Cyprus: Europe or the Middle East?

1 October 2019. Today #Cyprus celebrates its independence.

The other week, a wedding invitation saw me flying to Paphos. I’d never planned to visit Cyprus and so I’d not given it much thought. As I read about Cyprus I soon realised I was in for an interesting trip.

I wondered if Cyprus is part of Europe or Greece. What’s Turkey got to do with Cyprus? How does Cyprus have a UK connection? What’s Cyprus like?

Cyprus is a culturally Greek (partly Turkish) Mediterranean island in the Middle East. Lebanon, Israel, Syria and Turkey are all geographically closer to Cyprus than mainland Greece.

Confused? Understanding Cyprus begins with the map. Its geographic location is still relevant to the Cypriot identity today. Below you can see Cyprus located under Turkey, across from Syria on the Mediterranean Sea. Cyprus is in the Middle East.

Google Maps: Mediterranean Sea / Middle East.
Click to Zoom In.

Isn’t Cyprus part of Greece?

You’d be forgiven for thinking of Cyprus is Greece. The Greeks have inhabited Cyprus since the 2nd millennium BC. The official language is Greek. Some Cypriots identify as Greek Cypriots, others simply – Cypriot. Wherever the Cypriot flag is flown – so too is the Greek flag.

3 Flags. Greek, Cypriot and?

Some time ago Greek nationalists attempted to incorporate Cyprus with Greece. The movement was called Enosis. Problematically though, not all Cypriots are Greek or Greek Cypriot.

Turks too have inhabited Cyprus at least since the Ottoman Empire. Due to its strategic location Cyprus had many rulers. The Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Alexander the Great, the Roman Empire, Arab caliphates, the French Lusignan dynasty, the Venetians, the Ottoman Empire all conquered Cyprus. Even the UK administration controlled Cyprus during 1878-1914.

The infamous 1970s enosis attempt against the will of its Turkish inhabitants failed miserably. There were serious consequences.

Turkey responded by invading Cyprus twice and then occupying the north. Thousands of Cypriots (Greek, Turkish and other) were displaced within their own country. Today the Turkish occupation still exists as the so-called “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”. It’s illegal, internationally condemned and recognised only by Turkey. Within its borders remain the homes and hotels Greek Cypriots abandoned temporarily in 1974. When will they return? Will Cyprus ever be whole again? Unlikely. The illegal occupation looks to be staying for now.

Cyprus is in the EU but not the Schengen Area

Excluding “the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (occupied zone) – Cyprus is an independent democratic country. Cyprus is a full member of the European Union. However, Cyprus cannot sign the Schengen Agreement while its north remains under illegal Turkish occupation.

Travel Tip for Non-EU Nationals! Australian citizens have visa-free entry to Cyprus for 90 days. Being outside the Schengen area – expect to present your passport often. At Paphos Airport get your boarding pass stamped at the Swiss Port desk before check-in.

Flights: Estonia to Cyprus

Flying between Cyprus and Estonia is easy. Both Ryanair and airBaltic have direct flights on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Cyprus has two international airports: Paphos (West) and Larnaca (East).

Travel Tip! Consider flying into Larnaca and out via Paphos (or vice-versa) to prevent back-tracking. If you have to fly in and out via the same airport, don’t worry. Despite being the Mediterranean’s third largest island, all of Cyprus is manageable by car.

My Eventful Car Hire Experience in Cyprus

A little oversight cost 150€ in additional insurance. A saving grace in the end. I experienced an amazing road trip all throughout Cyprus and learnt 1 valuable tip. Purchase a 0€ excess insurance policy when you rent a car.

I hired my rental car through Ryanair. I paid extra for “Damage Refund Insurance” but skipped the fine print. Ryanair accepted my debit card and confirmed the insurance policy:

“The car hire supplier may ask you to purchase excess insurance at the desk. You should not need this insurance as you are covered if you added our Damage Refund Insurance.”.

On arrival at Paphos airport there was news for me. Debit cards were not acceptable. It was written in that fine print I skipped earlier. Here credit (borrowed money) was the preferred payment type and I had none. Not very millennial, I know… Despite having the required 800€ deposit on hand, my card wasn’t good enough.

