Tuesday, May 14, 2013

#832 Kyrenia (Girne), Northern Cyprus

Despite it's independence declaration in 1975, North Cyprus (the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus) is one of the few places in the world still unrecognized by the majority of the world (in fact, it is really only recognized by Turkey). Thankfully, despite no formal resolution to the conflict, it is now a peaceful place to visit although, between 1974 and 1983 when tensions erupted between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot populations and most evacuated the opposing group's area, it wasn't. 

Aside from divided Nicosia (Lefkosa), one of the most important (tourist) towns to visit in the north is Kyrenia in the middle of the northern coast, with an ancient harbor quaintly lined with restaurants and sailboats, and topped off with a massive crusader castle. It has an impressive history dating back to the Trojan War, when it was founded by the Achaeans/Mycenaens although Neolithic archaeological evidence points to a much older settlement. It's first reference is by the Egyptians in the 1100s BC. Rich Hellenistic ruins such as temples to Apollo and Aphrodite are just one of the layers of history here. Romans and later Christian groups controlled the island, leaving the castle foundations and catacomb tombs as relics of their heritage, and they were followed by the Byzantines, the Knights Templar, the Venetians, and then the Ottomans. Strong mariners, they have at various hands, suffered from trade blocks and other manipulations of foreign control -such as a secret agreement that turned the island into a British base.

The Kyrenia castle is a truly spectacular place to visit: its circular Venetian towers loom over the surrounding harbor. The castle's majestic history of its various controllers has left a place rich in different military styles to wander. Deep inside is even a Roman chapel dating from the 12th century, and a ship archaeology museum. The Turkish and Turkish Cypriot flags fly high over the central tower, and many of the area lies in ruins -- delightfully unbarricaded like it would be in many places.

Downtown Kyrenia is small and quaint, with narrow streets and small stalls. Sadly, many of the homes were abandoned by Greek Cypriots, but interestingly, many of these remain untouched -- it feels like an intrusion to peer through the slatted windows to the dusty relics of a life left in a rush.

In the old days with no motors in the harbor and a beach.
Old aerial view of the harbor
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Cyprus

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