Another sticker in the map, another island, another place that has more than just incredible sightseeings: its convulsive history. This is how we found Cyprus… (July 2016)
Let’s look back
Along its history, Cyprus island was conquered by multiple societies: Venetians, Romans, Greeks, Persians, Ottomans… and finally by the British from whom they gained their independence in 1960.
Back then, the population was divided mostly in Greek-Cypriots, Turk-Cypriots and Anglo-Cypriots united and in harmony around the territory. However, in 1974, Turkey starts a military invasion after a military coup instigated by Greece. At that moment the conflict starts, the separations and what it is today a divided island in a non-violent conflict. Greek-Cypriot families who lived in the north fled to the south, it happened the same with the Turk-Cypriots who lived in the south. The intervention of the United Nations stopped the attack and the bombing and the Green Line was established. A line that grants security for both sides: Turk-Cypriots in the north and Greek-Cypriots in the south.
So, in 1983 the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus is proclaimed but only recognized by Turkey. On the other hand, the Republic of Cyprus keeps going and enters the European Union in 2004.
According to those we talked to, who either live in the north or in the south, there was never an issue between the two populations even if they had different beliefs, everyone got along. After so many years, however, the pain that caused the fled and the political decisions taken afterward, both in the island and among the so-called mother land (Greece and Turkey) they have negatively affected the relationships. At the moment they are still trying to reunify the island to stop this conflict, in our opinion, between others in other territories.
Lefkosia or Nicosia
We landed late in Lefkosia, as the Cypriots called it, and we went to our refuge in the capital city. We are in the north, as Lefkosia, or Nicosia as the British called it, is the last divided city by a “wall”. In the old town, we found globetrotters, hippies and youngsters as different as you can imagine. We met at Hoi Polloi with Dimitri, our host, and some others that once decided to stay there, in the north. A night to share adventures, as we like it, to know if they can feel changes, if the people want changes if the north and the south are really different…
Karpaz: donkeys around
But we don’t stop in the city, we would do it later. We headed to the Karpaz (or Karpazia) Peninsula, in the northeast of the island with a protected area. We bordered the northern coast and wanted to stop several times to enjoy the beach. Golden Beach was recommended by everyone we talked to, and we spent there two days and two nights; camping right at the beach. Golden Beach has several kilometers of beach with some bungalows and nothing else; rocks at both ends, an enormous dune and surrounded by flora. At night you rediscover the sky, that sky that you can’t enjoy in the cities, full of stars.
A few kilometres away there is also Gold Beach (a bit confusing, right?), this beach also has some bungalows but it also has a great restaurant with a beach view, it is smaller than the previous one and fewer waves too. Perfect for lunch, as we did, grilled octopus and calamari (the portions are generous). If you keep going to the end of the peninsula, you will find a protected area full of donkeys that would happily stop your car to be fed and cuddle, there is also the Apostol Andrew’s Monastery that is being renovated at the moment and a few more coves to stop and enjoy the sun, the sea, and the sand.
Crossing the border
We kept going in our route to the south to cross the border, so we stopped in Famagusta (or Gazimağusa) to fill our stomachs. But we were surprised by the city. You can see St. Nicholas Cathedral, converted into a mosque, and a few meters away is St. George of the Greeks Church.
We were aware that we needed to buy an insurance at the border as we had rented a car in the north, what we didn’t know is that we also had to have the “tax road” document to cross to the south; furthermore, the tax road can only be obtained in Lefkosia’s crossing point and the office is opened just until 2 pm . So after arriving at Larnaca we had to go back and spend a night in Lefkosia so that everything would be in order, you should have seen the satisfactory face of the Greek-Cypriot policeman when he told us that we had committed a crime crossing by crossing the border. Nevertheless, on the next day, it only took 5 minutes to get everything ready and in less than an hour we were in Larnaca again.
As we had to be in Lefkosia until the next day, we decided to see what was all about the Green Line. Imagine a pedestrian commercial street of any city. Now imagine that in the middle, or to be more accurate at the beginning of that street, there is a border control office and 20 meters later another from another country. The absurd of absurdity. It is forbidden to take pictures in that sensible area, fenced streets with military and police officers making sure that you don’t take pictures and you follow the rules. They check your shopping bags when from the south but not the other way around. There are few things to see in the city apart from the citadel in which Ledra Street is, that curious border.
Büyük Han in the north side of Nicosia
Diving in the southeast
After our border adventure, we got early to Larnaca. There, some friends were waiting for us: Isa and Eirini from Aqua Dream, a scuba academy with a perfect reputation. With them we head to Protaras, first to dive at Green Bay and afterward close to Cape Greco.
Diving and snorkeling at Green Bay is easy, as you get into the water you find the Fish Rock, where fish will come to welcome you; a few meters deeper you find some statues that you can play with, you keep going and you will find lots of aquatic fauna, more than you can imagine and you go back to the surface.
Close to Cape Greco there are the Sea Caves, here we had our second immersion much more complex than the first one. Now we go from sea cave to sea cave and there are three and when you go back to the surface you would have to go through a hole in the ceiling of a cave, an adrenaline rush because there is something extra to calmly enjoy the underwater life.
After diving, we stopped at the spectacular Cape Greco, a mini-cliff of around 10 meters height, full of caves and from which many people jump to the water although there is only a depth of 4 meters. This area is called Agia Napa, a very tourist area, nightlife, and activities, but that is not what we are looking for.
Back in Larnaca, we visited St Lazarus Church, where the corps of the man who was told “Stand up and walk” rest, and the beach. It is not a beautiful beach, but it was a great place to enjoy good company and a nice ice cream at night.
And the trip goes on, but you will have to wait; after all this is Cyprus (I).
Along the trip around the island we could see some of the beaches that have few visitors but also very little maintenance and we found there lots of garbage. Tourist and visitors leave things behind (litter) but there is also what the tide brigns from the boats and from surrounding coasts. The beauty of the island is incredible but our garbage will end up damaging it, both the coast and the sea life, we must be aware that the resources we have need to be taken care of.
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