Sunday, November 26, 2006

Island of Cyprus #1 (Initial Thoughts)

Last year I went on a 5-day trip to Cyprus with a friend. This was part of my project to visit all of the sites that Paul traveled to, and to include them on a new "Greek Islands" CD in the Pictorial Library series. At the end of the trip, I sat down and wrote a series of posts for the blog, which I never got around to posting. Now with the end-of-the-semester time crunch, this is a good opportunity to share these, with the hope that they are both instructive and enjoyable.

I'll start with some of the negatives, moving to some of the more positive experiences and insights in later posts. Overall, I would characterize this trip as less enjoyable to me than other trips because:

1. There are only two biblical sites (Salamis and Paphos) and the connection there is very limited; furthermore, there is nothing at the sites that you can directly connect with the biblical account.

2. The weather was overcast more than sunny, making photographs more dreary. I would recommend visiting in April instead of March.

3. The costs were significantly higher than expected (e.g., $80/day for rental car; $45 for a cheap hotel).

4. Cyprus history is not well known to me, and as I learned more about it, I would confess that it did not become very exciting to me. There are connections with Israel/Canaan, but these are less than one might expect. The Myceneans and Minoans, who I would expect to have more of a connection with this island, don't seem to. There is not much evidence of Jewish presence.

5. The divided nature of the island adds another challenge to travel logistics. It did seem to me that there was no control at the border, such that we could have stayed many days on the northern side and the Greeks wouldn't know (though the rules say you can't stay overnight). They didn't stamp or record our passport when we left, and no one looked at it when we came back in. I could have used another day on the northern side to visit Kyrenia and some sites to its west.

6. They drive on the "wrong" side of the road here (as a former British colony). You drive from the "passenger" seat, and shift gears with your left hand. Of course you learn how to do all of this when starting at the rental car agency in the middle of the big city's downtown.

7. Most of the sites were not well-marked, so oftentimes we didn't know what we were looking at. And there were not brochures to explain it either. I don't know of a good archaeological guide with plans of all of the sites. The Fant & Reddish book was helpful for what it covered.

8. The ruins are not dramatic. There are three sites that have more to see: Salamis, Kourion, and Paphos. But compared with other sites (such as in Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Rome), these are just not impressive.

9. We were a little too early in the season to see all of the colors of spring. The coastal areas were quite green and had flowers, but the mountains were still coming out of winter.

10. Cyprus is largely a tourist vacation spot today, and in many ways it seemed like a great place to come and spend a week with our wives. But it wasn't warm, we didn't spend any time at the beach, and our wives were not with us.

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2 Comments:

  • The border thing is very odd. You'd think there would be a lot more security. Reading about the conflict, one could almost see they like the status quo.

    By Blogger psychobob, at Sun Nov 26, 07:56:00 PM  

  • There are more ‘biblical sites’ in Cyprus.. example: Larnaca at St. Lazarus Church where St. Lazarus was buried… a ton of biblical history there. Cyprus is also stated in the bible.

    Cyprus is extremely rich in history. Having been influenced by the Roman and Byzantine empire, to name a few. Richard the Lionheart also passed through there. Look for ‘ A history of Cyprus’, a book written by Katia Hadjidemetriou, any bookstore in Cyprus will probably have it. Not sure why you would expect the Mycenaeans and Minoans to have more of a connection with Cyprus… you must be thinking of Crete. Cyprus has other influences by the Assyrians, Egyptians.

    We can thank the Turkish government for the confusing and unnecessary division of the island (and of course with their illegal 1974 occupation). They do all that they can to make it as frustrating as possible to visit the north side of Cyprus. When referring to the people of Cyprus, they are Cypriots, not Greeks. Greeks are from Greece. Cypriots merely speak the greek language and have some Greece influence.

    Many sites are marked with plaques indicating their historical value. Wherever I went, I found brochures readily available.

    There are so many ‘ruins’ in Cyprus that are impressive, but to compare Cyprus (an extremely small island) to the likes of Egypt, Turkey, Rome, Greece) who were all part of Great Alexander’s Empire (settlements in the bigger countries were longer, thus allowing for more influence and bigger constructions to take place), and more obvious, much bigger countries than Cyprus, is comparing figs to oranges !!! J

    The mountains of Cyprus will still have snow in March and even April, as they are at higher altitudes. It’s best to visit May/June when it’s comfortably warm.

    Cyprus has unfortunately become a tourist spot all thanks to the Brits who have migrated there and opened up their own hotels, stores and bars…luring other Brits. The fashion in which they design their stores, bars etc is the same as in Britain, which makes it oxymoronic if a Brit visits Cyprus only to partake in a British culture in Cyprus..!

    March/April would not be a good time to be at the beach as it’s still not summer there. Beach weather begins end of May.

    Thanks,
    ~A

    By Anonymous Andrea, at Mon May 25, 03:07:00 AM  

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