By Serpil Kadirlar
Kyrenia- Better known as Girne in the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus has always been at the centre of tourism in Cyprus. The historical and picturesque harbour, the Castles- which have hosted Empires and Dynasties from all over the world, the charming, narrow streets and cobbled roads – these have attracted visitors from every corner of the globe. They not only visit, but have settled in this cosmopolitan city which has now become the centre of multicultural Cyprus, a hubbub of cuisine and culture, and the most diverse city in Cyprus.
As you step off of the main road around the “AŞAI GİRNE MERKEZ” (City centre) which hosts rows and rows of clothing, food and souvenir stores, the old structures and back streets of Kyrenia almost invites one to head towards the harbour. The captivating streets have a magnetic way of pulling the visitor in and it’s as though one is stepping into a time warp. The wooden shutters and doors capture the essence of Cypriot style and the uneven (if not a little wobbly!) pebble dashed roads are simply beautiful. The stone buildings constructed centuries ago with rocks and hand-made bricks of assorted sizes remain impressively imposing and prominent. The enigmatic aura almost invokes memories that were never one’s own.
The AGA PASA SOKAK, a curiously named street which indicates a significant Ottoman history, begins with a mosque at the very corner of the street. The booming minaret continues the call to prayer as it did over 400 years ago when the Ottomans conquered the island from the hands of the Venetians. Further along, BOZOKLAR SOKAK, another quaint street to the right, named after the initial branch of the Turkish tribe from which twenty four other smaller tribes spread across what is now Turkey, Kazakhstan, Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Cyprus.
There is also DENIZCILER SOKAK, meaning “Sailors Street”, and then AGA CAFER PASA SOKAK, named after one of the Ottoman dignitaries who not only conquered, but founded the Mosque mentioned above.
A beautiful little hotel, with a sign embossed with the words “Nostalgia Court”, on the outside, appears a clean, tidy hotel. It is only when one steps in through the doors of the attached “GAZAN RESTAURANT”, when the unique character of the place is presented.
At the restaurant entrance, a Villiars Excelsior motorbike dating back to World War Two stands in almost perfect condition. The original motorbike was sent into Cyprus via parachute during the war and was used by the British Army. The restaurant itself is adorned with antique furniture, Mercedes Benz memorabilia, the war-era wireless, original 1940’s phones, vintage vinyl record players and traditional Cypriot style pottery. Other interesting artefacts at the hotel include rows of bread bannetons and large wooden troughs which were previously used for generations to make bread dough, woven baskets and vintage jugs. In short, the dining room is utterly stunning.
The stone floors, are in perfect condition but are clearly original and very old. And in questioning the floors, the really interesting history of the building comes to light…
The Gazan restaurant, it seems, has a long history of feeding people. The building, which was originally erected by the Crusaders, has become legendary in its history. The Gazan was once a bakery (which explains the troughs and bannetons!). During the reign of the Crusaders, several underground tunnels were constructed within the castle walls which lead out to camouflaged exits within and outside of the ancient city. Many of these tunnels- some which gave access to others- lead to the Gazan Bakery. Such importance was given to the bakery, that a further tunnel was constructed from Kyrenia Castle directly to the bakery. Despite all of the development and renovations which has ensued on almost every inch of Kyrenia, the Gazan Restaurant and connecting Nostalgia Boutique Hotel has maintained the wooden beams, stone floors and restored woven materials used for insulation as it was hundreds of years ago. The legend of the Gazan was confirmed by the late British Historian and Archaeologist, William Dreghorn.
Today, the restaurant offers delicious eats, suitable for all pallets, from traditional, home-made Cypriot cuisine to popular dishes around the world, a vast vegetarian and vegan menu which includes delightful starters, mains and desserts (rather than plain salads which is often the only option for vegans dining out in Cyprus!)
But the heart of the kitchen is of course the bakery. Delights from the bakery include delicious sweet and savoury pies (including vegan options!) with generous fillings, breads, cakes, biscuits, pastries, scones, assorted muffins and much, much more. Baked products are available to order, made freshly on the day and ready for you to collect and enjoy at home. But it’s just so cosy to enjoy a meal at this ancient restaurant! To sit in the original crusader kitchen and enjoy delicious food in such a warm atmosphere is just what the soul yearns for- especially now with the weather cooling down!
It’s advisable to pre-book a table, and definitely worth visiting Gazan Restaurant! For Visits, Reservations and to order your delicious treats, call: 0392 815 3079/ 0548 861 0242