Cyprus Veterans visit to North Cyprus November 2016 – Part 2
By Derek Chilvers ……
Derek and Terry’s Cyprus Holiday – Part 2 with some nostalgic trips.
We made our way to Catalkoy and we soon arrived at a smart looking building which was Bellapais Abbey Rent A Car and Taxi. While the paperwork was being completed, Terry explained that he had been using this company during his holidays to Cyprus with his wife Inez and always had good service so he stayed with them, I now know who transfers us from and to Ercan Airport for our annual trip and it certainly beats the little mini-bus on my first trip in 2012.
When the paperwork was sorted, Terry suggested we go for some refreshments so we head west where I saw a sign saying Alsancak which sounded familiar then Terry turns off the road towards a building which I thought I recognised and as soon as I saw the name Freddies I remembered Margaret and Chris taking us there last year along with Mick for a meal which we all enjoyed after our sightseeing day out. The lady who served us said she remembered us from last year and there were more of us, she pointed to the tables we sat at and when we left she said how lovely it was to meet us again.
We had changed our hotel accommodation to the Pia Bella, our room was not quite ready so we sat down and had a coffee which was brought to us by Mustafa one of the waiters we knew from our earlier stays at the hotel and then we received a lovely warm welcome from Zehra who is head of booking for the Hotel, this is what we had been waiting for and what makes you feel good. Our room was finally ready so we went to the third floor to a very nice room where we once again unpacked. We went out again to try and find a newspaper office but were unlucky so we returned to the hotel and later had our first meal in the Pia Bella dining room where we found Harry sitting with Anne and John Rhind and close to them we found Joyce and Derek Yeoman so we joined them. After the meal we all went over to the Blue Rose where we had our customary welcome from Lynne and her business partner (I wish I could remember his name) where we all enjoyed our personal favourite tipple then returned to our hotel where we settled into some comfortable chairs and listened to the music being played and enjoyed a nightcap.
The following day Harry joined us and we decided to go for a drive to Bellapais where we took a leisurely walk through the village looking at all the produce for sale then entered a quaint old building and while we waited for our refreshments we looked at the interior of the building and discovered that they used to produce olive oil there and all the old production machinery is still in place. We drove back to Kyrenia and this time found the newspaper office, where we looked at the Remembrance Day pictures and ordered what we wanted then off to the Blue Rose for lunch which was as usual very good.
Terry suggested a ride up to the Five Fingers Rock in the afternoon which I readily agreed to as I had fond memories of it from when I and five others were perched up in the mountains looking down on it for ten days, six of us with water for drinking purposes only. We split into two groups, with me was Frosty and l/Cpl Tim Langley, and each group on alternate nights went out to a footpath that was thought to be used by gunrunners where we settled down for an ambush, no luck.
The remaining three did an OP (observation point) to record any vehicle using the road/track way down below us. At the end of the ten days we were all rather dirty/scruffy/smelly as we were picked up and returned to Kykko Camp. Terry drove us along the dusty rough road stopping so that we could view the rock from different angles and take photos with me gazing forward and up to try to see where I was perched for ten days but thinking of my original picture of the rock I took then it would have been a lot further along to where we were now but then I realised I had a photo of the rock I had taken in 1958/9 which I must have been taken from where we were standing now. Wonderful.
Friday morning it was decided we would take a ride to look for the Blue House which I had heard so much about from the lads who had been back to Cyprus so off we went stopping at the Wild Duck restaurant in Lapta for a fortifying drink as it was getting a little bit warm, before continuing our journey. The first stop was Kayalar where, after studying the seashore, I found a little bay that I am sure I knew as being Orga.
While we were patrolling in Nicosia in the dark days of 1958/9 some of us who had done a certain length of time were taken there for rest and relaxation for three days and after all these years I am sure I was now finding myself looking down to where we enjoyed that break. It was new to Terry and Harry but they enjoyed hearing me talk about it and after taking photographs we set off again this time to visit the Gecitkoy Dam that we saw last year with Margaret and Chris and at that time there was a small amount of water building up but this time it was now a huge reservoir a wonderful huge mass of glistening water. Terry drove us up to the observation tower and parked up and we had a walk about then getting back into the car we travelled along the rather rough road along the side of the water but we were gaining a little height now and in the distance down beside the water you could see log cabins being made and some men sitting in the sunshine with their fishing rods so I assume there must already be fish there.
