Friday, April 29, 2011

A little catch-up

Since Istanbul, we have been to Budapest, Kisoroszi in  Hungary and Praque in the Czech Republic. We are now back in Budapest for the final leg of our trip.

Budapest is not new to me. We have travelled here 5 times in the last 10 years. It has become our central city for other travels. Budapest is a very large city consisting of Buda (in the hills) and Pest on the plains. We took in a day at the Gallert Hotel where we enjoyed swimming and the their thermal mineral waters.

Kisoroszi is just outside of Budapest and our hosts father has invited us to his weekend house. We spent two days there discovering the island and hanging out at the cottage.

We just got back from Prague. What a beautiful city. Joe and I were there 3 years ago and decided to take Warren there. It was well worth the return visit.

As always, more pictures are on my Picasa site.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


We are now in Budapest enjoying the sunny warm weather. The temperature has been around 25 during the day and spring is in full bloom. Lots of lilacs, tulips and flowering shrubs.

Our time in Istanbul was very good. We managed to do most of the things we set out to do. The only exception was Dalmache Palace. When we checked it on line on Monday, our last day, we found out it was closed. Oh well, maybe another time.

We saw both the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar. Very colourful and wall to wall shoppers. If you can't find what you are looking for at the Grand Bazaar it likely doesn't exist. We took several walks down the main shopping district (Ikstikl Street) and did some beer drinking in the area.

I have lots of pictures for your perusal on Picasa.

Friday, April 15, 2011

We say our goodbyes

We ate at our favourite restaurant (Alesta) this afternoon. We enjoyed a Turkish Pizza called Lamacum and it was delicious. We found this place shortly after we arrived and ate there at least 4 times.

On our way to Kyrenia today, Warren wanted to see the Harley distributor (The Biker's Club) on display and we talked to the manager who told us he was from Kitchener. What a small world.

I did forget that we also went to Nicosia and I have several pictures on Picasa.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cyprus, crunch, cats and more

Thursday, April 14

Story by Joe Szalai

We had an uneventful flight from Toronto to Istanbul.  Wayne reserved our seats on Turkish Airlines online so the three of us could sit together.  Before the plane took off we saw that there were quite a few empty seats so Warren and I grabbed window seats for the takeoff.  We stayed in those seats for the whole flight because it gave us extra leg and arm room.  It was easier to eat and nap that way, not that I managed to get any sleep.    Last year the plane was full and we had to stay put for the whole trip. 

The only downside to our flight to Cyprus was the six hour wait at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul for our connecting flight to Ercan airport in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.  While waiting we made the mistake of buying some Gozleme at the airport.  It was dry and tasteless and expensive.  They looked good behind the glass display case but we should have known better. 

The airport at Ercan is small and our driver was waiting for us as we cleared customs.  He took us to the Highlife Hotel (I hate names like that) but, because it was after midnight, hotel staff were not on duty so he showed us our room. 

Our split level room is at the end of the second building on the second floor with a bed upstairs and a foldout couch on the lower level.  We have a view of the north, east and west.  We have an excellent view of the Mediterranean sea and the mountains to the south.  

Around our hotel, there are tall palm trees, fields of tall yellow flowers interspersed with red poppies, bougainvilleas, red and pink woody geraniums, red and yellow roses, red hibiscus, oleanders that reach up to the second floor, various cacti and other flowers I don’t recognize.  The air is fragrant.


Because it’s been rather wet, there are hundreds of large snails everywhere around the hotel.  It’s difficult to walk and occasionally you can hear the crunch of snails as we accidentally step on some of them.  They remind me of the dew worms back home that crawl on the sidewalks after the first warm rainy night in spring.  The snails aren’t as gross but the crunching sound is a bit weird.  It’s a new experience for us. 
Escargots anyone??  I’m tempted…


There are cats everywhere at the hotel.  They’re all friendly and love to be petted but what they really want is some food.  There’s even a beautiful white Persian cat who has a green and brown eye.  Some reviewers on Trip Advisor mentioned all the cats here and they weren’t kidding.  If you love cats, this is the place for you. 

A cat story

Yesterday, as usual, we took a nap in mid-afternoon.  I’m already awake when I hear Warren come downstairs to use the washroom.  While in the washroom I hear him talking to one of the cats.  It seems one of them jumped onto the window sill and presented itself to Warren.  I’m still trying to get a few more winks but I hear Warren grab a beer on his way to the balcony.  Seconds later, through my half-closed eyes, I notice a cat walking beside my bed.  I wake Wayne and tell him there’s a cat in the room.  Sure enough, the black and white tabby was in our room looking for food and/or attention.  Seconds later he’s on the bed and we start petting him.  Instantly he’s on Wayne’s stomach kneading and purring loudly.   But how did the cat get in?  Well, after Warren saw the cat on the window sill, he closed the window partially but after he left the cat opened the window wide enough to be able to come in to our unit.   If I could, I would take this cat home with me. 


Our first outing was to the beautiful hillside village of Bellapais, site of a Gothic abbey.  The narrow road going up to the village is lined with colourful homes, most with large pots full of flowers.    It’s a small place that can only be described with superlatives.  I’m not one for village living but if I had to chose, this is the village I would love to live in.  


