Sunday, March 25, 2012

Snow White's Castle, a/k/a St. Hilarion Castle

St. Hilarion Castle way up there
St. Hilarion Castle is named after a hermit who fled from Palestine in the seventh century.   But the castle is better known as being the inspiration to Walt Disney for the castle depicted in "Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs."  Situated on the top of a mountain overlooking the large coastal city of Girne, a/k/a Kyrenia, this ancient castle does indeed resemble the castle I remember seeing in Snow White so many years ago.  The towers used in many Disney animations are very similar to the towers of this castle.

St. Hilarion Castle from lower level Sec 1

Looking down at Girne one can easily spot Kyrenia Castle, which we visited last autumn when Glenn Martin visited us.  Kyrenia Castle is a very large castle; but when viewed from the top of St. Hilarion Castle, it looks very small.  

Only entrance--on 2nd level
St. Hilarion is one of the 4 crusader castles on the island of Cyprus which served as look-outs for marauding Arabs.  Previously we visited Kantara Castle, which is the lowest of the mountaintop castles and also is the farthest east on the island. 
Church in St. Hilarion Castle
Then we visited Kyrenia Castle down on the seaside.  And this week we toured St. Hilarion, the westernmost.  The highest (and centrally located) crusader castle is Buffavento, but we won't attempt to visit that one because it supposedly is in a state of total disintegration and the road leading up to it is quite bad.   Buffavento is situated at 930 meters above sea level and was used as a prison for 300 years.  Frankly, St. Hilarion is plenty high enough, thank you.

Find big Kyrenia Castle down by the sea?
St. Hilarion is situated at 732 meters above sea level.  The views are spectacular on clear days.  And we had chosen the perfect day for this trip. 
Steep steps way up
There was a haze in the distance and we could not see Turkey, but it was a sunny day on Cyprus and we could see the whole island and a good 20 miles out to sea.  And there was no wind for a change.  It would not be pleasant to be up that high on a typical windy day.  The road up to the castle goes right through the middle of the TRNC military training base. 
Rest break to breathe again

Still stepping up
Photography is prohibited while on this road.  And the road is closed during training exercises.   From the top of the castle we could see a large shooting range right next to a section of the road, hidden from street view only by large bushes.  Probably wise to close off the road when that shooting range is being used.

First level inside barbican of St. Hilarion Castle

2nd level St. Hilarion Castle
This is the main castle in Cyprus and the one with the most impressive architecture.  St. Hilarion is also known as Dieu D'Amour.  In ancient times this area was known as Didymos (pronounced DEE-dee-mas, meaning twins) because of the two peaks that were separated by a valley.  This name was mispronounced by the first Latin settlers and the name Dieu D'Amour became widely used to the amusement of the local citizens.  

3rd level St. Hilarion Castle up there
Arabs attacked Cyprus off and on between the 7th century and the 10th century.  The first observation tower of St. Hilarion was built at some point during those years.  Written accounts state that the castle was present when Richard the Lionheart took the island in 1191.   The castle was refurbished and developed during the Lusignan period.  The fact that this castle always stayed cool even in hot weather made it a point of attraction for the Lusignan nobles.  It was also a point of refuge for them.  St. Hilarion was emptied and left vacant in 1489 when the Venetians took the island.

The biggest tragedy of this castle was that of Prince John of Antioch, brother of Peter I, king of Cyprus in the early-to-mid 1300s.  Prince John and his family moved to the castle to be protected from the Genoese attacks.  His sister-in-law Queen Eleanor despised Prince John, believing him responsible for the assassination of her husband King Peter.  She convinced Prince John that his Bulgarian mercenary bodyguards were secretly plotting against him.  Prince John called his guards in one-by-one and dropped them off the highest point of the castle, at a spot now known as Prince John Tower.  Afterwards, Queen Eleanor invited Prince John to dinner at the palace in Nicosia.  His advisers pleaded with him not to attend because he had no bodyguards (having thrown them all off the castle).  He went anyway and was stabbed to death by servants under the orders of Queen Eleanor.  (Please note that this is Queen Eleanor of Aragon, not to be confused with Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine who lived 300 years earlier in a completely different part of Europe.)

