After touring the complex history of the Bible in Israel, we landed on Cyprus and realized we’ve landed in the middle of the Greek Gods. Our first stop was at Aphrodite’s rock where she arose from foam out of the Mediterranean Sea. It was time to change location mentally and do it quickly!!
To me there is nothing like the Mediterranean Sea. Interestingly named by the Romans when they felt that the Mediterranean was middle earth. Every time we cruise through this area the beauty impresses us. We had never visited Cyprus so were very pleased it was on our itinerary.
Cyprus is a divided country very much like East and West Germany was before their wall fell. Conflict has been a part of their culture for centuries. As early as 1571 the Ottomans attacked Cyprus and took control of it for the next 300 years. Not needing the country the Turks leased it to Britain who then made it a Crown Colony after WWI. By 1923 the Turkish claim to Cyprus became nullified.
Sadly Britain ruled Cyprus by the principle of “divide and rule” setting the Turks and Greek Cypriots against each other. The inter communal animosity grew significantly throughout the 1920’s to the 1940’s.
By the 1950’s the Greek Cypriots decided they wanted to drive the British from Cyprus. Many attempts were made to unite Greece with Cyprus as well. The Turks just wanted a separate country in Cyprus.
Finally in 1960 Cyprus was declared an independent state from Britain. Disappointingly their constitution only lasted 3 years and unrest started again. The Turkish Cypriots wanted a separated state in the north of Cyprus and the Greek Cypriots wanted a united state with Greece. Severe, violent fighting took place throughout the 60’s. Turkey seized the main road through the Capital city of Nicosia to Kyrenia and would not allow access for Greek Cypriots. The only way they could use this main artery was with a UN escort up until 1974.
By 1974 a coup d’etat took place with help from the Greek military. Due to this Turkey invaded Cyprus on July 15th taking 3% of the land in Northern Cyprus. Peace talks started and failed so Turkey invaded again in August. At this time they captured 40% of the island. A ceasefire line was drawn by the UN with a green marker and to this this day the Green Line is the partition between The Turkey Republic of Northern Cyprus and Cyprus.
Incredibly after the line was drawn 150,000 Greek Cypriots fled the north. The relocation of 1/4 of all of Cyprus’s population was a massive undertaking. 40,000 Turkish Cypriots moved to the north. The violence and hatred were so extreme that there were horrific Human Rights Violations of which the Turkish Cypriots have been found guilty by the UN. Rape of young women and children was so numerous (used as a method of war) the Conservative Orthodox Church allowed abortions to be performed for a time. Further massacres, prison camps and torture was occurring in the late 1970’s. So much so that the UN proved that Turkey purposely was practicing ethnic cleansing.
Discussions are still ongoing to find a solution to these issues. Our guide shared that the UN has been ever-present in Cyprus for 55 years. The buffer zone (Green Line) which divides the Capital of Nicosia and the North vs. the South is monitored by them. Nicosia is still Europe’s last divided Capital. Friends of ours took a tour of this area and said it was an empty alleyway with 2 check points requiring a passport. Disturbing in the year 2019.
A main stumbling block for an agreement to be reached seems to be military presence. Turkey currently has 40,000 troop in Northern Cyprus which they do not want to withdraw. In southern Cyprus to our surprise Britain has 2 large sovereign military bases. The consensus is that they are truly NATO bases. With the Suez Canal so near as well as the issues in Ukraine, Crimea and currently in Syria there does not seem to be any initiative to remove this military contingent as well. Between the NATO military base in Cyprus to the Russian military base in Syria there is 65 kilometers!
Cyprus is the 3rd largest island in the Mediterranean. Their major industries are still copper, pharmaceuticals and tourism. The island offers a lot when it comes to sight seeing. The Greek God history and stories are fun to hear. The Goddess of Cyprus is Aphrodite so one can see where she was born from the foam in the sea. There is even an Aphrodite rock.
If you are a Crusader fan Richard the Lionhearted conquered Cyprus in 1192. He was even married in Limassol! Furthermore after the Crusaders were thrown out of Acre (previous post) the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitallers fell back to Cyprus and made Limassol their headquarters. The Kolossi Castle was built by the Crusaders in the 13th Century and may be toured. The Crusaders were purged from Cyprus in 1307.
Limassol is a fun place to visit. Right now Limassol is the second largest city on the island. It currently has graves dating back to 2000 BC and has a rich history. There is an old town to visit, a Castle, Sculpture Park, Archaeological Museum and a Municipal Gallery. It’s a beautiful seaside city.
We took the tour to Pafos and Kourion. Pafos is a beautiful small harbor town. It is known for beautiful mosaic floors discovered from the 3rd Century AD. The House of Dionysos is a great visit not only for these mosaics but there are grounds to walk with a theater, lighthouse and the sea next to this. The entire area is a UNESCO site so walking the quaint harbor town is relaxing as well.
Kourion has beach taverns all along the coast. People horse back road, ATVed and drove to these open air restaurants. The food was delicious and dipping your toes into the Mediterranean is a must. A better idea would be to bring a suit and have a swim. After lunch we visited the Archaeological site on top of the hill. Once again beautiful mosaic floors, a theater and intricate housing designs were shared with us from the Greco-Roman period in the 2nd Century BC. Impressive.
If interested in the Green Line there are tours available. A visit to Nicosia, the divided Capital, is eye opening. The city is beautifully enclosed by 16th Century Venetian Walls. The Old City has many ancient churches and royal palaces.
Obviously Cyprus is a great country to visit. The history is tragic but they seem to be overcoming these obstacles. Our guide said that the 70’s were horrible but the people of Cyprus seem resilient, informative and full of hope. With Zeus, Aphrodite and all the other Greek Gods watching over them we wish them peace.