When accuracy and diligence, two in my opinion good qualities of the German mentality, threaten to turn into a certain obsessiveness and you can’t get away from the daily grind even on vacation, it’s high time to change the ambience. And so I happily accepted the invitation of dear friends to Cyprus.
City recreation for Mowgli
As much as I would have liked to travel with my canine buddy – no matter how I turned it around, there was only one solution: Mowgli stays at home this time. About 3700 km (one way) with an aging dog in the car through some of the hottest countries in Europe in midsummer – indiscussable! Buy him a transport crate and take him on the plane? Then he would probably have been stranded in Istanbul airport just like my suitcase, which didn’t make it on time to the next plane when I changed planes. Poor Mowgli would no longer have understood the world. Besides, it’s hot in Cyprus …
So he got an assignment to take care of a friend for a week. In return, he was allowed to play with his dog friends all day on weekdays in “his” doggy daycare. As it turned out, this vacation program did him extremely well and he was very spoiled 🙂
And I was able to fly again for once in a long time. To Ercan you are on the road all day because you have to change planes in Istanbul. And that’s sporty because the time to change planes is tight and the airport is so huge! (On the way back, I was the last to arrive at the gate, despite running!).
However, I have seen the Balaton from above!
Nicosia or Lefkosia and a bit of history
The world’s last divided capital not only has two seats of government, that of the Greek Republic of Cyprus and that of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey. It also has two names: for the Greeks it is called Nicosia and for the Turks Lefkosia. To get from the northern to the southern part of the city, you have to pass a border control. Southern Cyprus belongs to the EU, Northern Cyprus does not.
If you think that Cyprus is just a beautiful tourist island in the Mediterranean Sea, you are very wrong. Cyprus looks back on a long and eventful history. The island got its name from the rich copper deposit (cyprum (lat.) = copper), which was an important trade good already in the Bronze Age. Geographically it belongs to Asia, but politically and culturally it is counted as part of Europe. Mycenaeans, Phoenicians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Romans, Greeks, Crusaders, Genoese, Venetians … they all left their mark. We know from the Acts of the Apostles that Paul and Barnabas ministered here. In 1571, Cyprus came under Ottoman rule until a deal was negotiated with England for a lease in 1878, virtually as a thank you for England’s support against a Russian advance. When the Ottoman Empire entered the First World War in 1914, the island was annexed by the British.
When the Greek Cypriots began to seek a unification of Cyprus with Greece, the potential for conflict developed that eventually led to the partition of the island. An agreement in 1960 between Britain, Turkey and Greece released Cyprus into independence, but tensions continued. In 1974 the Cyprus conflict was pacified by a ceasefire agreement and in 1983 the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was proclaimed. Large-scale resettlements of Turkish Cypriots to the north and Greek Cypriots to the south took place. It was not until 2003 that the border became permeable again for both sides. After the so-called Annan Plan, which envisaged the reunification of the two parts, failed in a referendum in 2004 because the majority of the south voted against it, southern Cyprus joined the EU.
You don’t need to know all this when visiting Cyprus, but it helps a lot to understand some of the peculiarities of the island.
Impressions and Cypriot way of life
Sun. Sun only. Sun from the sky and sun on the faces. A wonderful Mediterranean climate that melts all worries and warms the body and mind. After two days at the latest, a hakuna matata feeling spreads, and after a week you are deeply relaxed and feel as refreshed as after a vacation of several weeks.
Cyprus is a feast for the eyes – shades of blue from azure to turquoise, greens from dark olive to yellow-green, pinks and reds of the lush blooming flowers, oleanders and geraniums everywhere.
Everyday life and tourism
Life goes slower here, you take the time you need. People are generally friendly and relaxed, some downright cordial. Cyprus is a small paradise with a developing infrastructure. Those who are used to being able to buy everything at any time without any problems might occasionally become restless. But everything you really need is available in abundance, especially fresh food. (Watermelons! Unbeatable!) The cost of living is significantly lower than in Germany (still …). This is also one of the reasons why expats are increasingly settling here.
Large construction projects testify to the fact that the tourism industry has apparently discovered a goldmine for itself. Some projects, however, get stuck for various reasons, so that a number of ruined buildings litter the landscape. I wonder what the locals think about it …
What I had to get used to is that it’s apparently pretty unlikely to get robbed. I didn’t want to take the chance, but I was assured that my caution was unnecessary.
However, there is one point that irritates me, and that is the treatment of animals, especially dogs. What is a handsome beautiful dog doing in a kennel where his excrement stinks? This dog shares the fate of many of its kind here on the island, because people obviously have a disdainful opinion of what a dog needs. The animal we met has no run and no company. It can retreat to its hut and drink from a large bucket, but you can see how unhappy it is. And he expresses this by attacking everyone who passes by. With a few treats, petting and soothing words, this dog is suddenly very trusting and sweet and gratefully accepts the loving attention. His fur is matted and dirty and it hurts to see him like this. We would love to take him, but can’t locate the owner. When we say goodbye after a while, the dog protests loudly.
