyprus. The flight is a longer climb and descent than actual flight; it takes about 30 minutes. Once we’re in Ercan we queue up for passport control and then move on to baggage claim; Carol and I have a bag each to collect, the ladies are managing their holiday with simple carry-on bags.

As we transition between passport control and baggage claim, I ask about our rental car; Allison is a bit nonplused because she doesn’t really have an answer. It seems she doesn’t know the rental agency name; wait, she says, “I don’t believe I was ever given a name.” For a few minutes we simply wander aimlessly in the terminal. After a moment’s thought I suggest, “Take a look outside and see if someone has a placard with your name on it.” I’m remembering when Carol and I visited last year we were met this way.

Sure enough, the ladies find a gentleman outside anxiously awaiting our arrival for the rental car. He insists on taking their bags (I drag ours) and off we go down the street in front of the terminal. The rental car is a silver/gray Ford Focus wagon at the end of the parking lot. The agent collects driver’s license information from both Allison and Maxine; they’ll be driving. (As it turns out Maxine does ALL the driving; no matter, I made it clear up front, I would not drive.) Allison asked the agent for a map; he feigns ignorance as if maps are not something that should be provided with a rental car. Maxine reminds us that the ones we get from rental agencies in the states aren’t very valuable anyway. The agent assures us the signs are very adequate for finding our way to Girne/Kyrenia.

As we drive away from the parking space, Maxine notices the gas tank is little light as well; seems rental cars in this country (even in Turkey) are not the same as we’re used to in the US. Keep in mind also, all driving in Cyprus is from the opposite side of the road (very British). I have enough challenge driving on what I call the ‘right’ side of the road. The car has a parking ticket for the exit gate and we head for the gate; what we don’t know is that WE must pay the parking fee BEFORE the ticket will activate the gate!

After being trapped at the gate, we learn the fee payment has NOT been made; we’re renting this car and the agent has shown us the parking ticket however somewhere in the transaction (I don’t remember it at all) the little point of parking fee was omitted! We create a tiny bit of chaos at the gate and the parking attendant comes along to see what the hold-up is; he directs us back to the fee booth. After a 10 Lira fee is paid, the ticket is validated and we return to the gate; viola the gate pops up and off we go! Isn’t it wonderful how things work when done correctly.

Now we’re off the airport property and we head for Girne on the north coast. The ladies decide to have lunch on the harbor once we arrive. We make our way to the main road and start toward Girne; ops, we’ve just driven right by our turn-off. We drive a few minutes further before we can turn back but all is well; we get back to the roundabout and travel on. We’re now on a two lane winding road headed Girne; it’s on the coast just over these mountains. Carol and I begin to remember the route quite distinctly. I mention we did this ride in the dark last year when a cab picked us up at the airport.

Maxine is having some challenge as the Focus isn’t the road car of our dreams and needs to be shifted several times to climb the steep grades. Ah, we’ve crested the ridge now and we’re curving down the north face of the mountain; what a beautiful view of the sea! There comes a small truck flashing his lights, “police or what”? we debate between us. Then further on, we find out what he may have been trying to relay to us; there’s a serious accident in our lane. A truck has kissed the mountain side quite hard and the cab is virtually destroyed. The roadway has been covered in sand to soak up the petrol and oil spilled from the accident. Fortunately, the traffic is light and Maxine is able to get around without challenge.

At the foot of the mountain now we begin to curve west and the community begins to populate our roadside. There are plenty of homes along here and the occasional strip-mall as we continue toward our goal. We’re now entering Girne and we begin looking for signs to the harbor; we make a couple of passes through the tiny streets and finally Carol suggests we park along the water front. We find a spot and Maxine slips us into it and breathes a sigh of relief. We walk along the seawall and toward the small harbor where numerous cafes line the waterfront; we find one and settle in for lunch. We’ve chosen well, the food is good and we enjoy a leisurely meal with great views. We talk about our holiday, how nice it is to be away and how beautiful this setting is for lunch. Several cats mingle at our feet as they beg for food. We’re having fish and chips (we thought British style, but it’s not) and these beggars (extremely well-fed by their look) think we’re going to feed them. We disappoint them, however, because the fish is wonderful and we refuse to part with even a small morsel of it.

