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Cyprus

Girne... Again

sunny 25 °C
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Sunset, Girne Harbour

Sunset, Girne Harbour

Well, on Saturday (28th April) I came to the end of my 7 nights in KKTC. It was my second visit to the country, the first being in September ’17.

It was good, again. I did some of the things I didn’t have time for the last time. Karpaşa, Bellapais, St Hilarion, Buffavento... I tried to get a blend of the familiar and the new, so I had 5 nights in Girne (where I stayed in 2017, and even in the same apartment) and 2 nights in Kumyalı.

St Hilarion and Buffavento lived up to expectations.

Buffavento

Buffavento

Both are spectacular. Both gave me some brisk exercise as well. Bellapais was the opposite. An anticlimax and a tourist trap.

St Hilarion

St Hilarion

On the food and drink side of life - important on a holiday - I learned last time to avoid the harbourside restaurants in Girne. They are overpriced and yes, you get a lovely view of the harbour, but you can get that any time you want.

I enjoyed several more “local” places, mostly relying on experience from my last visit. As far as something classier is concerned, my lunch at Beşparmak Bufavento was spectacular in terms of the quality and quantity of the food, plus a fabulous view.

Wonderful

Wonderful

The other place I went to a couple of times which isn’t local - but is - was Gloria Jean's for coffee and cake. It’s a foreign chain and foreign when it comes to pricing, but it is attractive for locals aspiring to a certain lifestyle. Locals drink Turkish tea or coffee as a rule, and Nescafe is often the only alternative to Turkish coffee.

Turkish

Turkish

I enjoy the local tea and coffee, but sometimes an Americano or a cappuccino becomes a craving!

Gloria Jean's

Gloria Jean's

So far as I can tell, the likes of Starbucks hasn’t yet ventured into KKTC, so it’s something comparable.

I had a rented car this time and I needed it to get to some of the places I wanted to see. I got it from Sun Rent a Car - picked up and dropped off at the airport. The cost was £134 (€152) for 7 days including CDW. It was a basic Hyundai i20, so it got a bit out of breath going up some of the steep hills, but we made it. Great value for money.

Hyundai i20

Hyundai i20

In Girne I stayed at the same Airbnb apartment as last time. Clean, quiet and comfortable. £41 (€46.50) per night.

Living Room

Living Room

Again, great value for money.

Posted by IainT 14:05 Archived in Cyprus Tagged restaurants cyprus kibris islandlife girne Comments (0)

Karpaşa

sunny 24 °C
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Meditation

Meditation

Part of the plan for my spring trip to KKTC was to explore the Karpas Peninsula (Karpaşa in Turkish). It’s the most easterly and remote part of KKTC, and relatively undeveloped.

According to my trusty Bradt Guide, it’s not a day trip from the likes of Girne. It is right, and certainly not for the first time.

I booked two nights at one of the accommodation places they list - the Nikovlita Garden Hotel in Kumyalı. The village is about an hour by car from Ercan Airport, and suited me as I reckoned I could get there before dark from a flight arriving at 15:20 - building in a bit of contingency for possible delays.

Nikovlita Garden Hotel

Nikovlita Garden Hotel

The Bradt Guide touts it as “flying the flag for eco/agro-tourism”, and this had a distinct appeal too. More about it another time (if I remember).
Hotel owner Zekai planned an itinerary for my main day there. First stop was Panagia Kanakaria at nearby Boltaşlı - a disused Greek Orthodox monastery church. Leaving aside all political issues, it is poignant to see a religious building almost abandoned.

It is cared for - lovingly to be honest - by Mr Erol who lives next door. He’s a feisty 80 something veteran of the Cyprus Police from colonial times (pre 1960). A warm and charming man with excellent English and a wonderful accent. He reckons he attended 150 terrorist murders in his time.

Panagia Kanakaria

Panagia Kanakaria

Next stop was the Apostolos Andreas Monastery, right out almost at the most easterly tip of the peninsula. It is being restored as a collaborative project between the two governments of the island.

Apostolos Andreas Monastery

Apostolos Andreas Monastery

Then, Zafer Burnu. The cape at the eastern end of the island, reached along 5km of unmade road.

Zafer Burnu

Zafer Burnu

I headed back to Kumyalı along the north coast road, and stopped at Ayios Thyrsos as suggested by Zekai. It’s another Greek Orthodox church, now falling into disrepair.

Ayios Thyrsos

Ayios Thyrsos

My last stop of the day was at Ayia Trias. I was the only person there. I enjoyed sitting among some 5th century ruins to contemplate the tranquility in the mid-afternoon sun. I think it’s called mindfulness these days.

Ayia Trias

Ayia Trias

The peninsula lived up to its reputation. The landscape is beautiful, as are the beaches - although I didn’t stop at any.

