North Cyprus : the Canakkale POW Cave
By Chris and Fred (alias Kuzey Kibris and Nord Zypern)
The Canakkale POW Cave. Or: How to get fooled by the Ministry of Tourism
I had heard some rumours about a POW cave somewhere up in the mountains, and of course it aroused my interest as soon as I heard about it.
In 1915 Turkish prisoners of war were captured in Canakkale (Gallipoli) battles by the British forces, transported to Cyprus and kept in a POW camp near Famagusta. Some of them escaped and were hidden by Turkish Cypriots in the so called POW cave.
I tried to do some research, but I could not find anything about it (as usual!).
We prefer to travel the Iskele – Ercan road instead of the motorway. Driving there is much more relaxed and there‘s way less traffic. One day, we saw a sign about the POW cave in Serdarli. What a surprise! We followed the road up into the mountains, the same route as to the Antifonitis Monastery Church. Up in the mountains, where the road splits up to Ergenekon/Tirmen, Esentepe and Bahceli, we found another sign showing the 4th way up the mountain, where the water reservoir is. We tried to follow the road by car, but after a few 100 meters we weren’t able to go any further, because the road was too bad. We turned around and skipped our plan for the day.
Some time later, we wanted to start another attempt to find the cave. There are plenty of signs mounted to point out the cave everywhere, even next to the motorway, so the cave must be something really interesting and easy to find.
We went to the crossing up in the mountains and parked our car. At first we noticed, the sign at the crossing has been removed. Thank goodness we saw the sign the last time we had been up there and we remembered a power pole nearby. Otherwise we would have had no idea which way to go.
Following the road up into the mountain, we started very soon to enjoy the great views over the north coast towards Esentepe and Bahceli.
Fred started to ask how far it is. “According to the signs everywhere, I think it must be easy to get there and I don‘t think it is too far“ was my clueless response. It didn‘t take too long and we ended up like the Smurfs. Is it much further? After about 1 kilometer we found finally a sign showing us the way along the road. Seriously, where else if not following the road?! However, no cave in sight, but at least we were still on track.
We followed the road which was winding up the mountain. After about another kilometer we found another sign, telling us to follow the road. Imagine that!
The view was stunning! We were able to see stone arches and monolithic rocks on the hillside towards Esentepe. It was all very quiet up there, the fresh air and a light wind were amazing as we continued our (never ending) journey to the cave.
Some time later, we were able to spot the Panagia Apati church, which looked somehow mysterious, standing there between the trees on the hillside in the middle of nowhere in the sunlight of a late afternoon, and, imagine that, we saw another sign telling us to follow the road. Yay!
Still following the road, we noticed we were close to the top of the mountain, so I tried to cheer up Fred by telling him that we‘re almost at the top, so it can’t be very far from now on. Well…. My bad!
We finally arrived on top (we thought) and followed a path on the mountain ridge, which turned around a rock formation and we were able to see the other side of the mountain. We could see all the villages we had passed, and in the far distance we saw Famagusta, Nicosia and the Troodos mountains. Only thing we could not see, was that cave we were looking for. Dang!
We continued after a short break and to our disappointment we realised that we still were not at the top. The road still climbed higher and higher. The smell of the pines to the left and right of the road was in the air, while we were following the road through the forest.
Time was running by, it was getting later and later and sunset was in about 2 hours, so we split up. I was hurrying ahead while Fred was following me slowly. If I was able to find the cave within the next half an hour I would call him. Otherwise I would return so we could reach the car in daylight, because neither of us would have liked to poke around in the pitch black, while being in the middle of nowhere.
The sun went down behind the mountain, when I reached a fairytale like area. The bent trees and odd-looking rough rock formations looked like straight out of a fantasy movie. In the fading sunlight somehow eerie and beautiful at the same time. I stopped for a short break to take some photos and to immerse myself with those impressions.
However, time was running on so I had to continue. I decided to follow the road as far as I could see from this point. If then there‘s no cave, I will return to Fred, as I also was becoming tired. When I was about to turn around, I noticed something in the distance. It looked like another sign to me, so I decided to go until that point and look for any hints how far it could be.
As I was getting closer to it, I noticed a second sign. A big one! looking like something memorial or such. I arrived and there was really a sign with an explanation for the cave! I had made it! But my joy didn‘t last long, as I looked at the other sign, telling me “Cave – straight down hillside‘.
A small path led down the hill and ended suddenly. The ground was plain soil and a saw myself losing my almost new camera with the brand new lens, down the hill, because had I lost my balance I would have fallen so I grabbed every root or clump of grass I could reach, while looking around for that … cave.
I was not able to find it! There were tons of signs everywhere and they really saved money for the last sign! Instead of the left side of a rock down the hill, where the cave is located, I was looking on the right, and it would have been easier to get to on that side and the area nearby.
With a slight touch of grumpiness, I climbed up to the road again, where Fred already had arrived. I told him, that I couldn‘t find the cave and we decided to go back to the car.
After all that, I can say I was angry that they had saved money on the last sign, at least they could have made marks with a spray can. On the other hand, we had a great day, and the stunning views we had were greater than the disappointment.
After some time I had a chat with a friend, who has been up there and visited the cave. Now I know where it is, and at least I can say I was close to it. If I ever get a small Jeep as a rental car I might go there again. If not…. well…. it‘s just a cave. If you have seen one, you have seen them all. So no real need for another visit and besides that it is a long way up there…. and there might be spiders in the end! Yuk!
To see more of the huge amount of photographs in the Kuzey-Kibris gallery visit the website by clicking here
If anyone has a photo of the actual cave perhaps they would like to share it with us.
2 thoughts on “North Cyprus : the Canakkale POW Cave”
Chris and Fred, you should have started earlier in the day may be! Never the less an interesting story, thank you. Prof Ulvi Keser from Kyrenia American Universıty discovered and I believe got the cave sign posted voluntarily, as you have discovered yourselves. I believe he does organize tours to the cave once a year to commemorate and remember the Çanakale POW s and martyrs of 1915. Maybe you can contact and go up with him and his group, he will probably pleased that you are interested in this cave.
Thank you Sermen, your comment will be sent on to Chris and Fred. Look out for more stories of their adventures in North Cyprus in their quest to find hidden history.
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