Our hopes of a traditional Turkish breakfast were again thwarted today as we were unable to find anywhere suitably prepared and open in the village. Still it’s an I’ll wind … We found Ahmet’s lokanta and he was making “tantuni” as we entered. He spoke no English but I found he was from Mersin (in the south of Turkey) where Tantuni is a speciality. It’s just a wrap filled with veal and spices but it made a very substantial breakfast and was washed down with cold ayran and hot tea.
The drive up to the Alevkayası visitors centre was quite an adventure in itself as it was so narrow and twisty. On arriving we were stopped at the entrance of the road to Buffavento castle by a young soldier guarding the barrier. Unfortunately the road was closed for military training, evident later by the artillery firing. We got chatting and he told us he was an architect but doing his 9 months national service. “Well you’ve got a very suitable name” I said (his surname was Fearless) which caused him to smile. I then asked “Do you have a gun in your holster?” and he then pulled out a pen from it and said “This is my weapon” which made us all laugh out loud.
We did a circular walk up to the Beşparmak Mountains. At the start we explored the ruins of an ancient Armenian Monastry (Sourp Magar Monastry) which had been abandoned about a century ago.
The monastery of Sourp Magar is situated at a height of 510m above sea level on the northern slopes of the Besparmak mountains, near the North Cyprus herbarium.
Sourp Magar Monastry (Photograph courtesy of Robert William Conway Sharrock Esq)
Sourp Magar means “St Makarios the Blessed”. Who this St Makarios was is unknown, but the monastery was first established about 1000AD as a Coptic (Egyptian Christian) monastery, and came into the hands of the Armenians about the 15th century, the quiet surroundings providing a haven for clergymen and laymen alike. The Armenian community in Nicosia used it as a summer retreat, and it became a stopover for Armenian pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem.
The upheavals in the Ottoman empire at the beginning of the 20th century resulted in the arrival of thousands of Armenian refugees on the island, and the monastery opened its doors to orphans and to those in need. It also helped feed the hungry by developing farming on the monastery’s lands which ran to around 3000 acres.
We met a few friend on the walk when a stray dog joined us just after leaving the monastry. Despite our best efforts to send it back it stayed with us for the whole 10 miles and 500 metres if climbing.
The Bellapais Walk (blue left) and Beşparmak Walk (black centre) in Context
We had a wonderful traditional Turkish dinner of traditional Turkish meze and mixed kebabs at the Esentepe Restaurant- well recommended.