A Travellerspoint blog


Cyprus - The Turkish North

You say potato, I say potato...

sunny 20 °C
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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


Produce 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

Girne (Kyrenia)

Walking along the harbour


Chalky looking for 'fush'

Girne Castle

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

Posted by JacChalky 02:52 Archived in Cyprus Tagged round_the_world Comments (2)

Cyprus - The Greek South

Driving around the island with the Med as our backdrop

sunny 20 °C
View Jac and Chalky's Excellent Adventure on JacChalky's travel map.

Cyprus, Cyprus, Cyprus... What a sunny and aquamarine island thee is. We landed in Larnaca airport very early in the morning after a 45-minute flight from Beirut (a 45-minute flight that we had to get up at 4:30am for.. painful!). We arrived at our waterfront hotel, which we'd booked via email, and were pleased to encounter a spacious room with a balcony, kitchen and good views of the water. The "but"? The whole hotel was in the process of being swathed in building mesh and scaffolding for exterior maintenance. We still had a view, albeit a meshy one. Jac managed to haggle the rate down 15% as a result, but we were secretly pleased to have a kitchen to make our own food in. Steak! Pasta! Chalky's Mexican Chicken! After three terrific months in the Middle East, we'd unfortnately grown tired of rotisserie chicken, skewered meat, flatbread and a lack of vegetables.

We chilled out in Larnaca for five days, wandered the town and seafront and practised our meagre Greek. We also ummed and ahhed over whether to buy some of the many huge shells on sale and subsequently encourage the destruction of our world's waters for the sake of our mantlepieces (but hey, it turns out the EU has recently banned any more shell dredging so we're just getting rid of old stock!). We spent a lot of time in a Greek Cypriot restaurant adjacent to our hotel, as we discovered that after scaffolding prep comes drilling. A lot of hours of very noisy drilling. However it gave us plenty of time to catch up on our very-overdue blog and also sample many European wines. Including one, "Oneipa", which was a wallet-saving €1.80, and a tasty wee number considering its grape variety went unmentioned except to say it was the "Product of several EU countries". Hmmmm, liquid left over in the catch-pan from numerous wine-producers all over Europe, all collected, combined and bottled especially for hard-up afficionados like us!

We decided to hire a car and drive around the Greek south, as the entire island was only about 300kms wide (if that) in the south. Also they drove on the 'correct' side of the road, which was a bonus. We decided to drive to Lemmasos, which was only about an hour away. We drove the slower, scenic coastal roads rather than the highway, and tried to veer off several times to the beachfront, but a lot of the turn-offs were to residential areas only. Lemassos was a little bigger than Larnaca, a little less charming in our opinion, and very tourist-orientated. Still, the walk along the waterfront was pleasant, with the grass verges hosting art structures. And the town also had a café with the best salads we've ever had.

Next was Paphos, but on the way we stopped at Aphrodite's beach, which was stunning, with clear water and smooth pebbles all shades of grey and eggshell white. Not far away was Paphos itself, which our guidebook described a bit like "...being in Britian although it only got sunnier". Which... was a pretty harsh (if kind of truthful) critique! Actually the three towns we visited were pretty touristy and catered to British tastes, with English breakfasts; fish and chips with mushy peas; and Guinness advertised - fair enough given it's one of the playground of vacationing Brits. Still, the beautiful harbours, buzzing boardwalk and gorgeous shoreline more than made up for it! Paphos had hosted some Roman ruins and also the remains of a castle. Both of which we struggled to rouse interest for, given the sights we'd seen in the Middle East (!) so we spent our time doing long walks along the water.

We decided to drive to the mountainous region Troodos, which pretty much in the centre of island and hosts several UNESCO World Heritage Byzantine churches. These churches were built between the 11th and 15th centuries, as a result of the repression and discrimination of the Orthodox Greek Cypriots by the French Catholic Lusignan dynasty. Tired of paying homage to a Latin Catholic administration, Greek clerics, along with artisans and builders, quietly retreated to the mountains and built private churches. The churches are remarkable for their frescoed interior, which are apparently unique in their clarity, detail and preservation of their colours. Some frescoes resemble ecclesiastical cartoon strips, to perhaps teach illiterate peasants of the time the rudiments of the gospels.

The drive up to Troodos was fairly easy, although long and windy, however once in the region it turned a little rough for our little hatchback. The peak of Troodos itself resembles an alpine village, and Mount Olympus can be spotted, if only by the giant golf-ball-shaped sattelite that sits atop. We only managed to visit two churches, as they were fairly spread out and the routes weren't direct between each. Oh and also because the one that we drove two hours to reach was closed, which Jac had failed to read in the guidebook! The first church we saw was Archangelos Mihail church, in the village of Pedoulas (which coincidentally was on the other side of the mountain to the closed one). It was more of a small barn than a church, and had a large, steeply-inclined gabled roof, which was meant to adapt to heavy snow. Inside, the richly-painted frescoes showed the Archangel Michael, the sacrifice of Abraham and a unique baptism scene where a naked Christ emerges from the River Jordan, with fish swimming at his feet.

The second church we visited was Panagia Forviotissa (also known as Asinou), which like Archangelos Mihail, was built in the 1400s, but interestingly, contain frescoes that span several artistic generations. Unfortunately the caretaker wouldn't allow photos (but Jac sneakily snapped a few) and we couldn't stay long, as a huge coach-full of German tourists arrived and flooded the tiny church. So after about 8 hours of driving (we kid you not!) we only saw two churches for an average of 10 minutes each, but it was so worth the effort.

All up we were in southern Cyprus for a very chilled out fortnight. We had a lot of time up our sleeve, as we had a good three weeks before we had to be in Istanbul to meet up with Jac's friend Lisa, who was joining us from London for two weeks. We returned to Larnaca after Paphos to return the car before heading to the Turkish North.


Giant clam dredged up for sale

Agios Lazaros Church, built over the tomb of Lazarus

The view from our hotel room, before the scaffolding reached our side of the building (insert deafening drilling noises here)

Papawhatoplis street?

A local fishing boat

Near the harbour



Stony beach on the way to Lemmasos


Chalky along the waterfront

Lemmasos' art along the waterfront parks


Taxis in Cyprus are unlike ones at home

The best salad in the world!

Aphrodite's beach

En route to Aphrodite's beach

Chalky and the Med

The beautifully clear Med

Aphrodite's beach from above

The scenic stony beach

Us on the beach




Road hazard ahead!

Driving up and up to Cyprus' tallest point

Archangelos Mihail church




Interesting baptism scene with Christ emerging out of River Jordan



Panagia Forviotissa (Asinou)



Cypriot scenery

Cheesy driving photo

Old olive groves alongside the highway


Epsilon Xi Omicron...


Our time in Cyprus wasn't a particularly dry one...

Ouzo kept right next to the pure alcohol

Oneipa wine... the product of 'several EU countries'

Raising a glass for St Paddy's day

Chalky tackles the one litre monster (back up beer in hand)

Jac manages to mix ice cream sundae and house white

Blogging with the help of some ouzo

Posted by JacChalky 10:40 Archived in Cyprus Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

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