The prevailing relaxed lifestyle is also reflected in the car traffic. What at first seems confusing, namely the left-hand traffic and the many roundabouts with a simultaneous lack of traffic lights, turns out to be no problem once you start moving with the flow of traffic. At least that is my perception. Cypriot drivers are prudent, unhurried and considerate. Driving fast does not make sense either because of the many traffic controls. To merge somewhere or to turn from a side street into a busy main street without traffic light regulation is also unproblematic, because here people show consideration for each other and give right of way. Since rental cars are equipped with automatic transmissions, there is no need to be afraid of shifting gears with your left hand. It is striking, however, how many large and expensive cars are on the road here, which sometimes seems strange in view of the narrow streets in the villages.
The combination of forested mountains and the sea is particularly attractive from a landscape point of view. But a mountain hike does not tempt me in view of the heat, especially since there are snakes here. But swimming in the warm Mediterranean Sea is wonderful and invigorating. Mostly there are pebble beaches in this area, which is not so pleasant for the feet, but there are also nice sandy beaches where you can easily get into the water. The salinity is high and you can find salt deposits in some places (see photo above). We snorkel, but the sea is a bit too choppy. However, I see some delicate gray fish with black stripes gliding along near the beach below me.
We have a special experience one evening when we drive a bit east out of the populated areas to escape the light pollution of the night sky. We park the car off the road and walk uphill for a while on a wide path. A strong wind comes up and greets us. We look for a suitable place where you can hardly see the lights of the houses and lie down in the middle of the pebbly path. Myriads of stars above us, the wind rustling in the trees, guiding our inhales and exhales. So we lie for quite a while, feeling the earth beneath us and gazing up at the starry sky above us. The ego recedes and makes way for the feeling of a deep connection with nature. There is no room for fears, worries, planning …, only the breath of the omnipresent NOW.
It’s getting a bit chilly and as we walk back to the car in silence, I ponder how often you go through life “disconnected” or “misconnected” and fall prey to many misconceptions. Couldn’t everything be much simpler?
Cyprus has roughly the shape of a liver. At the easternmost end of the elongated spur, the flags of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus fly on a hill. To get here, you hobble for a while over a humpy, dusty, pothole-filled gravel road – after passing some kind of gateway, because this is donkey country!
Control post or highwayman?
Right at the entrance, on the right and on the left, there are several friendly and well-bodied long-eared donkeys. Those who have not made provisions now realize their problem, because they cannot pay the entrance fee. The currency is called “carrot”. So it is recommended to carry a large bag of carrots, otherwise you will not get far 🙂
A few meters further on, the lane is blocked by a donkey standing across. Honking, passing on the right or left – you can forget all that. But if you open the window and wave a carrot, he immediately clears the way and comes trotting along in a friendly manner to collect his toll. He is sweet and loves to have his soft velvet nose stroked while he unmistakably chews on his carrot. Then he clears the way and we can continue 50 meters further – to the next transverse post. Sometimes there are several who get paid in carrot currency from right and left. It happens that they disagree about who gets the first carrot.
The guys really have it going on and the bag is emptying alarmingly. It’s now clear why the guys at the gate are the fattest: their income is guaranteed.
The Happy Café
My heart goes out to this place. It is a small café in Girne, which you enter through a beautifully landscaped garden with a small pond surrounded by flowers and fragrant herbs, inviting you to meditate. In the café you feel like in a living room. There are pretty old furniture, partially refurbished, painted walls and a resting place for the kitten. It smells good there and you can hear relaxing jazz music. The cakes are homemade and taste fantastic, there is also homemade lemonade. You can spend hours here working or reading or just relaxing and enjoying yourself outside on the porch or lawn behind the café.
One day I am greeted by Canev, a beautiful young woman with lovingly shining eyes. She is the owner of the café and she explains to me that she initiated this project to create a place where people can feel comfortable and practice mindfulness. I now understand why there are little notes of wisdom stuck all over the walls. This café is also an art project. Not only the eye enjoys this lovingly designed environment, but also the other senses are enlivened.
Those interested in learning more about Happy Café in Girne can check out Canev’s Instagram page:
Better yet, pay a visit to the Happy Café if you’re in the area:
Now that I’m back in rainy, cold Germany, I wonder if I wasn’t just dreaming – of a place full of warmth and beauty, while here you can catch a cold from the grumpy faces and unfriendly communication of many people. With a little bit of sunshine in our hearts, our world would also be much more beautiful, I’m sure.