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Buffavento - the famous Chateau de Lion

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Buffavento Castle

Buffavento Castle - better the ruins of the medieval hilltop castle in Northern Cyprus - is one of three castles in Pentadaktylos Mountain next to the castles of Kantara and St. Hilarion.

In the sense of the word "Buffavento" means continuing strong swirling winds and in fact, there are strong swirling winds on the top of the Five Finger Mountains, at about 950 meters above sea level, that provide uninterrupted day and night air movements. Alternatively, the fortress is also named Lion Castle because it is located on a steep rocky outcrop very hard to reach, not too far away from Bellapais Abbey.

By car we went up to the summit between Girne and Famagusta, where the road branches off to the castle, which consistently runs on the southern slope of the mountain through clear forest stands of pine, laurel, pistachio and carob trees. From the large parking at the end of the asphalt-road, a 7 km long, bumpy forest road leads to the ruins, you better decide to walk to the stop over next to a small plateau in the shade of a huge olive tree. At least from here, it is just possible to uphill to the ruins on foot (about 40 minute walk).

Buffavento has two fortified areas, the Upper Castle in 954 m height at the top and the lower castle on a 30 m deeper heel rocky landscape. Around the year 1000, the first buildings were constructed to strengthen the island defense under Emperor Alexius I (Byzantium). The castle was originally built by the Byzantines as a pure guard tower to erect an early warning system against possible invasions of Arabia. By the time it subsequently grew with residential buildings, warehouses, cisterns, guardhouses, dungeons and observation platforms on the extremely steep terrain. In the 14th century the castle was again expanded by the Lusignan, so Buffavento served as a refuge in times of crisis, exile, state prison and continued as military observation and signpost. But as well under ruler ship of the Lusignans, the castle was neglected and turned into a prison, which was known and famous as the "Chateau de Lion". In the Venetian era the real meaning of a castle, namely the defense purpose, was again brought to the fore and it was recognized as coastguard bastion.

After yet strenuous climbing (you should use dawn or use just before sunset) to get to the entrance tower, which is the only access to the castle. The right side of the entrance tower rests on adjoining rock and the jagged courtyard preserve the soil retaining walls before slipping, formerly stocked crenellated parapet on the edge of the slope also has a support function. Two rough masonry and down stairs to reach the building connected to: a square building with a barrel vault has a long balcony over the abyss, the larger, second building with an almost 50 m² interior has openings in the ground, probably entrances to cisterns. A third ruin dates from the Byzantine period. Of the original two-story residential buildings are still three ground floor rooms identifiable. A round bay forms the southwest corner directly on the steep slope of the once mighty building (beautiful viewpoint). The thick wall ruins of a cistern are just below the rock crash, as the remains of a stable building. On the ground floor of the fortress are rooms for stockpiling and for accommodating the residents with underlying cisterns for drinking water. The second road leads you to the ruins of a small chapel where you can perceive the breath consuming views of the surrounding environment.

140 steps lead up to the upper castle and overcome so about 30 meters in height almost vertical rock. A handrail provides support and maintenance for the hands. The upper castle is a narrow summit plateau with brittle, medieval buildings. In good weather condition you may see the Turkish Taurus Mountains across the 80 km wide Karamanian Sea, on the other hand the Mesarya level, Nicosia and the Troodos Mountains. On both sides of Buffavento castle you will see the summits of Pentadaktylos very close by.

On a man-sized rock pedestal the remains of a building stands in the center of the plateau, probably a refuge for members of the royal family. From the adjacent buildings the grounds are only remained, probably the barracks for the guards of the upper castle. On the north side there are remains dragging  along the gulf of four rooms from the Byzantine period. As a viewing terrace the northern top of the plateau lies above the steep slope, just below, is fitted into the rocky terrain, with another cistern.

Today, the castle of Buffavento is perhaps the most neglected fortress castle of the three castles in North Cyprus, but perhaps because of it surrounding with a unique flair and character that you will feel immediately and enjoy during your visit.

The German traveler F. Higer visited the castle ruins in 1878 and wrote admiringly: "I even knew no ruins in Spain and southern Italy that would be comparable to rugged boldness, size of the houses and a romantic wild charm with Buffavento. I now began to rise at the enormous rock pyramid, girded by sharp spikes and peaks standing against the sky ... We entered into an arched castle gate, which was still quite preserved and came slowly up from a disintegrating into ruins building to another ...

Is your interest piqued? Since the opening times vary sometimes, it is useful to inquire at the tourist information office in Girne for them in advance.

Floor plan of the ruins Buffavento, Northern Cyprus, sketch by F. Higer

Please read as well:

Cyprus - beautiful but still devided island paradise

Girne / Kyrenia - middleage Castle and harbor

 

 

 

 

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