There was almost nothing left from this palace, except base lines of the buildings. The most exciting part is reaching there. After a long and hard drive we finally found a place to park our car. If we met a car before this point, I don’t know what we could do. The palace must have a great view because the place still has it. Everything here is left to your imagination but we were travelling too fast to dream about it.
You don't miss nothing if you don't visit Vuni, except the adventurous drive and view.
Our experiences in Northern Cyprus
Cyprus may not be the first place you think of for an idyllic holiday destination. In fact mention Cyprus to most Australians, including myself and the first thing you think of is all the trouble they have had.
But my wife was invited to speak at a conference in Northern Cyprus so I looked up the travel advisory and it said to be cautious travelling, especially in Northern Cyprus, the roads are poor and the hotels are not up to standard.
Nonetheless, it was a good opportunity for her so we decided to go.
What we found could not have been any more different from our expectations. We flew into Larnaca, in the South which is predominantly Greek Cypriot and were taken to Girne (Kyrenia) in the North or Turkish Cypriot area. We drove into Lefkosa or Nicosia as the west still refers to it, on a 4 lane highway. I thought at the time that it was the major road to their largest city hence the 4 lane highway but to my surprise, the road continued to be a four lane highway after we had crossed the border all the way to Girne.
The next thing you notice both in the North and the South is that many of the shop signs are in English, a legacy of the British occupation. And forget about your Greek or Turkish (we had both) phrase book, most people speak excellent English. Another legacy left by the English is that you drive on the left of the road, same as Australia, and different from both Greece and Turkey.
Although many of my pre conceptions had been clearly wrong so far I was not expecting too much from the hotel. We stayed at the Vuni Palace in Girne, a new 5 star hotel which exceeded every expectation. Clean, modern with every amenity you would expect from a similar hotel anywhere in the world. Our hosts could not have been more friendly and helpful, nothing was too much trouble. We also visited the Near East University who hosted the conference. This is a very new university with Students from many countries who, just like Australia come to be educated at a high quality facility with an international reputation.
There are only 300,000 Turkish Cypriots and about 800,000 Greek so it not a big economy. They rightly see tourism as a largely untapped market and are working very hard to tell the world. The beaches are world class although being winter, we didn’t take the opportunity for a dip, even though the temperature was in the 20’s.
The Roman ruins are everywhere and the huge site at Salamis near the coastal city of Famagusta is bigger than the Roman Forum (in Rome) and far more accessible. Salimas has been occupied since the 11th century BC but the ruins are from the Roman era. The roads there are either 4 lane from Lefkosa or 2 lane from Girne. The small villages have very narrow roads just like England or France. The abbey at Bellapais, just up the hill from the city of Girne dates from the beginning of the 13th century and is regarded as a masterpiece of Gothic art and the most beautiful Gothic building in the near east. There’s a little restaurant next door and the image of the abbey with the backdrop of the city is the perfect place for lunch or dinner.
We also visited one of the three mountain castles at St Hilarion. It is believed to have been built in the 11th century and later fortified during the Byzantine era. The views from the top are breathtaking and well worth the visit, and the climb.
These are people in a young nation working hard to establish themselves in the international community. 60% of school leavers go on to university. Education is seen as an essential component if they are to succeed. The building program is impressive, not only public spending on new facilities but many very upmarket new houses are being built, mostly by the Brits who can see real bargains in this idyllic spot. The North is now 60% self sufficient with the balance coming from Turkey. They hope to be completely free from any dependency from any other nation as soon as possible.
Obviously there are still problems, but apart from having to show your passport crossing the border they will not impact on you in any other way.
Take the time to stop over in Cyprus on your next trip to the Greek Islands or Europe and when you do, make time to visit the North, you will not be disappointed.
Tourist Imformation Office