Kristine wanders

The musings of a wanderer......

Category: Cyprus

My Top 10 from 2015

2015 was a pretty epic year of traveling for me. I’ve just switched over to my new 2016 calendar and I counted all the days I was out of Saudi traveling last year. It was 109. 109!!!! How is that even possible? Since the last time I checked I work a full-time gig as a VIP nurse in Saudi Arabia. But apparently I was on the go a lot. I visited 16 countries over the last year, 11 of them new for me, and I thought I would share my top 10 favourite memories from the last year. Enjoy!!

1. Cyprus

Way back in February I took a trip to Cyprus and my kiwi sidekick and I rented a car and drove around the quaint island. I have 2 favourite memories from this trip. The first was the a day we spend driving in the hills between Limassol and Paphos. The  day was cold and dreary and we visited a local winery and then made our way to a small village that was devastated and deserted by an earthquake in 1969. As we arrived in the village a torrential downpour started which only added to the creepiness of our visit, and we got soaked walking around taking photos. The village is on the way to a town called Lemona. The other great memory I have from that trip was the time a stranger gave us his BMW to drive for an afternoon. You can read about that travel tale here.

Creepy right?!

2. Norway

Two words. Lofoten Islands. Quite possibly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. They are picturesque and have this kinda of awestruck beauty that isolated and desolate places have. Every which way you turn your head was a postcard perfect view. The gagged snow covered peaks drop dramatically into the arctic sea and I would go back in a second. I think an Atheist would have a hard time believing there isn’t a higher power of some sort after visiting this island chain. See for yourself…..

3. Sweden

The whole of Scandinavia is awesome, and travel there is pretty easy. It would be a real shame if you went to Sweden and didn’t visit the Ice Hotel, even if only for the day! The Ice Hotel is an artistic marvel in that every year the design and decor is completely different. Different artists take part every year so the theme rooms change, which you have to admit is pretty cool. It is pricey, but well worth the stay. You can sleep in one of the actual ice rooms, or stay in a heated cabin like we did. Oh, and if you go make sure to do the tasting menu at the restaurant there- it is phenomenal. Maybe you’ll luck out and the Northern Lights will come out like they did for us!!

4. Finland

Dog sledding in Lapland has got to be one of the best things I’ve ever done. It was bloody cold, but so worth it.

5. Maldives

This view……I dream about it often. This is one of the most relaxed vacations I have ever had. Ever. It was hard to decide between spa, pool, eat, nap, read, repeat. This is also the place where I attempted to overcome my fear of the water and tried scuba diving.

6. Bahrain

So VIP culture is huge in the Middles East. You rarely see anything VIP in North America unless it’s in a mocking nature, but over in these parts everything is VIP. VIP movie theaters, hospitals, parking spots, entrances. It’s all a little over the top. That is until you catch a ride over the causeway to Bahrain in a vehicle with diplomatic plates and get to cross via the VIP lanes. Yep. And funfact….they have tea boys who come right up to you car to serve you tea, while you wait in line to cross the border.

7. Morocco

I blogged at great length about how difficult it was traveling in Morocco, but one the best things we did while there was take a cooking class thru Souk Cuisine. This class included a shopping trip to buy the needed ingredients in the Medina and was a great way to learn about local ingredients whilst mixing with the locals. Even though Morocco was sometimes very challenging the food was ALWAYS delicious. I would pretty much recommend doing a cooking class or food tour whenever you travel. I’m doing one later this month in Spain and can’t wait!!

8. Bali Indonesia

At the end of August I took part in a retreat on the northern part of the Indonesian island of Bali with 17 other ladies from all over the world. My time there was so needed and really came at a time when I needed to slow down and work through some things on my own. The location was beautiful, as were the many lovely ladies I met. This was a time of much needed R&R and reflection, and I’m so thankful for the wonderful friendships that were formed from my time in Bali.

