A forgotten castle in Northern Cyprus
4 minute read
While exploring the trails in Northern Cyprus, a forgotten castle in the Kyrenia Range grabbed the attention of Nike Werstroh and Jacint Mig, and a narrow trail begged to be explored.
We came across a few sentences written about a forgotten castle and my imagination soared. Since my childhood I have had a thing about castle ruins, especially if the fortress was built on a mountain. There is something about those crumbling walls perched on rocky peaks. There are always some lingering stories and secrets about the people who built and used it. Despite the fact that many years have passed since my childhood, my curiosity remains, and I still love to explore castle ruins. Therefore, the trails leading to the three well-known castles, Buffavento, St Hilarion and Kantara, were among the first we researched and walked while we were in the Kyrenia Mountains in North Cyprus.
When I heard about a mysterious fourth castle, I wanted to see it.
We tried to gather some information about the fourth castle but we could find hardly anything about the ruin. Some documents mentioned it as a forgotten castle, but it wasn't clear just how much of the walls had survived. There was only one way to find out: walk there and see it. Jacint somehow found a faint line on the satellite images, which looked like a good path to follow. He also located a small village, Agirdag, where we planned to start the trail.
Sleepy houses lined the narrow winding road as we drove, following the GPS, and then parked on the side of the road near the last house in Agirdag. A couple of goats were lazily grazing in the meadow nearby, but the people who lived in the village didn`t show themselves on that sunny morning. As we didn't have any information about this trail, we planned to follow the thin line on the mobile app.
We started walking eagerly, leaving the few houses behind, and soon the scenery was dominated by the Kyrenia Mountains and some views towards the south. On a rocky outcrop, far but still distinguishable, the Turkish and North Cyprus flags were flying close to each other in the breeze. From the track they looked small, a bit out of place but still dominant on the tree-covered mountainside.
Painted arrows on some of the rocks indicated that the trail would probably lead us somewhere. We followed the yellow-brown track towards the rock-scattered slope with the cloudless blue sky in the background, and when we got close to the mountain face, the rough track eventually narrowed down to a path.
As we followed the contour of the rocky mountainside, like a long natural barrier, the Kyrenia Range towered on the right, while we enjoyed some great views towards the south.
Morfou Bay, the Troodos and even the silhouette of the Macharias Peak were distinguishable in the distance. It was our last day in North Cyprus so we could easily recognise the surrounding landmarks. Sometimes, when I stopped to catch my breath during the ascent, I stared into the distance towards the Troodos, knowing that there were many splendid snaking trails on the pine-covered slopes. This knowledge made the landscape very familiar.
I was following the meandering path, deep in my thoughts and, as the path swung right, the ruins came into sight. At first they were hard to spot as the colours of the ruins were almost identical to the colours of the ground and the rock scattered slope. But as I looked carefully, they were definitely there, so I quickened my steps on the narrow, slightly overgrown path.
There were no information boards or any signs, but the crumbling walls gave a good idea of what the building might have looked like centuries ago.
When we were researching the fortress later, we could hardly find anything about the ruins. It was considerably smaller than the other three castles in the Kyrenia range and there is very little known about it. However, it was built around the same time as the other castles and was most probably used as a signal tower.
The castles perched on rocks in the Kyrenia range formed an important line of defence against Arab raids.
We explored; walked among the crumbling walls and peeked into the one-time rooms. Grass grew where once the floor had been and mystery lived within the low, decaying walls. We sat down for a rest and ate our sandwiches greedily. I like to spend some time among ruins and imagine the time when the walls were intact and important, and people still used and inhabited it. It would be interesting to know more about the time and the people but, in this case, I could rely only on my imagination. It might have been small and lacking in information boards; however, the views were great, and unlike the other castles in the Kyrenia range, we didn't have to share it with others. From the ruins the Kyrenia range rolled on into the distance, but we retraced our steps on the same narrow path to Agirdag.
The goats were still grazing in the nearby field and the locals were still hiding somewhere, and we hadn't seen a soul when we quietly left Agirdag.
As we were driving back to Kyrenia (Girne in Turkish), I stole a last glimpse of the Kyrenia range. The mountains supplied us with so many great trails, where we didn't have to share the paths with other walkers, and birdsong and rustling leaves provided the background music to our steps.