Living the vagabond life is pretty great. You get to explore new places, meet new people, and your only real responsibility is knowing when and how you’re getting where next. That said, after nine weeks on the go, not having been in one place for more than four days since Rome, we were ready to cool our heels somewhere for a while.
Enter our awesome friend Petros and his family from the island of Cyprus. During one of our many “going away” BBQs in LA he’d mentioned his parents would be in visiting him in LA for the entire month of July and that we were welcome to use their house as a base of operation if we had any interest in Cyprus. We’d heard lots of great things about the island, Grant’s sister Kathleen did her study abroad in the capital city of Nicosia and is somewhat fanatical about it, but it wasn’t on the original itinerary.
The nice thing about a plan-as-you-go itinerary is flexibility and as we neared the Med we were growing tired of packing our bags every three nights. So, we called Petros and scheduled a week of cooling our heels courtesy of the Yiannikouros’ hospitality. Cyprus was the perfect location for such a trip: the island is relatively small, Limassol is centrally located on the southern coast, and it’s packed with interesting sights and postcard perfect beaches.
Arriving at Pafos Airport is something like a dream as you cruise in over crystal blue water. It’s easy to see why the Greeks thought the goddess of love, Aphrodite, must have been born here. However, the Gods of Colonialism (a/k/a the British) also once were here and left a terrifying remnant…driving on the left hand side of the road. Any parent getting ready to teach their youngster how to drive should really take a vacation in the months before that adventure to a country where they drive on the opposite side of the road. It will offer a heaping helping of empathy for your teeny bopper driver so very quickly. All of those autopilot instincts that govern our ability to drive with one knee, eat with one hand, and text with the other are ripped out Mortal Kombat style. That comfortability is replaced with an almost paralyzing need to analyze every maneuver, relearn the corners of your vehicle, and of course all of this is done while driving a rental car you’d never set foot in until 5-minutes ago.
We arrived in our home for the week an hour after leaving the airport and only missing the cover of the passenger side mirror (which was safely retrieved, cleaned, and none the worse for wear). We’re calling that a win. We were greeted by our “family for the week”, Petros’ Aunt & Uncle who live in an adjacent house. They showed us in and we were home for the next week. A real kitchen! A front porch! A washing machine! What is this paradise? The little things in life…
The next seven days were a mix of exploring Cyprus’ mountains and beaches, but also taking care of some of the business of life that isn’t willing to cease just because you decide to go gallivanting across the world.
There were new credit cards to pick up (thankfully awaiting us on arrival) and our wonderful friends, the Hectic Stecklers, sent us a box that we’d prepared as an advance package. Retrieving that took almost a full day worth of phone calls, asking around, and finally checking two different post offices, but finally, success. And to make it even better, they sent us treats!
Alright, alright, that’s lovely, show us pretty pictures! Fine, as you like. After a day of errand running around town we took off for the Troodos Mountains of Cyprus, a popular local retreat from the heat high above the beach cities.
We hiked, we ate the famed grilled halloumi cheese Kathleen was always raving about, and caught a free outdoor concert with the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra that was quite good.
Then, it was beach time. Well, at least we’re pretty sure there was some sand underneath all those tourists lined up almost side-by-side on the 20-miles of beachfront in the resort town of Ayia Napa. While it’s stunningly pretty the entire populations of Germany and England seem to relocate here during the summer. It was among the most crowded place we’ve been yet. But, as always, if you’re willing to go looking for it (and walk across some jagged rocky lava fields) you can always find your little piece of serenity and beauty.
The next two days were dedicated to real R&R. As high energy as we both are when it comes to travel, two solid days of just “bumming around” were very welcome. We cooked in most nights, had long chats with others in the neighborhood on our evening strolls, hit the local beach for a few hours a day and just generally enjoyed a slower pace of life. We did get out for a city tour of Limmasol, which was beautiful. It also resulted in large quantities of amazing souvlaki.
Time flies when you’re in R&R mode and we quickly found ourselves with only two fulls days left in Cyprus, one of which was to be half-eaten by traveling to Nicosia (also known as Lefkosia). So, on our last full day based out of Limassol we took off for what ended up being one of our favorite hodge-podge adventure days to date. In the course of 9-hours we visited a winery, hiked to a beautiful waterfall in the Troodos Mountains, had a long lunch next to a beautiful stream, explored tiny medieval villages and UNESCO churches scattered through rural mountain valleys, and capped the night off with a visit to a beautiful old Crusader era castle. It was quite possibly the perfect day.
