Medieval heritage of Cyprus: Despite the fact that in the Middle Ages on the territory of modern Cyprus there were constant battles between the Arabs and Byzantium, many buildings managed to survive. And now, thanks to this, the island has preserved a rich heritage that regularly attracts lovers of history and archeology. In this route, we have collected the most impressive relics of the Middle Ages and legends that have come down to us.
Often this castle is called a tower – by the similarity of the external impression. Inside there is an additional tower – a donjon, which, as it were, grows out of the main one. Thick walls and a complex internal structure allowed this castle to remain a strong defensive structure, despite its small size and lack of fortifications. In its current form, the castle has existed since 1454 and is considered an example of medieval Gothic fortification architecture. A visit to the castle will not take you much time, so you can combine it with a micro-tour of the Akrotiri peninsula.
In addition to the castle, this short trip usually includes a visit to the monastery of St. Nicholas of the Cat. By the name, it is not difficult to guess what exactly this monastery is famous for. Although Cyprus is considered a cat island, even by Cypriot standards, there are countless cats here. After visiting the monastery, you can go around the salty Limassol lake. On a good day, different types of colorful birds or even flamingos gather on the lake.
Church of Saint Paraskeva (Geraskipou)
This location is especially interesting for connoisseurs of Christian antiquities. The temple in Geraskipou is perhaps the oldest Byzantine temple still functioning on the island. According to some sources, the church was built in the 9th century, before the period of iconoclasm in Byzantium and the division of the church into Orthodox and Catholic. This is a unique opportunity to see the exterior and interior of the church, which is more than a thousand years old.
By the way, in the pre-Christian period, this place also had a religious significance. According to legend, there was a wonderful garden in which pilgrims rested on their way to the temple of Aphrodite, on the site of old Paphos. So by chance, in a simple village, you can find yourself at the intersection of two important cultures and eras – ancient Greek and Christian. A visit to this temple can be easily combined with a tour of Paphos,
Quiet, sweet, calm – it seems that all these words were invented by those who once visited Polis. The most western city of the island, probably due to its remoteness, it is not very popular with tourists. The measured and unhurried life of the locals here is interrupted only by fish fairs and curious tourists, occasionally climbing so far from the noisy southern resorts. On the way here, you will surely notice numerous citrus plantations.
During the season, for a nominal fee, you can buy the sweetest and juiciest oranges and tangerines here. Walking around Polis, look into its medieval churches. There are several of them here: the church of St. Andronicus (only open on Sundays, from 09:00 to 16:00), the church of Agia Kyriaki or St. Nicholas. If you come here at the height of a summer day, you can hide from the heat in the shade of a eucalyptus forest growing nearby, or, which is simpler – in one of the cafes on the central square near the fountain. There are practically no cars here, so parents can relax while the smallest tourists are chasing cats. For older children, literally a hundred meters from the main square there is a playground.
Saint Hilarion Castle
From afar, the castle, even in a dilapidated form, seems impregnable. But do not rush to conclusions – come closer and you will see that climbing this high, steep mountain is not so difficult. To the very top, where the castle stands, there is a convenient road that will be within the power of any tourist. Once upon a time, the castle was the main outpost in a series of fortifications around the most important port of Kyrenia in the north of the island. The castle changed many owners but reached its maximum prosperity during the reign of Lusignan.
The upper chambers of the castle were once the country residences of kings. And today, among the ruins of the once luxurious rooms, you can feel the coolness and admire the view of the sea and the settlements lying below, as the ruling dynasties of Cyprus did many centuries ago. The castle stands on the highway connecting Nicosia and Kyrenia and is marked on many signs, so it won’t be hard to find it. And the territory itself has been turned into a museum and equipped with many necessary structures that ensure a safe walk even with children. Magnificent visibility and a variety of landscapes have long given the castle the glory of one of the most photogenic places on the island.
Walking among the shops and caffeine of the old city in the heart of Limassol, you can suddenly come across a small but powerful fortress. The restored castle today looks surprisingly well preserved, but this impression is deceptive. During its busy life, this building has experienced several destructions and changed its purpose many times. Initially, this place was a Christian church. Then she passed into the short-term possession of Richard the Lionheart, who managed to get married here with his beloved Berengaria of Navarre.
