Nitovikla Garden Hotel, Kumyali – a Traditional Cypriot experience
We stayed at the Nitovikla Garden Hotel in October 2015. We really enjoyed our one night stay and I wrote an article at the time to let our readers know of this very special place. Later we were aware of some major problems which occurred for Zekai Altan, his family and the hotel and so I held back the article. We are now pleased to hear that the hotel is up and running and Zekai and his family will be pleased to greet visitors and show them traditional Cypriot hospitality.
Nitovikla Garden Hotel, Kumyali
By Margaret Sheard…..
When we recently attended the Kumyali Nature Walk in aid of the Ziyamet Special Needs School, we decided to stay overnight at the Nitovikla Garden Hotel, situated in the heart of the village of Kumyali. We had visited the hotel on a previous occasion and were very impressed with this traditional Cypriot way of life.
The hotel is run by Zekai and Kader Altan with the help of their daughter Tuğçe, son Menteş, .and other family members, and is established as an eco friendly family business with home grown produce and very traditional and comfortable Cypriot accommodation.
Originally Zekai and Kader lived in the old Ottoman house which is about 450 years old, it was originally a Priest’s house and is now the dining area. I spotted an old wedding dress displayed in one of the rooms and was told this was hand-made in 1959, very pretty with lots of lace which must have taken ages to complete. The rooms are furnished in traditional Cypriot style and there is also a very large and more modern style kitchen. Adjacent to the house is a lovely indoor lounge/bar area for guests to retreat to in the cooler months, this feels almost like being in a cave but very cosy and again furnished and decorated typically Cypriot.
The hotel itself was built in 2007 with 10 rooms, 2 of which are used for their own accommodation and 8 which are available for guests. The bedrooms have traditional Cypriot furniture, some with 4-poster beds and some with twin beds, there is room for a 3rd person sharing and we spotted a room which also had a traditional wooden cot. There is a lovely outdoor area with a pool and of course the produce growing in the garden area.
When the hotel was about to be built, Zekai was aware of local tales of a cave nearby and on looking closer at a large fig tree he found the entrance, excavated it and now it is a huge cavern where lunches, seminars and meetings are sometimes held. When we were staying there the cave was being prepared for a lunch for a group of ladies from Guzelyurt and it looked lovely. It was very cool in the cave so a nice location in the hot summer months. The excavation was a huge amount of work but the end result is wonderful.
While at the Kumyali Nature Walk I managed to sit and speak with Zekai who is a very interesting character and has changed the course of his life a few times to become what he is now, a traditional Cypriot with true Cypriot values.
Zekai was born in Limassol in 1960 and due to the intervention in 1974, the family had to move to the North and they settled in Lurucina. When later deciding on a career, Zekai originally intended to go into the field of architecture and studied this for a while but changed track and became interested in catering and hotel management which he then pursued for some years working in large hotels and eventually in 1999 at a hotel in the Karpaz area. Zekai said this is when he threw away his tie and became a traditional Cypriot.
Zekai is married to Kader and they have 2 children Tuğçe and Menteş.
Not only does Zekai run the hotel, but he has found time to write 5 books about Cyprus Culture and Cuisine and his last book “Mysterious Cyprus” which was published in Flemish for the Belgian market is to be re-published in English next year. He also writes a weekly column for a Turkish Cypriot newspaper “Yenidűzen” about Cypriot cuisine.
I was interested in the name of the hotel and where it originated from and have taken the following extracts from a draft of Zekai’s book which has been translated into English and is to be published in 2016.
Nitovikla Castle which is one of the oldest castles in Cyprus is about 6.4 km(4 miles) south of Nitovikla and is at the southwestern part of a plot to the south of the coastline. It is thought that the castle was built towards the end of the Middle Bronze Age (1900 – 1650 BC). The only remaining parts of the castle surviving today are stone foundations.
It is such a shame that these historical monuments are left to fall into ruin, a lot of people like castles and it would certainly have been a tourist attraction but at least the foundation stones are still there so it will be a place to visit when we next go to Nitovikla.
When Zekai decided the route he wanted to follow was eco friendly culture, he studied the subject and visited other countries such as Italy, Greece, Turkey and Denmark and has membership of the Global Eco Village Network in Europe.
There is an old church owned by Vakiflar very near to the hotel, on which Zekai and Kader have undertaken some preliminary restoration work and they arrange to open the church for visitors. We are including some photographs in the slideshow below, which show a very large dog which had crept into the Church whilst the doors were open on a very hot day to take advantage of the cool interior.
During our overnight stay at Nitovikla Garden Hotel, we noticed there were many guests who were taking advantage of this very different type of accommodation and local cuisine. It was very much an experience of going back in time and so relaxing, it is difficult to put into words but the feeling of peace was very evident during our short stay and definitely a place for a longer visit in the future.
To see many pictures of the hotel and the work of excavating the cave, please take a look at the slideshow below.