Written by MALUSE on 31 Mar, 2009
The winter three years ago was long and cold so we decided to spend the free week we have at the end of February somewhere warm. We chose the town of Larnaca in the middle of the south coast of Cyprus, 16 km east of…Read More
The winter three years ago was long and cold so we decided to spend the free week we have at the end of February somewhere warm. We chose the town of Larnaca in the middle of the south coast of Cyprus, 16 km east of the airport, we found a nice hotel on the beach 6 km east of the town centre. When we were approaching Cyprus by plane the pilot told us that there was low visibility due to a dust storm from the Sahara, Larnaca airport was open, yet the one in Pafos was closed. My back bottom! I had read the guide book from cover to cover but had found nothing about sand storms, the Cypriot woman sitting next to us informed us that dust storms were not a frequent but a regular phenomenon, they came once or twice a year. When we landed the worst was over, the first dust storm this year must really have been bad, it was worth a mention on the international news on CNN that night. During the following two days it was hazy but the dust storm didn’t hit again as predicted so that we could leave the hotel and see something of the island.I had read in the guide book that one shouldn’t start discussions on the political situation of Cyprus as the subject was too delicate, but even before setting foot on the island we learnt that Cypriots like talking about it, the first person was the woman on the plane who gave us her point of view in detail.When I mentioned how odd it was that the whole of Cyprus was in the EU in spite of the division and in spite of the fact that Turkey wasn’t, she cried that wasn’t the case, only the Greek south was, but she was wrong, in the course of our five days on Cyprus we had some more conversations on the subject and learnt that the truth is even odder: the whole island belongs to the EU, but only the Greek Cypriots from the south and the Turkish Cypriots from the north are members, the approximately 120 000Turks from mainland Turkey who have (been) settled in the north after the division are not - even if they were born there, the nationality of the parents counts.The population of Larnaca consisted of Greeks and Turks, when the Turkish army invaded the north, the town lost all its Turkish inhabitants and received thousands of forcefully displaced Greeks from the north because of the ethnic cleansing policies of Turkey; the town developed as a tourist destination only in the 1980s and its population has increased to about 70 000 inhabitants, it’s important because of the airport (the biggest in Cyprus) and the port. It is not as touristy as Pafos in the west of the island but has some hotels and quite a lot of holiday houses along the beach.When we stepped out of our hotel on the first morning into the garden and the pool area, we saw a concrete footpath running between the site and the water front and decided to walk to the centre of Larnaca, walking in sunshine and good sea air was what we had come for and five kilometres (we had been told by the hotel staff that that was the distance) didn’t seem too much. The official brochure from the Larnaca Tourist Committee claims that the footpath is 5 km long, a lie! Read 1 km and you’ve got it. As our hotel was situated in the middle of the footpath so-to-speak, we soon had to step onto the beach, the longest in all Cyprus, not very beautiful, though, the sand is dirt grey and either hard as concrete or covered with pebbles.Soon that was impossible, too, we came to an industrial area, closed oil refineries that reached down to the water front, we learnt later that they’re waiting to be demolished, the area will be filled with hotels and holiday apartment houses, in, say, ten years the whole area will look different (nicer). We had to move up and walk beside a busy road. We were too far to turn back and still quite far from the town centre. After some time we came to a parking site and asked a man how many kilometres we still had in front of us, it turned out that the distance was six kilometres instead of five and we had only covered half of it, he offered at once to give us a lift, good man that he was. He was a refugee from the north and together with the lift we got his view of the political situation.He took us to Larnaca Marina, a port for sailing boats and cruise boats for tourists at the western end of the promenade, a wide avenue, about half a kilometre long, between the beach and a row of hotels and restaurants with high palm trees on either side. At its eastern end stands a fort built by the Turks at the beginning of the 17th century on an old Venetian foundation, the Turks used it to watch business in the port, the British who took it over in 1878 when the Sultan submitted the island to the Queen for her services in the Turko-Russian war, used it as a prison, opposite the ticket booth one can see a room where the gallows was, partisans of the anti-British uprisings were hanged there until the end of the 1940s. Opposite the castle is the Beyuk Mosque which is considered the first Ottoman mosque in Cyprus, before the building became a mosque it was a Venetian Catholic