Beautiful

Beautiful


The beaches could be a good reason to go back.

Posted by IainT 11:52 Archived in Cyprus Tagged landscapes churches cyprus kibris islandlife Comments (0)

Nuts & Bolts

sunny 28 °C
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With it being a relatively unusual destination, but one worth visiting, I thought I’d do a post about the cost and logistics of my trip to North Cyprus (which I’ll call KKTC, as they do).

As I mentioned in another post, because KKTC isn’t recognised internationally, incoming flights have to touch down in Turkey on the way. I believe 45 minutes is normal. Passengers just stay on the plane.

With that in mind and taking account of the flight times of Turkish Airlines’ Edinburgh/Istanbul service, I decided to stay a night in Istanbul on each journey. Check if you need a visa for Turkey. I did. You can buy it online in 5 minutes for £17.

My return flight between Edinburgh/Istanbul cost £206.

4 Hour Flight

4 Hour Flight

I stayed at the Terrace Guesthouse on both my nights in Istanbul. It’s about 20 minutes from Atatürk Airport by taxi. The accommodation cost me £65 per night - inclusive of a big Turkish breakfast. The Terrace arranged for me to be collected at the airport by a “taxi” - in fact a limo would be a better description. The cost was £25.

If you have a suitcase and in the late evening especially, it is reassuring to be met by someone with your name on a board who will guide you through the pandemonium of the scene outside arrivals.

Atatürk Arrivals

Atatürk Arrivals

The taxi (and it was a taxi) was much cheaper in the other direction - about £10.

You can get the metro and tram to The Terrace quite easily, but I’d only do it that way if I only have hand luggage.

I also used Turkish Airlines to fly on to Ercan (KKTC’s airport) from Atatürk Airport. It cost £115 return. AtlasGlobal and Pegasus also have services on the route. However, be careful which Istanbul airport your flight leaves from. Some fly from Sabiha Gökcen (SAW). I’ve never used it, but I know it’s a long way from the city centre on the Asian Side.

I took a taxi from Ercan Airport to Girne - about 40 minutes in normal traffic. It cost TL150. On the way back I pre-booked a local one - TL120. Both were big, modern, comfortable Mercedes.

In Girne I had an apartment organised through Airbnb. It cost £265 for 7 nights plus TL12 for electricity. I didn’t use the air conditioning (it was the end of September) but no doubt that would have put the electricity cost up a bit.

Pleasant

Pleasant

The apartment was fantastic, and not being in a holiday apartment complex, it was more like living local than as a tourist.

Living Room

Living Room

There’s a good mini market 2 minutes walk away and Girne centre is a pleasant 10 minute walk. So are the sea and the harbour. I found a couple of restaurants and a pastry place close by, so paying extra to join the tourists eating by the harbour was optional.

Börek

Börek

I thought of renting a car, but for my two “excursions” using a dolmuṣ worked out fine. I would have needed one for some of the other wee trips I looked into. Prices looked very reasonable, but a dolmuṣ is really cheap. It cost TL12 (Just over £2) each way for the 48 mile (75 km) trip between Girne and Gazimaǧusa.

Dolmuṣ to Lefkoṣa

Dolmuṣ to Lefkoṣa

Eating out was very reasonable - but I didn’t drink any alcohol, and that bumps up restaurant bills wherever you are.

Delicious

Delicious

I did have a few meals in the apartment just for variety.

So there you have it. If you plan a trip and have a question, just leave a comment.

Posted by IainT 02:58 Archived in Cyprus Tagged planes island istanbul cyprus kibris famagusta gazimaǧusa girne Comments (0)

Maǧusa

sunny 29 °C
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The Right Idea

The Right Idea

Yesterday I caught the 10am dolmuș from Girne to Gazimaǧusa (formerly Famagusta, and no doubt still Famagusta to Greek speakers). I got a sense of achievement just from that, as I’d managed to find where those dolmuș leave from at the first attempt (I had 3 choices) and figured out that the one with “Maǧusa” on the front was what I wanted. Nothing about that in the guide book...

It’s just over an hour away from Girne across the Kyrenia Mountains and at the other side of the Mesarya Plain. The plain is like semi-desert at this time of year.

I’m definitely glad I went. Gazimaǧusa’s character is quite different to Girne and Lefkoșa. I had 3 hours there - enough time to explore the centre and have a good lunch.

From the Walls

From the Walls

Lala Mustafa Pașa Mosque was one of the places I spent time on. It was built between 1298 and about 1400 and was St Nicholas Cathedral until 1571, when the Ottomans captured the city. It’s named in honour of Lala Mustafa Pasha, the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire (from Bosnia) who led the Ottoman forces against the Venetians in Cyprus.