We took a dolmus to Nicosia, which is the last divided capital in the world.  A Venation wall, completed in 1567 (three years before the Turkish invasion) surrounds the Old Town.  We got off the dolmus at one of the gates to the Old Town and walked towards the centre where we had some cay (Turkish tea) before crossing the Green Line into the Greek part.  The only pedestrian crossing between the two sides of the city opened several months before the last time Wayne and I were here.  It’s an interesting experience for sure.


We took a dolmus to Famagusta and spent some time exploring the old walled city.  At one time it was one of the wealthiest city in the world but time and conflict have taken their toll.  Still, there are plenty of gems to be seen.  Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque is a spectacular building that was built in the Lusignan period between 1298 and 1312.  It’s of Gothic design modelled on the French cathedral in Reims

What I really wanted to see was Varosha, a deserted district south of the city.  It was once Cyprus’s biggest resort but today it is decaying and access is forbidden by the military.  The Greeks fled the city when the Turkish army invaded in 1974.  The once fancy hotels that line the beach stand like tall tombstones, a true testament to the stupidity of war and conflict.       

St Hilarian Castle

We took a taxi to St Hilarian Castle high above Kyrenia.  It is named after the monastic saint from Palestine who died here in 372.  The Byzantines built a monastery here in his memory.  We only stayed an hour but managed to take in the breathtaking views of Kyrenia, the Pentadaktyos mountains and the Mediterranean sea. 


Wayne and I were in Kyrenia several years ago but, because we stayed for one night, we only managed to see the old yacht harbour, apparently one of the most charming in the Mediterranean.   This time we’re here for ten days and we’ve gone into Kyrenia every day.  It’s only a half hour walk from hotel and we sure need the exercise to burn of all the food we’ve been eating.  Kyrenia is a pretty place with lots of stores, hotels, casinos and restaurants.  There seems to be a building boom at the moment.  Our hotel is located down a long lane but several beautiful new homes have been built close to the main road.  We met too of the people who live in these modern mansions and they both have British accents.  Actually, you can hear Brits everywhere.  One day, while waiting for a dolmus to take us into town, a car pulled over and the women driver, who seemed to have a British accent, asked if we wanted a lift.  Naturally, we agreed.  It turned out that she wasn’t a Brit but was a real estate agent who was originally from New York City.  I’m sure she wouldn’t have picked up three men in Manhattan but had no qualms about it here.  We certainly never felt threatened by anyone.    

Istanbul next…

Saint Hilarion Castle

Yesterday, we took a cab to Saint Hilarion Castle just above Kyrenia. A very lovely castle that Walt Disney used as a backdrop for Snow White. It is the castle of the witch. It is set high (about 1300 meters above Kyrenia) overlooking the city and the Mediterranean below.

We spent an hour looking over the site and discovered a pretty well preserved historical site. You can read about it here.

The taxi ride is the only means to get to the site but the price of 70 TL is well worth it.

I have uploaded lots of pictures of the site to my Picasa account.

We leave for Istanbul tomorrow evening. Stay tuned for more pictures and stories.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Today we went to Famagusta. It is a city divided on Cyprus' east coast. In 1974, the Turks invaded and took control of the city. What is left behind is in the Greek quarter is a lot of building that gone into disrepair. We took in this ancient city that surrounded by a wall and contains many old buildings. Some churches have been converted to mosques.

The ride by dolbus to Famagusta over the mountains is very beautiful. It took about an hour from Kyrenia. I took a video of the return trip through this lovely area. I'll post it to You Tube when I have the time.

Lots of pictures in my Picasa web site.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Kyrenia at night

Last night we went into Kyrenia by dolmus and went to a restaurant specializing in French cuisine. Very good food. I had the pork chop with grilled apple slices and bbq sauce. It was quite a large amount of meat. Joe had a steak and Warren had the sea bass. The prices of restaurant food is quite reasonable.

Today we plan on going to Kyrenia after taking in some rays and spending some time around the pool. The water in the pool is a bit cool but not overly chlorinated. That is a good thing. Very refreshing and nice poolside chairs and patio.

The owner told me that April is a slow time for the hotel but it will pick up in May. In fact, we were here with only 2 other couples for the first few nights. The weekend has brought about 10 couples to the hotel.

In addition to going to Nicosia, we plan on visiting Famagusta, which is famous for the beaches and was a holiday destination until the 70's when it was invaded. There is an area of Famagusta that has been abandoned because of the war and is known as the green zone.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Abbey at Bellapais

We visited the ruins of Bellapais Abbey this morning and looked out over Kyrenia. It is located about 8 km from Kyrenia and well worth the visit.

The tours were not available because of a strike but the ruins were still available to explore.

The vistas overlooking the city below were very spectacular.

Be sure to check out the pictures on Picasa.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

We've arrived

We have now arrived at our hotel just outside of Kyrenia. The Highlife Hotel is very comfortable with a pool, restaurant and outdoor patio. Very lovely.

We walked to Kyrenia this morning. It took about 1 hour and it allowed us to see some of the streetscapes and architecture. It was warm and sunny and we enjoyed the stroll. We then headed back to the hotel just before a brief rain storm.

To see more pictures, go to:

Click here.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Just before the snow

Warren and I

Warren and I on my retirement day.

'Twas the night before

This is the scene from the front porch before we embark on our travels. I'm sure it will all be gone by tomorrow, but it is a bit unexpected. However, it is early April and this is Canada.