As I mentioned, Allison found our accommodations on the internet and made our reservations and now we wonder how we will find our hotel. From here, Carol and I know it’s just up the mountain above us because we remember visiting Bellapais Abbey last year. Our hotel is at the foot of the abbey; it’s called, Bellapais Gardens and consists of several cottages. We check our tour book looking for a map of the area and then set out to find the hotel before sunset. Our first priority is petrol so we can drive without concern; just minutes from our parking space we dart into a station and filled up with gas (77 Lira – about $50).

We look for signs and finally have the car climbing up the mountain. Once we’ve arrived at the abbey we realize we’ve missed the turn off for the hotel; we backtrack slowly and there it is. We turn in (very narrow entry between two buildings) and stop at the reception office. We’re on a slope here that is very steep and park toward the mountain wall across the drive from reception. Maxine has had it with narrow streets and we agree; she’s driven enough for today.

Erkan receives us very warmly at the desk and we’re given cards to fill out for our rooms. Erkan offers us coffee and tea before we begin the ‘business of checking in. He tells us they can accommodate 34 folks in the cottages and a little more about the facilities; then calls on his staff to help us with our bags. A couple of young lads take us to our rooms; we’re all the way to the bottom of the compound on the second floor of two individual cottages. The view is to die for; the sea is blue gray and the clouds are billowing white clumps of what appear to be soft cotton. We thank the young man who has brought our bags down (tip them) and begin unpacking.

The room is spacious and feels comfortable right off; there’s a desk with chair to the left just inside the door. The bed is next centered on the room head against the left wall with bed tables and lamps on each side. To the right just inside behind the door is a stand with a TV. Next is a small sitting area with a coffee table flanked by two overstuffed chairs and then a stand for our bags. Through an arch at the back of the room on the right is an armoire, straight ahead is a cabinet with coffee bar atop it (actually an electric hot water pot and instant coffee or tea) and to the left the bathroom.

Here’s the most pleasant of welcomes; flower blossoms placed across the bedspread just below the pillows! Very lovely accent. The same type blossoms are placed around the rim of the bathroom sink --- again, a very lovely touch. The room also has a vase of fresh cut flowers on the desk. We see too, a Bellapais Hotel post card addressed to Allison welcoming her to the hotel.

Since it’s winter, the sun falls from the sky early and appears to slip into the sea; we decide there’s no more to do today and we agree to meet in reception for a drink and dinner. We were told at check-in that the fireplace is lighted at 5:30 and we plan to be there to relax and enjoy it. Allison and Maxine are already there when Carol and I arrive and we join them sitting at the foot of the fire. We sit across the lobby from a massive rack of wine; the entire wall has become a wine storage rack. Carol and I admire the carpets that adorn the floors around us; one has especially caught our attention, the one under our feet. This is a very rare Canakkale and in a design we’ve see very recently in Adana.

Around six a gentleman who is the hotel maitre d’ greets us; his name is Karlo. He’s warm, engaging and quite exuberant about the hotel and the food they serve. He insists his restaurant is the best in the area and he introduces us to the specials for the evening. He has captivated our very imagination for dinner and we order from here as we relax before the fire. Karlo tells us a little about himself; he’s German and he has been a personal friend of the hotel family for forty years! He was a restaurant owner in his native land for years and decided he wanted a change of scenery. After visiting Northern Cyprus on many occasions, he relocated here and came to work with his friend in this hotel. He’s been delighting customers for just over six years now.

