Cyprus: A tale of two nations

Words and pictures by Timothy Cohen

Before heading to this country, I was unaware that this state is a divided republic. This little piece of land in the Mediterranean Sea comprises Cyprus and Northern Cyprus. The northeastern portion of the island is a de facto state only recognized by Turkey. According to the United Nations it is considered territory of the Republic of Cyprus under Turkish occupation.

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In the divided capital of Nicosia/North Nicosia, two worlds collide. It is one city but two countries. Nicosia is divided by what they call the “Green Line”, an imaginary line separating North Nicosia (Turkish Cypriot) and Nicosia (Greek Cypriot). In between the two sides there is a no man’s land that you will have to cross to reach the other side. Do not look for the Green Line painted on the ground, you won’t find it! The line was actually established when a British military commander divided up the city on a map with a green pen, the name remained ever since. In everyday life, both communities get along regardless of the ongoing political tensions that surround Cyprus.

Further North, Kyrenia (Girne in Turkish) lies on the coast and its harbour is the port of entry to Cyprus for the people coming from Turkey. The huge byzantine castle sitting right next to the harbour is really impressive and is very interesting. It is especially picturesque at sunrise and sunset.

Kyrenia’s region is scattered with numerous ruins, the most famous ones being Buffavento Castle, Saint-Hilarion Castle and the abbey of Bellapais. Unfortunately, there are no means of transportation to reach the different places unless you are motorized or willing to take a taxi… Backpacker’s options: walking and hitchhiking!

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The ruins of the Buffavento Castle are unbelievable! It is hard to understand how the people back in time managed to build it. The views on the Beşparmak mountain range are incredible! On the top, I easily understood the meaning of its Italian name “Buffavento”, “Challenger of the Wind”.

I have visited a lot of castles in my life, but Saint-Hilarion Castle is one of the coolest and funnest to explore! It is huge, bigger than what I anticipated. It is built on different levels and some parts are unbelievably constructed on the mountain’s crest.

My next stop was Famagusta (Magusa in Turkish). The city is mostly visited from Kyrenia as a one day trip by tours but, again, it’s really worth it to spend a few nights here. I found myself liking the city very much, way more than Kyrenia or Nicosia due to the relatively quietness and laid-back vibe of the place.

Famagusta was a fortified city, therefore the Old Town is surrounded by large Venetian walls. In February, dandelion’s yellow flowers take over the ramparts and it is very nice to walk through these flower fields while admiring the city down below. Strolling in the Old Town streets at the end of the day when most of the tourists have gone and the light turns golden is magical.

My next stop brought me back to the Greek side of Cyprus, in the coastal city of Pafos. Pafos is known for its two major archeological sites: the Tomb of the Kings and Pafos Archeological Site itself. Smaller sites can be found in the area such as the charming Chrisopolitissa Basilica and the Fabrica Hill, which is blossoming with yellow flowers.

Pafos Archeological Site is the most incredible of them all. It covers a wide area and encompasses a lighthouse, an Odeion, an Agora, a fortress in ruins, several cave tombs and above all, houses that contain incredibly well-preserved mosaics. You will also discover beautiful fields with vibrant wild dandelion flowers.

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After staying a few days in Pafos, I wanted to explore the Akamas Peninsula. So I took a bus to reach the village of Polis lying on the peninsula’s north coast. From the village, it is possible to walk along the coast through the Akamas Forest and go to the westernmost part of the island. On the way, I reached a viewpoint named Fontana Amorosa. The water here is breathtakingly turquoise and clear, and there is no one, just the waves crashing on the rocks and the song of the birds… I felt very lucky to have this beautiful place all to myself on a sunny day. After a few hours, I finally arrived at the tip of the peninsula. A little shrine facing the ocean is all there is. I sat there and contemplated this endless stretch of blue for a while.

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I reluctantly left the Akamas Peninsula and took a bus to go back to Pafos.The next morning, I took a bus to Larnaka and was back to my trip starting, and ending, point.

There was one place near Larnaka I wanted to see before my trips end: the Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque and the Salt Lake. It is easily reachable from the city center and it is on the way to the airport. The mosque lies on the shore of the Salt Lake where you can spot some flamingos. The circular trail around the lake, is 12-km long and is quite nice, especially the portion that goes through the cereal fields as far as the eye can see. It feels like you’re in the countryside with no buildings for miles around.

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A few hours later I was on the plane going back home, leaving Cyprus with a twinge in my heart.

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For more from Timothy, you cam find him on Instagram @timdavhen or check out his website by clicking here.