9. Oktoberfest Germany

Even though I ended up with a GI bug from hell, Oktoberfest was a seriously fun time (while it lasted.) I mean what’s not to love about a group of traditionally costumed and hugely intoxicated people smashing beer steins together while singing traditional German songs at the top of ones lungs. It was a good time, and YOLO you really only do live once so you should go.

10. Sparkling Hills Spa in British Columbia Canada

Last month I took my mom to this spa about an hour from where she lives. This is a place people have been raving about since it opened a few years back and I was keen to see what all the hype was about! The hotel is pretty much the luxury accommodations in the Okanagan region of British Columbia and known for its spa, saunas and heated outdoor infinity pools. The views from the rooms are amazing, as are the 7 saunas and the indoor floating pool with classical music playing under the water. Well worth the visit, and it was a great mother-daughter retreat.

So really that wraps up 2015. It was a pretty great year. I’m really excited to see what is in store for 2016. I’m excited for the new faces I will meet, the new sights I will see, and the changes that will take place inside of me.  I found this quote that sums up my thoughts about the upcoming year perfectly, and my hopes for both you and I…..

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world.

You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, for all of us, and my wish for myself.

Make new mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before.

Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t prefect, whatever it is; art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing. Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

Neil Gaiman

A Lesson In Kindness

For me, travel is a never ending lesson in kindness. I truly believe that most people are good, and this belief is never more apparent then when I’m traveling. From India, to Bangladesh, to the corners of the Middle East, for the most part I’ve met kind, kind people.

Back in February I took a trip to Cyprus. My kiwi travel mate and I rented a car in the southern part of Cyprus where we toured around for the better part of a week. Our last few days in Cyprus were spend in the border city of Nicosia where the Green Line dissects the city into the southern Greek part and what they refer to as the “Turkish occupied” area to the North. We had been warned many times by people on the southern side that the people of the north couldn’t be trusted. That they were dishonest. That it was unsafe. And that we would be scammed. Naturally, I wanted to check out this place, full well knowing that this was likely very untrue.

We wanted to explore the Turkish side, but it was a bit of a paper-work nightmare to drive our rental car across. Even with the proper paperwork the end result was that we would likely still void the rental agreement we had with the car rental place in the south. So that seemed like not a great option. We inquired at our hotel in the southern part of Nicosia about booking a taxi for the day to take us around. At first the reception guy referenced the many reasons why we shouldn’t go to the north. They are bad, they treat their women bad, they will treat you bad. We then informed him where we live. He replied that we would find the north especially shocking then. He was dead serious. We laughed till our eyes watered. He then quoted us 350euros to book a taxi for the day. Again, I thought he was joking and started to laugh. Turns out he was not. So we told him we would walk across the border and negotiate a taxi ourselves. He was horrified at our blatant disregard for his safety warnings.

So cross the border we did. And we found a taxi stand and tried to negotiate with a couple drivers, but the lowest price we could get them down to was 120euros which still seemed rather steep. So, we wandered the market and found a small shawarma place called the Orange Cafe and Restaurant. We sat down and ordered a bite to eat and a couple beers to discuss our options. It then dawned on me that maybe we could just rent a car in the north for the day. So I asked the very nice Pakistani guy who was our server if there were any car rental places close by. He replied no, but then uttered the words “maybe my boss knows.” And off he went to get his boss.

Samie, as we would soon learn was the boss’s name strolled over a couple minutes later. He was in his late 40’s, wearing blue jeans, a leather jacket, and a hat with a maple leaf on the front. In Canada we call these hats a touque and the fact that his had a maple leaf on it made me like him immediately. So we told him our sad story of how we wanted to tour the north, but didn’t want to pay very much to do it. As it turned out Samie also owned a taxi company and told us he could get us a driver for the day for 100euros. Again we said it was too much, so then Samie said he had a BMW that he would lend us for 50euros the following day. He said he also had a Hummer, but that the it was too expensive in gas. Now granted, it did sound a little sketchy, but I’m one for seeing how a situation plays out. And 50euros to drive ourselves was exactly what we wanted. So we made arrangements to meet at 9am the following morning.