The solution? Just a matter of more money. I now had to purchase a second insurance policy. An extra 150€. I’m glad I did though. It reduced my excess to 0€. Better yet that 800€ deposit was no longer required.

Days later my apartment’s owner tells me: “Park on the street. It’s fine here”. The following morning I discovered my car wasn’t where I’d left it.

Struck from behind with such force it was now in the middle of the street. My guts turned with anxiety and anticipation as I inspected the damage. Twisted metal and shards of plastic over the road were a clue. Unexpectedly I was relieved. Minimal damage. The car behind me however – partially destroyed. A drunk speeding driver, probably.

Damaged Car in Larnaca, Cyprus.
Click to play YouTube video.

Travel Tip!: Despite fairing well from whatever happened that night, I wasn’t taking any chances. Before returning the car I withdrew my cash and cancelled my debit card. A new one would be just days away. Post-debit is not a good position for negotiation with rental car companies. Some companies debit thousands for minimal damage only later to refund the balance back. This can take months. Yes, I was covered but still cautious.

About Driving in Cyprus

Cautiously I pulled out of Paphos Airport’s rental car-park and drove at the weird speed limit of “65 km/h”. Tailgated immediately and then honked at once overtaken. I quickly learnt to drive pedal-to-the-metal. By the way, the right lane is the fast-lane.

In Cyprus people drive on the left (like Australia). Nobody does the speed limit here. The roads are smooth and line markings clearly visible. The mountainous ranges are amazing. Expect perfect road trips. Cyprus is much easier than say our Baltic States Road Trip. Drivers generally keep their distance from one another, which I like.

The “TRNC” is a little different. Some vehicles are in a serious state of disrepair. Be prepared for wobbly wheels, weaving drivers and many, many speed-cameras.

Travel Tip! Don’t park on the street. Secure parking is cheap.

Paphos: Mount Olympos & Troodos Mountains

On being greeted by Royal Blue Hotel in Paphos I was very suspicious. Even before I could announce my arrival I was welcomed with a smile. Then the most bizarre expression followed. “Hello sir, how are you?”. This strange man interrogated me about the flight and my plans for Cyprus.

Having lived in Estonia for sometime I’d forgotten what customer service looks like. By the second day I’d adjusted to being treated like a human again.

Booking.com | Royal Blue Hotel, Cyprus.
$30 cash back when you book via:
https://www.booking.com/s/44_6/jai75470.

Falling asleep that night I noticed the UK power sockets. My power bank tied me over until I picked up an EU-UK adaptor. Thank you Public Electronics for the “free gift from Cyprus”. Cypriot hospitality strikes again.

Good Morning Cyprus

My first morning in Cyprus was hot. 31 degrees or so. Walking past the pool outside to breakfast I glimpsed the bikini clad. A water-yoga class for British senior citizens. Not what I was expecting. Neither was my first view of Cyprus itself.

First view of Cyprus.
Click to Zoom In.

South from the Hotel I saw a dry, rocky landscape and a coastline. Spots of green here and there thanks to draught resilient plants. Mostly white concrete apartment blocks are everywhere. On their roofs are water-tanks. The weather’s so hot and consistent here. Cypriots rely on it to heat their water.

Troodos Mountains and Mount Olympos

Not wasting anytime after breakfast and coffee I headed north. From Paphos I drove through Troodos Mountains eventually reaching Cyprus’s highest point, Mount Olympos.

Mt Olympos: Cyprus.

An easy but inspiring road trip with a lot of things to see. At first a dry country-side and the occasional farm. Later Greek Orthodox Churches. Gradually excellent view points unfolded along the 2,918 metre climb.

Somewhere around Mt Olympos: Cyprus.
Click for YouTube Video.

One way to experience Mount Olympos is by foot. Leave the car behind and go for a run. Although alone I saw many signs others had been before me. 5K markings, water bottles and gel wrappers littered the roadside. Even still an amazing run.

Youtube: Running down Mt Olympos.

The Troodos mountain range is spectacular. It’s greener and cooler than the coast. You’ll see here olive trees, black pine and lots of juniper. It’s considered one of the most important habitats for plants in all of Europe.

When you take in the view from Mt Troodos notice the unusual purple horizon.

Take your time on the way down. Greek Orthodox churches, stone water faucets and small villages all make great photos. One small village I found was wrappred in grapevines tighter than a dolmades.

Greek Orthodox Church: Troodos Mountains, Cyprus.
An abandoned shop in a tiny village: Troodos Mountains, Cyprus.
A village wrapped in grapevines: Troodos Mountains, Cyprus.
A small village in Mount Troodos: Cyprus.
Grapes…
More grapes…

Back to Paphos

Back in Paphos the town centre has cafés, bars and shops. You’ll notice Cypriot hospitality is not exclusive to English speakers. Shop keepers commonly say “spasiba!” to their Russian customers.

Paphos Castle: Paphos, Cyprus.

By sunset you’ll want to be on Paphos esplanade. It’s a lot more relaxed than Paphos city. Footpaths are well-paved, traffic’s restricted and rows of palms lead the way. Almost all restaurants and bars have a view across the harbour. This is the place to end your day. The crowd is made up mostly of British and Russian travellers.

Looking to celebrate their day’s end, most travellers turn to photography. The main opportunities include Paphos Castle, boats, the esplanade and Russian girlfriends.

To make further plans in Paphos, book a boat tour. Tickets can be purchased all along the esplanade.

Aphrodite’s Rock & The Hills

According to Greek mythology Aphrodite was born in Cyprus. She is the ancient goddess of love, sex, beauty and fertility. Her exactly birthplace? A rock on the coast.

The trip from Paphos offers a couple surprises. As always the drive’s pleasant especially along the coast. The colours of Mediterranean sea appear blue to turquoise. The view is completely unimpaired.

Aphrodite’s Rock.
Click on the picture to load the video.

Park on at any view point near Petra tou Romiou. Aphrodite’s rock is well signed and easy to see. From here you might decide to swim in the sea. Swimmers able to circle Aphrodite’s rock (in the sea) three times are promised true love. According to legend…

I loved running along the limestone cliff trails. On one side – Aphrodite’s rock and the sea a very visible. On the other side were the Aphrodite hills. It’s a peaceful, spacious place to suffer in. Take notice of the native plants along the track too. Many of them are labelled.

Paphos to Larnaca

After 2 days in Paphos I drove 137 kilometres east to Larnaca. An easy and very fast drive. I held my attention between the landscape and a brunette’s little fiat. 150 km/h…

The rocky, dry and rolling landscape seemed endlessly unfolding. A landscape like this paired with good roads made the trip really enjoyable.

Not the actual girl…
Click picture for a video of the drive.

Stasinou Street

In Larnaca I stayed in a Booking.com apartment on Stasinou Street. The arrival was a little odd. Despite providing arrival details days in advance, nobody was there to meet me. A long phone call to Booking.com (UK) followed. Feeling stranded, I took temporary refuge in costa café around the corner. Free WiFi and power helped me reach the owner. 2 hours later I checked-in.

Apartment in Larnaca: Cyprus.

Returning later at night from the old town’s “normal sights”, Stasinou Street appeared very bizarre. It’s a dark narrow one-way street. A Russian karaoke bar at one end. Half way down are large rubbish bins, stray cats and vagrants. The old men sitting off the street manage the car-park. There’s no boom-gate. The ticket machine’s so new it’s still wrapped in plastic. Never used. The corner store attracts groups of belly-scratching, gawking men who loiter around aimlessly at night. A bit of a dump. Chaotic, but hey – it’s home, for the next 5 nights…

“A tourism photo” of Stasinou Street for Harry’s Inn…

Overtime the morning’s Arabic music made sense. Fitting too then was the occasional burka. For hundreds of years Larnaca has been home to Christianity and Islam.

Eventually the street gradually grew on me. Sure, the morning of my smashed rental car was a little setback. The corner store staff were particularly friendly. I visited them daily for the 0.50€ pomegranate drinks. Even the men of the car-park proved friendly enough.

Stoicism

By the start of Larnaca’s promenade is a beautiful square. On it is the Statue of Zeno of Citium / Zeno of Kition. Zeno is interesting for two reasons (probably more). Born in Kition – modern day Larnaca, Zeno is the founder of Stoicism.

Zeno of Kition (Larnaca).
Click for Interesting YouTube Video.

Zeno lived in Athens but declined Athenian citizenship fearing it’d offend his native Cyprus. Did many Greeks see Cyprus as separate from Greece even in 334 BC? Or was Zeno just a bit nuts?

After tripping and breaking his toe Zeno interpreted the accident as a sign. Time to depart. Lying on the ground, he quoted a line from the Niobe of Timotheus, “I come of my own accord; why call me thus?”. He then strangled himself to death.

Finikoudes Beach & Larnaca Promenade

Finikoudes Beach begins shortly after the Larnaca Marina – along the promenade. Beach chairs, umbrellas, brown sand and clear water make up the wave-less Finikoudes Beach. Not as highly regarded Ayia Napa’s Nissi Beach. It’s a different crowd. Here visitors enjoy a much calmer, party and jetski free setting.

Larnaca promenade: Cyprus.

Larnaca promenade has a different feel to the one in Paphos. The urban design incorporates wide paths, sea views and little touches like thyme bushes. It’s less touristy. Built to make the city liveable. The promenade begins and ends with a beach. Finikoudes Beach at one end and McKenzie’s at the other. As expected palm trees separate the promenade from the hotels. Look closely and you might spot a few orange trees too. Similar to Paphos though – Larnaca also has a castle on it’s promenade.

Where I collapsed, stopped for a drink…
Larnaca promenade, Cyprus.

Skala / Turkish Quarter

Towering above the castle is a minaret stemming from the Turkish Quarter’s mosque further back. Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque stands in the middle of the quarter. The story of how the Mosque came to be (despite bloody war and invasion) follows a tail from the East.

A citrus tree in Larnaca.
Nearby Skala.

It begins with Ubada ibn as-Samit a companion of Muhammad and commander of the Rashidun army. Following spiritual guidance his wife (Umm Haram) accompanied him on a naval attack on Cyprus. The first ever naval attack in Islamic history, apparently. While on the island of Cyprus Umm Haram was riding a donkey, fell and died. Her grave remains adjacent the Mosque which was later built by the Ottoman’s after her.

The Mosque is considered fourth most important in the Islamic world after Mecca, Medina and Jersusalem. I’m not sure how that is measured.

Street Art

Much further away from the Mosque self-expression takes the form of street art. Most of it especially off Ermou street is accredited to Georgian born artist Achilleas Michaelides. Better known as Paparazzi he runs Paparazzi ART Studio on Karaoli & Dimitriou in Larnaca.

My favourite from Paparazzi.
Larnaca, Cyprus.
Click to see my Instagram.

MyCyprusInsider covered the artist’s story in interview format. A happy resident of Larnaca, Paparazzi enjoys weekend trips to the Troodos Mountains.

Vegan Options in Larnaca

Continuing on the trend of modernity Larnaca has a few vegan options around.

Solar Kitchen Bar is the most well-known being completely vegan. They offer friendly service (like anywhere in Cyprus) but have created a concept around their menu. Focusing only on seasonal & local ingredients and when possible (organic).

Another restaurant which I recommend for breakfast was Mingle Café. Not far from Ermou street art. Coming from Estonia in mid-late autumn I wasn’t expecting to be eating açai bowls. Glad I did though, the weather in Cyprus was still very hot.

Mingle Cafe, Larnaca: Cyprus.

I did have some bad timing though. Highly recommended restaurants like Falafel Abu Dany and VINE Espresso Bar were closed. Worse, Larnaca had a Vegan Festival recently. It ended before I even arrived. If you’re planning a trip – visit Larnaca’s Vegan facebook group before booking flights.

Alphamega was worth the visit. Not the rapper who “put da shit in da street ‘n cut it”. The other dealers, the Alfamega supermarket chain. All products of Cyprus: Kalamata olives, pomegranate, tubouli, halva, flatbread and hummus. The hummus (original ifantis brand) deserves a special mention. The best hummus I’ve had in my life… Try it.

Couchsurfing and being a Loner

Bad timing wasn’t just with restaurants. My usual travel tool – Couchsurfing (CS) came up fruitless this time. It doesn’t always work. On the day I arrived, the Larnaca CS community left for a 2 day camping trip in the mountains.

No doubt it was a great event, but it basically drained Larnaca of options. It’s important to use CS with common sense. No matter the scarsity, don’t hangout with any random.

“Wants to meet up”.

A request to hangout from Abdullah Hassani came through. Recently joined. No references. No ID verification. A profile picture of an eagle. He’d bring with him 2 non-CS friends. Not looking seeking a 12 man Israeli gang bang, like in Ayia Napa recently, I declined.

Table for one, thanks.

Saint Lazarus Church

The last historic site I saw in Larnaca was Saint Lazarus Church. Looking at this church you might get the feeling it’s not Orthodox. Yes, there’s a dome roof. Not full onion, but it’s there. Subtle, like French onion soup. This is however an Orthodox church. But something’s a bit off with it.

Saint Lazarus Church, Larnaca: Cyprus.

Look at its side. There’s a little passage way. Unusual of Orthodox churches. Most noticeably, the bell tower is from some other time. The church appears more typical of Colombia than Cyprus.

Another history lesson. I’m sorry… Orthodox originally but under the Venetians it became Roman Catholic. Instagram filters weren’t a thing so the church had to be stylized another way. French-Italian / Latinate this time. A stone covered portico was added on its side.

Under Ottoman rule the original bell tower was destroyed. The church was turned into a Mosque. Typical. Then the highest God of all was called to settle this place of worship. Cash money. In 1589, the Ottoman’s sold the Christian church to … the Christians.

Bell Tower – Saint Larazus Church, Larnaca: Cyprus.

The following 200 years saw the church used for Orthodox and Catholic services. In 1857, the Ottoman’s “permitted” Cypriot churches to have bell towers. The bell-tower you now see was rebuilt, this time in Latinate style. What’s unique about this church is that it incorporates Catholic with Orthodox.

Elsewhere in Cyprus, churches have been turned into Mosques.

A Greek Orthodox Wedding Ceremony

Eventually the day of my original purpose to Cyprus arrived. Our friend’s wedding.

Outside the Greek Orthodox Church I noticed three flags. The usual suspects were pretty obvious – Greek and Cypriot. The third I hadn’t seen before. Yellow, like the Vatican’s flag but bearing a coat of arms like Russia’s. This was the flag of the Greek Orthodox Church

Flag of the Greek Orthodox Church

Even without the flags the church was unmistakably Orthodox. Newly built but true to Orthodox style. Domed roofs. Crosses on almost every peak. Moderately coloured. A bell tower built into its structure. Plenty of small windows around. You might imagine it’d be dark inside. Quite the opposite. It was very bright. Light enters from all of the dome’s windows. The golden interior is illuminated by a prism of light from above.

The ceremony I won’t describe out of respect. I’m not reviewing people’s wedding here… But it might be enough to say it was both beautiful and traditional. I was honoured to be there. There’s so many churches in Cyprus.

Greek Orthodox Church. Cyprus.

Inside things are traditionally quiet. Once the ceremony concludes the celebrations begin immediately outside. It’s highly likely you’ll see a wedding in Cyprus. This video will give you an idea of you can expect to see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGx3jrUDQTM

Nicosia

After the wedding came my trip to the divorce of Cyprus. Nicosia is where the split happened.

Driving through Nicosia (Europe’s last divided capital) towards “The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” one cannot help but notice the Turkish and “TRNC” flags painted onto the southern slope of the Kyrenia Mountains.

“TRNC” Flag on the Kyrenia Mountains.
Click to load video…

So grandiose is the display of conquest over Cyprus. Reportedly visible even from space. A provocative flag. Basically just an inverted Turkish flag. I must admit I found it distasteful and I was just a traveller. I thought how the Cypriots would feel, staring at horizon’s “TRNC” flag everyday.

Nightfall would bring no reprieve. At night the brightest, most visible star’s not in Nicosia’s sky. It’s on the horizon. The star and cresent is illuminated. Flashing down on Nicosia until sunrise.

Entering the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”

I received directions to the border from a Greek Cypriot soldier. Referring it simply – the occupied zone. Truthful language I suppose.

“TRNC” is a sensitive topic for all Cypriots. Some dance around its emotionally charged name with selective language. Neutrality sounds like “the otherside side of Cyprus” or just “the north”. Others take a different tone.

“TRNC” Border.

Nicosia’s entrance to “TRNC” is very check-point Charlie and unlike any other border I know. Barbed wire fencing, UN markers and a Turkish supported military form the surroundings. Looking to cross successfully I resisted the urge to take photographs. Others have already snapped this possibly temporary and one day historic border.

Interacting with “TRNC” is surreal. Its illegal, internationally condemned occupation status in the back of my mind, I hand over passport. The bizarre role-play game begins. “TRNC” is a country and I’m a tourist.

I’m asked to obtain “TRNC” insurance for my rental car. A little bureaucracy adds theatrics. This would be the third time my rental car’s insured.

Separated from my passport and now on foot I scurry to get documents in order. Weaving in-between cars I arrive at the insurance booth. “Passport?” they ask. I’m sent back to the “immigration officer” who had just sent me here without my passport. The “insurance” is 20€. Written only in Turkish. I assume it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on. A subtle tax on “immigration” I assume. A short drive through the UN administered zone and I’m in.

The roads are poor. Signs are so faded they’re barely visible. Speed-cameras and police are prevalent. I’m travelling at a the pace of peace negotiations. Once the UN signs I pull into a side street. A short walk and look around well before the touristic areas.

Initial impressions of “TRNC”. Behind the times.
A check-point booth in someone’s backyard? Metaphor?

The American University of Cyprus

I’m surprised to see young African students. The unrecognised country of “TRNC” has got itself a University. Who’d have thought? “The American University of Cyprus”? – I was sceptical. Not just because its a liberal arts University.

Who actually recognises degrees from this University let alone the “TRNC” itself? How is “American” in its title? There’s only 1 answer. Turkey. Turkey and Turkey alone. As for the “American” bit – I’ve no idea.

Also, why the reference to just “Cyprus” instead of “Northern Cyprus”? An understandable marketing strategy.

The chairman of “The American University of Cyprus” is a young woman. Toya Akpınar. A dancer of sorts. Toya and her family, along with a few others form the University’s board of trustees. I wish this was where the story of dodgy “TRNC” Universities ended.

Esra Aygin’s blog details “TRNC” activities in Africa and Asia. Abroad “TRNC” is marked as “education island”. Gullible youth, hopeful of a European education – like Nigerian Obasanje Adeola Owoyalr fall victim. Those arriving from Africa do not even realise “TRNC” is not Cyprus. Not Europe. It’s not even Turkey. Once here they are at risk of being forced into illegal activities or prostitution. It’s a new kind of soft human-trafficking.

Murder scene of Obasanje Adeola Owoyalr.

Obasanje Adeola Owoyalr‘s violent murder is just one of a concerning number of deaths among African students. Others have died in questionable circumstances – like falling off balconies and rooftops.

Usually run by businessmen, “TRNC” the universities would provide an economic boost to embargoed “state”. Esra writes they’re the type of business who run casinos in some cases. Unlikely alumni.

Further East

The slow drive provides an opportunity to see mosques, burkas and many flags. In Cyprus I saw the Greek flag always alongside the Cypriot. Here the Turkish and “TRNC” fly together. More red and white than Switzerland. It’s a little over the top. Being an illegal, internationally condemned unrecognised de-facto state – a military occupation brings about some insecurities…

Countryside of “TRNC”.

Driving much further East I notice several new buildings and businesses including what looks to be an unofficial Dacia dealer. Given the embargo – a Dacia dealership would be unlikely. The cars are new but covered in dust. It looks like nobody’s entered the dealership for a couple of years. On either side of the car dealership there’s nothing. Not even a footpath.

