Cyprus / Europe

That AWFUL Cyprus!

Is it possible to understand a women? I guess most of my male friends don’t even bother. Although I would love to think “your life is in your hands” whenever I start analyzing things I’m not convinced at all. What if we really are unconscious slaves of two little buggers – progesterone and estrogen? I can see all the sexy lumberjacks nodding while pin-up girls get seriously upset now. What a nasty stereotype. Indeed! But how else to explain that two wise, responsible, 30 year old ladies, who know they don’t like to sunbathe, prefer country side walks and mountains, even in rain and generally try to avoid crowds (unless it’s 35 Georgians – not familiar? This Wild Tale you can find here)  are voluntarily being cheated by fate and now they travel on a plane some place it is totally not-their-cup-of-tea? The wisest men don’t know, but this is how we end up on Cyprus.

-So how is it? – we ask each other every hour, trying to kill time. We are in Larnaca the third-largest city on the southern coast of Cyprus. This place is so incredibly boring we are desperately trying to find some positive points of being here. I’m scared to think some people would kill for spending their vacation here. We are certainly not one of them. There is nowhere to go, it’s hot. It’s awful.

If it hasn’t been for that Egyptian block we would probably die from boredom. The dude is really insistent, totally sleazy and we wonder what sort of girls he thinks we are. That type of girls, for sure, as he is trying hard to achieve something. I love you, kiss me, you know all that lame stuff. I wonder if he ever got lucky with so seriously developed English vocabulary. Actually, I don’t even want to wonder – it’s time to find out where do we sleep tonight.

Larnaca – belfry of a local temple.

So we sit with backpacks at the bus stop, waiting for our host to show up. I’m awful at recognizing faces so each time someone passes by I scream out loud “this time I’m sure it’s him!”.

Suddenly an old car stops on the other side of the street – unusual creature bobs up. Half naked man followed by a dog without a paw is slowly approaching. Here we go – our host himself! We go to his place where a decent room is being assigned to us. I’m trying to break out the ice by starting a small talk but I have never found speaking to someone so difficult. I feel weird being observed by a porcelain doll lying on a bed with her eyes wide open. Is it another horror story? Is this guy going to kill us while we sleep?

We are offered no drink, but when I take out my banana I want to be polite and share it with the host. He takes 2 bits smacking his lips and leave the rest. It gets even more weird when I start noticing more animals coming out of nowhere. So there is a cat without an ear and dog with no eye… We start feeling a little bit uncomfortable and want to go out but the host suddenly livens up and is telling us a story about a Ukrainian couple who was here a week ago – he has their pictures on his phone, a lot of pictures. Strange? I also think so! I don’t even want to imagine what he has done to them. I’m glad we spent just 1 night at his place, apparently there was another girl there but we haven’t seen her at all. When we leave we see another 2 travelers coming. Honestly, there was nothing wrong with this guy, he didn’t do anything to us, the bed was comfy, he gave us some tips… it’s just the general experience didn’t quite work for me – let’s say it this way. Or maybe I’m paranoid. This is exactly what I meant when I was talking about us girls vs hormons! That awful Cyprus.

Destiny takes us to Cabo Greco. National Park. You may think it will be nice and green and finally a bit cooler so you can relax and breathe but you are wrong. You are soooo wrong! Cabo Greco is a rocky, no-shadow-to-hide-from-the-sun place. But I have to be honest, it’s damn beautiful. We put layers of sun cream and we are ready to explore the area.

After marching around for 2 hours I turn to ask my friend our standard Cypriot question “how is it?” (expecting her telling me it was awful) but I realize my friend is gone! Now there is a red faced native American following me – OMG – I think but no, hold on, this is still Anna. She just got terribly sun burnt even though she put a thick layer of cream on her face. Pale People vs. Cypriot Sun. A total disaster. 

To sum up this part of the day Cabo Greco and Ayia Napa (calling all holiday clubbers!) – will impress people who love beaches, turquoise water, golden sand… I wouldn’t say it is a place from my dreams but when I look at the below pictures and it’s almost May and it snows in London I’m thinking WOW.

Cyprus – Cabo Greco – down there there is a natural cave you can swim inside.
Cyprus – Cabo Greco – a lone branch in the middle of nowhere.
Cabo Greco
Cabo Greco – little chaple with a stunning view.
Cabo Greco
Main attraction of Cabo Greco are incredible rock formations – here you can see a natural bridge.
These are the views, trekking here was something unusual.
The contrast between turquoise water, white sand and wild rocks – this is a dream place for many!