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So the following morning we head back across the border to the north. It’s pouring rain, and by the time we arrive at the Orange Cafe we are drenched. Samie is there, and his “brother” is there, and no one really speaks great English. So we are invited to sit down for tea, and Samie brings us an olive loaf that his mother made. And it’s delicious. Samie makes a phone call that we eventually make out has to do with insurance for the car, and then a guy arrives with papers, and then things got a little confusing. Samie hands my kiwi mate the keys and we walk over to the BMW but the guy who delivered the papers is still there. So we’re thinking maybe we’ve totally misunderstood and this guy is taking us for the day? So Samie says basically “bring the car back whenever” and walks away. Now I’m in the backseat and my Kiwi friend is in the passenger seat, and this paper-delivery guy is now driving us through the winding narrow streets of Northern Nicosia. After a couple minutes he stops, gets out, and gets into another vehicle, and signals for us to follow him out of the old city walls.

And then just like that we’re on our own in a strangers car (that we’ve yet to pay the 50euros) and we’re driving further into the north, and we’re laughing at the absurdness of it all. That Samie trusted us enough upon initial impression to hand over the keys to his car. At the complete kindness and trust of a stranger. So we spent the day touring and getting lost in the north of Cyprus as I’ve previously told you. We got hopelessly lost trying to get back to the cafe. The winding narrow streets of the walled section of north Nicosia is disorienting and confusing. By complete fluke we ended up pulling over about to ask for directions and who was standing across the street? The original guy who delivered the insurance papers. So he jumped in and drove us back to the Orange Cafe and to the car’s rightful owner, Samie. We ordered some beer and some food and sat with Samie and his “brother” for a couple hours discussing politics and life in the north in broken English.

The following day (our last day in Cyprus) we stopped back at the Orange Cafe. By now we felt like they were our good friends. We had some apple tea, and said our goodbyes. So what did Samie teach me? He taught me that it’s ok to take a chance on a stranger, that people can do something kind, just for the reason of being kind and helpful. He taught me that each of us should make more of an effort to help tourists in our own country. Because even though I have had so many kind interactions with strangers while traveling,  I could make more of an effort when I’m on my home soil. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we should all immediately hand over our car keys to the next tourist you see, but that it’s ok to go out of your way to help a stranger. That kindness towards a stranger benefits not just the giver but also the receiver. Try it and I guarantee your heart will feel a little lighter.

I think I’m going to make a Lesson in Kindness a regular part of my blog. I’ve got so many wonderful stories of chance encounters with kind strangers that have been so humbling, I would love to share more of them. Those chance encounters where you walk away with the feeling that the world is a good place, and that compassion and kindness are the keys to the betterment of humanity. For as the Dalai Lama once said “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”
I agree wholeheartedly.

Nicosia Cyprus

After our time in the coastal city of Paphos we headed inland to the capital of Cyprus, Nicosia. As I previously mentioned, Nicosia is a city literally split in two. The southern part is the Greek portion of the city and the northern section is the Turkish part. We spent 3 nights  wandering the city and crossing back and forth between the 2 borders. Pedestrians can cross the border at the Ledra Street crossing, which is a really cool and happening area lined with shops, restaurants and loads of cafes. This was a short 10 min walk from our hotel. We were really keen to explore the northern part of the country, as both myself and my kiwi travel mate have been to Turkey, and I especially loved it. We had rented a rental car in the south, but it is somewhat difficult to drive your rental car across the border. Well not exactly difficult per say, but rather that you would inadvertently void your rental contract. We did not want to risk that and instead concocted a rather genius plan with the help of a kind stranger who was able to help us out with wheels (more on this is a separate post.)