St. Hilarion Castle is constructed of 3 main sections built in different levels.  The first and lowest section was built for soldiers and castle workers.  It contains cisterns, stables and  other utilitarian structures.  The barbican that protects the main entrance has been fortified with horseshoe shaped towers.  Beneath the entrance supposedly sits a plain semi-circular area where the kingdom weaponry was held.  We did not see this area.

The second level consists of a church, the royal apartments and hall, the kitchen, another cistern, a pantry , workshop, barracks, rudimentary Middle Age toilets, and rooms for the castellan (the guy who organized all the workers and soldiers and ran the castle).  The entrance could only be reached through a large closed door and a bridge that could be pulled up.  The 10th century Byzantine church dominates the eastern side of this level and has interesting architecture.

Castellon Room in St. Hilarion Castle
Several of the rooms have mannequins in period costumes depicting daily activities.  The views are gorgeous.  This middle level is spread over a large area of the mountaintop. 
2nd level kitchen, St. Hilarion Castle
As one exits from this level (facing the sea to northward) there are steep worn stone steps leading up to the third level.  There is a sheer drop of hundreds of feet, so these steps were not accessible by climbing up the mountain; one could only reach the royal apartments or the uppermost level of the castle via the main entrance on the southern side.  The tourist literature stated that there used to be some very steep steps leading directly up to the third level, but these are long since crumbled away. 
One of many towers St. Hilarion Castle
Now there are stone steps that switch back and forth leading to the uppermost level.  Thank goodness they have installed a sturdy metal handrail alongside most of these steps.   I thought these steps were plenty steep; I can only imagine what the castle caretakers considered steep steps.  I was really huffing and puffing on this climb up, even with frequent rest stops and using a walking stick.
Never found the royal apts.
At the top level there is an internal garden, another kitchen with an inside oven, more cisterns and a few other buildings.  On the western side are the Lusignan period royal rooms.  Bill opted to walk that direction but he never found any royal rooms.  Instead, he found a sign stating that the royal rooms were below on the second level.  (Remember, on the second level there was a sign stating that the royal rooms were on the third level.  Oh well; guess we weren't meant to see the royal quarters.)

Prince John Tower
Looking down from Prince John Tower

I opted to take the extremely steep steps to the left and out to the isolated Prince John Tower.  Entrance into the tower is impossible as there is no floor inside.  Wish they had put that on a sign at the bottom of the steps and saved me the effort of getting all the way up and out there.

Abandoned Greek tiny church

On the long drive back eastward to the marina we stopped at one of the abandoned little Greek churches.  Like all the others on this side of the island, it had been looted and vandalized.  

Inside abandoned Greek church
We have wondered why there are so many of these tiny churches scattered all over the island.  Apparently, many of these were built to keep the Arabs from taking the land.  

Rear of tiny church

Ruins of several nearby bldgs
Taking religious property was not allowed for religious reasons when the Arabs were invading the SE Med all those centuries ago.  So these churches were built all over the islands claiming the land to be religious property.  I don't know how true that story is.  I have my doubts.  But that is what we have been told.  There were remnants of several buildings around the abandoned church on the hillside overlooking the sea.

Bill says he is now 'castled out.'  When we toured SE Asia he got 'templed out.'  Another friend told me that by the time she left the Med she was 'ruined out.'  I am not sure how many more castles I will be able to drag Bill to see.  For that matter, I'm not sure how many more I am physically able to climb to see.  This one really wore me out and my legs hurt for days afterward.  There is one more that I would like to see about 50 miles from Alanya Turkey.  Maybe by the time we get over there Bill will have forgotten how tired he is of seeing old castles and I will have forgotten how sore my legs got and how my heart pounded climbing those steep steps.  Surely we can visit just one more.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mothering Sunday

Last week on the morning radio net for this marina a British woman named Jill announced a special celebration for Mothering Sunday, 18 March.  The local restaurant Deks, which is owned by 2 British couples, organized a tour bus to transport people in the marina to the main location of their restaurant down in the town of Bogaz for a special dinner in honor of Mothering Sunday.   