We spend a night in Protaras, another typical tourist resort, surfing the couch of Ignasia. She works and lives in a hotel. No luxury (even though I secretly counted on that) – her room is basically in the basement. The window has no glass so you can hear all the noise from the outside. It doesn’t mean though it’s cool and fresh inside. I feel like being in a sauna. It’s going to be a tough night but it really doesn’t matter coz Ignasia turns out to be an excellent host and a wonderful warm (and a bit crazy) person! She got a selfie stick tonight and is restless taking pictures. As far as I know she took more than a thousand on that single night! She takes us to the beach, we swim, laugh and talk together. She feeds us and take care of us like our mum. Thank you Ignasia!

To the point. Have you ever tried to sleep in a sauna? Exactly. Next day we wake up very moody. Another hot day. We try not to think about our plans of going to Armenia – brilliant plan came to naught when Polish Airlines cancelled our flight one month before. We were looking for something cheap and we chose Cyprus. Here we are, two grumpy travelers abroad. We carry on like this until we get to Nicosia – the capital of the island. We want to see the Greek side until the evening and then when the Sun is about to set we will head on to the Turkish side where we meet our host. We walk around calm streets of the old town – it’s a really nice place. Our lunch is a real feast of Cypriot meat so we pig out and it makes us feel even better.

It’s getting dark so we decide to cross the boarder. Turkish side of Cyprus is a different world. Exotic, noisy and a bit noir. Greek Cypriots were warning us off their Turkish neighbours. They were asking us why we want to go there and annoyingly wanted to convince us that their side of the island is way better. Cross the frontier if you want to see poverty and crime. Girls, you must be nuts. Obviously all that crap made us upset and worried. Waiting for our host, I am even a bit afraid. It’s dark and there is no one at the bus stop. It wasn’t even a real bus stop. When Turks come I am not sure if we can recognize them – I say. Wait – what Turks – asks Anna – why you talk about that guy in plural? – Coz there are 2 of them – I answer and suddenly realize the situation. Well, it’s too late to turn back. Our hosts – Gurkan and Ozcan come after a while. They don’t look like serial killers. We follow them to their flat. – It’s gonna be fun when it turns out that there is more of them there – I said giggling rather nervously. The door opens and we see… another 3 Turkish men. Oh my Lord. It’s going to be an interesting evening. We are petrified.

Colourful balconies, Nicosia.
Local pubs, Old Town, Greek side.
Cypriot “Veggie” feast.
Bohemian touch reminds me a bit Metelkova borough in Ljubljana.
The oldest shoe maker in the city.
Walking around Greek side of Nicosia.
Faneromeni church.
One of the mysterious door for sure hides many interesting Cypriot stories.
Turkish side of the island – you can see the difference with the naked eye. The island is being divided since 1974 – Greeks claims it was an invasion, Turks mention a peaceful operation. Whoever is right, people don’t like to talk about history here.
Old caravanserai from Ottoman period, the oldest building in Nicosia, on the Turkish side of the city – today Arts Centre

The Turk’s not so black as he is painted.

If you were waiting for a good spine chilling story you will be disappointed. Our new Turkish friends turned out to be FANTASTIC. We spent 2 nights at Ozcan’s and I can now say that if it hasn’t been for them our vacation on Cyprus would be a total disaster. After an excellent afternoon full of giggling and cross-cultural and language misunderstandings we fall asleep in a dusty guest room. Someone forgot to clean. We couldn’t care less even though a while later I am brutally waken up by a dropping bulb that hits my head. Both Ozcan and Gurkan are engineers so they fixed it, I mean took it from the room. 🙂 They hosted us like we were their family, like we were in the Sultan palace. The made us dream about Turkey. Until now, this is one of the countries I would die to visit! If you still don’t get it I strongly recommend playing some of Tarkans songs and dancing to them like a flying dervish. That type of pure, wild joy. Tarkan was our leitmotiv – it still remains my guilty pleasure, those songs are damn catchy! 2 days with Ozcan and Gurkan changed “awful” Cyprus to “awesome” Cyprus. 

Next day we go to Kyrenia – small town at the seaside. It’s so beautiful here! We are amazed with an ancient monastery Bellapais located in the majestic Five Finger Mountains. A little peace of Earth touched by Heaven. I don’t think we would ever discover this place on our own. At night we organize a Turkish party. It’s epic.

There is one more couchsurfer with us – a little Chinese girl. Brave gal, she should be scared a lot but no! She is totally relax and doesn’t seem to be shocked by our constant swearing. I have to explain one thing here. It’s not that we suddenly changed into vulgar swines. “FUCK OFF” is a story itself. When I was looking for hosts on Cyprus I got in touch with one guy. We exchange phone numbers and when I reached out to him a week before we went there he replied to me “fuck off”. And he was Turkish so we had a lot of fun teasing our guys about that.