So we drove into the north, and there is so much to see over there. So much so, that we just scratched the surface really. After our GPS directing us into a military occupied zone we eventually arrived at Bellapais Abbey an extraordinary Abbey dating from the 13th century. Shocker of all shockers, it was raining that day, but it still made for beautiful photos. The inside of the church had beautiful lighting, that I didn’t want to stop taking photos in, except that a bus load of loud German tourists entered making it difficult to navigate the now crowded room. The archways on the outside were in varying state of decay and only added to the place’s photogenic appeal. Well worth a visit!!

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The inside of Bellapais Abbey

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Such beautiful lighting

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arches, arches, and more arches

Arches, arches, and more arches

The outer decaying walls

The outer decaying walls

From this point our GPS decided it didn’t want to cooperate with us at all. We weren’t sure if the weather, or the fact that we had crossed into the northern area were to blame, but for the rest of that day we flew by the seat of our pants. We headed towards the coastal city of Kyrenia, and after driving thru the super-cute harbour area we arrived at the Kyrenia Castle. The castle is very large, with several museum type rooms. Had the weather been better there would have been beautiful views from the top. I’m sure you’re surprised to learn it was still in fact raining. We got utterly lost leaving Kyrenia, but eventually made our way to St Hilarion Castle which is perched high up a cliff overlooking another military zone. This castle is said to have been the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Snow White. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived it was closing time, but we were still able to get some photos. We then headed back to Nicosia- getting lost several more times, and almost driving our borrowed car into the south. Lucky for us there was a turn around area, as I would’ve hated explaining this to the kind man who’s car it was.

A ghost?? Or just a guy in a hoodie?

A ghost?? Or just a guy in a hoodie?

Inside Kyrenia Castle

Inside Kyrenia Castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Military zones everywhere

 

 

St Hilarion Castle

St Hilarion Castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rest of our time in Nicosia was spent wandering, and eating. We visited the Shacolas Tower (on the southern side) which has great views overlooking the city, but sadly none into the Green Line or DMZ that separates the south from the north. As Nicosia was a walled city there are many gates scattered throughout the city. On the northern side you can visit Selimiye Mosque from the 12th century which originally was a Gothic church and still pretty much looks like a Gothic church. It’s very similar to the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, but on a much smaller and less grand scale. There is a municipal market near by that sells many Turkish treats. We also spent some time wandering next to the Green Line on the southern side. It’s creepy and cool and the same time, as much of the in between space is purposely blocked from view, and many of the building snext to the Green Line have been abandoned.

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The Northern side

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Local men

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A man praying inside Selimiye Mosque

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Still looks like a Gothic church to me

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Abandoned buildings near the Green Line

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The Venetian Walls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that wraps up my 10 days in Cyprus. We flew back to Riyadh via Doha and we spent a night in Doha which I will give you my thoughts on later!

 

Paphos Cyprus

On our 6th day in Cyprus we left the comfort of the lovely flat we rented in Limassol and headed towards the town of Lemona. The day was cool, dark, and rainy, but we wanted to visit a winery we had read about. Tsangarides winery is just off the main road at Limona. We called ahead to make sure they were open as February is considered the off-season in Cyprus and some things are closed. Thankfully, this winery was!! Back home my family lives in a major wine region in Canada, and this winery reminded me of being home. It’s a smaller winery, but the tasting room is beautifully crafted with the tables and chairs designed out of wine barrels. We sampled quite a few (well rather I did as my Kiwi travel partner was in charge of the driving.) We bought a bottle of the Red and the Rose for our consumption later. From here we stopped off at an abandoned village not far from Lemona. As we pulled up it started to rain really hard, which only added to the eeriness. The village became abandoned after an earthquake in 1969. There are several toppled homes in the area, some roaming goats, and an abandoned church which appears unscathed from the outside.