Okay.  What is Mothering Sunday?  Never heard of that one.  But Wikipedia knows all about it.

Mothering Sunday is a Christian religious holiday celebrated throughout Europe.  It is the fourth Sunday of Lent.  The fourth Sunday during Lent is also known as Laetare Sunday and is to honor the Virgin Mary and the "mother church."  Secularly it has become a common day to celebrate motherhood, like Mothers Day in the USA.   

During the sixteenth century people returned to their mother church for a service to be held on Laetare Sunday.  They returned to either a large local church or (more often) the nearest cathedral.  Anyone who did this was commonly said to have gone "a-mothering,"  although whether this term preceded the term Mothering Sunday is unclear.  

In later times, Mothering Sunday became a day when domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother church, usually with their own mothers and other family members.  It was often the only time that whole families could gather together, since on other days they were prevented by conflicting working hours.  More usually, since holidays had not yet been invented, this was the only day in the year that they were allowed off.

Children and young people who were 'in service" (servants in richer households) were given a day off on that date so they could visit their families.....or, originally, to return to their mother church.   The children would pick wild flowers along the way to place in the church or to give to their mothers as gifts.  Eventually the religious tradition evolved into the Mothering Sunday secular tradition of giving gifts to mothers.

Other names attributed to this festival include Refreshment Sunday, Pudding Pie Sunday, Mid-Lent Sunday, Simnel Sunday and Rose Sunday.   Simnel Sunday is named after the practice of baking Simnel cakes to celebrate the reuniting of families during the austerity of Lent.  There is traditionally a relaxation of Lenten vows on this particular Sunday in celebration of the fellowship of family and church.  (A Simnel cake is a light fruit cake with a marzipan filling and marzipan topping, which is toasted before being eaten.  On top of the cake are placed eleven small marzipan balls, said to represent the true disciples of Jesus.  Judas is omitted.  In some variations Christ is also represented by a marzipan ball placed in the center.) 

This Sunday was also once knows as "the Sunday of the Five Loaves" from the traditional gospel reading for the day.  At one time churches celebrated the story of the feeding of the five thousand.  Also, the epistle for the fourth Sunday in Lent gives a special place to the theme of maternal love.  Another tradition associated with Mothering Sunday is the practice of "clipping the church" whereby the congregation forms a ring around their church building, holding hands, and embrace the church.  Also, during the church services held that day, it is traditional for children to give a bunch of spring flowers to their mothers.

For some Church of England churches, Mothering Sunday is the only day during Lent when marriages can be celebrated.

Since neither Bill nor I are members of the Church of England and this day holds no special significance for us whatsoever, we opted not to attend the special dinner.  Almost everyone else in the marina chose to celebrate.  

And they all said they were celebrating Mothers Day.  No one said they were celebrating Mothering Day.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Apostolos Andreas Monastery

Chapel built over spring at Apostolos Andreas Monastery
The Monastery of Apostolos Andreas is situated overlooking the sea just south of Cape Zafer on the northeastern point of Cyprus.  The monastery is dedicated to Saint Andrew (Apostle Andreas) who supposedly was the first person to be called for induction to priesthood by Jesus Christ.  His title was O Protoklitos, meaning 'the one first called.'  

Upper level at Apostolos Andreas Monastery

This monastery ranks second only to the Monastery of St. Barnabas in popularity for religious pilgrims.  It is considered one of the pilgrimage centers of the Cypriot Orthodox Church and was once known as the 'Lourdes of Cyprus.'  

Monastery of Apostolos Andreas

But this monastery was never really a true monastery.  It was merely the parish church for the local inhabitants.  

