Saturday, August 12, 2006

Holiday Blog Day 5

Back to Kyrenia today, with the objective being the squat and imposing Kyrenia Castle that commands the harbour.

Kyrenia Castle

There have fortifications on the site since Roman times, and the main walls were built over 800 years ago. In many ways the castle typifies the history of Cyprus having been captured by just about everybody at some point. Richard the Lionheart used it as a staging post for the crusades before selling it to the French. The French ruled for several hundred years before giving way to the Genoese and Venetians, and then the Ottoman Turks who ruled for 400 years before the British arrived. The British managed to cause all sorts of trouble between the different communities in various ways, including offering the island to the Greeks as a bribe to join World War I on the side of the allies. The tensions continued up until the 60s and 70s until the Greek EOKA-B terrorist/freedom fighters (delete where applicable) tried to stage a coup backed by a far right Greek military junta that promptly collapsed and gave the Turks the perfect excuse to invade and partition the northern third of the island. The best future for the island in the long run seems to me to be as a unified independent republic, but that rather depends on the Greeks giving up their longings for union with Greece and the Turks making reparations to the refugees displaced by the invasion and the families of those who were killed.

We spent an hour or more exploring the various towers, tombs, dungeons, ramparts and walkways before enjoying a much needed cold drink and an ice cream in an ancient courtyard shaded by trees. The final exhibit to see was the remains of a large ship that sunk in Kyrenia harbour 2300 years ago with a full cargo of amphora filled with wine, oil and grain. It is the oldest intact ship in existence and to see it is a humbling experience. The people of Cyprus had a sophisticated trading civilisation while we were scratching around in mud huts and thinking of dragging a few rocks to Salisbury plain.


We made our way back up through the streets looking in shops that seemed to have an endless number of back rooms that the shopkeeper would entice you through to look at his wares, a shop with more wooden boxes than I have ever seen in one place, each with their secret method of unlocking, and the 'Sweety Shop' where Jamie came away with a surprisingly heavy box of Turkish Delight. Fortunately, the owner of that shop looked more like Comic Book guy from the Simpsons than the White Witch of Narnia, so I think he should be OK.

Finally, it was back to the villa for a refreshing swim, a spicy tomato concoction from Jan to eat, a cold beer or two and 'I, Robot' on the dvd - enjoyable, but it has about as much in common with the original robot stories by Isaac Asimov as My Little Pony has with the Grand National.

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