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Abandoned village thru the rain

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After getting completely drenched and trying to not ruin my camera while taking photos of the ghost town we stopped off at Chrysorroyiatissa Monastery which had a sign out front warning of not entering if scantily dressed. We found it a little too hilarious as we basically looked like soaked cats in our rain gear and couldn’t have been further from being scantily dressed. The monastery itself is pretty plain as compared to Kykkos monastery. With no sign of the rain letting up, we headed in search of food. We read about a restaurant called Maria’s Place in Fyti in my Lonely Planet guidebook, and it was on our way to Paphos. Maria’s place is in the center of the village and we found it full of locals looking to stay dry in the rain and 3 ex-pat olderish Brits looking to spend the afternoon getting drunk (and they were well on their way!) Maria was nowhere to be found but someone called her and she arrived and served us delicious pork roast and hot tea. She was lovely, and her home cooking skills are legit.

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We then drove onwards towards Paphos. Paphos is about 50km west of Limassol. It’s a coastal town with a beautiful harbour, a castle, and several archeological ruins. In fact, the entire city of Paphos is classified as a UNESCO site. We checked into a middle range hotel that primarily serves as a long term hotel for British and Russian tourists. We were very young compared to the 50 shades of grey hair on the other hotel guests, and as an added bonus our mattresses had plastic covers that crinkled every time one of us turned over. These “incontinence pads” as we called them provided endless jokes for our time in Paphos and led to much speculation between me and my kiwi mate over breakfast as to which hotel guests they had saved the night for. I never claimed to be very mature..

One of the really cool things you should see in Paphos is the Tombs of the Kings. It’s a large site with underground tombs dating from the 4th century BC. I loved it, and the coastal views are beautiful. As I’ve already mentioned the weather never really cooperated with us most of the time we were in Cyprus, but this day the rain was kept at bay even though the sky looked really dark and stormy which made for very dramatic photos. Have I mentioned yet how much photography is a huge part of travel for me? It’s my only real artistic form of expression and I love the way the world looks thru the lens of a camera. The Tombs of Kings is a photographers dream site.

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Breathtaking coastline

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Me at the Tombs of the Kings

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Paphos also has a great harbour area with a promenade with cafes and shops lined up. There is also a castle on one end of the harbour with great rooftop views of the stormy sea. We spend an afternoon drinking  wine and later coffee watching the choppiness of the sea. Later in the evening we visited the recommended Kiniras Garden restaurant. They serve traditional Cypriotic food and the owner Georgios was our server that night. We ordered based off his recommendations and the food and wine were very food. Well worth a visit. From Paphos we traveled to Nicosia.

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Limassol Cyprus

In mid-February I flew from Riyadh via Doha, Qatar to Larnaca in Cyprus. Thankfully, I was heavily medicated and the flight was uneventful!! My Kiwi travel mate and I had booked a rental car, so after a short shuttle to a nearby parking lot we were on our way. Limassol bound. I love the way the name of this city rolls off my tongue. I never tire of saying it. It sounds like a flavour of gelato or an exotic dance move. Anyways, it takes about an hour to drive from Larnaca to Limassol. The roads are good, but they do drive on the left hand side so I left the driving to my Kiwi sidekick. The last time I drove on the left hand side was in Scotland and my pops has very vivid memories of me removing the passenger side mirror by rubbing up against a narrow bridge. In my defense, a large truck crossed the center line so moving over was my only option. Pops thinks I should’ve stopped on the bridge and waited. We still have a difference of opinions on this matter. Regardless, I wasn’t feeling up to testing my luck on Cyprus roads.

Limassol is larger than I had envisioned and the old town is chaotic to drive in,  with all the one way and blocked off streets. We stayed 5 nights at an Airbnb rental that was perfect. The owner Pandora was lovely. Such a kind sweet lady. It was just a couple blocks from the castle and had parking out front. Not to mention that the place was beautifully restored. On the first night we were there we walked down to the main square and found 110 euros on the street. This made me especially love Limassol. That entire night we joked that “our benefactor” was picking up the tab!

