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Kyrenia, aka Girne

CYPRUS | Monday, 9 February 2015 | Views [393]

St. Hilarion castle, Kyrenia

St. Hilarion castle, Kyrenia

THERE IS NO REASON TO HAVE A CAR IN NICOSIA, in fact, you wouldn’t want one.  There is no place to park within the city walls, most of the streets are one-way, usually in the wrong direction and insurance on cars rented in the South isn’t valid in the north.  But we did need a car to visit Northern Cyprus so we checked out of the Centrum and hoofed it to the border crossing where we found a taxi to take us to Sun Rentals in North Nicosia, a really good deal, $30 a day on a weekly rental including insurance.  All rental cars in Cyprus, both north and south, carry red license plates giving fair warning to locals that a touron is driving.

cy     se

   Cyprus's cyprus trees                        Norhtern coast

I find it ironic that the first two places we visited near Kyrenia on the north coast of Turkish (i.e. Muslim) Cyprus were Christian.  Originally named Abbaye de la Pais (Abbey of Peace), Bellapais was built by Augustinian monks fleeing the Holy Land after the fall of Jerusalem around 1200.  Compared to abbeys in England, Bellapais is in good condition with the cyprus-lined cloisters is pretty much intact.

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   Bellpais Abbey

The main attraction for tourists is St. Hilarion Castle on a mountaintop above the city.  Originally a 10th Century Orthodox Church and monastery, St. Hilarion was named after a monk who took up residence in a nearby cave after fleeing the Holy Land.  At the end of the 12th Century, Guy de Lusignan, a French Crusader returning from Palestine, seized the castle from the Byzantines and began an aggressive building spree, converting St. Hilarion to a military outpost cum summer residence.  It fell into ruin during the Venetian period until Turkish nationalists took it over in 1964.  

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   Stl Hilarion Castle

The castle itself is a maze of apartments, tunnels, chapels, storerooms and kitchens on three levels with fabulous views of the countryside.  We heard many “mein Gott”s from the German tour groups huffing and puffing up the steep stairways.

 

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