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On Cyprus it's Still Summer

Exploring around Larnaca and Nicosia


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SETTLING INTO "HOME"

I'm lying in the sun on a chaise sipping homemade lemonade made with lemons from my lemon tree just waiting to get hot enough to get back into the pool. Scott is napping on the outdoor sofa under the umbrella after his swim. We've settled in on Cyprus.
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We're staying in a house in Matozos, a small village outside of Larnaca on the southern coast. We feel a little marooned here. We have one taverna (restaurant), which thankfully serves excellent Greek Cyprus food, and a grocery so we have what we need but that's about it. We're house-sitting and taking care of two dogs, Donna and Ana.
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The owners left us a car so we have wheels to get around but so far we've just explored the village by taking our daily walks and going to the market. We walked one day to this pretty little church right on the water.
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We did also venture to the next bigger village, Kiti to go to the larger grocery store and have lunch at a taverna there. It has the phone store, pharmacy, fresh market, and bunches of restaurants.

The island feels familiar in so many ways. It's hot and very dry like Costa Rica was when we visited. It's the driest time of year here. It's rural and full of farms and ranches and smells an awful lot like Wyoming.
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The sheep herd comes past some days with it's shepherd and the dog.
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It has ancient olive trees...
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...and fig trees like Croatia - each day on our dog walk we pick the ripe figs from a "street tree" to bring home.
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But it's unique in having all of these things together.

The food is very similar to Greece. We found the fruit and vegetable market and have been making salads with feta cheese and eating humous, pita, and olives. The store is filled with jarred greek vegetables and greek oils and vinegars. We're in our happy place food wise.

NICOSIA

From Wikipedia:

Nicosia is the southeasternmost of all EU member states' capitals. It has been continuously inhabited for over 4,500 years and has been the capital of Cyprus since the 10th century. The Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities of Nicosia segregated into the south and north of the city respectively in early 1964, following the fighting of the Cyprus crisis of 1963–64 that broke out in the city. This separation became a militarised border between the Republic of Cyprus and Northern Cyprus after Turkey invaded the island of Cyprus in 1974, occupying the north of the island, including northern Nicosia. Today North Nicosia is the capital of Northern Cyprus, a state recognized only by Turkey, that is considered to be occupied Cypriot territory by the international community.

We visited the city with our host, John, and toured the south then crossed the "Green Line" to the North. My feelings about the city are much the same as I feel about Cyprus as a whole so far, it's such a missed opportunity and a bit sad. The layers of history reflected in the architecture and landscape are being lost to decay and neglect. There are very few sights that have signs to describe what they once were and whole areas that in other cities would be preserved and marketed with walking tours just sit still and silent. It was almost eery to walk the quiet streets just trying to imagine what was once there. We've really seen very little of the country so far so this might change after we visit the tourist "hot spots".

But it was a wonderful day and there are some highlights.
Omeriye Mosque
We visited our first mosques while in Cyprus. In the south, we saw the Omeriye Mosque. It's a beautiful building on the outside. I may be naive, well I certainly am about Islam, but I was surprised that mosques have no adornment on the inside. I especially love the minarets. It made us very excited for Marrakesh at the end of the month. We also stumbled across another small mosque in town.
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Archbishop's Palace & Byzantine Museum
One of the few places that has been preserved, well the palace is actually fairly modern, it was also a beautiful place with interesting architecture including a Byzantine era church.
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We even saw some Greek Orthodox priests on their cell phones.
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Across from this was a block I just loved. For some reason it was hung with tons of lanterns?!
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And then there was the windmill in the middle of town?
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Crossing the Green Line
Finally we crossed the "Green Line". Apparently it is called that because when the division happened someone used a green marker on a map to set the border and it's just stuck. It was a really hot day so we were happy to find a cafe and sit in the shade for some lunch before continuing. As an aside, it is HOT here. Miami hot. Just 1000% drier!
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There is a "no man's land" in between North and South and it's really eery. In some places a street just ends at a barbed wire fence, in others buildings stand abandoned in between, and at yet other places there are large separations. There are UN watchtowers all along it, although they don't seem to be in use anymore.
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Overlooking this section is one of the most historic Ottoman neighborhoods in Nicosia, Arabahmet. It retains the winding street patterns and historic buildings and there is a conservation project, though it doesn't seem too active. It butts up against the old city walls and here again seemed a missed opportunity to lure tourists from the shops as they are very large and there is even a moat! We were the only tourists venturing out in this area.
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NORTH NICOSIA

I did feel like Northern Nicosia had more interesting areas than the South and was definitely worth the visit. Right when you cross the border there are winding streets full of shops and restaurants that are really fun to poke around in.

In the Arabahmet neighborhood we stopped into the Arapahmet Mosque...
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...and then I dropped Scott and John at a cafe and went onto the Selimiye Mosque. This building has a very long an interesting history from the Byzantine period, through the Crusades and the Knights Templar, on to the Venetians and finally through it's conversion to a mosque under the Ottomans. You can read it here.
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Last but not least was a visit to the Bandabulya Municipal Market and Büyük Han. The former is an indoor market building housing all kinds of food and clothing shops and the latter is a historic building that started as an inn and has had many incarnations since then. Check out it's history here.
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It's impossible to avoid the fact that there was a conflict here that displaced thousands and thousands of people as the two cultures separated across the Green Line. People left their land and their houses behind and it seems the country is still coming to terms with it and struggling to find a way forward. As in Croatia, there is a sense that things would be different if the UN had not intervened - if there had actually been a "winner". It's been interesting to see the result of UN actions and to see it from the side of the countries involved and not just from the US perspective.

LARNACA SALT LAKE

The other day trip we've done so far was over to the Larnaca Salt Lake. You may have noticed from pervious posts how much I love salt lakes. If there's any near us, we're bound to see it. Something about the colors, the reflections, the emptiness appeals to me.
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This one is also special because it has an aqueduct and mosque beside it. The aqueduct is from the 1750's so not Roman but still very impressive.
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Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque
The mosque was built by on the spot where, in 649 AD, the aunt of Mohamed, Umm Haram, fell from her mule and died. It is sacred to muslims being the primary pilgrimage site in Cyprus and ranked immediately after Mecca, Medina in Saudi Arabia and Al Aksha in Jerusalem. Today it is open to all, although proper covering is still required (and provided).
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The term tekke (convent) applies to a building designed specifically for gatherings of a Sufi brotherhood and the complex has a mosque, mausoleum, minaret, cemetery, and living quarters for men and women. It's truly a beautiful and peaceful place and it's site on the salt lake makes for an amazing vista.
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PLANNING 2020

And since this is already a long post I might as well add to it with a word about 2020. We are spending a lot of our time here thinking and planning for 2020. We realized that, although it's what we had set our sights on doing, the prospect of just "seat of our pants" traveling throughout SE Asia honestly sounded exhausting. Add to that we are starting to feel the lack of having people in our lives other than each other and the random bar mate, a desire to have activities not directly related to travel, and the knowledge that to get these things we need to stay put for awhile and you come up with the "hub and spoke" approach. So, like any good IT person, we developed a list of requirements for our hub. We're evaluating options in Asia and the Caribbean against those requirements, and selecting a few candidate places we might settle down for awhile. We plan site visits, but of course, and then a final selection. We're feeling energized again and excited for this change. We'll keep you posted as our "project plan" evolves!

Posted by mrb430 01:49 Archived in Cyprus

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