You say potato, I say potato...
19.03.2010 - 21.03.2010 20 °C
Our next stop was the capital of Cyprus, Nicosia, which is a city that is interestingly split into two by a 'Green Line', a demilitarized zone maintained by the UN, and splits the Greek south of the city, from the Turkish north. We stayed in the Greek south, which is also known as Lefkoşa by the Turks, but crossed the border several times on foot. We had to get stamps from both sides of the border, which was administered on pieces of paper by officials in small portable white offices . The Green Line was only about 100m wide, but contained empty dilapidated buildings that were off-limits due to booby traps that still exist inside.
The Greek half of Nicosia was very modern, and had a high street that resembled many British ones, with Topshop and McDonalds along the street. Entering the Turkish north however, was like entering a completely new country. The currency was different (although euros still accepted) but the streets resembled those you'd find in a Middle Eastern country - less shiny and and polished, but more characterful. Suprisingly, a lot of the shops had fake merchandise for sale, from bags to shoes and shirts, and even more surprisingly the copied merchandise were outstanding in their quality. Even Jac, a devoted luxury brand lover, found it difficult to spot the flaws!
Back in the Greek side for the night, we were woken by church bells the next morning, which felt strange after three or so months having a muezzin do the honours. We took a minibus to Kyrenia (Girne) on the north coast of Turkish Cyprus, which was a quick 30-minute drive over the mountain range, one that had a huge Turkish Cypriot flag painted on its side, that was overlooking Greek Nicosia. It almost felt like defiant declaration to the Greeks, reminding them that the north was the domain of the Turks. Interestingly, the north, known as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, is a state not recognized by any country in the world, except Turkey.
Kyrenia was a charming small cobbled town, which had beautiful harbour, brimming with boats, lined with cafés and restaurants, and watched over by the old Girne Castle. The water was really clear and blue, and you could see mainland Turkey, it being as close as the South Island is to Wellington. Walking the harbour in the sun, we realised we'd spent a little too long in the south.
After a day in Kyrenia we hired a car through our hotel and decided to drive to Golden Bay, which is on the far north-eastern peninsula of Cyprus and apparently was the beach to visit in Cyprus according to our guidebook. Inhabited by feral donkeys, Golden Bay is also where turtles can be spotted at the right time of year hatching and making their pilgrimage to the sea. Our hired car turned out to be a small 'Maruti', which looked like it'd seen better times and only had 800cc's worth of grunt. Armed with only a general map of Cyprus, rather than the region, we set off. The route looked straightfoward enough: follow the north coast road all the way, cross over the ranges and then continue east until we hit Golden Beach. Simple. Fastforward 15 minutes later out of Kyrenia, we had already crossed the range but signs and our bearings told us were heading back towards Nicosia. Oops. We turned off at a road that looked like it headed back towards the north coast, which it did... but first took us over some more mountains. The roads turned rough, pot-holed and in places only suitable for a 4WD. We passed lots of locals picnicing along the road, who were probably wondering why we were driving a tiny clapped out car on the roads.
We finally descended through a very old olive grove, with gnarled trees on huge, old trunks, and onto the elusive coastal road. The rest of our drive didn't improve in terms of bumpiness. The road turned so rough that at one point we turned inland as the car threatened to rattle to pieces, but only to get lost in a small village and being pointed back to the 'goat track' by amused old men, who we stopped to signlanguage-ask for directions.
Finally, after five hours of driving what was probably a very indirect route, we arrived at Golden Beach! We could only stay for 20 minutes though, knowing it would take us almost just as long to drive back, and we didn't want to be fording the mountains in the dark. The stretch of sand seemed to stretch along the coast forever and was beautifully golden. Jac tried her best to spot some feral donkeys, hoping to find one that had say, red eyes and dripping fangs.... but to no avail.
Easter hits the Nicosia/Lefkoşa 'border'
The old Municipal Market
Mona Lisa, patron of this fruit shop
Wandering through Turkish side of Nicosia
Northern Cyprus' and Turkey's flags
Northern Cyprus' flag looms over both Turkish and Greek sides from the mountain
Chalky on his Greek namesake street in Greek Nicosia
Walking along the harbour
Chalky looking for 'fush'
Chalky still hoping to spot some fish
The streets of Kyrenia
Sweet stretch taxi
Driving the north coast to Golden beach
Our 800cc Maruti that got put through its paces
Heading up the mountains
A turquoise bay
A very old olive tree amidst the yellow wild flowers
Stopping in a gorgeous bay
Dur! It's the Wild Donkey Protection area
At last we spy Golden Beach!
Chalky on the boardwalk towards the beach/i]
[i]Happy to finally be there after 5 hours of driving
Jac on Golden Beach
There are feral donkeys in them hills