Kyrenia Harbour & The Archangelos Michael Icon Museum

Photo of a painting displayed inside Kyrenia Castle

Kyrenia (Girne in Turkish) is probably the most picturesque town in Cyprus, centred around the horseshoe-shaped harbour and overlooked by the spectacular Five Finger Mountain range.

Kyrenia Harbour

Kyrenia Harbour

Cosy seafood restaurants with outdoor seating areas line the waterfront. It was once a fishing harbour but is now filled with comfortable pleasure craft offering sunset cruises and fishing excursions to tourists.

Kyrenia Castle

Kyrenia Castle

A well preserved castle guards the entrance to the harbour and is one of the town’s top tourist attractions.

Archangelos Michael Icon Museum, Kyrenia

Archangelos Michael Church

Our hotel bedroom overlooked this church which was built in 1860 according to a sign outside. It was converted into the Archangelos Michael Icon Museum in 1990.

Archangelos Michael Icon Museum, Kyrenia

Saint Basileos, Saint John Chrisostomos and Saint Georgios

The museum contains a small but attractive collection of Greek Orthodox religious icons, painted on wood, mostly during the 19th Century.

Archangelos Michael Icon Museum, KyreniaArchangelos Michael Icon Museum, Kyrenia

All Seeing Eye of God, Kyrenia

Somehow both my son and I failed to notice the eye peeking out above Jesus in this photo. We only spotted it while reviewing our photos after returning from our Cyprus holiday.

 

One Dollar Bill all seeing eye of God

This eye is presumably the ‘all seeing eye of God’ and is quite a widely recognised symbol, perhaps most famously on the back of a one US dollar bill, where its presence triggers all kinds of whacky speculation among America’s more loony conspiracy theorists.

Famagusta & Salamis

Lala Mustafa Pasa  Mosque, Famagusta

Famagusta (or Gazimağusa in Turkish) is one of the larger towns in Northern Cyprus and is the main port. It would probably have been much bigger by now but the international embargo placed on the Turkish controlled part of Cyprus following the Turkish invasion in 1974 has stunted development of the city, which lies close to the disputed border with the south (Republic of Cyprus).

The absence of development has its benefits for tourism as the historic heart of the old city remains unspoilt behind well-preserved medieval city walls.

Famagusta Port and city walls

The best known landmark within the walled city is the Lala Mustafa Pasa Mosque. This building was formerly St. Nicholas Cathedral and built in the 14th century during the rule of the French Lusignan kings. The main facade, with its 3 large gables and canopied doorways and elaborated rose window above, is said to be modelled after Reims Cathedral.

Lala Mustafa Pasa  Mosque, Famagusta

The upper levels of the two towers were partially destroyed during the Ottoman bombardment of 1571 and when the town finally fell to the Ottomans, the cathedral was converted to a mosque and a minaret added. Stained glass was replaced by clear glass, tombs and altars were removed and frescoes were plastered over but otherwise the interior remains remarkably intact.

Mihrab in Lala Mustafa Pasa Mosque, Famagusta

A mihrab (prayer niche), an imam’s pulpit and wall-to-wall carpeting are the only additions to the interior of the mosque which is still in use today.

Remains of Venetian Royal Palace, Famagusta

The walled city of Famagusta is littered with antiquities and ruins and had it not been for the international embargo, the area would probably have been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site and received vast dollops of cash and expert conservation assistance. For now, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’s Department of Antiquities and Museums seems to be doing a reasonable job in looking after their historical sites.

Salamis

Ruined stadium, Salamis, Northern Cyprus

The remains of the ancient city of Salamis (nothing to do with sausages) are found around 6km north of Famagusta. Salamis was once the capital of Cyprus and can trace its origins as far back as 1100BC. Many invaders left their mark on the city but most of the ruins visible today are Roman era.

Salamis, Cyprus

The site covers a large area next to the coast. Wars and earthquakes have taken their toll and after Salamis was abandoned, shifting sands covered much of the site. These sands have helped to preserve what is buried underneath and, while part of the site has been excavated, you get the feeling that there must be many more archaeological discoveries waiting to be unearthed. Most excavation worked stopped here after the 1974 invasion.

Amphitheatre, Salamis, Cyprus

Ruins which have been excavated so far include Roman baths and gymnasium, a fish market, reservoir, colonnaded street, roman villa, a stadium, temple of Zeus and 7th century Byzantine walls.

Beach at Salamis, Famagusta

The beaches next to Salamis and elsewhere along Famagusta Bay are among the best in Cyprus with clear water and soft sand.

Sea bream and chips, Salamis, Famagusta

We had a good lunch at the beach-side restaurant at Salamis. Grilled sea bream accompanied by salad and chips, which seem to be served with nearly every meal in Northern Cyprus. Must be the British influence!

King George VI letterbox, Famagusta, Cyprus

St. Hilarion Castle, Northern Cyprus

St. Hilarion Castle, Northern Cyprus

I seem to have been visiting a lot of castles in recent months – in England, in Wales and, last week, in Northern Cyprus.

Perhaps the most spectacular of those visited is St. Hilarion Castle, perched dramatically on a 700m high outcrop of the Besparmak Mountain range that runs for 160km along Cyprus’s northern coast.

St. Hilarion Castle, Northern Cyprus

From the castle ramparts visitors can enjoy fantastic views overlooking the surrounding area including the historic city of Kyrenia and, on a clear day like this one, it is possible to make out the Turkish coastline some 100km away.

The ruins span multiple levels and quite a hike is involved to reach the highest watch tower at 732m above sea level.

St. Hilarion Castle, Northern Cyprus St. Hilarion Castle, Northern Cyprus

The castle is said to be named after a 10th Century hermit monk who built a rudimentary shelter on the mountain, living off figs, bread, salad and olive oil (still staples of the Turkish Cypriot diet) while performing the odd miracle, which no doubt led to his sainthood.

St. Hilarion Castle, Northern Cyprus

By the 11th Century, the Byzantines had begun construction of fortifications at St. Hilarion intended to protect the island against attacks from the Arabs.

The castle gets a mention in accounts of Richard the Lionheart’s campaign in Cyprus in 1191. Some say he spent his honeymoon at St. Hilarion, following his marriage to Berengaria of Navarre which took place at the Chapel of St. George in Limassol on 12 May 1192. Berengaria, who was crowned Queen of England on the same day, is known as the only English Queen never to have stepped foot in the country while Queen. Richard took his new bride off to the Crusades with him (which seems a mean way to treat her). She returned to Spain after a few months and never saw him again. Their marriage was childless.

St. Hilarion Castle, Northern Cyprus

Much of what remains of the castle today was built by the Lusignans during the 1200’s. If, like me, you are not too familiar with the Lusignans, they were a noble family originating from an area near Lusignan in western France who, through their participation in the crusades, ended up as Kings of Cyprus and Jerusalem, among other places.

St. Hilarion Castle, Northern Cyprus

A poster in the information gallery claims that St. Hilarion Castle was the inspiration for the castle design in Walt Disney’s 1937 animation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. That may or may not be true but St. Hilarion certainly has a fantasy world feel to it and is one of the top tourist attractions in Northern Cyprus.

Walt Disney's castle in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs