My visit to Cyprus took place in October while studying in London, and in contrast to the dreary London weather, was hot and sunny. The Cyprus blog is the start of several entries pertaining to travel that occurred while I lived in London, as well as my trip across Croatia in August. Between squeezing in all of the travel, studying for classes and writing essays for my exams, the blogs ended up on hold toward the end.
Cyprus was meant to be a visit with my dear fiend Bill, and it was, only he never left the house. Unfortunately, he threw out his back after stepping on one of his boy’s small toys. So, I did most of my roaming on my own, except when his lovely wife Katie took me around. Hawaii, it is not, but for an equally fabulous exotic getaway, I suggest Cyprus.
I arrived in Larnaca at night and on the drive to Bill’s house, two things jumped out at me, a Golden Arches on one side of the street and a Marks and Spencer on the other. I was stunned to see the M&S and Bill reminded me that it was not so long ago that Cyprus was one of the many colonies of the British Empire. Oh, yes, I remember now.
On my first day, Katie dropped me off in downtown Nicosia, which has a modern Mediterranean-shopping plaza surrounded by old houses and the historic old section where one can find traditional clothing, jewelry, spices, soaps, and restaurants. There is also a famous church and museums in walking distance. When I walked around the more modern streets in the area, the buildings reminded me of photos I’ve seen of cities in the Middle East with flat sandstone color exteriors that all resemble one another. But in the shopping areas the influences of Greece and Turkey are everywhere.
Also in this area, the dividing green line that separates Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Cyprus patrolled by the UN. I believe Nicosia is the only divided capital in the world, and Turkey is the only country that legally recognizes the northern side (the Turkish Republic of Cyprus). As I found out, this division is a serious source of contention. Bill is a U.S. expat and half of Katie’s family is from Cyprus and that makes it personal, but she graciously gave me a history lesson anyhow. She also told me that she has never crossed the border and that if I wanted to go I was on my own –- completely understandable.
After walking around for hours and doing a bit of shopping, eating and taking photos, I realized that I missed my opportunity to view the archaeology museum, With several hours left before my ride would arrive, I decided to make my way across the green line. It is right off the main shopping street, so, I crossed, filled out a 90-day visa, they stamped it and I was in.
The first few blocks look similar to the Cypriot side; it is once you move further into the neighborhoods that things begin to look and feel different. They have a massive outdoor plaza with restaurants that seem meant for tourists, but instead local children were playing, otherwise the area looked empty. I stumbled across and antique shop and had to resist the urge for a shopping spree, but I did find traditional Turkish drinking glasses that had to come home with me. I also found what was once a catholic church, now a mosque. I briefly filmed, but felt uncomfortable and stopped when I came upon several local men, since I was walking around on my own in a Turkish area without a headscarf. I never felt afraid, but I quickly realized that there were no other American’s or female tourists in this area and I think it is important to respect other cultures when you travel. I continued to shop and bought tea, spices and other items and everyone was very hospitable, the younger generation on the Turkish side does not speak much English, but the people my age and older do, luckily for me. I wander off a little more where the remnants of war and poverty became more prevalent. Though the two sides are not actively fighting at the moment, it is clear that the northern side has been isolated and neglected. With that said, it is still worth a visit and the people were kind and helpful.
I found my way across the border and to the spot where Katie picked me up. That night I spent time with Katie, Bill and their adorable boys at home. Katie made a wonderful Cypriot vegetable dish, that I need to figure out how to replicate, and I headed to bed.