The buildings that comprise the whole were mostly built in the 1900s.  Apostolos Andreas was and continues to be served not by an organized community of monks, but by a changing group of volunteer priests and laymen.  Today a priest in Dipkarpaz drives to Apostolos Andreas to conduct mass for its inhabitants.  This surprises me because I was not aware that any Orthodox priests remain in northern Cyprus.  All the Orthodox churches we have seen on the north side have been abandoned, shuttered and/or vandalized.  The monastery is looked after by a small community of Greeks who did not flee when the Turks took control of this side of the island after the war of 1974.

Spring at bottom; Apostolos Andreas Monastery

 On the site where tradition says St. Andrew came ashore and found water there is a small chapel built over the gushing spring.  Like at St. Barnabas, both Greek and Turkish Cypriots come to take the waters.  The alleged curative powers of these waters is such that bottles are taken to sick relatives across the globe in hopes that it will effect a cure.
Waters from spring

One of many buildings at monastery
The monastery complex is much larger than I had imagined.  There are numerous large barracks-type buildings up the hillside from the monastery building itself, which is built somewhat over the chapel over the spring.  These buildings were used to house the visitors that once came to make the annual pilgrimage.

The most popular times of pilgrimage were the period covering St. Andrew’s feast days of 15 August and 30 November. Since the opening of the borders, Greek Cypriots are able once again to freely visit one of their favorite pilgrimage sites.  The weekends are particularly busy. 
Note man bent so far over, Apostolos Andreas Monastery
We visited on a Friday.  While we were there a large tour bus arrived.  But all appeared and sounded to be elderly British tourists.  Did not see one single person who looked Greek.

In Byzantine times (284-642 A.D.) there was a fortified abbey on this site.  It has long since completely disappeared.  It is believed by some that this site, rather than Kantara Castle, is where the island of Cyprus was surrendered to Richard the Lionheart.

Wander anywhere you like
Repairs underway
We walked all over the monastery and the grounds and no one approached us to say any area was off-limits or to collect any type fees.  In several places the old buildings were being held together by metal scaffolding while new mortar dried.  They should collect a small 'donation' from each visitor to help toward this cause.

Round protrusion is an oven
If one continues past Apostolos Andreas the paved (if you can call it paved these days) road ends and a dirt road continues onward.  At the very eastern tip of the island there is a very large cave riddled rock.  Nearby are the ruins of the Neolithic village of Kastros, which later was the site of yet another ancient temple to Aphrodite, situated at the very tip of the island.

Apostolos Andreas Monastery

The small islands off the eastern tip of Cyprus are an important breeding site for rare birds such as the Shag and the Audouins Gull.  A Shag is a form of cormorant.  The Audouins Gull is a large gull which is found only in the Mediterranean and the western coast of Sahara Africa.  In the late 1960s this was one of the world's rarest gulls, with a population of only 1,000 pairs.   It has established new colonies, but remains rare with a population of about 10,000 pairs.  Unlike many large gulls, Audouins gulls rarely scavenge.  It is a specialist fish eater and strictly coastal and pelagic.  This bird feeds slowly as night, well out to sea; and can sometimes be seen slowly patrolling close toward beaches..

The Karpaz area of Cyprus also remains home for many wild donkeys.  The donkeys were used by farmers until the 1970s, when tractors and trucks fell more into favor.  Donkeys were abandoned by their owners and were left to fend for themselves.  Eventually, stray donkeys were rounded up and taken to the Karpaz, which is considered a wildlife refuge. 

Recognize this?

 Any fellow sailors recognize this?

 With the exception of New Zealand, almost all our sailing experience has been in the tropics.  Bill and I do not like cold weather.  The one time we visited a ski lodge neither of us ventured outside.  

So this is our first experience of winter weather while living aboard a sailboat.  Granted, we are docked in a marina with shore power and have 3 electric heating units to keep us warm.  But yet we still complain about the cold (especially Bill). 