Never those to miss an opportunity to sight-see along the way, we were up and out of our relaxation palace early the following day. We said our goodbyes to our new friends and hit the road for Nicosia where we had to have the rental car returned early. But, not so early we couldn’t stop off for a peek at the Stavrovouni Monastery along the way. Short on time and not allowing females inside, we didn’t tour it but enjoyed the sweeping views from mountains to coast.
After returning the rental car (in one piece! WOOT!) and hoofing the 4-kilometers to the hotel, we spent the rest of the afternoon in Nicosia hiding from a brutally hot afternoon. We gathered the courage to venture out that evening however and were rewarded with a wonderfully interesting town. Venetian era town walls turned into an amazing dog park? Thats cool. Medeival city gate still in use, super cool. Cheap beer and souvlaki? Now we know why Kathleen loved it here….
(Disclaimer: The following is a super touchy subject for Cypriots, Turks and pretty much anyone interested in Mediterranean policy. So, this is the whitewashed version. If you’re nerdy like us, you’ll enjoy reading deeper on it. We’ve got our opinions but we’ll let you make your own.)
So, with a 9am flight the next day, you’d think the conclusion of our evening would be the functional end of our time in Cyprus. You’d be wrong, because, politics… Cyprus has one of the most unique (and for many, frustrating) political situations you’ll find anywhere in the world. The country is divided into two sectors, because for a hundred years or so the Turkish Cypriots (mostly Muslim) and Greek Cypriots (mostly Orthodox Christian) have been feuding like the Hatfields and McCoys. Mostly just loud words (but the occasional breakouts of violence were ever present) resulted in the UN militarily enforcing a dividing line. 40% of the island, mostly the Northern Section, is home to the Turkish Cypriots and the Southern 60% to the “Greek” Cypriots (to them, just Cypriots). Essentially sending both sides to their corners. In between is “the Green Zone” an area that for 40 years has been a ghost town. To complicate things further, the Turkish Government recognizes the predominately northern portion as a separate republic, not a single other country or government in the world recognizes this area as anything other than an area set aside for the Turkish Cypriots. You can read all about this long standing conflict and the current attempts to reunify the country here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyprus_dispute
Due to the tense diplomatic situation no flights from the southern side of the island fly directly to Turkey. After spending our entire trip to this point on the “Greek” side of the island we had to cross the Green Line that morning to fly from the only airport in the “Turkish” side. It offered the only reasonably priced and reasonably direct flights to our next destination, Cappadocia, Turkey.
The crossing was easy enough: a cursory glance at our passports, a “why are you crossing” and off we went. But once across, it was like we’d walked through a teleportation portal. Poverty reigned where neon lights and a busselling shopping district had been only a few feet earlier. Arabic script replaced the Greek alphabet on most of the buildings (which was really odd, considering Turkish is written in the modern Western Latin alphabet), and an entire other culture unfolded in front of you. It wasn’t better or worse than the southern side, but it was certainly different.
Then followed a supremely strange encounter with a young man driving a lovely cherry red rag top stoned out of his mind at 7:15am, friend passed out cold in his passenger seat. He was mumbling incoherently about how we don’t have to be afraid of him, mind you he kindly pulled over to tell us this in passably good English, awfully considerate of him. Confounded and amused we found a taxi stand and were off, our trip to Cyprus strangely, but successfully concluded.
We had a wonderful time in this wonderful place and can’t thank Petros, Amy & all the Yannikouros’ for their friendship, hospitality, and the roof over our head. Thanks again also to Morgan & Lisa for holding our stuff in LA & shipping us necessities and treats! We really couldn’t get by without a little help from our friends, even if they’re half a world away.
All our best,
Mr. & Mrs. Trading Paradises
P.s. Since we’re talking about those that have been indispensably helpful here… We owe a huge thanks to my (Grant’s) parents. While mom has helmed the business front for The Talent Brokerage dealing with banking, mail and paperwork in Kentucky, dad has been busy dealing with truck registration, storage, and other issues in Missouri. You just simply can’t do a trip like this without support on the home front and we’re lucky to have two of the best people in the world (biased opinion, but true…) helping us out. Thanks for everything and love you both. G&K
Filed From: Istanbul, Turkey