We then headed for the Blue House (Mavi Kosk), the road now rising quite quickly giving us a view of the area we had been in minutes ago and how big the reservoir really was. We travelled quite a distance and then came to a military sentry box where we had to leave our passports with the sentry and then on to the designated car park. From the car park we followed a path which eventually brought us to the back of the house where there was a huge swimming pool that sloped down to where it must have been ten feet deep with lights all around, very sumptuous considering how far out it was from civilisation but as we ventured further the whole place seemed to be like that. We wandered down into the garden and surveyed the luxury style the way it was all laid out and at the very tip a viewing area where you could see across the miles of countryside to infinity, a truly wonderful view.
I took some photos outside then ventured into the house where a couple of young Turkish soldiers met us and asked for the entrance fee to be paid for by bank card because they were not allowed to accept cash. Photos were not allowed to be taken inside but the gentleman who once lived there lived in sheer luxury, four bedrooms each with full toilet facilities, large fully fitted kitchen, three large lounges one with sunken bath, snooker room and large library, the walls though were now beginning to show their age.
We had a nice ride back to our hotel in Girne via Guzelyurt and Nicosia and spent the evening in the hotel chatting about the day. Harry was really excited about our Blue House outing, I think it was all completely new to him.
The next day, as I had previously mentioned Turtle Beach that I had visited on a previous holiday where Johnny Douglas had waded into the sea up to his trousers, Terry and I decided we would take a ride there. The sun was shining and traffic was light, we found the small road that took us to Turtle Beach where we walked along a wooden pathway down to the water’s edge but didn’t venture any further then we enjoyed a very nice cup of coffee and headed to Bogaz via the coast road and Buyukkonuk and enjoyed a lovely meal at Bogaz Harbour after which we walked around the harbour which was filled mainly with what looked like small fishing boats and a few larger boats that advertised sea trips. A warm stiff breeze was blowing up and the sea was getting quite rough which looked very picturesque in the sunlight. We returned to Girne via the mountain road past the Five Fingers rock. In the evening we went over to the Blue Rose Bistro for a couple of their wonderful brandy sours Terry making do with his fresh orange juice as he is our driver.
The next day, Sunday, we took a trip up to St Hilarion Castle but the wind was so strong and chilly if you leant into it you would have trouble keeping upright and everywhere you went it was very steep with uneven steps so we decided we would take a ride out to Buffavento Castle. It was a very narrow road just going up and up and meeting vehicles coming down was quite frightening, in places it was sheer rock on one side and a sheer drop on the other so when we found a place to park and we could see the castle which was still a long way up we decided to be happy seeing it from where we were but the view across the Nicosia Plains from up there was fantastic. When we told Joyce and Derek Yeoman about our trip to Bogaz he was very excited about it because he was stationed in that area during his army service and would loved to have been with us so Terry said we would take them there the following day.
On Monday we met up with Joyce and Derek Yeoman, Derek very excited about the planned day’s trip and after breakfast off we went to find Dhavlos and Kantara and after many miles Derek pointed to a signpost and we started a long trip up into the mountains coming across a small village which he immediately recognised, he was stationed there in 1957, we stopped for a few minutes while he recalled his time there many years ago then off we went again still climbing until we came out on the brow of a hill where we stopped at a coffee shop for a drink, it seemed to be a very lonely place, during which Derek was pointing out different things of interest then we took a walk down a road where there were lots of dilapidated houses which were occupied during his time there and Terry and Joyce went into one to have a look around and Terry came out with a big smile on his face, he loves old buildings.
We took a few photos then started back down the other side of the mountain, the road this time being very rough but it then joined up with the road which passes through Bogaz and we found a restaurant on the way where we all sampled a nice fish meal but the second course didn’t go down very well, we all sampled it and it disappeared but we had no idea what it was and were probably better off not knowing. We returned to Girne via the mountain road and past Five Fingers Rock again and back to the hotel where Joyce and Derek left us thanking us for the trip, they were off home the next day so had packing to do but after dinner we did see them once more to say cheerio.
Tuesday was to be our nostalgia trip to Nicosia so after our breakfast we caught a Dolmus to the car park then found one that was going to Nicosia, on the journey it was quite amazing as passengers alighted and more climbed aboard in many places along the main road where there didn’t appear to be any buildings except some on the hills quite a distance from the road. We arrived at the drop off point and walked into the Turkish quarter where we stopped off and had a coffee watching the hustle and bustle going on around us. We then headed for the border crossing where we joined a queue at the Turkish checkpoint then through no man’s land to the Greek checkpoint and once more we were in Ledra Street which still gives me a strange feeling.
We found a place to have dinner called Café La Mode where we ordered a Mexican Wrap which was two huge wraps each with fries and salad, we managed to eat it all helped down by a squeezed orange for Terry and a Carlsberg for me. Well filled up now we continued our walk/patrol up to the top of Ledra Street where we stopped and had a look at all the work going on. I first saw this on my first trip back to Cyprus in 2012 and it still looks an awful mess but I suppose somebody knows what is going on.