The ladies have opted for the korfte special and I order lamb chops. Karlo suggests wine with dinner and we readily accept; Allison and Maxine are talked into the Northern Cyprus red wine and Carol and I have Cankaya, a very nice Turkish wine from Ankara (it’s an old favorite). It seems no time at all before Karlo is back and asking us to retreat to the dining room, our dinner is ready. We leave the wonderful fire and follow Karlo toward our table; the dining area is aquarium-like, there’s a wall of glass between us and the valley below as we gaze out toward the sea.

Karlo leaves us and we savor our wonderful meal with great pleasure. We were not mislead, the meal is everything we were told and more. The wait staff was attentive and just as engaging as their boss. We must have spent two hours enjoying our evening over a wonderful dinner. Satiated far too well, we retired to our cottages for the evening.

Good morning, it’s 7:30, I’m sitting on the terrace just outside my room. The sun is rising over my right shoulder and the Mediterranean is just across the valley floor out in front of me. The water and sky are one; with the clouds and haze I simply can’t make out a horizon at all. I’m dressed in a long sleeve denim shirt and a sweater; the air around me is heavy and wet, but not as cold as I thought it might be. I checked the weather before coming and thought it might be colder in the mornings.

There are throngs of birds throwing their voices back and forth across the valley below me as they soar of the breeze. Behind me are the Kyrenia Mountains, known as the Five Finger Mountains of ancient legend. Northern Cyprus has this mountain range running nearly the full length of it. We must cross over them to get to the interior; this morning the sun is slowly climbing them to fully illuminate our day. If I listen carefully I can hear the road traffic on the main road, well below where I’m sitting. I’m taken by the fact that there are few boats out, but then they may be beyond my view in the haze.

Our hotel consists of multiple cottages all clinging to the mountain wall here at the foot Bellapais Abbey. At my right beyond the grounds of the hotel compound are several very nice large homes dotting the hillside. From their appearance and size, I would guess they must be some pretty costly estates (or villas as they are called here). The view stretched out before me is far more beautiful than mere words can convey. Suffice it to say, it’s relaxing and ever so inviting; should you have the inclination to visit Northern Cyprus, DO consider this hotel.

The sun is still trying to make the climb over the mountain behind me and I know when it does my panorama will light up in the brilliance even more majestically. Carol has joined me now so we will make our way up the hillside to the main building for breakfast. It isn’t long after we arrive to eat that Allison and Maxine are up to join us. Breakfast is included in our room rate and the offering is well presented and the food is good. There are eggs to order but we don’t have any.

After breakfast we walk to the abbey; Allison has not been here although the rest of us have so we get to see it once more while Allison sees it for the first time. The abbey was built in several sections; the original building was thought to be from 1198-1205 and other adjoining structures were built through time up to 1359. The entire structure is Gothic Architecture and well worth a visit. Once the Ottomans took the island, the abbey was given to the Greek Orthodox Church; today, it still features the trappings of that sect. The church within the abbey has a number of icons and appears to be in use; the old refectory is used for concerts today.

Once we’ve let Allison discover the glory of the abbey (and have perused the silk scarves for sale across the drive) we walk to the car and Maxine takes us to Girne to the castle down by the harbor where we had lunch yesterday. Just before we arrive at the castle there’s a small Anglican Church we decide the visit. The back door is ajar and we slip inside to see the sanctuary; it very lovely and we continue on down the street. It appears we’ve arrived at the right time, a major tour group has just gone in ahead of us. The first documented reference to this castle is 1191 --- the literature says, “Richard the Lionhearted of England captured it from the Byzantines.” We pay the entry fee and cross a stone bridge to the wooden entry gate to gain access. We pass through a tunnel to the inner wall and then through another tunnel into the courtyard.

Again, Allison has not been here, but the rest of us have. Maxine and I sit in the garden while Carol shows Allison around. There’s a very nice museum within the castle and also a small chapel at one corner. There are a number of tour groups today; when Carol and I visited last year there were none. You may remember our friend, Pirate the cat, he’s still in residence and we said hello by way of a soft stroke or two as we pass him by. On the way out, Carol and I stop by a painter’s booth and buy a lovely 5x7 watercolor of what the painter has titled, “Queen Katherine’s Window.” The window is high on the inner wall just through the entry tunnel and is mounted just above two coat of arms carvings.

