CHYPRUS - The Island beyond the Gods - Roadtrip
It took me some time to organize my mind…and figure out a way to express what i felt visiting Cyprus . I’ve been traveling to Larnaka last year, and i had the chance to visit a big part of the Island. And it’s wonderful. Not only for the people or the landscape: you feel a pulsing sense of history. Something stuck in time.
is Chyprus Capital, splitted in two, with a military buffer zone to switch between North and South. North Nicosia is the Capital of Northen Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey and considered an occupied zone from the internationnal community.
Cyprus is not only a “vacation island”. And although what many people may think, it’s not Greek. It’s considered to be a part of Europe but it’s still out of the Shengen area and you feel to be really at the borders of the occidental world.
Just some history: On 16 August 1960, Cyprus attained independence after the Zürich and London Agreement between the United Kingdom, Greece and Turkey. On 15 July 1974, 14 years later, the Greek military junta under Dimitrios Ioannides carried out a coup d’état in Cyprus, to unite the island with Greece.
Five days later, the Turkish army invaded the island, citing a right to intervene to restore the constitutional order from the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee. This justification has been rejected by the United Nations and the international community.
The Turkish air force began bombing Greek positions in Cyprus, and hundreds of paratroopers were dropped in the area between Nicosia and Kyrenia. International pressure led to a ceasefire, and by then 37% of the island had been taken over by the Turks and 180,000 Greek Cypriots had been evicted from their homes in the north.
At the same time, around 50,000 Turkish Cypriots moved to the areas under the control of the Turkish Forces and settled in the properties of the displaced Greek Cypriots.(*)
People there is torned up by the euro and global crisis. It remembered me about Italian people: very hard to unify, everybody has a different point of view. A lot of persons from the south considers themselves as Greeks (at least very linked to them), others cannot stand Greeks. Some are mad at UK’s dominion and their way to maintain Great Britain’s power there, others would like to have more help from them. One thing is sure: there is something deeply broken, marked by the deaths and war of 1974.
in 1473 The Republic of Venice assumed control of the island, while the late king's Venetian widow, Queen Catherine Cornaro, reigned as figurehead. Venice formally annexed the Kingdom of Cyprus in 1489, following the abdication of Catherine. The Venetians fortified Nicosia by building the Walls of Nicosia, and used it as an important commercial hub. Throughout Venetian rule, the Ottoman Empire frequently raided Cyprus. In 1539 the Ottomans destroyed Limassol and so fearing the worst, the Venetians also fortified Famagusta and Kyrenia:
A lot of persons still cry thinking to what they have endured in 1974 and dream to have back their homes.
Even if there is not a wall like in Berlin, their Capital, Nikosia (or Lefkosia) is cut in two. The airport of the capital lies on the buffer zone and cannot be use since then.
You don’t feel a willing to fight. On the contrary, it appears that some improvements were done and there is a desire, at least from the politicians, to push to a unification of the island. (maybe because many are interested in the the largest gas deposit found in the triangle Israel-Egypt-South of Cyprus?….if yes, they will do this probably not respecting the population’s choice).
In all this unresolved matters, you have tourists, especially from Russia and the Balkans, visiting and enjoying the sea. They go on the Turkish side to buy expensive copies of Occidental Fashion Brands (Copies of Louis Vuitton bags, Chanel, and so on…) and they don’t seem to care much about the rest. I felt very uncomfortable in Kyrenia looking to these shops selling copies, and tourists concentrated more to find the best bag instead of looking to the Venetians walls, and all the history that Europe left these during the middle age.
(*) Datas taken from Wikipedia.
Visiting the “Secret Box Shop in Northen Cyprus Kyrenia
If you will have the chance to visit Kyrenia, in the Northen side of Cyprus, i recommend you to stop by “The Secret Box Shop”. It’s a small shop, in the centre of Kyrenia. Quite magical and typical. Inside you will find a sculptor. I really would love to remember his name. He gave me his card but i’m afraid i’ve lost it in my journeys. He creates and sells his hand carved wooden boxes with secrets opening mechanisms.
He made all these boxes. Some of them have more than 18/17 mechanisms are are almost impossible to open. Believe me, when i entered, he gave me a box and told me: “open it”…. After 30 minutes i was still trying to open that box… and i could not. His boxes are quite different from those you commonly find in the Maghreb Area: The mechanisms here are more precise, and he really gives an attention to the details. What he does really have a soul.
He explained to me that he comes from a long family tradition of wood sculptors. Some of the mechanisms are so complicated that you still do not figure out how it works, even after 5/6 times he shows you. I was fascinated.
While he was speaking to me he offered us some tea. I really felt the good spirit of the people living there. People from Cyprus are just lovely. They are the most gentle people i have ever met. They really help you, offer you what they have in order to share. I was really touched by all this kindness that is completely lost in big cities .
Not to miss: Pomegranate Juice and local food.
Some street art and more of everything : talk to the locals, they will tell you a lot of stories!