Church. It looked well kept, restoration work was done at the minaret, the man who had given us the lift had told us that all mosques in Greek Cyprus are well kept and in working order whereas the churches in Turkish Cyprus have been destroyed or neglected and are used as warehouses or stables. Some 50 m further into the old Turkish quarter stands the Orthodox Saint Lazarus Church from the 10th century, a multi-domed building of a type only to be found in Cyprus. The walls are bare bricks, icons hang everywhere, the carved wooden central wall is covered with icons from top to bottom as is the case in Orthodox churches, there is no altar. Monks’ singing drafted through the church, from a tape but very atmospheric. We looked into the crypt at Lazarus’ tomb; when Jesus Christ had resurrected Lazarus from the dead, the latter moved to Cyprus and became a bishop there (or did he?). His head lies in an ornamented chest in the church, in the middle of the top cover is a round opening covered with glass through which a part of his (a?) skull is visible, people came in and kissed the spot ardently, really kissed it, I could see the damp patch. Eek!We strolled through the old Turkish quarter, looked at tiny cafés and one room shops, visited the small market hall where we saw the biggest potatoes ever, but found the quarter quite miserable and not picturesque as suggested by the guide book. The shopping street running behind it looks a bit more modern but we were surprised at how low the standard of living is, we hadn’t expected this, after all Cyprus was at the top economically of all the ten new member states that have recently joined the EU. A taxi-driver told us that the Greek Cypriots have all reason to be content, unemployment is low, Turkish Cypriots from the north come to work in the south (the Turks from mainland Turkey living in the north aren’t allowed to) as do thousands of immigrants from Asia and Eastern Europe. Well, everything is relative.What else has Larnaca got to offer? There’s a small archaeological museum, one for palaeontology and marine life, the town is certainly not overwhelming culture–wise, but how many tourists care especially in summer when the temperature rises up to 43°C (109° F)? I liked the town and the area, we got what we had come for and I saw and heard only five country people. Being the world champions when it comes to travelling the Germans are everywhere and often in the majority, not so in Cyprus, though. Due to the fact that it was a British colony, British tourists feel good there, we heard that about 53% of the tourists come from the UK followed by Germans, Russians (never have I seen so many Russians since I visited Moscow!) and a mixed lot from different countries. You may dislike this information, for me going to Cyprus meant killing two birds with one stone; I enjoyed warmth (20° C / 68° F) and sunshine in February and the English language at the same time! Close
Written by JungleBoy on 14 Jul, 2006
To get a feel for Cyprus’ turbulent recent history and gauge its current political climate, there’s no better place to start than Nicosia. The former capital has the unfortunate distinction of being the last divided city on earth now that the other such cities of…Read More
To get a feel for Cyprus’ turbulent recent history and gauge its current political climate, there’s no better place to start than Nicosia. The former capital has the unfortunate distinction of being the last divided city on earth now that the other such cities of the mid-to-late 20th century – Jerusalem, Berlin and Beirut – have been unified (though in Jerusalem, ‘unified’ is a very relative term, while I doubt people in Beirut would be feeling so unified this week as Israeli bombs fall on the city).
The historic centre of Nicosia is contained within its 16th-century Venetian walls, and even this part of town is divided by the ‘Green Line’ that has separated the (predominantly Turkish) north and (predominately Greek) south of the city since the Turkish invasion of North Cyprus in 1974. Of the 11 bastions along the walls, five are in the Greek part, five in the Turkish part and one is in the middle of the buffer zone and is under the control of the United Nations. There is even a large church in the very northern part of Greek Nicosia that is divided: the apse is, geographically, in the Turkish zone of the city.
Today we walked around the Greek part of town, and several times we came to military-guarded fences that reminded us that we had hit the Green Line and could go no further. Until 2003, travel between the north and south of the island (including the two sides of Nicosia) was very difficult, but now there is one checkpoint outside the walls where you can present your passport and cross over to visit the Turkish half of the city. We plan to do this tomorrow morning…
We came across many beautiful sandstone churches in south Nicosia, and three or four lovely mosques as well, including a few that have switched between being churches and mosques over the centuries. The Greek Cypriots like to claim that they are far more tolerant of Islam than the Turkish Cypriots are of Christianity, so I guess I’ll find out for myself tomorrow and in the ensuing days that we spend in the north of the island.
I was very relieved to find, having stepped out of the plane at Larnaca yesterday, that it’s not nearly as hot here as people had told us – or maybe it’s just that hot is a relative term when you live in the desert. I overheard someone saying that it was 34 degrees Celsius yesterday and the hottest day of the year so far; since it’s above 40 degrees every single day in summer in Doha with high humidity, I am finding the weather here to be quite lovely indeed!
Last night we debuted the concept of ‘couch surfing,’ which is something Wendy has been keen to try for a while. She is a member of two websites (Couch Surfing and Hospitality Club) where the idea is that members all over the world offer their couch, or a spare bed if they have it, to other members. So here in Nicosia we are staying with a local girl who has Thai parents but has lived in Cyprus more or less her whole life. She is a very nice girl who cooked dinner for us last night and then took us on a bit of a tour around town, so it’s worked out well so far.
I took many, many photos of Nicosia today and have uploaded a few of them to Flickr here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jungle_boy/sets/72157594198902386/
Tomorrow night we’ll be in Kyrenia, the harbour city of the north, and hopefully I’ll have an update either then or the next day.
Written by MichaelJM on 16 Oct, 2005
We’d had a quick ride around Polis, and I have to say that it had little to commend. There were a few old houses with interesting arched windows and doors and a church that took my fancy. However, when we finally managed to enter the…Read More
We’d had a quick ride around Polis, and I have to say that it had little to commend. There were a few old houses with interesting arched windows and doors and a church that took my fancy. However, when we finally managed to enter the grounds, it was closed! We headed east to check out this coastline.
A small heavily vined taverna took our fancy, and we pulled in to order lunch, thinking that we’d head back to Pafos when we’d eaten. It wasn’t much to look at, with large wooden tables and a "shack" as the kitchen and bar, but its small menu promised everything cooked whilst you wait. It was clearly a small family business and picked up "passing trade" on the Polis – Kato Pyrgos Road. We had a great Greek salad, a plate of olives, loads of french fries, plenty of bread, and a couple of beers for £5. The chips were piping hot; indeed, we’d heard the potatoes hitting the sizzling, hot oil as they were cooked for us, and the staff at the Argaka was really very attentive. As we were about to leave, the owner’s son strongly recommended that we continue eastwards and take in the superb scenery and visit the church of St Rafael at Kokkina. We had time – we’d give it a whirl.
The views between Polis and Pomos are clear and uninterrupted, and there are such great views of a well-weathered, rugged coastline with the waves pounding onto the beach. I reckon we’d have seen some great sunsets here (perhaps next year)! I made the mistake at one point of wanting to stop to enjoy the view and am just thankful that the driver behind was more attentive than me. I received a nasty glare from the driver (deserved, I guess) and ensured that I didn’t stop suddenly again.
The small fishing resort of Posmos is worth a stop-off. It is obviously trying to pander to tourists, and a hotel and large restaurant have pride of place at the harbour. The village is uninspiring, but a newly rebuilt harbour provides a focus and a glimpse of the schizophrenic nature of Posmos. Small rundown fishing vessels are moored alongside pleasure craft, and a couple of well-maintained beaches suggest a strong move into tourism. Just down the coastal road (watch the potholesm as this road has seen better days), the small hamlet of Pacyammos is unspoilt and, other than a reasonable beach, seems unaware that tourists may bring wealth to the village. Perhaps they don’t want it, or it may just be round the corner as these small villages step on the tourist bandwagon. It seems like now’s the time to investigate the area around Morfu Bay.
Off the main road are a number of small un-adopted roads leading to villages unaffected by the tourist trade. They won’t take much of your time, but it’s in these foothills that the real Cyprus continues to prosper.
Written by MichaelJM on 05 Oct, 2005
We aimed for Kakopetria, north of the Troodhos Mountains,having being told that it was a pretty village that had retained its original character due to the issuing of a government preservation order in the mid 1970’s. We were a little disappointed as it’s clear that…Read More
We aimed for Kakopetria, north of the Troodhos Mountains,having being told that it was a pretty village that had retained its original character due to the issuing of a government preservation order in the mid 1970’s. We were a little disappointed as it’s clear that Kakopetria has milked its reputation and established eateries and gift shops along the main street. We saw a couple of restored buildings and the water mill and enjoyed a leisurely walk along the river bank but we did not linger too long. There’s a substantial church on the hill (with loads of free parking around it) but the doors were locked so we could only speculate how fine it might have been.
Next we headed for the village of Troodos, an unremarkable place, but some superb views on route. We pulled in at a recommended "viewpoint" and took in the beauty of the wooded area and the magnificent vista of the Troodhos Mountains. Asbestos was mined here prolifically between 1904-88 and this ancient ocean bed now resembles China’s terraced rice fields as man has "layered" the scenery to assist in the mining operation. Today there is an intense re-forestation programme to restore "natural beauty" to the heights of Cyprus.
Mount Olympus just had to be visited because it’s the highest point of Cyprus. Drive as far as you can (many people had parked well short of the summit) ignore the armed defence unit at the top of Olympus and you’ll be rewarded with outstanding mountainous views and fantastic sights of the many pine, cedar and juniper trees in the region. This is area is littered with fallen cones and the air fresh with mountainous scents. The road twists and turns but you really won’t want to hurry along as the scenery is superb.
We stopped at the Overhill Restauarant, Prodromos, for a lunchtime snack (it was now 3:30pm!) – halloumi, pita bread, a huge village salad and copious ice-cold water. This was a substantial snack and we had the restaurant virtually to ourselves. The service was efficient although getting the bill was a work of art. No hurry here!
We’re too late to tour Kykkos Monastery (if you’re going here remember to wear trousers and cover your shoulders or you’ll have to hire clothes for £1 from the local store) but appreciate the magnificent of the building. From here we decide to cut through Cedar valley. I’m still not sure that this was the right move because it was a long slow journey on horrendous tracks (better in a 4x4), but we did pass through some great countryside. Often it felt like there was little supporting the road beneath us. We hung to the inside of the route in an attempt to avoid the sheer drops and thankfully met nothing in the other direction.
At the end of our "ordeal we stopped to take a photograph of a charming little church at Asprogia before heading downhill to Pafos.
Written by dangaroo on 30 Dec, 2008
Larnaca International Airport is the airport that I had the fortune (?) to be at twice - arriving from Athens and a week or so later, leaving to Cairo. Cyprus being rather small, you are never going to be too far away from Larnaca, although…Read More
Larnaca International Airport is the airport that I had the fortune (?) to be at twice - arriving from Athens and a week or so later, leaving to Cairo. Cyprus being rather small, you are never going to be too far away from Larnaca, although Paphos airport is better located if you are staying in the west of the island and of course Paphos in particular.The Larnaca airport is a cramped tiny box of an airport with a lot of flights to Russia, Ukraine, Great Britain and the nearby Middle Eastern countries like Israel, Lebanon and Egypt. It seemed to have an awful lot of flights for it's size with not enough seats and queues bumping into each other - I can only imagine it is much worse in the middle of the summer with lines of sweaty, drunk tourists in tow!The airport is well placed for clubbers as Ayia Napa is rather close, I was staying somewhere near Paphos and to get there, I had to take a shuttle bus to Limassol and then another from there. It costs 7 euros to Limassol and at least another 5 on to Paphos. Nicosia is connected more regularly and for 5 euros only.I've never flown out of Paphos, though it looked tiny too so I wouldn't be sure that it would be too different, it seems like the infro-structure can barely match the amount of tourists the little island nation receives. Close
Written by JungleBoy on 29 Jul, 2006
I write now from Doha, where we landed at 9pm to discover it was 37 degrees Celsius…
A few days ago we headed up to the Troodhos mountains to enjoy some pine-scented air and nice hikes. It wasn't what you'd call spectacular scenery, but I knew…Read More
I write now from Doha, where we landed at 9pm to discover it was 37 degrees Celsius…
A few days ago we headed up to the Troodhos mountains to enjoy some pine-scented air and nice hikes. It wasn't what you'd call spectacular scenery, but I knew that before we went – still, it was very pleasant to be among many pine trees and to have a bit of a different experience from most of our time in Cyprus.
On Wednesday we did a 12km hike which was quite easy as it was basically flat the entire way, and it afforded nice views of some villages and the surrounding landscape. We were lucky that night that there was a small festival going on in the next village south of Platres, where we were staying. We went there and were the only foreigners among a few hundred locals; they gave us (and everyone else) free beer and food, and some local musicians performed and there were some folk dancers as well. All in all, a fun evening.
On Thursday we had to make our way back down towards the coast. On Friday morning we managed to catch the more impressive part of the Kourion ruins that we missed the first time (long story; let's just say that the bus schedule from Limassol to Kourion is ridiculous), including the Temple of Apollo which, while barely interesting compared with Roman ruins at Palmyra, Baalbeck and, well, Rome itself etc, constitutes the best Roman structure in South Cyprus.
This morning was our last in Cyprus and we managed to pull ourselves out of our hostel beds in separate dorm rooms in Larnaca (first time in a hostel for a long time, come to think of it) early enough to fit in a last piece of sightseeing. I don't know if I've ever written this before, but I'm sure I've said to some people that my favourite part of the world that I've been able to explore thus far is the region stretching from the Middle East to India, and one of the reasons for this is that sometimes you're able to see holy places of Christianity and Islam side by side, which in today's world political climate is refreshing and a reminder of how things could/should be. Anyway, the point of all this is that this morning, within less than an hour, we were able to see the alleged tombs of Hala Sultan (the aunt of the Prophet Mohammed) and Lazurus (of being raised from the dead by Christ fame). I'd say the mosque was the nicest on the island that was actually built as a mosque (i.e. many of the others were once churches), and the church was the most beautiful of all of the many churches in Cyprus.
So that was a nice little way to end the trip, I thought, and a little insight into a potentially unified Cyprus in the future.
One other thing I should talk about is the evacuation of foreigners from Lebanon to Cyprus. In both Limassol and Larnaca we saw about a dozen very large ships (some definitely military ships, others looked like cargo ships) docked in the harbours, and I imagine these were carrying evacuees. At Larnaca airport today, we saw a Red Cross stall set up giving some food to evacuees as well. Other than that, it wasn't something we came across much while in Cyprus, though the newspaper headlines indicated that the island's resources were being stretched to the limit.
Hope you enjoyed reading, and sorry if the updates weren't as frequent as I had vaguely promised they would be.
More photos up at Flickr now: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jungle_boy
Written by JungleBoy on 24 Jul, 2006
We’ve spent the past few days in the southern coastal cities of Limassol and Pafos, which have been quite nice. The heatwave which hit Europe last week also made it to Nicosia, and in 37 degree temperatures we never made it to Peace and Freedome…Read More
We’ve spent the past few days in the southern coastal cities of Limassol and Pafos, which have been quite nice. The heatwave which hit Europe last week also made it to Nicosia, and in 37 degree temperatures we never made it to Peace and Freedome day on the other side of the Green Line—but on the coast it’s been a bit cooler so we’ve been fortunate in that way.
There isn’t much to Limassol itself in terms of attractions but not far outside the city is the last remaining tower of a Crusader castle called Kolossi (Mike, Google this and you’ll probably come up with some good info). The tower is in great condition despite its years and this is probably the most impressive castle in the southern part of the island. Also nearby Limassol are the most famous Roman ruins of the south—Kourion—and while there are some nice mosaics and a column or two these were not as impressive as Salamis in the north. Actually today I even saw a postcard of the Salamis ruins that said Kourion on it—another way for Southern Cyprus tourism to make the south sound better than it really is at the north’s expense! (For what it’s worth, I think the north clearly has the best attractions on the island).
The one exception to this is the set of 2nd to 5th century Roman mosaics at Pafos, which are quite spectacular. Wendy, who is our resident expert on this sort of stuff, reckons they are the best mosaics she has ever seen, and that’s saying something, since she’s seen about a billion, and dragged me to most of them.
Yesterday we took a break from sightseeing and spent the whole day at a water theme park near Pafos which was loads of fun and a very well done park with about 15 different rides/activities. Today we did some more watery things by going to the beach near Pafos harbour and to a pool, as well as checking out the Tombs of the Kings (a UNESCO World Heritage site) nearby.
Tomorrow we’re going to the one mountainous area of the south, Troodhos, which is supposed to have some nice hiking trails as well as numerous churches with some of the best frescoes on the island. Hopefully it will be even cooler up there and we’ll be able to enjoy the forest and nature for a few days before it’s time to head back to Doha.
Internet is expensive here, and uploading photos is long and arduous, so I’ll put up some more when I get back to Doha on the weekend.
Written by JungleBoy on 19 Jul, 2006
I was a bit rushed when I wrote yesterday’s post, so today, back in South Nicosia, I can expand a little bit more.
The Turkish zone of Cyprus makes up only about a third of the island, which is tiny to begin with, so in…Read More
I was a bit rushed when I wrote yesterday’s post, so today, back in South Nicosia, I can expand a little bit more.
The Turkish zone of Cyprus makes up only about a third of the island, which is tiny to begin with, so in three days with a rental car we were able to cover pretty much the entire north part of the country. Aside from the three highlights mentioned yesterday (St. Hilarion castle, Famagusta and Salamis), we saw several other interesting places as well, including the Byzantine Kantara castle, not as strategically important or as visually captivating as St. Hilarion, but still an impressive structure in its own right and the beautiful Bellapais Abbey, founded in the 1200s and kept in immaculate condition today. Considering the states of some other churches in the Turkish part of Cyprus, I imagine the abbey is only so well maintained because the rulers realised its value as a tourist attraction.
We also drove all the way to the tip of the wild and rugged Karpaz peninsula, which shoots off to the northeast from the rest of the island. It’s pretty remote out there, with wild donkeys roaming the countryside and goats crossing the main road at will, and we were able to find a nice beach to swim at along the way.
This morning, back to our customary backpacker roles, we visited the Kyrenia castle, which gives great views over the ‘achingly picturesque’ (Rough Guides) harbour below. We then jumped on a minibus back to North Nicosia and then walked back across the border into the south.
Tomorrow is the 32nd anniversary of the Turkish invasion of North Cyprus in 1974, so we’re going to duck back into North Nicosia to see what kind of celebrations (and Greek protests) there might be. The day is known as ‘Peace and Freedom’ day in North Cyprus, which sort of makes you laugh until you realise our own alliance comes up with equally ridiculous propaganda titles -- ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom,’ which has so far resulted in the deaths of about 40,000 Iraqi civilians according to conservative estimates, comes to mind.
Anyway, in Kyrenia this morning we saw red and white fighter jets practicing their manoeuvres (my assumption) for tomorrow’s festivities, so it might be pretty interesting. When we crossed over to the Greek side today, some elderly women were staging a hunger strike next to the border over the alleged kidnappings of their loved ones by the Turkish military during the 1960s and 1970s, showing the hostility that still exists.
Tomorrow afternoon we’ll head down to Limassol for our first explorations of the south outside of Nicosia. In the meantime, I’ve put up a bunch of photos on Flickr from our several days in the north: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jungle_boy/
Written by JungleBoy on 18 Jul, 2006
Let me say firstly that we have been very successful with the first objective and less so with the second...
On Saturday night we arrived in Kyrenia on the north coast of North Cyprus. If I was surprised earlier in the day at how Turkish it…Read More
Let me say firstly that we have been very successful with the first objective and less so with the second...
On Saturday night we arrived in Kyrenia on the north coast of North Cyprus. If I was surprised earlier in the day at how Turkish it felt in North Nicosia, that didn’t carry over to Kyrenia. With its harbour, castle and tourist vibe, it’s very Mediterranean, and I imagine it’s quite similar to port cities on Malta or Rhodes. We stayed for a night and are now back here again as it serves as a good base to explore the north.
On Monday morning we rented a car for three days to get around the north and this proved to be a good way to see everything we wanted to see. We’ve had a great few days seeing some amazing castles, monasteries, ruins, churches, mosques etc, showing that there is indeed more to Cyprus than beach resorts after all.
I’ll briefly describe the major highlights:
St. Hilarion Castle – built during the Byzantine era on top of a rocky outcrop overlooking Kyrenia and the bay far below, St. Hilarion’s castle has been the most important strategic building in the north for more than 1000 years, was one of the last castles ever captured by the Crusaders, and was even secured as a high priority by the invading Turkish army in 1974, such is its usefulness as a fortress. When you are at the base of it, it’s almost hard to tell what’s rock and what’s castle, as the jagged rocks rise up above the ridge. It’s loads of fun to explore, especially when you have the place virtually to yourself.