We walked out through the congested entrance of Ledra Street and crossed over the road and went through the gateway of Luna Park remarking how many times we must have done that during our army time there, we turned right and went to the edge of the wall to survey the work going on but tall fences were now there and all you could see was by peering between the joins again thinking back to when we stood in this same place many years ago when Metaxas Square was there with streams of traffic going back and forth.
We walked around the Park and looked at the building that we used as our base for doing our patrols in Nicosia and fond memories flowed back thinking of the lads I had as companions then and thinking that I had now found a lot of them and the feelings for them were just as good. Our next venture was to cross the road and again enter Ledra Street then turning left and walking along the road that ran parallel to the road that went along the top of the wall closed now for traffic because of the changes taking place.
Close to the end of this road we went through a small side road and walked out onto the bridge that was much the same as Metaxas Square used to be but we now found this to be a very busy bus station so we walked through the mayhem of people and buses and looked at the buildings opposite which were all new. Turning round we went back through the bus station and found a little stall and while we were there Terry looked at some pamphlets and amongst them he found a street map of the Greek half of the city so getting one each we walked back the way we had come past Luna Park. I am sure that night club opposite was there before!.
We looked at the maps and decided we would explore the little roads and avenues we used to patrol and try to relive the feelings we had years ago as we walked through them, the daytime was not too bad because you could see what was going on but it was in the dark of night because in those days street lighting was very poor and sometimes when there was a curfew in place after a shooting or a riot and everyone had to be in their homes the streets were really black because the power for what few street lights there were was cut and everywhere was quiet and still and the slightest little sound put you on edge until you had traced where it came from and I admit now there were a few times the hairs on the back of my neck stood to attention, no matter how hard I try I cannot really put those feelings into words.
We scrutinised the maps and recognised some of the names as we progressed through the little streets and every time we found what seemed like a used road we came across barriers made from oil drums filled with cement and barbed wire criss-crossing them and piles of sandbags which separated North from South. On many of these barriers there was a soldier peering over the top, some being friendly when we tried to have conversation with them, we must have stood out from the mass of people moving about as being friendly. After what must have been a good hour of wandering we decided we had seen enough and made our way back to the border crossing then to the Dolmus pick up point, where we boarded and sat back and chatted about our day as we journeyed back to our hotel.
We arrived back at the hotel in time for Terry to return our car to the delightful young lady who delivered it then, as it was quite a time before dinner, we retired to our room and flaked out on our beds, the miles we must have walked during our visit to Nicosia had taken its toll but we had both enjoyed our day. After our meal we went to visit the Blue Rose, which had made such an impression on me I have now bought two roses called Blue Rose for my garden.
As Wednesday was to be our last day we decided to spend it in Kyrenia visiting all the little avenues of shops off the main roads each with an elderly lady or gentleman outside trying to get us interested in their goods, then Terry suggested we wander through the tiny little roads behind all the noise of traffic and people.
There were many little bars, coffee shops and small hotels everywhere and we finally reached the Chimera Diner where we were now ready sit down and enjoy a meal and a drink but today there was a very brisk chilly wind blowing and the boys said come inside and we took a table near the window. One of boys lit a fire in an open fireplace and it blazed away almost immediately, we were told it was olive tree wood which burnt easily but slowly and produced a lot of heat. We enjoyed our meal, thanked the waiters/friends for their hospitality and promised to return again next year all being well.
We had our last walk up through the main shopping areas and caught the Dolmus back to the hotel for the inevitable job of sorting what we would wear going home and packing the rest.. We had our last evening meal after which we went into the lounge for a nightcap and said goodbye to the waiters who would not be about to see us leave.
Up very early next morning for breakfast during which the hotel manager came to thank us for our visit and hoped to see us again next year. Our taxi arrived on time driven by the owner of the Taxi Firm who Terry knew quite well and we had a nice quick ride to the airport with plenty of conversation. Our flight was a little late taking off and then at Istanbul we had to wait for two passengers who on arrival offered no apology for holding everyone up but we made up some time on the flight which I was glad of because I was seated next to a rather large Turkish lady who spent most of the trip plucking her eyebrows then began pulling black hairs from her chin.
On arrival at Stansted all the passengers tried to get off together as normal only to find the little trains that transfer you were not working and buses were being used, so passengers from three planes were now trying to board the buses – it was chaos on a big scale but we finally got through and I phoned my taxi and within ten minutes I was picked up and after a smooth ride home I was back in reality again, lonely and with a heap of washing to do. Hey Ho such is life.
To see Part 1 of Derek’s review click here