By Margaret Sheard…..
We recently met Havva, a Turkish Cypriot lady whose family run the Vouni King Restaurant and Boutique Hotel in Yeşilirmak and she asked us to visit them. So on Boxing Day (the day following Christmas Day) we made the journey to Yeşilirmak, which we have only briefly visited previously on a few occasions en-route to Erenkoy in August for the Memorial Commemoration.
As we had arranged to visit on a Saturday we decided it would be nice to make a weekend of it and so arranged accommodation at the hotel and met up around mid-day with Havva and her husband Evren who had travelled from Lefkoşa that morning, together with their two lovely children Hasan and Bilgen.
When we arrived we met Havva’s father and mother Cemal and Bilgen Yorulmaz, and her brother Kaya, who run the restaurant and hotel with help from Fatma and Emine. Cemal was originally from Paphos and moved to Guzelyurt in 1974, when he was 17 years old. Bilgen was born in the old village of Yeşilirmak and has always lived in this area but we understand the old village is not now accessible and so the current village is relatively new. Many centuries ago the people of the area lived nearer the sea but they moved further inland to avoid raids by corsairs/pirates. There is a rock jutting out of the sea a little way out and we understand the only inhabitants are wild mouflon goats. Yeşilirmak once had a thriving population of around 1,000 people but this has gradually decreased and now there are probably only about 200 people in the present day village of Yeşilirmak.
Cemal and Bilgen built the restaurant in 2008 and the hotel was built in 2011. Havva said the Turkish builder was rather slow with the construction of the hotel but the end result is a really impressive building so well worth the wait for completion.
The Vouni King restaurant is situated in a lovely spot overlooking the sea and has a very large indoor area seating around 200 people, with a summer dining area actually jutting out into the sea, We are looking forward to visiting again when the weather is warmer to sample this. On this particular afternoon there was a wedding party in the indoor restaurant which was a nice experience for us to witness. I spotted a familiar face of someone I met a couple of years ago and is a Facebook friend, this was Hasan Karlitas who is very active in Lefke promoting the culture of his area and is very proud that Lefke is now a member of the Cittaslow Movement. We also met Hasan’s beautiful babies, twin boys.
Havva and the children took us on a tour of the beach area and then to the hotel complex, pointing out many interesting things on the way. The hotel has an 18 room capacity with a very large pool and a lovely reception and breakfast area and a large car park. We were very impressed and very pleased we had arranged to stay the night.
We were interested to learn that the restaurant is built over which was once the site of a carob warehouse, it was later a school which Havva’s mother, Bilgen attended, and following this it was used by the Turkish military for the storage of weapons confiscated following the 1974 intervention.
Later in the afternoon Cemal took Chris to the beach area and while there Chris met a couple from the UK who have been visiting the area every year for many years and they showed him a sunken cave which used to have a fresh water spring and said when the UN used to visit the area on their free days they would use this to keep their drinks cool. The couple said that years ago when the bay was under-developed there were only 2 restaurants in the area.
Next to one of the original restaurants there is also a vine which held the 1947 Guinness World Record Certificate – “Verico Vine owned by Seval Fehim of London, UK. 1.4 meters in circumference making it the largest vine in Cyprus, growing for the past 51 years at Vined Beach, Yeşilirmak”. This would make it 120 years old today. It is amazing what can be discovered in these rural villages.
We returned to Vouni King and had a lovely meal of mezes and a main course and then Havva and her family had to say goodbye as they were returning to Lefkoşa. We remained for a while and chatted with Cemal and learned that he is a keen fisherman as well as organising walks for guests in the summer months, also bird-watching and strawberry, mushroom and asparagus picking. We had noticed the vast amount of rows of cloches and realised that they were the strawberry beds for which Yeşilirmak is one of the main producers. Some places of historical interest are – Vouni Palace and Soli Ruins which are situated near the hotel and restaurant and well worth visiting.
We made our way to the hotel and were delighted with the accommodation, we had a large room with a lovely bathroom/shower, TV and a very comfortable bed and air conditioning/heating. The rear of the room looked out over the pool area and the sea in the distance, with the hills surrounding the complex, it was a very peaceful and relaxed environment.
We took our time the following morning and went to the restaurant for a late Turkish breakfast with the addition of an omelette, no doubt made with the eggs from the chickens kept at the rear of the restaurant. In fact we were told that guests can collect the eggs themselves for their breakfast if they wish. We had watched the chickens from our vantage point up in the restaurant and noticed a very bossy cockerel which gave us a lot of amusement with his antics shooing the chickens away from his territory.
As I hadn’t ventured along to the underground cave and the plaque about the vine we went down to the water’s edge and made our way along to the adjacent restaurant so that I could see them for myself, before we said our goodbyes and set off on the long journey back to Girne.
If you would like to learn more of the Vouni King Hotel and Restaurant, visit their website where there are many pictures and information about activities etc. by clicking here and also Facebook by clicking here If you would like to make contact the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
On the way home we noticed a sign to a village called Bağlıkoy which was shown as an Eco Village, so we decided to make a detour and visit the village. The road continued up and up and on entering the village we noted there seemed to be military presence but were told we could continue. The village looked extremely old but is inhabited and when we turned to go back out of the village we noticed a sign to the eco village centre but being a very sharp turn we decided to leave it and visit at another time. On the way up to the village we had noticed a large stone with an inscription so we stopped to see what it was and found it was a memorial to 2 fallen Danish UN soldiers. I wondered how many people are aware of this memorial way out in the countryside, but nevertheless a reminder of the past and a tribute to those 2 fallen soldiers. The inscription read :-
16 – 8 – 1974
Sergeant Benth Schultz Christensen
21 – 9 – 1952
Private Carsten Busk Andersen
12 – 8 – 1951
We eventually arrived home, tired but very satisfied with a most enjoyable and interesting weekend. We will certainly return to Yeşilirmak to discover more of this lovely part of the island.