Monday, 20 February 2012

A few days in Turkish Cyprus

No Man's Land in Cyprus

This week’s blog is really a double edition as internet is difficult to get from Allen’s apartment, and I have to impose on someone else on the complex to get my emails and things. 

There has been quite a few changes to the reception of English TV here whilst we’ve been here and most of the UK’s channels have now moved to a new more focused satellite (Astra N1), this means That Allen can only get BBC channels and they will soon be moving also.  I think that this will have also affected us in Lefkas but I’ve not had any emails yet asking my advise with regards to this so we shall have to wait and see until we return home.
We have now been in Cyprus for two weeks and the weather has finally decided to improve a little.  At least the wind has dropped we had a season gale for a couple of days last week which it seems comes every year at the same time give or take a couple of days.  At the time we were in the north of the island in Turkish ruled Cyprus and the sea was more akin to Atlantic rollers than the more usual Mediterranean seas.  Temperatures have been getting down to about five or six degree’s overnight and the air temperatures during the day only reaching about fourteen degrees.  This isn’t as bad as it may sound because if the sun is out it’s extremely pleasant as long as you are not exposed to the wind.

Allen, Jean & Sandra.
Last Thursday morning we set off for border with northern Cyprus with the first stop being the seaside resort of Famagusta, now known as Gazimagusa by the Turks who have changed many of the place names.   The old town is beautiful, soaked in a history spanning a thousands of years from the ancient Greeks and Romans via the Crusades’ of Richard the Lion Heart and later Crusades to the seventies conflict between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots and all other major Mediterranean civilisations in between. 

Church converted to a Mosque.
 Many large churches  have been converted to Mosques by having the tower tops removed and replaced with minarets.  There is a type of no-man’s-land  which stretches away across the island which has a constant UN presence and on the Turkish side it’s constantly patrolled by Turkish Army soldiers who can be seen in the many watchtowers watching the  border through powerful binoculars.  The beach at Famagusta is probably one of the best in the whole of the Mediterranean but is spoilt by the fact that the border cuts part of it off and that the part beyond the border is littered with decaying buildings complete with myriad bullet holes.  All in all it gives a very sad feeling to the place.  I would think that the political and religious differences between these peoples probably goes straight over the man in the streets head and it’s a real shame that they can’t get their heads together and let some common sense prevail.  Will it happen? Probably not!

Sandra & Jean scaling in the tracks of Crusaders. 
 We than went up the coast to have a look at Allen’s brother’s house, unfortunately a window had been damaged and allowed pigeons to get in, what a mess they have made!  We have resealed the place as best we could and Allen is going to inform his brother and send some pictures so hopefully he’ll get it sorted.  There are literally thousands of new houses being built all over northern Cyprus, it really has a look of the Spanish Costa’s there is that much concrete about, you can pick up property very cheaply here although it does come with a risk attached as much of the property in the North was originally owned by the Greeks and vice versa for the south so it’s probably a case of buyer beware. 

Old canon with Transit wheels!!
Onward to Bogaz where we spent the night in a hotel which was just about adequate.  We had a fish Mezze which had more courses than I can recall we all had to stop eating before the food stopped coming.

A couple of the many ruins in Famagusta.
 Next day we set off to go around the “pan handle”, the large peninsular at the north east of the island. 

There are wild donkeys living up here and nearly at the end an old disused Greek Monastery,  this is currently surrounded by a market at which all the goods are left on the stalls covered in plastic and no people are really about to stop any thefts.  How the market is supported I don’t really know because it miles and miles from anywhere, perhaps in the tourist season people are bussed in the buy the offerings. 

Allen with his BIG gun!

We managed to see three of the wild donkeys but not the herds of them which I had been expecting.  The land all over northern Cyprus looks very fertile and there are huge flattish area’s which you would expect to be used for agriculture but it’s not, you get the feeling that no one is really prepared to help themselves.

Wild Donkeys.
Inside Kerenia Castle
 Onward down the north coast to Karenia (Girne to the Turks), where we were to spend a couple of nights while we explored the area.  It has a fine castle dating from the crusades and again loads of churches and Mosques to visit.  The town is centred around the harbours, one for fishing boats and pleasure boats the other a ferry and cargo terminal sailing frequently to Turkey.  Again this is a very pleasant town with a tourist feel to it almost everyone speaks good English and eating out is relatively cheap, I would certainly come back to both Karenia and Famagusta again in fact I think that the turks probably got the best end of the deal with Cyprus as a whole.  The best scenery and beaches are certainly to be had north of the border.
Sandra in an Abbey just outside Kerenia
Eat your heart out Liberace!
Our last day in the north was completed by a visit to the Island capital city Nicosia (or Lefcosia to the Greeks or Lefkosa to the Turks)  The place naming is confusing and you need to buy both a Greek and a Turkish Map if you are visiting both areas as you will get lost without.  

