Dancing on Fortress Walls
O the hope and excitement; the anticipation that Saturday. Was there relief as the threat of a nuclear war seemed to recede? Some have since said so. It added to the fresher air we breathed as we viewed a remade landscape of possibilities.
The season had changed, fresher after another hot Summer on the Mesaoria Plain and no longer beach weather. A dozen or so friends in our early 20s packed camping equipment, drinks and food into a convoy of cars and motorbikes and set off.
Yes we had the paperwork that had taken a week to obtain, all correct with passports and ID cards for the border guards’ scrutiny. Yes we had our favourite cassette tapes ready to play; but did we play them? Not yet, for as we set off to cross through Black Knight into northern Cyprus, BFBS Radio was playing such sensational live soundscapes from Berlin that we were transfixed; barely speaking. Two nights before, the crowds had surged; the border guards had held their fire; and the hated wall was already being demolished.
We were happy to escape the flat strictures of Ayios Nikolaos, such as they were, and head north to the Kyrenia Mountains: to the ancient Byzantine fortress of Kantara Castle. As I pointed my Mitsubishi Colt towards them, past eery Varosha then curious Famagusta and ancient Salamis, the freedom of the mountains grew before our eyes just as the gushing commentary from Berlin filled our ears. Long before we reached the edge of the plain BFBS crackled and faded into white noise, even as the November daylight began to fade. We reached deserted Kantara at dusk.
Just as the events and the journey had lifted our spirits, so nature lifted them too. As we drank and chatted; and danced and caroused, an impish breeze sprang and tugged flames from the fire we had made to cook on. From the parapets we could watch lightning flicker over the Taurus Mountains and the Mediterranean and then over us: the first rain storm of the winter soaked the dry earth and yielded those unmistakeable scents of brine and dust amongst the pines. The dark sky shuddered with thunder.
We took shelter in the dry room and danced some more. In the morning someone said I’d fallen off a parapet into some branches. We tidied the castle and took our rubbish and ourselves in the cars and wound down the lanes to the deserted sandy beach 600 metres below. There we grilled sausages, eggs and squeaky halloumi, and the hardier swam before, inevitably, we all bade our farewells and dispersed. We remembered dancing in an ancient fortress even as Berliners were dancing on their wall. Their border melted away long ago but the Cypriots’ still endures.
The hope and excitement; the sounds, scents and views that weekend – and its camaraderie – have never left me.
This post is part of the Life Junction series. Each part seeks to expand from a vivid fragment into a more general observation about values, in a way that might help the reader draw positive conclusions from events in their own life.
- The Shellscrape (Resolution & Temptation)
- Show Salute (Opportunity & Disruption)
- Dulce et Decorum Erat (Freedom & Confinement)
- Dancing on Fortress Walls (Honesty & Illusion)
- Inheriting a Relic (Vitality & Mortality)
- Karachi Hotel (Empathy & Judgmentalism)
- The Thunderclap (Courage & Fear)
- You need a bomb under your bed to get you up (Agency & Fatalism)
- On Meditation (Mindfulness & Confusion)