Salamis – The most famous Roman ruins on Cyprus and deservedly so. The highlight is a courtyard surrounded by tall columns on either side, creating a lovely scene, and several sets of mosaics are also impressive. Maybe the best bit was that the ruins are right on the beach, so we could cool off after running around the place for a couple of hours.
Famagusta – This is the third major city in the north and was a very pleasant surprise. For some reason, Rough Guides repeatedly talks it down, but I thought it was fabulous. The Venetian walls that surround the city are more impressive than those at Nicosia, and inside there are literally a dozen or more 800+ year old churches in various states of ruin. The main one, which had a minaret added during the Ottoman era and is now a mosque, is an enormous Gothic structure in perfect condition.
As for the second part of the title, this has been achieved through trial and error, which was not always a successful method. Though it’s not hot here in the Doha sense of the word, when you scramble around castles, monasteries and ruins as part of your daily work, it gets pretty hot. So, if you’re ever planning to visit North Cyprus, keep this in mind:
Good tap water: Kyrenia, St. Hilarion, Bellapais Monastery, Vouni palace (though the palace itself is pretty lousy), Kantara castle (though be quick as the only faucet is hot), Karpaz Peninsula (tap on the side of the road near a town that starts with D).
Bad tap water: North Nicosia (undrinkable), Famagusta (virtually undrinkable), Salamis (though drinkable in the heat if there are no other options).
I just put in these last few paragraphs to see who was still reading. Tomorrow we’ll be back in Nicosia and I expect to be able to upload lots of photos from the wonderful north of Cyprus for your pleasure!
Written by JungleBoy on 15 Jul, 2006
Today was our first experience of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, as we crossed the Green Line on foot into the Turkish zone of the former capital Nicosia. It was an interesting experience to leave the Greek side and its signs that said things…Read More
Today was our first experience of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, as we crossed the Green Line on foot into the Turkish zone of the former capital Nicosia. It was an interesting experience to leave the Greek side and its signs that said things like: Our demand: Turkish settlers and military leave Cyprus. Then we walked a few hundred metres past UN buildings in the buffer zone before reaching the Turkish side.
It didn’t take long to see that the Turkish side is poorer than the Greek side – it wasn’t painfully obvious, but occasionally you saw rundown living quarters on the Turkish side that you wouldn’t see on the Greek side. Also, the tap water on the Turkish side is saltier and less palatable – usually a good indicator of affluence levels.
Yesterday I speculated on religious tolerance on either side of the border and one of my lasting memories of the north side of this city will be what I’m sure was a once-beautiful Armenian church lying completely abandoned and in absolute ruin. It was built in the 14th century and lasted until 1963, when the Armenian community was exiled from this part of the city. Since then it has been ‘comprehensively trashed’ (Rough Guide), as have the monastery buildings that surround it. I have photos that should give you a good idea.
That aside, I liked the Turkish part of the city more than the Greek part. It reminded me of a mid-sized Turkish city like Borsa or Erfa, with its lovely old neighbourhood of Arabahmet and Islamic architecture in the centre of town. Plus, the Turkish side has the two most impressive buildings in the city: the massive and imposing Selimiye Cami, the Gothic former Roman Catholic church of Ayia Sofia that was built over 150 years in the 13th and 14th centuries; and the restored Buyuk Han, a beautiful medieval merchant inn that was reminiscent of several we saw in Turkey.
The other lovely aspect of north Nicosia was the Arabahmet district, which was similar to some small areas of south Nicosia but more charming (because of, rather than in spite of, it being a bit more rundown), with its lovely balconies and narrow lanes. The Nicosia Master Plan, a project aimed at restoring old buildings on both side of the Green Line, has obviously not reached the northern side as quickly as the southern side.
After a lunch of Turkish kebabs, we walked back over to the Greek side, getting our Turkish Cypriot visa paper stamped again en route, and visited the Cyprus Museum, an excellent archaeological collection covering the history of the island.
After two days of almost non-stop walking around the two areas of Nicosia, we are content but absolutely worn out. Since no one walks anywhere in Doha (mainly because of the heat), Wendy and I find ourselves exhausted even though we’re probably only walking about as much as we used to walk every single day when we lived in Rome. Anyway, hopefully we’re getting used to it and at any rate I think there’ll be less walking tomorrow in Kyrenia.
Some photos of today's excursion to north Nicosia are available on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jungle_boy