The first Mosque I saw in “TRNC”.
Click for a video…

I pull over into a field to take in the mountainous background and my immediate surroundings. A few hay barrels on a dry farm. “Allah Wakbarr!”. The Islamic call to prayer echoes across the countryside from a loud speaker. There’s no Mosque in sight though.

Back On The Road

Back on the road another unflattering sight awaits. A car load of people throw rubbish out the window in-front of me. From a moving car. Primitive behaviour not commonly seen in Europe. Observing this moving zoo I wonder what kind of disconnect causes someone to act this way.

Zeno would have put it: “the goal of life is living in agreement with nature”.

Coastal “TRNC”

Sometime later I’d gone so far east as I could. I’d reached the coast. I saw European and Russian tourists. Russians and Brits mostly. Plenty of them. Partying along the beach and enjoying themselves. Well a few at least. The police had been called to attend to some kind of dispute between the Russian patrons.

Further away from the bar and cheap drinks things where a lot calmer. Children rode bicycles. An elderly couple were sat on a bench staring out to sea. On the side, couples could be seen enjoying the beach. It was like any other beach in the world.

“TRNC” – Long Beach Iskele.

I was starting to wonder what everyone else was thinking. Who else was giving a second thought to their surroundings? Did anyone not care about the cheap drinks? Was I the only one reflecting on this La-La-Mustafa-make-belief republic?

More Islamic Conquests

South from Long Beach Iskele I drove to Famagusta. More exploring by foot. At first the usual. A beach front promenade, posing Russian girls, shishas and cheap drinks. A large shop selling fake Louis Vuitton handbags. Later – more signs of Islamic Conquests.

Click to see video of Lala Mustafa Mosque.

In the middle of the old town was the Gothic St Nicholas Cathedral. Today its interior’s gutted and the walls painted white. A minaret’s attached to its side. This cathedral too, like many others has been conquered by Islam. Since the days of the Ottoman Empire St Nicholas Cathedral is now LaLa Mustafa Mosque.

Famagusta. Varosha. Forbidden Memories

Since Nicosia the “TRNC” has been proudly on display. But a few streets around Famagusta the story’s different. Here the signs of invasion and occupation are more recent and for the Turks – embarrassing.

Red and white now paints “forbidden zone” signs barring photography and access. Photographing these areas is strictly forbidden. Illegal and arrests do happen.

Not so proud…

A week before I arrived the “TRNC” arrested a Mother-daughter family for taking photos of their own home, where they lived before the invasion and occupation of 1974. The Greek Cypriots abandoned Famagusta and Varosha temporarily. They thought they’d be back and some of them intend to keep the memory of their old homes alive. This makes “TRNC” nervous. The state of these homes is for the “TRNC” – an occupation parading as a country, embarrassing.

How does the “TRNC” deal with this? For the moment – wrap every abandoned home, house and shop in barbed wire and label it a “military zone”. Forbid photography and arrest anyone committing the jail-able offence of seeing their own home.

This shameful human rights violation has plenty of participants. If you intend to photograph any of the so-called “forbidden military zones” you’ll need to do it out of sight from anyone. Like in the days of Nazi Germany “authorities” monitor civilians undercover. You are being watched. Don’t for a second think the old man sitting on the rocks is actually fishing. Also, if you are caught your footage may be reviewed. So it would be best to film silently and then add naration later.

“Forbidden Zone”

“TRNC” undercover activities were captured brilliantly in this Youtuber’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXGOb2drpJo You’ll see how his attempt to film Varosha with a drone was spoiled.

Forbidding the abandoned homes of Famagusta and Varosha is one thing. Worse are the “TRNC” plans for the future.

Earlier this year, the “TRNC” announced plans to re-open Varosha for settlement. As the “TRNC” tourism sector grows eventually there will be enough money to remove the memories of the past. A UN Security Council resolution reserves Varosha for its original inhabitants. In the eyes of “TRNC” though, it’s “entirely Ottoman land“.

A new battle between Cyprus and “TRNC”/Turkey has just started. This time over natural resources in the Eastern Mediterranean. The EU is sworn to stand by Cyprus having never acknowledge the “TRNC” to begin with. It’s not the only incident to cause tensions between Turkey and the West. USA has prepared sanctions on Turkey for buying a Russian missile system.

