A Day Trip to Guzelyurt and Vouni Palace

Today was such bright lovely weather, we decided to head out and see some of the island. The wind has disappeared now and left us at about 22C – all very pleasant and nice. Perfect for sightseeing in t shirts and shorts.

We headed west along the north coast and then slightly south west up into the hills around the massive and beautiful reservoir, following signs for Guzelyurt (Greek name Morphou). Guzelyurt is an area of great fertile farmland, acres of fruit trees of all sorts – at the moment covered in citrus, earlier in the year great fields of strawberries. The name Guzelyurt means “beautiful land” and it is well named. Market day in Guzelyurt is on a Saturday – definitely worth visiting to buy amazing produce from the farmers.

At the town we branched off south along the coast to visit Vouni Palace,an ancient hill palace where the current ruins are dated from 650 BC. We tried to find it years ago, got lost and gave up. But now the wonders of Google Maps take you straight there. Wow! What a place! It is perched on top of a flattened peak with amazing views to the sea and also to the surrounding hills and plains – all the way to the Troodos.

The whole site belongs to a period not earlier that the late sixth century and not later than the end of the fifth or early fourth century B.C. It has not yet been fully established what it was called in antiquity but it is certain that it represents the palace and dependencies of the local kings of Cyprus built at a time when the island was torn by dissension between the pro. Greek and the pro Persian factions. Yes…. not much has changed really!!!! Soli, nearby, was ruled by a pro Greek prince and so Vouni was built by the pro Persian faction at height to keep an eye on Soli which can be seen clearly lower down and a few miles away.

The palace was evidently a building of great wealth and luxury, and there were found not only a group of sculptures and works of art some imported from the Greek mainland, but also a treasure consisting of silver coins of Cypriot cities and two superb gold bracelets which can rank among the finest known examples of Persian gold work. There were about 125 rooms. The palace contained elaborate baths supplied with a hot water system and numerous deep and efficient wells. You can see the cistern entrances now. The large standing stone stele standing by the cistern in the courtyard was designed to hold a windlass, an apparatus for moving heavy weights, which would have been used to lift water from the cistern. This stone has become the symbol of Vouni.  Looking closely at the centre of the stele will reveal an unfinished carved face, thought to be a goddess.

The living rooms of the palace were grouped round a central atrium which was surrounded by a colonnade. In the centre was a pool of water linked to a cistern. A ” Royal road ” led from the lower township into the palace.  The Palace was mysteriously destroyed by fire in the 300s BC whilst a Greek prince was in power. It had been a continuous threat to Soli, so perhaps not a surprise.

The views from the ruins are absolutely stupendous, worth the trip in themselves even if you have no interest in archaeology. Just amazing. Just offshore is a tiny island which was excavated at the same time as Vouni and they found remnants of Neolithic settlements there, possibly marking the beginning of settlements around Cyprus. Definitely visit Vouni on a fine day whilst in the area.

In more modern times copper mining was a huge interest in these parts. Although in ancient times too – the Romans prized the island not only for its strategic position but also for the copper found here. The Anglo American Copper company mined here in the 20th Century and you can still see the old loading piers and the old trains and trucks displayed around the landscape. It’s a visit all in its own right.

Coming down again to sea level we drove into Guzelyurt and parked up at the Archaological Museum in the centre of town. It’s got a very convenient carpark. We were hungry and it was lunchtime so first we went to one of our favourite lunch spots, a very simple but very very good kebab cafe just 2 minutes past the museum. They actually have 2 sorts of doner – chicken and beef – and they are massively popular, everyone comes in to grab one. We got a table and enjoyed 2 beef doners plus I had a bottle of water and Bob had the salty yoghurt drink that locals drink with kebab. It was about £8 in total and just totally yum. No need for dinner for us tonight.

We walked back to the museum and went in. Tickets were 50 tl each like they were for Vouni. About £1.50. There is a downstairs room that is full of stuffed animals and birds which can be found on the island. We’ve been before, so once was enough for that! I wanted to see the objects from Soli and Vouni again and they are upstairs. There are rooms of fabulous pottery and weaponry dating from around 2300 BC(mindboggling) and it is so lovely to see the beautiful decorations on everyday objects from so long ago. There are also rooms of artifacts dating from classical Greek and Roman times, but the pride of the museum is the room that holds the “Golden Hoard of Soli”. In this room there are all the finds from the excavation in 2005 which uncovered the hoard after a man from the water company found the treasure while digging a drain behind the amphitheatre at Soli. He now often works on the ticket desk which is nice.

There are beautiful gold bangles, rings and ear rings. Such small arms they had. And some of the jewellery is etched with the tiniest engravings, yet so detailed. The craftsmanship is superb. There is a gold diadem, a gold mouthpiece (grave ornament) and most amazing of all, a fantastic, amazing gold wreath of delicate leaves. It is so delicate and beautiful. There are pictures on the wall of the excavation and the work of taking that wreath out of the dirt…. what a find!!!!!

We walked around the garden behind the lovely museum and then went into the cloister and courtyard of St Mama’s Church next door. It’s a lovely golden stone church…. We’ve been in before and it’s lovely inside with glass chandeliers, lots of icons, plus the tomb of St Mama. There’s a hole in this which emits a magical oil said to cure illnesses. When I put my finger in, it came out covered in olive oil, however….. Today the Church was not open. We could have walked back to the museum to get the key but we decided to just enjoy it from the outside this time. If you want to see photosof the inside of the church or of the excavations at nearby Soli, then search earlier mentions in my blog. Both well worth a visit.

A lovely lovely day out. The weather has been lovely. We ran a few errands on the way home – picked up the poolside loggia curtains which have been cleaned ready for next year and also renewed our phone contracts for another month, even though we are only here for 2 more weeks. As predicted, no need for dinner but we did have a bowl of ice cream with the tv!!!!!

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