The Mosque

The Mosque

It is a fascinating to be in a building so obviously intended as a Christian church, but which is a functioning mosque. I’ve visited Aya Sofya in Istanbul and it has a similar history, but the architecture is totally different and Aya Sofya is now a museum.

The fig tree in front of the mosque is supposed to have been planted about 1250... still fruiting.

The Fig Tree

The Fig Tree

My other stop was Othello’s Tower - part of the Venetian walled fortification surrounding the old town. The EU has funded a lot of preservation work around on the Tower and the walls nearby. It’s all looking very good. The theory is it’s the unnamed castle in Cyprus referred to in Shakespeare’s play.

Tower Entrance

Tower Entrance

I would have liked to visit Salamis as well - the ruins of the island’s first city during classical Greek times. It’s 6km north of the town, but it was really too hot to take that on as well as the town itself. My guide book reckons on 2-3 hours minimum.

Way In

Way In

I thought about having a look at Varosha. It’s the southern suburb of Gazimaǧusa, and has been abandoned since the 1974 coup d’etat and invasion. It isn’t part of the Green Line, but has been occupied and fenced off by the Turkish military. I didn’t really have time, nor did I have the morbid interest.

Between that, the Green Line and the two enclaves which Britain retained after independence - for military bases (Akrotiri and Dhekelia covering 98 square miles (254 km² ) between them - this island doesn’t have its troubles to seek.

The dolmuș service I used to get to and from Gazimaǧusa was excellent. 12TL each way, and on the return journey the (modern) bus even had airconditioning! That company - Göcmen - produces a timetable and has a Facebook page!

The road to Gazimaǧusa is dual carriageway on the plain. On the way back our bus driver had a race with another from the same company - one in each lane and neck and neck for a few kilometres. It kept the passengers interested. Well, me I suppose. The locals hardly noticed.

Posted by IainT 05:33 Archived in Cyprus Tagged churches cyprus kibris famagusta gazimaǧusa girne Comments (0)

The Green Line

sunny 30 °C
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Green Line (South Side)

Green Line (South Side)

Visiting a new destination is something I almost always enjoy. I’ll spare the blushes of the exceptions.

When it’s in a country I’ve never visited before that makes it extra interesting. This week may be the first time I’ve visited a place where there’s controversy about whether it’s a country at all.

It’s the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, or KKTC. It’s only recognised by Turkey.

Why am I here? Well, it’s here so why not? I’ve never been to Cyprus (Kıbrıs in Turkish) before and this seemed as good as any way to start. I like Turkey. I like Greece. I like Crete, but I don’t like Rhodes. I like Bodrum and Alanya, but I don’t like Marmaris. I love Athens to bits, and feel the same about Istanbul. Get the idea?

Here are some impressions so far:-

  • I traveled on Turkish Airlines from Istanbul to Ercan (KKTC’s airport). It’s an international flight. Passports and customs. The lot.
  • KKTC uses Turkish Lira as its currency. Maybe it has no practical choice with no international recognition. It certainly isn’t the only country which uses the currency of another - lots do.
  • KKTC has its own postage stamps. I bought some for postcards. I guess their postal service has a “deal” with Turkey, but I wonder how that works with the destination countries. These things are dealt with by international treaty. New countries sign up to them.
  • In many ways it feels like being in Turkey, but I suspect that’s a superficial judgement resulting from the language being the same and the landscape being so similar to a part of Turkey I know just a short distance across the Med (Alanya).
  • I have seen Turkish troops on low key patrol - 2 soldiers walking around Girne armed with truncheons. I’ve seen several sites surrounded by barbed wire fences and where photography is banned. Military bases.

Today I visited Lefkoșa/Nicosia - and crossed the Green Line into the Republic of Cyprus. It cuts the city in two, as it has since 1974.
The crossing is now quite routine for foreign visitors who are EU citizens. Technically I believe I entered the Republic of Cyprus illegally when I arrived at Ercan (and got my illegality validated with a stamp in my passport).

Locmalı Crossing

Locmalı Crossing

In fact their border guards seemed less interested than the KKTC ones. On my way back into KKTC the Republic of Cyprus guard just winked and waved me through.

North of the Line

North of the Line

To a former student and practitioner of public international law, this is all fascinating.

Feel free to yawn if you wish.

South of the Line

South of the Line

Footnote:- Some words of warning. The Green Line crossing arrangements I’ve mentioned don’t necessarily apply to anyone who doesn’t hold an EU passport, and probably don’t. Even EU passport holders should check very carefully as to what the up to date position is before crossing.

Posted by IainT 12:06 Archived in Cyprus Tagged cyprus nicosia kibris lefkoșa Comments (0)

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