Kranky in Kyrenia – Including – A 2nd Round with Soldiers


Harrumph. I’d had just about enough of sitting upright all day with an increasingly resistant-to-medicine pain in my side despite the resplendent views on our way down the north slopes of Kantara castle. You can read about that lovely locale in my last post.

Karagöz egged me on as I engaged in a bit of lackluster behavior as it relates to being a back seat driver – complicated of course by my role as navigatrix. Finally, the little chorus of dancing lady puppets pulled the lever on my seat, reclined my chair & placed a cold compress over my eyes, leaving the navigation – not to mention the driving – to M.

As we left the cool breezes of the Kantara mountaintop ( &the scents of cedar, juniper and pine) for the smog of the city limits, M. Indicated that he was ready for my emotional return. This was the case as all of a sudden, we found ourselves driving right into a military compound that was in the middle of the city.

For those of you who read about our scary encounter with a Turkish military post in the late-night a few weeks ago, we did not want to repeat this experience at all. It was, however, too late, we were at the guard post and guards were using under – the – car mirrors to check for bombs. I saw sweat coming down my husband’s neck. The puppets all crowded under the seats. Kenne, The puppet known as the queen of manners and maintenance of ladylike behavior, however, hopped up on my right shoulder and swacked a smile on my face in the daintiest way possible. I was, of course on the side of the window that the soldiers would see first.

And then a miracle happened. The two young guards saluted M. who saluted back as they had referred to him as an officer – which he was when he was in the Turkish military. They presumed we were in Cyprus on vacation. After asking directions through the compound, they let us go – with soldiers saluting us all the way. We could not wait to get the hell out of there in case our subterfuge was discovered.

Bucking up like a buttercup (as my sister and mother say), I began to place our position on the map as it related to our goal location – the White Pearl Hotel in Kyrenia’s harbor district. We made it out of the military compound holiday villas and breathed a sigh of relief. And there in front of us was the white pearl.

Recommended by the Lonely Planet as a mid-range option with a fabulous roof deck lokanta and bar – we decided to try our luck on finding a room as it was off season. We found their last room – just off the reception area and smelling like anti-mold products but a bed for the night. Perhaps the other rooms are better but I’d check it out before booking. Also, their breakfast is the McDonald’s, nasty version of kahvaltı.

After wandering around the town a bit, enjoying all of the lovely old doors (see below), abandoned Greek houses and an ancient mosque, we headed home for a pre-dinner nap. As my pain and fatigue set in – M. went out on his own. Returning with a delicious salad covered in shredded grilled haloumi cheese & a sucuk tost,, he regaled me with tales from the balık lokanta (Fish restaurant) full of wealthy wealthy Turkish women imploring their husbands on the telephone to lose no more than 10,000 lira that night. Allah-hallah!

As the women picked at salads and their cell phones, their children, none more than five years old, all played soundlessly with their iPhones or iPads. There was no giggling, no child’s play, no poking one another, no playing with food. In fact sometimes the mothers got off their cell phones long enough to shovel a bite of this or that in their child’s mouth. We saw so many wealthy Turks in town to gamble – not to mention people from the Arabian Peninsula. We found this depressing.

Cyprus is full of casinos – as well as out-of-the-way girly clubs literally in the middle of nowhere all over the place. I could clearly smell human trafficking in those spots and my heart ached. It’s a depressing reality about how Turkish and Northern Cypriots and the Northern Cypriot economy is pushed into a corner with respect to making money…. Even Celebi the modern puppet shook his head at these realities.

Remembering all this, I found myself Losing my taste for the delicious repast brought to me by my kind husband, so I konked out feeling sad about the state of the world. And that was Kyrenia.

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Karagöz oyunları in Kantara Castle


Kantara Castle

Kantara Castle

As we drove west from the Karpaz Peninsula, we set our sights on visiting Kantara Castle. Of course, the Karagöz puppets (Karagöz oyunları) were over the moon about the idea of visiting a castle beginning with the letter K. They are sometimes a little simple & silly about those things.

As we meandered through the valleys and mountains dodging sheep and goatherds and not much else, most of the puppets at on the back seat window ledge watching it all fly by. Karagöz, on the other hand, daredevil that he is, strapped himself to the front bumper and screamed “Geronimo!” all the way up the mountains towards the castle.

I did not see much of the ride up to the castle because the roads were winding – full of switchbacks – that my anxiety set in tremendously. M. was much more along the lines of Karagöz, reveling in the crazy driving and wishing he was in his hunter green MG. Reminding me still, that it was my idea to sell that car as it broke down so much.

