Sunday, October 30, 2011

Kantara Castle

Kantara Castle
Kantara Castle is the closest castle to our marina.  Kantara is situated on a mountain overlooking the Karpaz peninsula of northeastern Cyprus.  It is the easternmost castle on the Kyrenia mountain range and is situated at 630 meters above sea level. The high elevation on the peninsula affords views north to Turkey, south towards Israel and Lebanon, and eastward towards Syria.  Turkey is only 44 miles north and can be seen on a clear day.  The other countries range from 75 miles to 150 miles distant and a bit too far for the human eye.  This was the perfect vantage point to be on the lookout for raiding Arabs arriving by sea in centuries past.

Kantara Castle
No one seems to know the original date of construction for the Kantara Castle.  It is believed to have been built by the Byzantines during the 10th century to ward off raiding Arabs.  The first historical mention of this castle is when Richard the Lionheart captured Cyprus in 1191 A.D. during the Crusades.  Makes one wonder if dear brave Richard realized that the inhabitants were Christian or if he just assumed that they must be infidels.  At the time Richard captured Cyprus, the ruler was Isaac Commenus (also spelled Kommenus) and was Byzantine, not Islamic.  Makes one wonder just how many non-Muslim people were killed during the Crusades.  When Richard attacked Cyprus, Commenus took refuge in Kantara Castle.

Kantara Castle
Kantara (630 meters) is the lowest of the 3 great crusader castles located in the Kyrenia mountain range of Cyprus.  Located nearer the center of the mountain range is the Buffavento Castle, which is also the highest (950 meters).  Nearer the western end of the mountain range is the St. Hillarion Castle (732 meters), after which Walt Disney is said to have modeled the castle depicted in the movie Snow White.  I hope to visit St. Hillarion during our stay on Cyprus, although it takes over an hour to climb to the castle from the parking lot and I probably can't handle that activity at that height.  It was hard enough breathing walking the steps at Kantara Castle.

Kantara Castle from parking lot
Kantara was bombarded by royalists with catapults in 1228 A.D. and the walls were severely damaged.  During the Genoese attacks at Famagusta on the southern coast of the peninsula, people escaped the fighting by sheltering in Kantara Castle.  One of these was the Prince of Antioch who escaped Famagusta with the help of his trusted cook.   Later, during more peaceful times, the Lusignan royalty would come to Kantara and use tame leopards to hunt wild mountain goats. 

Kantara Castle
Like the other castles on Cyprus, the Venetians took over when they arrived.  But the Venetians abandoned Kantara in 1525 because the castle was so remote.  The ruins seen today date from the 13th century.   It is very picturesque and the ruins include towers, walls and a barbican, or approach fortification.

Half way up looking to south

The word kantara in Arabic means 'arch.'  Kantara Castle is built on an arch and is accessible from only one side.  We drove to the castle from the south side of the peninsula and the road was horrible -- very narrow and far-too-many patches in the asphalt.  Very bumpy and long ride up there, with spectacular views and sheer drop-offs!.  On the way down we opted to take a different route.  About 1/4 way down there was an intersection and we turned north rather than take re-trace our route to the south.  Much, much better!  The road was all new asphalt; even had shoulders and guard rails!  Definitely the better route to visit this castle.

Looking to north from Kantara Castle
After visiting Kantara at 630 meters, I have no desire to visit Buffavento Castle at 930 meters.  The guide books state that the roads up to that castle are in deplorable condition.  No thanks!

But Kantara Castle gets a thumbs up.

Here are a few more photos added later.  Taken by Glenn and later emailed to us.

Judy at Kantara Castle looking southward

Bill near top at Kantara Castle

Glenn at Kantara Castle

Kantara Castle

Judy & Bill at Kantara Castle

Visit with a friend

Glenn beside the travel lift tires.  Big, aren't they?
Our friend, Glen Martin, arrived for a short visit.  It was good to see him again; last time was when he visited us in St. Martin in the Caribbean during early 2007.  And he arrived bearing gifts!  A bottle of champagne! And a bag of Halloween/autumn themed goodies including candy corn, a tiny decorative pumpkin, pumpkin napkins and a tea towel with a pattern of autumn leaves and pumpkins, plus a scary movie DVD.  What a nice surprise -- especially the champagne.  That will be a real treat!  Glenn stayed with us for almost a week, stopping in Istanbul for a couple of days en route home.  Glenn works for an airline and is fortunate to get 'free' or almost free air travel, so he has traveled all over the place; but this was his first visit to Turkey and Cyprus, and his fist visit to Muslim countries.  I think this trip was the first time he has seen mosques with minarets.  Lucky for him, there is no mosque close to the marina so he missed the real Muslim experience of listening to the muezzin for the call to prayer several times daily.

Abandoned church near Dek's
On his first full day with us we drove down to Famagusta to see the old walled city.  But first we drove to the local restaurant to find out which team had won the latest match for the Rugby World Cup.  Yeah!  All Blacks!  


