Blogging From Cyprus

Cyprus is a land flowing with history

By Max Hartshorne

The DMZ in Nicosia, Cyprus, diving the country into North and South.
The DMZ in Nicosia, Cyprus, diving the country into North and South. Max Hartshorne photos

I fly tonight to London, then tomorrow morning to Larnaca, Cyprus. We will visit the Sanctuary of Apollo, the birthplace of Aphrodite, and the tombs of the Kings, then stay at the Elysium Beach Resort.

This trip will be a mixture of the Roman world and the modern, and I think it will make a first class article for GoNOMAD and the Valley Advocate.

The Green Line in Nicosia, Cyprus

Here is the UN line where as of 2004, Cypriots can travel to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. One thing most people never do is stay over, since they don’t want

The twin minarets of a mosque, converted from a Christian church, in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
The twin minarets of a mosque, converted from a Christian church, in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Comment: You really miss a whole lot if you don’t stay overnight or at least a few days in the north side of the island, they have the best beaches at the Karpaz Peninsula at the eastern tip., miles and miles of white sandy beach with crystal clear water and exotic colorful fish.

Maybe the greek Cypriots don’t stay over night but since 2004 most tourists fly in to Larnaca and then take a taxi to the north and stay there for the rest of their vacation, there is a huge British community living in the north. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.

Personally I wish tourists would not discover the north, I am selfish that way, but progress will happen. Los Angeles give money to the Turks who have settled in their former land. In the newspaper here, there were many stories of how Turkey’s bid to be in the EU might be jeopardized by tiny Cyprus, since they can veto the bigger country’s entry.

But some we talked to said that was unlikely, and commented that no matter what they say here in Cyprus, the Brits and US always side with the Turks. Could that be because of the strategic location of Turkey? Yes that and the fact that Turkey has more water than anyone else in the region. Fascinating to talk about this with the locals, and they seethe when they talk about the lands taken and the missing people who disappeared after 1974.

When Will Cyprus Reunite? Probably Never

We’ve been in Cyprus for one day and have talked a lot about the big question many of us brought with us: What is up with the separation of the country? Our guide had firm opinions, as did most of the other Cypriots. She said that when she was asked to guide a group on a tour of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, she was repelled. Because the houses, shops and restaurants in this part of the nation were stolen by the Turkish when they invaded in 1974. Along with 1600 missing people, the invaders baldly took property and expelled the natives…then brought in 200,000 Turks from the mainland to occupy the land as settlers.

I asked the manager of the Hilton where we were staying when the problem would be resolved. He said ‘never.’ It is too complicated and there are too many interests in Turkey and the populace will never give it back. They are just bullies who were able to steal the land and with a 5,000 man army, the Cypriots had no chance. This photo shows the glimpse we got of the North, in the divided captital of Nicosia.
Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Cyprus –Fish Meze, Ancient Mosaics, Empty Beachfront Cafes

Lady in the street in Nicosia.
Lady in the street in Nicosia.

The Cyprus story is certainly more than the Green line and the north. There is plenty of beauty here on the Southern shores, where the cliffs show the glint off the Mediterranean. We started the day visiting the Temple of Apollo, on a windy bluff off the highway. This country has had so many invaders, even the ruins and temples were renovated by succeeding emperors, Augustus renovated after the Greeks and later the Ottomans tried turning every cathedral into a minareted mosque.

We drove along the coastal road until we reached a fish restaurant perched high on a hill, overlooking a large rocky mound with two sequentially smaller islands in front. This was the ‘birthplace of Aphrodite,’ who was borne of the sea foam. For us it meant fish mezze, a dazzling array of groaning plates of octopus, sardines, broiled fish, calamari, and all sprayed with the ubiquitous Cypriot lemon.

Like every meal here, this one came with tahini, and salads, yogurt, fresh beets, and fried potatoes. Potatoes are the #2 export here, right after vino. Later we had the Cyprus coffee with all those grounds in the bottom. Someone at the table said she could read the drips leftover in the cup, to see my fortune. “Roads,” she said, “I see roads coming down the side…and must like people.”

We are staying in Pafos, a beach town with blaring neon signs directing the mostly UK travelers to come ‘taste the finest fish and chips in Cyprus,’ or ‘Enjoy the real Chinese flavors here.’ I saw a trio of sad looking restauranteurs peering out the window, hoping I was a customer, but their fireplaces flickered and no customers have yet shown up.
Thursday, March 02, 2006

Everybody in Cyprus Has Solar Power, but not Wireless

Blogging every day is what I shoot for on my journeys, but it isn’t as easy as it sounds. We stayed at a five-star hotel with the swankiest ocean view rooms and marble everything, but the only link to my beloved ‘Net was one slow dial up computer with a 15-minute limit. Now we’ve moved on to Le Meridian, an even swankier place where the owner of the hotel is having his son’s wedding tonight for 1500 guests. Hey they even invited us journalists to join the party.

Cyprus continues to impress, with its lush green hills, sea views, and rustic country lanes. Yesterday we drove by Land Rover over rough hillside roads, passing banana trees, groves of almonds, lemons and oranges, and finally ended up at the Baths of Aphrodite. It is kind of charming to see how these Cypriots have physical spaces named for mythical gods, but they double as beautiful spots in nature, and I guess we can go along with the fantasy.

The other most prevalent thing we see here are rooftop solar panels and ubiquitous white tanks, on every roof there is that tank that looks like a lifeboat on a ship. Solar power takes care of just about all of the water heating here–it was imported from Israel, and with the prices of oil and gas this seems like a pretty good investment opportunity for the U.S.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Dancing, Drinking and Fun of Cyprus’ Carnival

On our last night in Cyprus, we went to the center of Limossos to a tavern on a side-steet, during tonight’s carnival. That is the time when people dress up in costumes and party later than usual, in honor of the festival preceeding Easter. We squeezed into a corner table in the low-ceilinged taverna and a man came in dressed as a sheik…then two women entered dressed like birds, then a man dressed as a bride.

Lemon trees are everywhere in Cyprus, even in the cities.
Lemon trees are everywhere in Cyprus, even in the cities.

We ate mezze…dozens of small dishes starting with salad, then beets, roasted mushrooms, and octopus, and lamb with onions, then pork in a brown sauce, egads, then potatoes, then a stuffed grape leaves, and little round fritters, then a towering platter with a lit sterno and meat to heat up. The waiters kept filling our wine glasses, and the table was filled with streamers that we threw down the long table, aiming for glasses….then the music began.

The musicians played the traditional tunes, sounding sort of middle eastern, and the people began to dance in a small area in front. Women sat up during the music and swayed their hands out, undulating to the beat of the little guitars and drums…people clapped and gyrated, and one of our group, and older writer named Stan, got up to dance with Maria, who knew how to dance to the music.

A woman beside us tipped her head way back, feeling the music, and it was a festive and fun night the beginning of carnival in Cyprus. We left the restaurant and two of our party wanted to stay, they were tempted by the Brazilian music in a nearby club. We bade them good bye to take a cab while we woke up our bus driver to take us home to the hotel to fly back to our lives at 6:45 tomorrow.

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