North Cyprus
Today is Monday, 18th October 2021

Bellapais Abbey Tour

Bellapais and Lawrence Durrell

Bellapais village is now almost equally famous for its writer and novelist, Lawrence Durrell ( 1912-1990), who lived here between 1953 and 1956. In Bellapais he finished Justine, the first volume of the Alexandria Quartet and enjoyed the life of a travel writer marked by the east Mediterranean . His now-popular book Bitter Lemons of Cyprus describes life in Cyprus . Trials and tribulations of purchasing and renovating a house in the village as well as the intrigues and gossip of village life are all well-described in the literary work. On a more sombre note he sounded the alarm bell for the troubles that were to ultimately cast over Cyprus not too many years ahead.

Tree of Idleness

Among the villagers' favourite activities was to spend hours and hours an idle chatting under the so-called "Tree of Idleness" which dominated the main square. Throughout the whole book Bitter Lemons of Cyprus there is no mention about what kind of a tree it was. Today there are two trees that compete for this title. One is a leafy ancient, now-sickly mulberry tree overshadowing the coffee shop next to the Bellapais Abbey ticket booth. The other contender is a Japanese pagoda tree that casts its shadow over the eponymous Huzur Agaç (Tree of Idleness) restaurant. Fairly, both trees could qualify for the role pretty well as each of them attracts a crowd of onlookers. Still it is usually the mulberry under which the men of the village sit on their rustic chairs clutching a cold beer and play a game of backgammon. The picture is very much alike to Durrell's story in which villagers would idle the days away. Whichever tree it is does not really matter since the story brings many visitors and remains a constant source of debate.

Bellapais Monastery, Kyrenia, North Cyprus

Durrell's House

To reach his house, which is still a private residence, head inland along the street to the right of the Huzur Agaç restaurant. Walk about 200 m straight and upwards the steep village street to get to it. On the left you will come across the house. The road is not much suitable for vehicular access. Buying and conversion of Durrell's house is basically a subject matter of his Bitter Lemons . It is an evident conversion of a village cottage, showing an ornamental glazed pottery plaque over the door, saying: "Bitter Lemons: Lawrence Durrell lived here 1953-1956." But the plate can be easily missed. The track at the rear of the house makes a pleasant return route passing on the way a small complex of studios incorporating small bistro offering refreshment and snacks. Following the path downwards you will pass many old cottages abandoned or restored, each making unique atmosphere of a mountain village.

Bellapais Monastery, Kyrenia, North Cyprus

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