In front of this seaside restaurant there is an abandoned Greek Orthodox church.  All churches are abandoned in Northern Cyprus since the 1974 war as this is now an Islamic country.  

We walked down the rocky shore next to the restaurant to a landing to look at the pretty view of the sea and discovered another old stone building down there.  There were dozens of white cloths tied on the stones and door.  What is the world was that all about?  

Full of Christian painting & white cloths

The door was ajar and we entered to  investigate, hoping to solve the white rag mystery.  Inside were many Christian religious paintings scattered around -- and many more of the white cloths and white strips of paper stuffed into crevices along the walls.  There were some stone steps in a back corner of the building that descended into darkness.  We did not have a flashlight and thought it unwise to venture farther down.  

notice white strips of cloth in upper right area
We never did find out why all the white cloths and strips of white paper signify.  It was obvious that some of these had been placed on the walls relatively recently.  Why?  Never did find out.
note white strips of cloth on right around painting

(Added later:  be sure and read the comment below.  Our elder son toured Italy during high school with a history teacher.  The student group had a private tour of parts of the Vatican.  These white cloths are explained in our son's comment to this posting.  His explanation makes sense because the dark steps/passageway leading down was in the direction to be beneath the nearby church.  We also spoke with a local resident from the UK.  He said the small building was a church.  The larger nearby church is about 300 years old and the smaller church is more than twice as old.  He said there is a fresh water pool below sea level down that darn passageway.  The local Christians (practicing faith in secret) consider this water sacred and use it to dampen the white cloths they leave tucked into the crevices, exactly as our son explains in his comment shown below.)

Tiniest Cooper -- an older mode
When we stopped for gas on the drive to Famagusta we saw the tiniest Mini-Cooper ever!  This was apparently much older than today's Mini-Cooper autos.  Maybe it was the first Cooper.  The Mini-Cooper today looks like its big brother.

St. Nickolas, a/k/a Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque
In Famagusta we strolled around inside the old walled city, easily finding our way again to the old Roman Catholic cathedral of St. Nickolas.  This cathedral was the largest medieval building in Famagusta.  Construction commenced in 1300 A.D.  Like most of the great Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages, it took 100 years to construct and was completed about 1400 A.D.  Today the building serves as the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque.  Visitors were entering the mosque but I did not have a head covering so we did not enter.  Notice the minaret added to the cathedral on the upper left of the facade.  Also, all crosses had been modified to not look like crosses anymore, but we could still see where these had once been crosses in the stonework.  Sometimes it is difficult to modify stones on the exterior walls of a building.  In front of the mosque on the left side was an enormous tree.  A sign nailed to the trunk indicated that this is a ficus sycamorus dating back to 1299 A.D.  I had no idea these trees could live that long.

St. Georges of the Greeks
We walked a few blocks to show Glenn the building we noticed earlier that looked like it had been hit with artillery shells.  This time we got close enough to read the sign.  This building had been a cathedral called St. Georges of the Greeks, which was the Orthodox cathedral dedicated to St. Epiphanos.  The saint's remains were buried here before later being moved to Constantinople (Istanbul).  The cathedral was built in the 1360s and was originally a  Byzantine church. 
bullet holes on outside wall
Gothic elements were added to the church's northern side to create a hybrid form of architecture that makes St. Georges of the Greeks somewhat rare among Mediterranean churches.  The central nave has chapels on both sides, leading to a cross nave, all with rounded apses.

Bullet holes inside wall chest to head height
In one of the alcoves we noticed hundreds of what appeared to be bullet holes from waist height to slightly above head height.  For all the world it looked like people had been stood against the wall and shot.  I cannot imagine any other reason for these bullet holes to be spread across the stone walls in this pattern.

Fresco of life of Christ

The upper levels of two of the alcoves were covered in painted frescoes depicting the life of Christ.  On the upper level of one alcove on the opposite side of the church was a painting of crucified Christ.  These paintings were faint and faded, but we were surprised they were visible at all.  These are on walls that have been exposed to the elements since 1571 when the roof was blown off.  We were amazed that these were visible at all after 440 years without even a roof to protect them.  Also, up in what remained of the ceilings of the alcoves there were large terracotta pottery jars embedded in with the stones.  There is a theory that the pottery fragments were added for acoustical purposes.

Faint image of Christ on cross
There also is a theory which suggests that the alcoves in the walls provided for the tombs of the church's founders actually weakened its structure. So, the very people who helped build St Georges of the Greeks in Famagusta may have contributed to its downfall --- literally.

In the nave are the foundations of some Roman columns where the method of binding stones with iron ties is visible.  The use of iron ties for constructing masonry without cement was often used by the Romans in harbors and jetties.
What we thought were holes from artillery shells were actually holes from cannon balls from the Turkish bombardment in 1571.  The vaulted roof was also blown off during that bombardment.  Still visible in the interior are the remains of 8 massive columns or piers that once supported the high vaulted ceiling that was blown away by the Turks.  Cannon balls still litter the area, 4 1/2 centuries later.  Earthquakes during the 18th century also took their toll on this building.