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Our lovely flat

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The streets of Limassol

 

 

Most of the main tourist things in Limassol can be seen in a day. There’s the Limassol Castle which has a pretty cool museum and great views from the top. There’s a Grand Mosque although it was pretty small and not very ornate compared to mosques in the Middle East. My Kiwi sidekick was required to wear a cloak to cover her arms and seeing her looking like a Harry Potter character was well worth the visit. There are a couple oldish churches, and a central market that was less impressive than I was imagining. Then there is the beach area and the harbour.

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Inside Limassol Castle

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A tiny tucked away church

 

Limassol makes a great base to day trip from. There are many monasteries close by and wineries to tour. We were there off-season so not all the wineries were open. I was unaware that Cyprus was know for its wine, but it makes a sweet desert wine called Commandaria which is well worth trying. Cyprus wines are also great if you don’t know much about wines. You can literally order wines by saying you want “a medium sweet white, or a medium dry red” and you’ll get a bottle with that exact label.

 

The mountain area of Troodos also makes a good day trip, if the weather cooperates. We were there in what is still considered winter and the roads are considered high mountain roads and are very windy. This area apparently has a ski hill although we never saw it, or any skiers for that matter either. Fortunately, we encountered loads of rain but it never snowed which would’ve made this area difficult to see. There are wineries in this area also, and ten Byzantine churches that are classified as UNESCO heritage sites. They are quite a distance apart so it would be very difficult to fit them all into a day. We managed to see 3 of them and they really are quite incredible. Since it was off season many of the churches are locked, so in order to see the inside you have to find the “key-holder” or as in our case with the first church the “key-holder” found us. Outside of the first church an old man came walking down the lane gangling a ring of keys moments after we walked up. We were super excited as we figured that getting the church unlocked would pose more of a problem. So we’re inside this amazing church and we’re looking at the beautiful paintings on the walls and ceilings and this old man is getting a little close. At first I think he’s just being helpful, pointing out this and that, and next thing you know he’s got his arm around me and he’s rubbing my back and working his way down to my ass. And he wreaks of alcohol. So I step away. And now he tries to make a go at it with my Kiwi pal. Needless to say we were out of there lickity-split because Grandpa tried to get to first base. The other 2 churches we saw were also very cool, and thankfully no one tried to molest us. One of the them had an interesting painted image of Mary breastfeeding Jesus, and the other one had an image in which Mary appeared pregnant. Kykkos monastery is well worth a visit also, if only to take in its opulence. It is still a functioning monastery so you might see some Orthodox monks whilst there.

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The site of the church groping

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Agios Nikolaos tis Stegi Church

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kykkos Monastery

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Colourful stained glass

 

 

 

 

 

Another easy day trip from Limassol is to drive towards Pafos and stop off at Aphrodite’s Rock named after the mythical goddess’s supposed birthplace. It is utterly beautiful. From there you can head back towards Limassol and stop off at Old Kourion an ancient city from the Byzantine period. Much of the site is in varying states of decay with some of it being an actual archaeological site. The coastal views from here are amazing. Then you can head to Kolossi Castle which reminded me of an old Scottish castle. It was built in the 12 century and you can climb the winding staircase to the roof for panoramic views. For some strange reason I got a really creeped out vibe at this castle and found the narrow spiral staircase really claustrophobic.  Not the usual reaction I have to visiting ancient sites, but I honestly couldn’t get out of the main castle fast enough and out into the fresh outside air. Odd.

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Aphrodite’s Rock

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The beautiful Cyprus coastline

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ancient Kourion

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Creepy Kolossi Castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

