We open the book of North Cypriot history at Guzelyurt in the west, go northeast to the Girne region, and then south to the Salamis area.
North Cyprus Sites near Guzelyurt
St. Mamas is the patron saint of tax evaders. A 12th century hermit, he refused to pay taxes. As soldiers took him to the authorities, the party saw a lion attack a lamb. St. Mamas saved the lamb and rode into town on the lion. His taxes were waived. The monastery named for him was built in the 18th century, partly on Byzantine ruins, and using the doors and columns of an earlier Gothic church. When you visit, notice the elaborately carved iconostasis.
The Archeology and Nature Museum at Guzelyurt has artifacts from the Neolithic Age through the Ottoman era of North Cyprus. Don't miss the 2nd century A.D. statue of Artemis that was found near Salamis.
The foundations of Soli date to about 1100 B.C. Soli had a good water supply and rich soil. It was close to copper mines and timber for smelting, and it had a protected harbor, ensuring that the city prospered through Roman times. You will see the Roman-era theater, built around 300 A.D. The low limestone wall separated the orchestra from the 4000 spectators. A paved, column-lined Hellenistic street leads to the agora. West of the theater were temples of Isis and Aphrodite, and above the theater stood a royal palace. The Basilica at Soli was built between 350 and 400 A.D. Its mosaics are one of the glories of North Cyprus.
Vouni is a palace built by the pro-Persian king of Marion to keep watch on pro-Greek Soli. Within its 137 rooms were garrison quarters, apartments for the ruler, storerooms, and baths. The entrance was on the southwest. An inner hall had connected rooms on either side. Seven wide steps led to a courtyard. On the north side was one of the earliest hot baths -- you can see the cisterns for water storage that were cut into the mountain. South of the palace, you'll find a temple of Athena built about 425 B.C.
Between Guzelyurt and Kyrenia is the Late Bronze Age sanctuary at Pigadhes. The double-horned altar is 12 feet high. A low wall surrounded the altar precinct.
North Cyprus Sites near Girne
Bellapais Abbey was founded about 1200 by monks who fled Jerusalem when Saladin captured it. The dining hall and cloisters you see were built between 1324 and 1359 and may be the best Gothic architecture in the Near East.
Girne (Kyrenia) was founded in the 10th Century B.C. by Phoenicians, but was not very important until first Romans, then Byzantines fortified it. You can visit the Byzantine castle with its additions by Lusignans and Venetians. In the castle museum, you can step back to the days of Alexander the Great at the Shipwreck Museum. The ship carried wine, almonds and olives.
The Ptolemaic cemetery at Girne was used into Roman times. Some of the rock-cut tombs adjoin modern hotels. Also visible are the remains of the Roman wall.
Vounous is the site of an Early Bronze Age cemetery. The dead were buried with copper or bronze tools and red polished pottery.
St. Hilarion Castle was named for a hermit who fled Palestine and lived in a cave here in North Cyprus. The Byzantines had a church and monastery in the 10th century. After 1232, the crusading Lusignans expanded the castle. You'll see three building levels. The oldest is Byzantine; it housed soldiers and horses. The middle complex included the church and the royal residence. The courtyard of the upper castle had royal rooms, cisterns, kitchens, and waiting rooms.
Seven thousand years ago, the farmers of Cape Apostolos Andreas (Kastros) shaped bowls from stone and tools from flint. They cultivated wheat, barley, lentils, and peas and gathered wild pistachios, figs, and olives. They herded cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs and hunted deer in the dense forests. Their round houses were about nine feet across with a hearth, grinding stones, and storage bins.
North Cyprus near Famagusta
Enkomi was founded in the Middle Bronze Age (1900-1600 B.C.) as a copper-smelting and trading city. Around 1200 B.C., the city was destroyed and rebuilt. Even tombs were covered. The new Enkomi was larger with a definite plan, with streets meeting at right angles. The massive wall enclosed an area of 400 x 350 yards. Houses and tombs were in the south, workshops and storehouses in the north.
Cellarka is a large cemetery a few miles west of Salamis. A museum shows finds from the Iron Age to the Hellenistic era in North Cyprus. The Iron Age "royal tombs" held gold and silver jewelry, Egyptian jewelry, and pottery from the Greek isles and Syria-Palestine.
Wear good walking shoes to tour Salamis, founded during the 11th century B.C. The Temple of Zeus is late Hellenistic; most of the remaining ruins are Roman. Visit the "heart" of the city at its northernmost part where the amphitheater and gymnasium were restored. You will see baths, a 44-seat public latrine, and mosaics. Part of the harbor wall survives, as does the agora.
Just outside Salamis are the Basilica and Monastery of St. Barnabas. Don't miss the icon museum, which also includes archeological artifacts.
Famagusta became famous as a Crusader city. The Church of Sts. Peter and Paul attests its wealth. A Syrian trader, Simone Nostrano, built it in 1360 from the profits of a single venture. But in 1373 the Genoese sacked the city. In the 16th century, the Venetians built guardhouses, storerooms, gun emplacements, and Othello's tower. Christoforo Moro, who was governor in 1508, inspired Shakespeare. He is said to have murdered his faithless wife, Desdemona, in this very castle.
Jan Korfanty writes about Northern Cyprus and helps people find appropriate North Cyprus properties at http://www.cyprus-seaterra.com. For a longer, more comprehensive version of this article please visit the web site.