The future for “TRNC” looks pretty bleak. Ominous then of things to come, was that Russian missile from Syria’s war across the sea – which landed in the “TRNC” recently.

Returning to Cyprus

As it started to get dark I made my way back. I’d entered via Nicosia. I travelled to the coast and then south past Famagusta. I’d seen enough and a night in the “TRNC” didn’t fancy me.

Sunset in Cyprus. UN on the horizon.
Click for a video.

Leaving “TRNC” I caught the most memorable sunset of my life. A warm brown-red sky and UN watch towers on the horizon. A complete sense of freedom and a renewed appreciation for European values.

Limassol

Waking up the following day in Cyprus I remember feeling more “at home” than ever before. Like I’d returned from a long trip abroad.

Limassol, Cyprus.

Looking for a complete change of scenery after yesterday’s “TRNC” trip I travelled to Limassol. The second largest city (behind Nicosia) and the most modern.

Limassol, Cyprus.
Click for Video.

As expected, I ran Limassol’s promenade to get a feel for the place. Up-market shops, cafés, bars reminded me of the Gold Coast back home. Hot here too. 30 degrees at least.

Sanctum Spa & Fitness. Limassol.
Click for a $30 AUD Booking.com Cashback Deal.

By the time I was done running I spent some time taking in the views from the Yacht club. Then to continue the life of Reilly – a trip to Sanctum Spa & Fitness centre for a massage. Then a drink.

Lofou

On my final day in Cyprus I wanted something different. So far I’d seen Paphos, the Troodos Mountain ranges, Mt Olympos, beaches, promenades, “TRNC” and the luxurious city of Limassol. A small village was missing from the overall picture.

Lofou Village: Cyprus.

I decided on Lofou for no other reason than Google. It’s located in the greater mountainous district of Limassol. A small, quiet picturesque village promised a great day out.

Driving some 800 metres above sea level we read an interesting fact. Lofou had been inhabited since the bronze age. All the way up there, in the Troodos Mountains. Goats could be seen along its rocky mountain side. How on earth did people even make it up here during those times?

Today it’s a very pleasant drive. Long winding roads arrive at the centre of Lofou village. Home of many luxurious Greek houses. Luxurious by traditional. The old style build anew.

Along the stone walls were trees: olive, fig and pomegranate. I took one pomegranate home in my backpack. What a souvenir. The figs weren’t yet rip enough yet.

Pomegranate in Lofous, Cyprus.

Tired by the end of the day we were in search for a small tavern. We came across what looked to be one. A large balcony overlooking an impressive garden. Maybe a Hotel I thought.

The moment we walked in we were greeted like friends. “Hello, welcome!” said the woman. Expecting to be seated, her husband politely told us we were in their private home. Cypriot hospitality struck again.

Cypriot Hospitality in Lofou Village.

A pair of scissors was placed in my friend’s hand. They insisted we take a bunch of grapes straight from their vine. Amazingly friendly people. The spoke about an Australian from Melbourne (a synonym for for Greek) who recently visited the village. They invited us back to the village for Sunday’s event. A free lunch at the church on Sunday. The promised moustalevria looked delicious.

Souvenirs

A list of souvenirs from my trip to Cyprus:

  • 800g of Hummus.
  • Olive Oil (Garlic Infused), made in Cyprus.
  • Olives (Product of Cyprus).
  • 1 Pomegranate. Hand-picked free from Lofou Village.
  • x2 Boxes of Cyprus Delights (with rose water).
  • A handful of olives. Hand-picked free from Lofou Village.
  • 2 blocks of plain Macedonian Halva (Product of Cyprus).
  • 2 blocks of Halva with nuts (Product of Cyprus).

Κύπρος

If you enjoyed this blog post about Cyprus please share it on facebook with your friends. Use one of my travel discount codes to make your next trip cheaper.

Pst! Prague is next.

Published by Jaiven

Australian Blogger, frequent traveller to Europe. Currently living in Estonia. Successful Airbnb Superhost and a small time Entrepreneur.

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