The Ferrero Rocher and the Ruins
Our twin centred holiday continued in Famagusta (Gazimagusa) positioned on the south eastern coast.
Whilst here we were based at Arkin Palm Beach Hotel, situated about 30 mins walk or a short taxi ride from the town centre and set on a lovely private golden beach. Although a large and spacious hotel, it has a distinctly boutique feel to it. We stayed in a king sized sea view room, which was well equipped, but its wow factor was the large tiled balcony featuring a table and two chairs plus an almost double sized day bed.
To read a more detailed description of this hotel click here.
You could, of course, just grab a lounger and read your book while the waves gently washed to shore. Very relaxing but we didn’t want to miss some of the rich historical and cultural heritage close to hand. To get our first helping of history we had to stroll no further than the end of the beach and view the ghost town that is Varosia (Maras). Once the venue for the rich and famous it was abandoned during the 1974 conflict and has stood empty ever since. Its dark eyed empty buildings are a stark contrast to the bright paint and glass of our own hotel.
To give you a mental image of Famagusta, think Havana dropped into the middle of York! York because it is a walled city that’s largely intact and Havana because newly built or restored buildings mingle with ruins (and I never spotted a McDonalds). The Venetian city walls at their peak were 3Km in length and in some places 18m high and 9m thick. We started our trip around the walls at the Rivettina Bastion or Land Gate and dropped into the North Cyprus Tourist Office to pick up some useful complimentary literature and a city map. At this point we climbed to the top of the wall and here and at various points you gain impressive views of Famagusta but unless you’re a mountain goat, much of it needs to be explored from the ground, often more interesting anyway. Othello’s Castle on the North East side is well worth lingering over, recently restored with the help of a little EU cash, it is said to get its name from Shakespeare’s play and used since the days of British Administration. Don’t miss the lion plaque or statue along this section.
In the centre of the city the Ottoman’s cannonballs laid waste to a multitude of churches and other buildings, so we let our imaginations run riot on what it must have looked like in its heyday. We did find a pile of cannonballs, much to Linda’s disappointment, as they looked like a huge pile of Ferrero Rocher from a distance. We were impressed by the stature of St Nicholas Cathedral, resembling the one we saw in Reims. You can see how the Ottomans removed the twin towers and added a minaret, converting it into a mosque now known as Lala Mustafa Pasha.
There are many cafes and restaurants in this area to relax and refresh and indulge in a little people watching. We also walked a little further up the road on the way out of Lands Gate to admire the amazing sculpture that sits in the middle of the roundabout opposite the Ottoman tombs.
A hard and interesting day’s historical encounter deserves a hearty meal and that’s exactly what we got at our hotel. A feast of choices awaited us and indecisiveness as to which dish to choose from the buffet resulted in me having a delicious bit of many things. The chocolate fountain accompanying the many deserts on offer went some way to negating Linda’s earlier Ferrero Rocher disappointment.
A 15 minute taxi ride brought us to Ancient Salamis where the history dates back to 11 century BC and ranks as one of the island’s main archaeological sites. We booked a return trip as there isn’t a taxi stand on site and a couple of hours saw us cover most of the 7Km of paths available to access the ruins. Most of the more recognisable features, such as the gymnasium, baths and theatre (the most impressive) are relatively close to the car park and can be covered in about an hour if the walk out to the remoter (and less complete) ruins doesn’t suit. The walk out does reveal some interesting wildlife though, such as the 5p sized white snails that climb up and smother so much of the grasses and smaller trees. A climb to the top of the theatre also gives impressive views of the whole site and out to sea.
We left North Cyprus wondering why it’s taken us so long to discover its riches and when we can return to see the Karpas Peninsula and its wild donkeys, or North Nicosia and more.
Perhaps we’ll come in the spring for the riot of orchids and other wild flowers, or perhaps September to watch Turtle hatchlings released or perhaps both.