But, marital car debates aside, when I did take my hands off of my eyes the views were amazing. We only met one other car on the way down and were both able to screeched to a halt before some intricate maneuvering allowed us to pass one another.

As we reached the top of the mountain, we passed a series of lovely but clearly abandoned estates. We guessed that these estates were British, based on the modern design and opulence with which they were built. Given the high temperatures seen in Cyprus most of the year other than November December and January, when it is only in the 70s (F) we imagined that this would be the perfect summer spot. Gentle breezes and magnificent views abounded.

There is a small parking lot at the base of the castle with three or four Turkish – Cypriot gentlemen listening to old – fashioned Turkish music blasting from a car. They were extremely friendly and the rate for admission was low. Although there is not much by way of interpretation that we might see in other locations, a helpful hand out is available.

Oh – and the puppets? As soon we parked the car they flew up the mountain dashing around the rooms running up and down the stairs and oggling the views. As these puppets were born in the 13th century – visiting a castle built in the 10th century was pretty exciting for them. We didn’t break it to them that most of what we were seeing or renovations from the 15th century.

This castle is one of three across the mountain ridge that centers Northern Cyprus – these castles were built to be able to warn one another (via large bonfire) of attack across a large swath of territory. Think: Lord of the rings – style.

We’ll let the pictures do the talking – but highly recommend that you bring a picnic lunch and sit atop the castle enjoying the magnificent views of both the Mediterranean Sea and the Cypriot countryside below.

We are still waiting for Karagöz himself to come down from the mountain!

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Kantara Castle

Kantara Castle

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Oasis at Afilon: A Hotel Review by the Karagöz Puppets


After escaping both the end-of-the earth wonders and exorbitant food prices at Burhan’s Golden Beach, we made a b-line for the Oasis at Afilon, on the northern side of Dipkarpaz’s coast, facing Turkey, roughly 60 KM away. This special spot is a few KM out of Dipkarpaz itself – but retained the “at the end of the earth” feel we look for.

This tiny, eight-room hotel stands out from any we have ever seen as it is built within the ruins of Afilon. We chose one of the larger two rooms as they were high on the rocks above the tiny bay, as they had more windows and as they stood just next to the ruins.

I’ll leave the rest of the commentary to the puppets:

Mercan bey, the Arabian spice trader puppet: these people know how to cook – they have a deft hand with local spices and those from afar alike. I loved seeing the kitchen garden with blue rosemary blooms out back. It was great to see the same on the large, magnificent fish M. & M’Lady had for their evening Thanksgiving supper. Dotted as it was with Rosemary and Aleppo pepper – not to mention perfectly roasted potatoes, it’s too bad the candlelight was not conducive to a photo.

Zenne the nervous Nellie like a bowl of shaking quince jelly handmaiden puppet: if I had any complaint – and I really feel guilty even saying it because I liked this place so much – it was that they only had packaged Gül reçeli (rose jam) inşirahda of the Real Deal – but breakfast (kahvaltı) was otherwise so perfect! Roasted tomato and haloumi toasts (causing M’Lady to err against her gluten free diet), soft-boiled eggs, a variety of local olives & cheeses and a fantastic plate of orange, pear, apple & kiwi sections. Perfectly presented and of inscrutable quality!

Kenne, the puppet known as the Queen of manners, etiquette & ladylike behavior I must admit that the rooms and bathrooms were fully clean albeit simple. Although designed by men, who I would doubt to have much taste in decoration, these rooms were true to their 1950s roots in detail and spirit. The high ceilings, brass door handles and old fashioned shuttered windows were magnificent. I would only wish for a bathroom door made of something other than a plastic accordion, but this hardly matters for an old married couple even if you do want to keep some of the mystery of bodily functions private.

Celebi, the modernist puppet I was most impressed with Maşallah (yes, really his name) Erkan bey’s commitment to green practices within his establishment. It was a joy to learn of his commitment to solar power – indeed he went to move his large panel to follow the sun several times per day. What a shame that his grant from the EU to build a model solar field to provide electricity for the hotel (versus a generator only at night) was left in limbo as the layers of TRNC bureaucracy at the local and national levels stuck to one another in impenetrable red tape.

Esma, the hippie puppet is too busy meditating to the crash of waves in the center of the ruin next to our room – she had a hard time choosing which amazing mosaic tile floor to choose for her sitting session!

$50 per night with breakfast! don’t miss out on this amazing spot!
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