We decide now it’s time for lunch and walk to a restaurant we passed yesterday that serves traditional Turkish food. It’s Ocakbasi situated across the road from the sea wall, not far from the Dome Hotel/Casino. We all order Turkish pizza (for lack of a better description). We get two meat and two cheese; the ladies share, but I eat my own. We discover while eating that the lead cook is from Adana and that our waiter is from Hatay. There are many Turks living in Northern Cyprus.

Following lunch, we drive out to visit the site at Lambousa. This site dates from the 13th century BC and contains the ruins of fish breeding tanks carved into the coastal rock and tombs carved into the rock formations a short walk from the sea. There’s not much to see here and we spend more time to it then visiting; our day has evaporated and we want to get back up the mountain before dark. Once back we opt to do dinner at the hotel again.

After a short rest and relaxation in our cottages, we meet at the fireplace to await dinner. In a repeat of the night before, Karlo greets us and tries to entice us into the special; it’s two filets of sea bass with king prawns and salmon between them like a sandwich. It sounds awesome, even more so as Karlo put the savory trappings on his ever word. However Carol and I decided were not that hungry and opted out of the special. Carol has a pasta dish and I have Caesar salad while Allison and Maxine choose the fish.

We talked about our day’s adventures and how it was so wonderful to be away from home for a while; good food, great friends and wonderful conversation brought our day to a close. We each retire to our cottages down the hill.

I wake earlier than yesterday, I have a bout of allergy (sneezing and runny nose). I dress and go out on the terrace to greet our new day. There’s far less distinction in the horizon this morning, far more clouds. I can hear the planes from Ercan Airport flying overhead but can’t see them. A cacophony of sound fill the air all around me this morning; our heating unit cycling, a motorbike in the distance, traffic noise from the main highway far below, planes over head and nature waking to the morning light. There’s a smell of fireplaces in the air as well.

I must have sit out in this wonderland for an hour before Carol joins me. I get up and we climb the hillside to go to breakfast. We’re not quit through when Allison and Maxine join us; we continue to eat and discuss our coming day. We’re going to go to Famagusta today, the city of churches.

I suggest we take the four-lane over the mountain this morning and so we set off to find our way. The signs are good to us and we are well on our way. It’s truly nice having a well signed route; in Turkey so often we find one sign pointing the way off major highways, but none after you turn off. We’re 58 kilometers from our goal (that’s about 36 miles). The road is good and all we have to do is mind the roundabouts. I shouldn’t say “we”:  Maxine is doing the driving and the rest of us are trying our best to guide her. I’m not certain we don’t on occasion frustrate her more than help. Sorry Maxine, thanks so much for driving!

Maxine does an admiral job taking us through all the roundabouts on our journey. As we close in on Famagusta we see a church in a small village and decide to turn off for a look. There’s no indication what church it is and unfortunately the local pigeon population has commandeered it. It’s obvious it was in use at one point not long ago but now it’s deteriorating and will soon be lost if not reclaimed by historically conscious people!

We continue on now and head for Salamis, the Roman City where the Apostle Paul landed and met Barnabus for his Christian Missionary journey through Cyprus. We first come upon the church of St. Barnabus and stop to visit the site. The church we see today was constructed in 1756 and has two domes; the original church had three. This was an active church until 1976 when the three last monks left it to historical preservation. Today it’s an icon and archeological museum.

