the cypriot green line

Turkish Cyprus 2_2012

Crossing the border was easier than we thought it would be. No long queues, no stern, intimidating soldiers. We stopped at a small, white kiosk. No window separated us from the guard within. Smiling, friendly, he let the two American tourists stamp their own passports. I overestimated the amount of force necessary; in my passport, the dark rectangular stamp of a country recognized by only one other nation bled red ink onto the other page. Once across the buffer zone, we were in a different city, a different world–and yet, the same city, the same world. Nicosia. Lefkosa. The last divided city.

We meandered: through an arch we found a folk crafts center and market, with wares aplenty but the courtyard quiet, empty. I looked down, saw a nazar embedded in a step; a charm against the evil eye. Nearby, a cat washed its face. It ignored us, too engrossed in the methodical lick, rub, lick lick, rub to give a passing stranger any notice. Ahead, in the gaps between buildings, we saw the spire of a minaret. We turned our steps and made the mosque our destination. As we wandered the streets, we wondered about the political impact of our tourism. Is curiosity acknowledging the sovereignty of another state? Should we have studied the events in 1974 before crossing the border? Should we only visit countries that we know something about?

No, and no, again. The same spirit that inspires our wanderlust, that piques our curiosity, is the same that fuels our desire to learn and to understand.

Photo: Selimiye Mosque in Lefkosa, Northern Cyprus.

Home again

Choir tour in Italy was lovely. Wonderful. Fun and a much needed rest with good company and beautiful music. I’ll post about it later with photos, because both Lodi and Crema are worth visiting.

Tour was also very tiring. I used up a lot of spoons — we had long concerts, which meant standing a lot, which I didn’t really realise was as tiring as it was to do every day until yesterday when I tried to cycle to Felix’s house for dinner and my legs were like jelly. So after sleeping until noon today, this is what I did for my afternoon:

IMG_8796IMG_8791IMG_8790

A year and a half after I bought it, I finally got to use my parasol from Cyprus. (In retrospect, I should have brought it with me to Italy — it would have been well used there!) The high today was 24 C / 75 F, though it felt much warmer. It was just gorgeous to sit all afternoon in a tank top and skirt and bare feet, shaded by my parasol, reading a book. A very pleasant, relaxing way to recovery from my holiday.

Wandering in Larnaca

You thought I was going to post about London next, didn’t you? Well I’m not, because Chris sent me photos of our second day in Cyprus and now I’m going to share them with you.

As I said, we had planned on going to Nicosia on our second day, but the feast of Epiphany meant it was a public holiday and the buses weren’t running as scheduled. We knew there would be a procession from St Lazarus Church to the marina. So we squeezed our way through the crowd that had welled up around the marina and waited an hour for the procession to meet us there.

A military band played while the various priests, acolytes, and other members of the procession passed us (to me it looked like an assortment of girl scouts and boy scouts, but who knows what they were?). Meanwhile, the Hellenic Sea Scouts rowed their boats into position in the marina and the men would be taking part in the ceremony waited on a boat.
       Continue reading

Ali Baba pots

Chris and I had notorious bad luck when it came to museums in Cyprus. Every time we went to one, it was closed. So we did a lot of wandering around and sitting in cafés instead. Most of my photos, as a result, are somewhat random. For instance:

Why not clamber on top of a huge Ali Baba jar? Chris reluctantly took this photo of me. She said that if I were one of her students I’d so be in trouble right then. I wanted to climb inside, but, well, even this was a bit too precarious… Continue reading

A taste of Turkey

On our second day in Cyprus, Chris and I wanted to go to Nicosia. That day was the Feast of Epiphany, however, and because it was a public holiday we ended up staying in Larnaca. I don’t have any pictures from that day, so my account of Larnaca will have to wait until Chris has sent me a few of hers.

We went to Nicosia on Saturday instead. Nicosia is the capitol of Cyprus and it is also the last remaining divided city in Europe. In the 1970s, Turkey invaded the island and now occupies the northern part of the country. Both countries claim Nicosia as their capitol, and the Green Line divides the city between them. Because we were curious, and a bit adventure seeking, Chris and I went to have a look.

Crossing the border was surprisingly easy. We walked through the buffer zone, which was occupied by protestors, and then had our passports checked by the Turkish Cypriot border guards. Our guard was really friendly and he even let Chris and I stamp our own passports! We were, perhaps, more than a little excited about this breech of normal procedure.

And then we were in the Turkish Republic of Norther Cyprus, a ‘country’ not internationally recognised and which we did have mixed feelings about being in, but was fascinating to walk around in.

Continue reading

I like Cypriot cats

Well, I’m back. Even though I was only gone for a week it feels like much longer. I was in Edinburgh for a day, in Cyprus for three days, and in London for two days. It was so wonderful to get away for a bit — and to go somewhere so very different, yet familiar, where there was sun and warmth and the best food I’ve ever eaten.

Thank you to those who voted in my poll. It seems like you all want to hear about being an ex-pat the most, and one of the best parts of being an American in the UK is the opportunity to travel. For instance, going to Cyprus.

I think one of my new goals in life is to visit as many Mediterranean countries as I can.

Three days in Cyprus really isn’t enough. It was supposed to be a four-day holiday, but weather in Edinburgh intervened to delay my flight by 24 hours (a trend, I am discovering, whenever I try to leave the country). Even so, my holiday was worth every minute. Chris had already set up our flat in Larnaca, and on the first day we went to Limassol, mainly to see the Roman ruins at Kourion. Continue reading