And in the XII century, the great German conqueror Frederick II imprisoned objectionable Cypriot barons in the walls of the fortress. From the 13th to the 16th centuries, the castle was regularly besieged by foreign invaders, and only in the 20th century was it “left alone” and finally restored. Today no one besieges the castle, except perhaps tourists and guests of friendly taverns and bars. In each of these establishments, you can have a delicious meal or drink a refreshing cocktail and view the castle from the outside.
Restaurant Huzur Ağaç Steak (World Tree)
While traveling in Cyprus, it is simply unforgivable to ignore Turkish cuisine. One of the best restaurants where it is excellently cooked can be safely called the “Tree of the World” in the village of Bellapais. The institution is focused primarily on meat steaks in different variations with an abundance of seasonings and spices. In addition to steaks, lamb skewers are served here, cooked on an open fire.
Vegetables, salads, tortillas – everything is incredibly tasty and fresh. The restaurant has a pleasant interior and a competent layout of the space, in which there is no feeling of crowding even with full seating. All dishes are available at very budget “Turkish” prices. And after a hearty lunch, you can explore the ruins of a medieval abbey – from the restaurant to it is within easy reach. Although only ruins remained from the building, the imagination itself draws the grandeur of the structures of the Gothic era.
Cathedral of Saint Nicholas (Famagusta)
To appreciate the historical significance of this building, it is enough to say that the kings of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, which included Cyprus, were married to the kingdom here. The most famous cathedral in Europe in the XII-XIII centuries was Reims Cathedral. The Lusignan dynasty, which ruled the island at that time, decided that they were no worse than the European kings, and decided to build a cathedral that was not inferior to Reims.
And I must say that they succeeded. The cathedral really turned out to be dominant, inspiring ordinary people in awe of the divine royal power. It is hard to even imagine how grandiose an impression such a building made on ordinary residents of a medieval city. But the cathedral was waiting for a classic tragedy – war, destruction, capture. As a result, it became a Turkish mosque, which still functions today.
Of all the buildings of the Venetian period on the island, the fort in Kyrenia is the best preserved. It is here that an inquisitive tourist can imagine the life and structure of the city 800 years ago as clearly as possible. A medium-sized crescent-shaped bay, large enough to accommodate all the boats of the locals, but compact enough to keep the interior calm. A large square fortress with towers surrounded by a moat to protect the city.
A long, wide embankment with fishermen’s houses and the buildings of the old city rising up from the sea, where the locals used to huddle. It is not difficult to imagine such a medieval picture, although now restaurants, hotels, and souvenir shops are located here instead of all this. Walking along the embankment be sure to drink the famous Turkish tea with an incredibly deep and rich taste. It is better to order two or even three servings at once, especially in combination with Turkish sweets.
If there is a desire to be in a quiet, secluded place without tourists, buses, and an abundance of souvenirs, it is hard to imagine a better location than Buffavento Castle. The highest, most inaccessible, and therefore the least visited medieval castle in Cyprus. The history of these places is not replete with unique events. The castle had a rather ordinary fate: from its heyday under the Lusignans to oblivion under the Venetians.
But today it is one of the few places on the entire island where even at the height of the season you can be alone with your thoughts, just wander among the ancient stones, listen to the sounds of wildlife, breathe in the clean and warm air of the Mediterranean. The castle is located on top of the Kyrenia mountain range, so excellent views are guaranteed. But you need to be careful since the territory of the ruins and the approach to them is not equipped in any way,
When exploring the medieval heritage of Cyprus, make sure to visit Nicosia. The Venetian fortifications, the gates of Famagusta and Kyrenia, the Selemiye Mosque, the Buyuk Khan Caravanserai – all these monuments of the Middle Ages are certainly worthy of attention. Each of the locations is located within the old city, so you can even explore them on foot for one day.
A certain flavor to this route is given by the fact that in the process of traveling you have to cross the border of states. Nicosia today is the capital of two Cypriot republics at once, so take your passport with you. And do not forget to compare the gastronomic features of different nations. Only here you can dine in a traditional Greek tavern, and for dinner, taste cakes with meat in a Turkish eatery in the northern part of the city.