We spent a lot of time eating and drinking wine during our stay in Limassol. Sadly, we never really got onto the locals eating schedule of having dinner at 10pm. We ate early, and they always thought we were having our lunch when in fact it was our dinner. It was hard to stay motivated to stay up late while consuming a couple bottles of wine over a drawn out dinner. One of the favourite places we ate at was Il Castello. It has both indoor and outdoor seating in an open plaza facing the Castle in Limassol. We ate here a few times and the staff were super friendly. On our last morning there the kind owner gave us free coffees and tiny bottles of Commandaria wine. It’s well worth a visit. The other place we loved (mostly because of the darling elderly waiter) was Megaro restaurant- also located in Old Town. One night we ate here and tried Cyprus meze. I had the seafood meze and it was phenomenal. There were easily 20+ small plates including Greek salad, toasted bread, hummus, seafood spread, olives, calamari, beet salad, fires, fried fish, pasta, ink fish, mussels, prawns, a rice dish and a few other small plates that have escaped my memory. Meze is a must when in Cyprus, just make sure you come hungry, because the food will pile up in front of you. From Limassol we headed west towards Pafos. More on that soon…..

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Our favourite Limassol waiter

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The beginning of Cyprus meze

 

Cyprus

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Not the best photo, but you get the idea.

So 2 weeks ago I spent 9 days in Cyprus. It was a place I had wanted to visit when I was in Saudi Arabia last time, but never had the chance. Cyprus is an island in the Mediterranean Sea that neighbours Turkey, Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Egypt and Greece. Even though it is geographically close to these conflict areas, the island itself is actually quite safe. Petty crime and such are said to be on the rise related to recent economy issues. Its economy (at least in the southern part) is largely tied to Greece.

Cyprus has a sorted past. In the early 1900s it was a crown colony with ties to Britain. In 1960 it became the Republic of Cyprus and the government at that time needed to allocate a certain percentage of its seats to Turkish Cypriots. This led to internal strife between the Greek Cypriot majority and the Turkish Cypriot minority, so in 1964 UN peacekeepers were brought in. They are still in place. As a side note, we actually met a group of them out at a pub while we were in Nicosia. In 1974 Turkish forces invaded the northern part of the island, resulting in the displacement of huge numbers of Cypriots. It’s understandably been a point of contention ever since. Well, at least for the Greeks. Most of the Turkish we spoke to had no bad feelings towards the Greeks, and the word “peace” was mentioned several times. We met several people on both sides who’s families were greatly affected by the 1974 invasion. Our Airbnb host in Limassol’s family lived in North Nicosia, but was originally from Greece and so her family lost the home they owned and essentially had to start over. Same goes for a cafe owner we met in North Nicosia. His family was Turkish but had owned property in the south which they lost and had to start over on the Turkish side. Even though these events happened 40 years ago, for many people it is like it was yesterday. Spending time here made me reflect on how hard it is to imagine what it would be like to lose your house, possessions, neighbours, your whole life really, overnight. What it would be like to be striped of all your worldly possessions and having to start over.

After the 1974 Turkish invasion a UN Buffer Zone was established and monitored by UN peacekeepers. This basically entailed the formation of the Green Line which stretches 180km across the northern part of the island. It dissects through the capital city Nicosia. The border remained closed until 2003 when Greek Cypriots were allowed to cross into the north. I really loved the city of Nicosia, and we crossed into the north via the Ledra Street crossing several times during our stay there. This was an interesting experience as you walked through the DMZ (demilitarized zone or Green Line) to get back and forth. We were given a map of Nicosia at our hotel in the southern part of the city and it was very intriguing as it was basically blank on the map once you crossed into the north. All that was noted was that it was Turkish occupied territory since 1974. No street names. It reminded me of how I once bought a world map in Saudi Arabia and the country of Israel wasn’t identified. It was just left blank, almost as though it also didn’t exist.

So that’s my basic uneducated version of the history of Cyprus. Over the next couple weeks I’ll blog more specifically about what we saw and did while in Cyprus, as well as tell you a fabulous tale of that time a stranger lent us his BMW for 50euros so we could tour around the northern part of the island. It’s a really good story, and one that I’m really looking forward to sharing with you. On the 10th of March I’m heading to Copenhagen and spending 2 weeks hunting down the northern lights in Norway, Sweden and Finland. This has been a long standing dream of mine, as I’ve never seen the northern lights. I’m really, really excited to photograph them! More to come……

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