I go into the entry and pay the fee (9 Lira each) for our visit. Carol and I go through the archeology portion of the museum first. The artifacts here begin with the Neolithic Age (mostly stone tools and bone needles) and move right on through to the Ottomans. What we view is primarily pottery, but there are also terracotta toys and glass vessels from the later period. This is a very extensive collection and well worth the time. After we view the pottery, we move on to the church and discover a building FULL of icons. The icons date from the mid 1800s through the 1960s; the earliest piece I noted was 1857 and the latest 1962. I don’t wish to overstate the obvious, but these icons are some of the most awesome we’ve seen! I had Carol take my picture next to the St. Nicholas Icon --- we look a little bit alike, HaHaHa.

Also on the grounds is a small chapel that has been constructed over what is thought to have been St. Barnabus’ tomb. Once inside this chapel you can descend a stairway into the tomb; several people have been here before us and there are many candles burning down there. The cavern/tomb appears to have been carved for six individuals. The literature isn’t clear about others who were found here, but it does indicate St. Barnabus was found clutching a copy of the Book of Matthew.

From here we drive on to Salamis on the coast. We park the car at the entrance just above the waves and walk on to the fee booth, we pay another (9 Lira each) and proceed. The first structure on out walking tour is the gym and bath complex. Beyond the gym we see the stadium complex and then the theater. Walking further into the site we come to the colonnade that leads from the sea. This is a massive ruin and we haven’t the time to walk the entire complex (disappointing); should you visit here I would advise you to make plans for all day.

From Salamis we drive to Famagusta for lunch. Maxine drives until we find the city walls and then we look for the entry through the wall. Once through the wall we find a parking lot and then walk around looking for lunch. We find a nice little street side café and relax. Carol and I order soup and a sandwich, Allison and Maxine order Iskender Kabob. While we wait for our meals to arrive, Allison walks back to the tourist information booth we saw coming in; she wants some flyers about the city.

Lunch is brought out and Allison is still gone, but we all get started. Ah, here’s Allison and she has some information but not as much as she had hoped. Our lunches are good and we eat and relax. Famagusta is said to be a city of 365 churches; one for every day of the year. After lunch we walk through the narrow streets; there must be a structure in ruins on every corner. Again, we haven’t much time and we walk by 8, 10 or even 15 churches before we come to the structure of great distinction: St Nicholas Cathedral.

The cathedral was begun in 1298 and finally consecrated in 1326; our literature tells us it’s a rare example of ‘pure’ Gothic architecture. After the Ottoman conquest of Cyprus (1571), the cathedral was converted to a mosque with the addition of a minaret at one corner of the roof, not affecting the cathedral’s facing façade. Take a few minutes to enter the sanctuary and gaze at the stained glass windows, they’re quite beautiful. After visiting this wonderful edifice, we walk down toward the water front to visit Othello’s Castle/Tower. This distinction comes directly from Shakespeare’s play which was set in a seaport in Cyprus. There’s nothing very unique here, it doesn’t really have any differing characteristics from Girne’s Castle; the basic structure is very similar and if it weren’t for the sign out front one would probably not even stop to view it.

Once again we regret we’ve got to get back across the island before dark. We don’t wish to have Maxine driving in the dark; she has enough challenge simply listening to all of us tell her where to go and how to get there. Famagusta is another full day or even weekend adventure; you simply can’t see the breadth of this city in a few hours! We wind our way back through the narrow streets heading for the car. We stop briefly to admire several other churches as we walk.

I’ve only scratched the surface as I guide you through these last two visits; should you come to Northern Cyprus, DO give yourself time and visit both of these giving them a full day. We find the car and head back to Girne. This has been a full and most rewarding day. Once we’re back in our hotel, Carol and I opted out of dinner and simply retire to our room. We’ve walked what feel like several miles today and we’re quite exhausted.

This has been a tremendous long weekend and we’ve enjoyed it very much. Today we head for the airport and our departure from Northern Cyprus. We sit around the airport café and rave about all we’ve seen and learned. We talk of maybe returning and staying in Famagusta so we can revisit Salamis and the walled city. There’s our call to board, what a wonderful little holiday we’ve had. Do take the time to visit, you won’t be disappointed!