To sum up – people (especially many Polish people) are so xenophobic. How many times I had to explain that those guys were nice to us and they didn’t want ANYTHING in return. There was not a single moment when we felt awkward in their company. For some people it’s just hard to believe that you can be nice just like this, without any hidden intentions. You can’t judge the whole nation based on 2 individuals, but our Turkish friends represented the highest class of gentlemen. There were such an excellent hosts we were really sorry to leave them…

Our Big Turkish Family!
Mornings at Ozcan’s table – fortune telling by our host.
Kyrenia – lazing around 🙂
Turkish lunch.
Turkish pizza is amazing – but I’ve been myself and I spilled my beer on it! 🙁
Kyrenia – harbour.
Kyrenia – local park.
Gothic Bellapais monastery is localted around 5 km from Kyrenia.
Abbey and monastery where built in XIII century.
We wouldn’t come to this place without our hosts – it would be such a shame to miss it!
Sunset in Bellapais.
Hitchhiking back to Nicosia – 4 people – impossible is nothing! 
We leave the Turkish side of the island. 

Being in a really good mood we decided to give the Greek side of the island one last chance. We are in for an adventure. We want to visit Troodos mountains. Not only we did it but we literally left our footprints in each little village there.

We were hitch-hiking around – 12 different cars including one lorry 🙂 High life. And this is all about the adventure coz Cypriot mountains well.. they aren’t spectacular. Accommodation isn’t cheap and the trekking isn’t good, but if you die to escape from the heat coming here could be a good option. On the second day, just before going back to Limassol we visit Omodos – it’s a little gem in Trodos mountains so make sure you don’t miss it!

Limassol is another example of a big city without much to offer. We anchor in a cafe run by an old grandpa. He is around 100 and he shows us photo albums with pictures of people who visited him over years and some postcards he received from them. He asked us to send him one. We are so moved we promise ourselves to do it. That story has no happy end though as the spell breaks when the grandpa “forgets” to give us the change and after taking the money he is no longer interested in us trying to “fish” another tourists. In the meantime another self proclaimed guide takes us to show us a local mosque. I don’t go inside coz I’m eating an apple but Anna accepts the invite. She comes back after approximately 2 minutes. Have you ever been to a mosque? No? There is nothing to see inside, but the “guide” insists on her paying for that life changing visit. Cyprus is awful. Again.

We dreamt of mountains and this is what we got.. going to Troodos by public transport turned out to be impossible!
Somehow we managed to reach a small village  – Palaichori – has lots of charm.
Tiny, narrow streets, peace and quiet – this is exactly how we wanted it to be. 
The dog seems to share our thought on the temperature – it’s way too hot! 🙂
Local church with a tiny belfry.
The end of good news – there is no bus to take us further… we need to leave this place and hope to get lucky hitch hiking…
We are lucky – first part of our trip we made with a really nice older guy who even invited us for a cup of local coffee.
After visiting some local places we  decided to go to Troodos (a random place on a map) and spend a night there – here is how the Cypriot mountains look like.
Troodos – we certainly don’t know how to read a map… it turned out it’s a SQUARE with 1 quite expensive hotel.. well we were stuck there so we went to see the local waterfall (pretty place). We met some Poles on the way and when we asked them how was it they said they loved it- maybe Cyprus isn’t as bad as we think…
After our morning walk we managed to hitch hike to Omodos – we really like that place!
If you want to visit Cypriot mountains go to Omodos and visit a majestic 17th Century stone built monastery via a cobblestone path.
The Monastery of the Holy Cross is a male- only one of the oldest and most historic monasteries of the island, it’s closed now and there is a small museum inside the public area.
Anna and I – in front of the monastery.
Grandpas cafe, Limassol.

We have two options – come back to Larnaca or follow our heart and go to the capital, back to Ozcan. We don’t have to think twice. Let’s hitch-hike to Nicosia!  After a good hour of waiting we finally find someone who takes us there. Late at night we cross the boarder and we are home again. Yes, home. We feel like it’s our place. Ozcan is our Abi – it means older brother in Turkish. Even though Gurkan is gone and only little Chinese girl is left (in fact she left the next morning) and we couldn’t recreate the magic of that one crazy night straight from the One Thousand and One Nights tales, we can spend a good quality time with Ozcan and get to know him better. He is such a complicated guy, it makes us like him even better. It’s a solid proof that people create places, not places create people. If I could turn back time we would never go back to the Greek side. We should have let that amazing moment of true friendship last forever, but we didn’t. I cannot be unhappy though. I am so thankful I was blessed to live some beautiful moments and meet wonderful people. I even consider coming back to that “awful” Cyprus again!

Abi is waiting for us – going back to Nicosia!

If I have to name one thing that was exceptional and kept us alive during the whole stay it will definitely be COFFEE. It doesn’t matter if you call it Turkish or Cypriot. It’s D E L I C I O U S!