I tolerate the cold better than Bill, but there is one thing about this winter weather that is driving me batty.......condensation on the aluminum frames of our hatches and side ports.

Every morning we wake to droplets of water dripping down off the angled hatch on the rear wall of our aft cabin.  I dry off the aluminum frame before we go to bed each night.  And in the morning it is dripping again.  I can find no solution for this, so if anyone has any ideas please pass them on to us.  One friend suggested insulated hatch covers on the outside to help with the temperature variance between interior and exterior.  But with the high winds common to this area during the winter, I am afraid that exterior hatch covers would be blown away regardless of how securely they are tied.


Okay, so all you northern climate sailors --- how do you keep condensation from forming on the interior of your hatches and side ports?

To the end

Eastern tip of Cyprus

On one beautiful sunny day we decided on the spur of the moment to drive to the end of the Karpaz peninsula. It was too pretty of a day to stay in the marina.
The drive to the eastern end of the island is about 40 kilometers from the marina. Roads are well-maintained for less than half that distance, with the second half being in pretty poor but not impassable condition. And the final 5 km or so is a rutted plain dirt road.

At the very tip of the island there are 2 tall flagpoles flying the flags for Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.  It is very scenic.

why walk when you can sleep
We stopped several times to leisurely walk around and admire the views.  While one of us walked around the hilly shoreline, the other napped in the car.

New vacation cottages

Caretaker's home?
One point had several small newly built vacation cottages on the hillside overlooking the sea.  And several small stone structures which appeared to be used as restaurants during summer tourist season.  One small building high on the very tip of that point looked like it might be where the manager resides, unoccupied during the winter.  

The sailing guide warns not to be tempted to anchor overnight anywhere around this eastern point of the island.  At times conditions are perfectly calm, as shown in these photos.  But conditions can change very quickly and become rough and dangerous when winds blow from the north, south or east.  In truth, there are no safe natural harbors anywhere on the coast of Cyprus.  And marinas need to be sturdily built because seas rapidly become steep and high when winds blow from any direction.

Tiny fishing boat
Very clear water
The small bay on the western side of the point with the vacation cottages was absolutely gorgeous.  A tiny fishing boat was nestled by the rocks in the crystalline water.  It continues to amaze me how totally clear the water is here.

Note blue hull shipwreck on right
And on the opposite side of that small bay lies the ruined hull of a sailboat that sunk last October or November.  That is what we wanted to see on this little road trip.  I don't know how we missed hearing about this last autumn when it happened, but we learned recently about this yacht that sank.  Look very closely in the photo on the left for the blue hull of a shipwrecked sailboat.

Shipwrecked Dutch yacht
A Dutch single-hand sailor left Karpaz Gate Marina last autumn en route to Lebanon.  He was supposed to sail west to Girne (Kyrenia) to clear out of TRNC.  At that time Karpaz Gate Marina was not yet approved as a clearance port and all boats were required to clear in and out at Girne.  It seems that the Dutch guy decided that he just did not want to sail 46 miles west to Girne and then turn around and backtrack east to sail to Lebanon.  He planned to visit Lebanon and then return to Cyprus; so why not just wait and clear out of Cyprus AFTER his trip to Lebanon.  (Well, the answer to that silly idea is that it is illegal.)  He sailed to Lebanon and was returning to the marina when he decided to anchor on the eastern tip of Cyprus and rest for the night.  Another bad decision.  Weather picked up during the night.  He could not raise the anchor and handle the boat by himself.  The yacht was sinking; he managed to swim ashore.  The boat later washed up onto the rocks.  The immigration authorities were not happy that he had left the country without clearing out.  Not only did he lose his boat but he was subjected to heavy fines for breaking the immigration laws.

Monastery of Apostolos Andreas in distance

Another purpose of this little road trip was to finally find the monastery of Apostolos Andreas.  We had driven this way months ago and never found it.  Well, that was simple.  Just drive long enough and you cannot miss it.  This monastery will be a separate posting after I research a bit and learn more about what we saw.