From Athens I flew to the island of Cyprus, a very interesting country in the Mediterranean off the coast of Turkey.
Cyprus has no hostels, so I stayed in another Air BnB in the capital, Nicosia.
Nicosia is the last divided capital city in the world. The southern part is in the Republic of Cyprus and the northern part is in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Northern Cyprus is recognised by only one country, Turkey, and is separated from Cyprus by a UN buffer zone.
Luckily I met a Cypriot in Macedonia who lives in the Turkish side and was there when I was. Thanks to him, I got to see way more of Cyprus than I would have by myself, as public transport between the cities isn’t the greatest.
The first night we drove to Kyrenia on the Turkish side for dinner, which looked nice at night. It was very easy to pass from one side to another. I just had to show my passport to one side, they’d scan it, I’d walk through the buffer zone, show my passport to be scanned for the other side, and I’m in! You have to have a stamp in your passport that shows you originally entered on the Greek side though, which I did at Larnaca.
The next day I began exploring Nicosia. I’ll try to limit the number of times I mention the heat, as it was around 40° every day there and I did not like it.
My Air BnB was in the perfect location, downtown Nicosia close to the border and right next to Ledras Street, the main street.
Cyprus has Caffe Nero, so I got a free coffee when I arrived with the loyalty card I’ve been holding on to since Dubai.
I also had Cypriot Coffee, which is like or the same as Turkish coffee, and very good.
Wanting to try some Cypriot food, I ordered sieftalies, which is a type of sausage that’s held together with the membrane from the stomach of a pig or lamb, and it was honestly the best I’ve ever had. The sausages are a little buried, but that’s how it came.
For the first road trip outside of Nicosia, I wanted to check out Paphos. On the way was another site I wanted to visit, The Rocks of Aphrodite, where the goddess is said to have been born.
Paphos is a very old city on Cyprus, and currently one of the two European Capitals of Culture.
I started at the Archaeological Park where there were many ruins and amazing mosaics.
The path through the ruins was fantastic, and let you see the mosaics up close. Some mosaics were giant.
The area also had an ancient odeon.
And the ruins of a Byzantine era castle known as the Forty Columns Fortress.
Beyond the restaurant and boat heavy boardwalk is Paphos’ medieval castle. It was cool to see, but didn’t look to warrant further inspection.
The last thing I wanted to see in Paphos was the Tombs of the Kings. These are underground tombs carved out of the rock.
This was something new for me, I don’t think I’ve encountered anything like this on my trip so far.
After Paphos I decided to do more exploring of Nicosia (and its coffee shops).
The only church in Nicosia that was actually open when I visited was the St. John Cathedral. It was beautiful inside, painted everywhere.
Cyprus has a few Venetian built structures, one example being the Famagusta Gate.
Much of the old city walls are still present, and surround the city centre, which is mostly a pedestrian area.
One of the coolest experiences I had in Cyprus was with wine. It turns out that the oldest named wine in the world is from Cyprus and is called Commandaria. It is an amber coloured dessert wine, and while the wine making style dates back to 800 BC, the name dates back to the crusades in the 12th century. It was very good. The second glass was even better.
I happened to be in Nicosia for the anniversary of the Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus. There were protests at the border, so I checked it out briefly and stayed on my side. The chants were in Greek, so there wasn’t much reason to stick around.
If this cat lives in the buffer zone, is it a beast of no nation?
I would soon be back to visit Northern Cyprus, as the protests were a one day event.
My friend was kind enough to bring me on a tour of some of the north. Before we stopped anywhere, we drove around the town of Varosha. During the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the inhabitants of Varosha all fled the city before the Greek Cypriot and Turkish armies met there. The Turkish army completely fenced off the area, and to this day it remains an uninhabited ghost town. We drove by crumbling buildings and the remains of resorts, it was eerie.
We then stopped in Famagusta, the city Varosha was a part of.
The most interesting thing in Famagusta for me was the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque, which was a Roman Catholic cathedral before being converted by the Ottomans.
This tree dates back to 1299.
Owen for scale.
Also in Famagusta is Othello’s Tower, which is the setting for Shakespeare’s Othello.
From Famagusta we continued north to the ancient Greek city state of Salamis, now an archaeological park similar to the one in Paphos.
Our final destination was interesting, and required a stop at a grocery store first for a bag of apples. We were heading for the Apostolos Andreas Monastery and Karpaz Nation Park at the very top of the island. There was a roadblock however, and in order to pass we had to pay a toll of three apples.
The monastery was nice, but the beach was beautiful. Well worth three apples.
The sand was too hot to walk on barefoot, but the water was so nice. Yes I touched the water.
On the way back we stopped at my friend’s house and I met his family. They were so nice, and gave me an entire plate of figs they had just picked from their garden as well as a Cypriot coffee. That was the perfect way to end my day and my time in Cyprus.
I don’t think I’ll ever willingly return in the summer, but Cyprus was a beautiful country to visit and I highly recommend it for anything from a beach vacation to a history and culture adventure.
Next stop Israel!