Fred´s Farewell
A Day Trip in January
Drive to Roman Ruins
An Autumn Drive
Cappadocia - Once Again
A Trip to Ephesus and Pamukkale
Fred´s Tarsus
Northern Cyprus Over Thanksgiving
Cilician Drive
Kocatepe Mosque - Ankara
A Visit to Anıtkabir
Fred´s Weekend in Ankara
A Day in Anavarza
Driving in the Heartland
Spontaneity by Fred
A Trip to Soğanlı and Gülşehir
An Antakya Weekend
A Weekend Around Adana
A Rainsoaked Adventure
A Mediterranean Adventure
Fred's Bor Adventure
Fred's Weekend Escape to Ihlara
Fred's Lecture on Carpet
Fred's Weekend Away
Uzuncaburc with Fred
Museums of Cappadocia
Göreme - A Different Way
Night Train to Ankara
Cave Home Tour
A Trip to Kayseri - Özkonak
Kastabala in August
A Bittersweet Adventure
Silifke, Anamur and more
Around Adana
Catalhoyuk & Aksehir Adventures
Nigde Exploration
Cappadocia Again
Kahramanmaraş Again
A Trip to Kayseri - Sultanhani
A Morning Walk
Sunday Lunch Overlooking the Lake
Fred's Kahramanmaras
Holiday Drive to Mersin
A Sunday Drive to Yumurtalik
Fred's Tarsus
Fred's Cappadocia
Botas Seaside Drive
Fred's Konya Museums
A Bus Tour to Antakya
A Walk with Cuddle
Ankara Again
Gaziantep Museum by Fred
Moores' Anniversary Weekend
Shopping in Sanliurfa
The Seaside at Karataş
This is Ankara
Tour to Gaziantep-Harran
Trip to Konya
Birsen's Horizons
Fred's Trip Logs
Bahar's Views on...
Business World
From Members' Pen
Interviews with Members
Moms & Kids Corner
Pets with Dr. Demirel
The archives of The Guide
The Archives of Turkishtime
Teen's world

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Fred's Trip Logs
Fred´s Farewell
A Day Trip in January
Drive to Roman Ruins
An Autumn Drive
Cappadocia - Once Again
A Trip to Ephesus and Pamukkale
Fred´s Tarsus
Northern Cyprus Over Thanksgiving
Cilician Drive
Kocatepe Mosque - Ankara
A Visit to Anıtkabir
Fred´s Weekend in Ankara
A Day in Anavarza
Driving in the Heartland
Spontaneity by Fred
A Trip to Soğanlı and Gülşehir
An Antakya Weekend
A Weekend Around Adana
A Rainsoaked Adventure
A Mediterranean Adventure
Fred's Bor Adventure
Fred's Weekend Escape to Ihlara
Fred's Lecture on Carpet
Fred's Weekend Away
Uzuncaburc with Fred
Museums of Cappadocia
Göreme - A Different Way
Night Train to Ankara
Cave Home Tour
A Trip to Kayseri - Özkonak
Kastabala in August
A Bittersweet Adventure
Silifke, Anamur and more
Around Adana
Catalhoyuk & Aksehir Adventures
Nigde Exploration
Cappadocia Again
Kahramanmaraş Again
A Trip to Kayseri - Sultanhani
A Morning Walk
Sunday Lunch Overlooking the Lake
Fred's Kahramanmaras
Holiday Drive to Mersin
A Sunday Drive to Yumurtalik
Fred's Tarsus
Fred's Cappadocia
Botas Seaside Drive
Fred's Konya Museums
A Bus Tour to Antakya
A Walk with Cuddle
Ankara Again
Gaziantep Museum by Fred
Moores' Anniversary Weekend
Shopping in Sanliurfa
The Seaside at Karataş
This is Ankara
Tour to Gaziantep-Harran
Trip to Konya

Focus On
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Fred's Trip Logs
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