Visiting Nicosia and Feasting

Joe’s last couple of days with us and we still had things to show him.  Yesterday was quite quiet really as we recovered from our “do” the night before.  Bob and I had to run into Kyrenia to attend to some legal business first thing, but then we spent the rest of the day around the pool.

In the evening we went for dinner to a favourite restaurant, the Dogus Adres.  It is right beside the sea in Karaoglanoglu and a rather swish and romantic atmosphere.  Typically Cypriot, you get a number of things included free with your main course.  Bob and I both ordered calamari for main and Joe had salmon.  The free meze was excellent.  We got bread, olives, 5 different cold dishes and 3 hot.  Then there was an enormous plate of salad, one of chips and one of homemade warm potato crisps.  Finally the actual main courses arrived.  Our calamari was quite a normal size but Joe’s salmon was enormous!  No matter, it all got polished off.  Finally we were invited to help ourselves from the dessert buffet, which included 5 flavours of ice cream, and then coffee.  Really good value at about 70 ytl each ie £10.

Today we went into Nicosia for the morning.  Set off at about 9am once the “rush hour” was over.  It was an easy run in with little traffic and we were parked in the old town just before 10.  We walked through the narrow streets, still very quiet and serene at that time, passed the Great Hamaam, and to the Great Han, the medieval guesthouse, now an arts and crafts centre.  It is so atmospheric and pretty in there.  Again, we were there before any tour groups came through.

We had drinks and a shared plate of the meat stuffed pastries, made on the spot.  They were piping hot and really good, so light.  We had 4 each for the princely sum of £3.  Had a look around the shops in there but not many were open.  Then we wandered out into the bazaar area and down to the Leda Street border crossing.  We didn’t bother going across because all the interesting spots are on the Turkish side.  The other side is like Basingstoke high street.

Back through the bazaar and to the covered market, built by the British in 1939.  Had a mooch around there.  Joe bought a big box of the special Turkish delight.  Then we walked around the cathedral/mosque area, which is especially atmospheric.  It was still so peaceful and quiet.  There is an old Ottoman library building – The Library of Sultan Mahmut 2 –  behind the mosque which I have never seen open before.  We went in for a look.  It was in beautiful condition with wonderful  inscriptions all around the coving.  The inscriptions are a poem of praise for the Sultan.  There are about 1700 valuable old books, including a handwritten Koran.  Found a lovely café in a nearby courtyard and had a cold drink.

We had tickets for the midday Whirling Dervish performance.  I have written about this many times and we always enjoy it.  There is something both moving and mesmerising about watching these young men whirl through their meditative dance.  Every step has symbolic meaning, every arm position, head position, item of clothing……  I really recommend seeing it if you are in Nicosia.

We headed out of town after that and drove up to St Hilarion Castle along the narrow ridge road that runs across the top of the Besparmak Mountains.  The views are stupendous, not just of the Castle but also down to the north coast, the inland plain and also as far as the reservoir and Guzelyurt beyond.  The pine forests are full of aromatic herbs and the air up there just smells great.  We drove all the way across to come down in Lapta and then home.  It’s like being on top of the world.

Got back about 230 and straight into the pool!  Spent a couple of hours wallowing away the dust of the city.

Tonight we went had dinner at Villagio Templos in Zehtinlik village, about 15 minutes drive from the villa.  It’s a lovely old Turkish house set in a garden in the countryside.  We haven’t been here for a while but it used to be a favourite.  Although they offer a full a la carte menu, their speciality is a meze built around a main course of either a full leg of lamb or a rack of lamb.  We went for the leg!  I’d forgotten how big the meze is and how imaginative.  The little dishes are not just the same tastes of fresh vegetables, cheese and salads you get elsewhere.  Their chef is very skilled at blending flavours together to make unusual combinations.  I loved the beetroot humus, the Romanesco chick pea dip, the tempura vegetables, vegetable fritters that melted in the mouth.  She’d done something special to the fried halloumi too, a crisp almost not-there coating that added a lovely texture to the hot squeaky cheese.  Of course the star of the show was the leg of lamb which had been slow roasted in a wood oven.  It literally fell off the bone and was so succulent and juicy.  Just served with wonderful golden Cyprus roast potatoes and special rice cooked into a risotto.   Dessert was butter fried fruity pancakes….  It wass all far too much food of course.  We went home with loads of the lamb and potatoes packed up in a box.  The whole dinner for three, massive meze, lamb, dessert, bottle of wine, glass of wine, two beers, water was £60 with tip.  Unbelievable!   I cannot recommend Villagio Templos more highly.  We will be making it a regular on our list.

It’s a bit difficult to find.  We have always come down into Zehtinlik from the bypass, past Archway restaurant and then wended and turned in the narrow roads, sometimes getting lost to reach it.  However, the owner has now told us the easiest way!!  Drive on the “old” road into the outskirts of Girne.  Just before the Lemar supermarket which is opposite the Telsim telephone shop, turn right.  Follow that road straight up towards Zehtinlik and Villagio Templos is on the right before you come into the village.  No turning off required.

Came home and had one last brandy with Joe before turning in, feeling a bit full up.  Have had such a nice visit with him and we’ll miss him now.