We circled back towards St. Nickolas and enjoyed lunch at a sidewalk cafe beneath the trees in the lovely surroundings.  We had planned to also visit Kantara Castle on our way back to the marina, but it was late in the day and we were all tired already.  So that was saved for another day.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Countryside excursions

Life is still uneventful for us.  And that is still a good thing.  During the past few weeks we have made several excursions around the countryside and the routine shopping trips.  Neither Bill nor I can get enthused about doing any maintenance projects on the boat just yet.  Some days the weather is hot and we are unmotivated in the heat.  Some days the weather is gorgeous and we are unmotivated because we don't want to work on such beautiful days.

Any excuse to procrastinate work neither of us really wants to do.  Bill hates procrastination.  I revel in it.

My pet project is to remove all the carpets and clean them up in the cockpit using lots of plain water and the shop vac.  I last did this in Thailand and it worked extremely well.  I had been putting this off until the weather was a bit cooler.  Now the weather is perfect for this job, but another electrical problem has developed at the marina and shore power is turned off during daytime hours until that problem is repaired.

Rock damaged underground electrical cable
It seems that some electrical lines were run through the ground too close to the surface -- with concrete beneath the lines.  Heavy cranes were driven over these lines when the breakwater wall was built, forcing rocks down on top of the electrical lines and squashing them against the concrete below.  The rocks forced holes through the insulation on the electrical lines underground.  This problem did not become apparent until high winds forced waves to break over the wall and wet the ground where these damaged electrical lines ran.  The moisture in the ground caused the electricity to cut in and out.  Took awhile to find the problem, but now the repair work is almost complete.  We had no shore power for a few days.  Now the electricity is turned on at night from 18:00 to 08:00.  Should be restored full-time any day now.

Installing conduit channels
Conduit channels

Work is progressing on one of the floating pontoons.  The electrician claimed power would be turned on for that pontoon 2 weeks ago.

Installing conduit channels

Last Thursday he said power would be turned on for that pontoon on Monday (tomorrow).  Our optimistic guess is at least one more week -- maybe another 10 days.  The conduit channels are installed and about half the wires are re-run within the channels.  Work does not progress quickly in this part of the world.

Electrical repair

We thought workers in Malaysia were slow.  Work progresses in Cyprus just as slowly.  I am happy out here on the wall, so the date of restoration of shore power isn't a big issue with us.  A friend is coming to visit later this week and it will be easier to go out for a couple of day sails from this wall than it would be from the pontoon dock.  (Although at this moment the weather forecast is not looking great for those anticipated day sails.)

Fender board 
BTW, while docked to the breakwater wall we are using a fender board.  This is a board that hangs on the outside of the fenders, against the concrete dock wall.  The board protects the fenders from chafing against the concrete wall.  Bill ran the board support lines through a couple of pieces of PVC to help hold the board down during tidal range changes.  He placed an extra fender horizontally across the tops of the 3 vertical fenders to help keep those fenders from possibly riding up inside the board.  This arrangement works very well and protects the fenders.  Our fender board is very nicely finished and has a stainless steel strip that  faces away from our boat.  But any 2x8 or 2x10 could work just as well.  An idea that people just starting to cruise might want to consider adding on their boats.  Sooner or later you will end up having to dock side-to against a rough wall.

The latest cruiser rumor is that high winds toppled 20 yachts in the boatyard at Yat Marine in Marmaris this week.  Yat Marine is where we hauled out last May. This is not something that would likely be reported in the mainstream news media, so as yet I have not been able to confirm if this rumor is true.  There was a bad early winter storm a few days ago that hit that area of Turkey hard.  And if it did hit Marmaris, it would not surprise me if boats would fall as most of the boats are braced up with cut tree trunks rather than with proper hardstands.  But as yet all info we have received is second-hand or third-hand.  Until someone tells us he personally witnessed the toppled boats, I withhold judgment as to the truth of this rumor.

Turkish style outdoor wood-burning oven
One day while out driving around we stopped for several photos.  These outdoor wood-burning ovens look quaint to me.   These are common out in the rural areas of Turkey and here in Cyprus.  These ovens are usually rounded and are placed out behind homes.  I know that mountain bread is cooked on or in ovens such as these.  There are also a number of Turkish dishes that are baked in ovens such as these.

Wild olive tree

The rest of the photos are olive trees.  Olive trees dot the countryside -- especially out in the Karpaz area of Northern Cyprus.  Some resident British folks told us that the tops of these trees are cut back so that the trees remain short.  I'm not so sure if that is true.

Bill picking olives

Pruned to remain low?  Wild on the hillside

These trees are all over the mountainsides and hillsides.  These are not planted in groves.  Yet every one of them has a very thick trunk and is low-growing.  Some do appear to have had the main trunk pruned back, but there are far too many of these olive trees growing wild out on the hillsides that look just the same.  Certainly there are not people going out and pruning back every wild olive tree on this island.

Gnarled olive tree.  How old is this!

I do love the gnarled thick trunks on these trees.

Olives--very fresh!

Still wonder................what the heck does one do with fresh olives?