Nicosia is the only divided capital city in Europe again there is a military no go area across the centre there are a couple of places you can cross through a checkpoint with the car on the outskirts and in the town centre there is one pedestrian crossing point, again some very beautiful buildings which have been severely defaced with bullet holes.  I wonder once again who gains by all this conflict!

Chef working in the middle of the restaurant.

I won't be writing any more blog until I get back to Lefkas on the 29th February as it's not easy getting access to the net and having to depend on strangers good will.  Hope every one we know is keeping well and we'll talk again soon.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Cyprus for first timers...

Little fishing harbour at Sea caves - spot the rainbow?

 Sorry about not phoning anyone yet but Allens internet connection is not working, I've had to go to someone else's house to do the blog this week.
Atlantic seas in the med.

Ship wreck from just before xmas - Skipper still living aboard.
Sanny pinching bananas
Monday morning we departed good old Vounikas at eight in the morning for Lefkas bus terminal there to catch the nine thirty bus

 for Athens.  Dropping the car off at the marina where Kevan is keeping an eye on it for us while we are away. The bus trip was very pleasant although quite a bit slower than it normally is as we experienced very strong cross winds after we started heading down the side of the gulf of Corinth.  The bus driver 

was obviously aware of the problem as he slowed up at every point on the road where he knew there would be a problem with the wind.  Even so this didn't stop the bus being buffeted quite severely en-route.  We eventually got to Athens about three quarters of an hour later than we would have 

Getting wetter by the minute.
normally expected but as our flight was not scheduled to leave until twenty to seven this did not cause any problems.  The trip from the bus station to the airport was, as normal, an exciting event dodging through the  heavy Athenian traffic or more especially through the Athenian drivers who are more 

interested in talking on the phone and generally being very poor drivers.  This is not really unique to Athenians but over most of Greece the traffic levels are such that you can take avoiding action relatively easily not so in Athens’ busy streets.  As a result of this the bus to the airport generally includes the driver having to make many heavy braking manoeuvres during the journey, which inevitably means that baggage gets semi airborne long before the airport or an aeroplane come into sight.
Our flight came in on time and we were on the plane exactly to schedule and then it started to blow, rain and thunder  with a vengeance.  Whilst on the airport apron and still being loaded the air craft felt like you were flying and going through some moderate turbulence,  bucking and bouncing as the rain hammered down on its aluminium shell.  

We sat in our seats for one and a half hours before we got clearance to taxi out to the runway.  Fortunately, the one hour thirty five minute normal journey time was cut by about twenty minutes with a back wind so we were only just a little over an hour late at Larnaka airport.

Our friends Allen and Jean had obviously had a bit longer wait then was planned as we hadn’t had the opportunity to contact them since getting on the plane but true to form they were waiting patiently for us when we came out of the arrivals hall. 

The weather in Cyprus is great for ducks plenty of rain and wind but what the hell we had arrived.  Although warm during the day, sixteen centigrade or so, it gets a little chilly on a night very similar though to what we are used to on Lefkas.

We have been for a ride around the local area today and it seems very strange driving English style on the left hand side of the road and going clockwise around roundabouts.  As this is our first visit to Cyprus we didn’t know really what to expect from the island but our first impression is that it is nearer to Britain than to Greece, all the signs are in English, many of the shop names and owners have English names but we shall get to know much more through the coming weeks. 

Needless to say, we have just picked up with Allen and Jean where we left off the last time we saw them back last summer.  It’s good to see close friends again.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Winter descends on the sunshine island

Pruning started at Tony's 
 We no sooner seemed to have returned from our short break in Metsovo then we were back in harness here on the island.  After my usual Friday morning guitar session at Lefkas we went up to Delphini Villas (Tony's place) to give the gardens there their annual haircut.  This is a full weekend of work so we stayed with Tony and Liz in the villa while work progressed.  As can be seen we ended up with a large amount of surplus vegetation and I think I may bring my old shredder from the UK next year to try and make this more manageable, there is a limit to how much dying shrubbery you can secrete around the place.  Maybe an incinerator might be a possible answer.
Now doesn't that look better!
The triffid between the two villa's

Looks more like it now!
The place looks much more loved now and we had a great time with Tony and Liz despite the cold weather.  Sandra cooked Fridays meal, Liz cooked Saturdays and a then we had roast chicken dinner on Sunday.  Also had a trip to the cinema on Saturday evening to see the film "The Double" which was a nice change to the normal routine.

Thanks for a great weekend you two!

About three inches and still snowing.
 On Tuesday morning I had agreed to meet Tony at the marina with a view to getting "Izola" & "Jungle" out of the water to have their bums cleaned and to do some general repairs in the case of "Izola".   When I set off from the south of the island there was slight breeze and it was only just above freezing.  When I got out of the car on the marina there was a full gale blowing straight into the marina with white topped waves and everything.  The wind was howling through the masts and rigging.  After a coffee in the cafe and a chat we decided that prudence was the watchword and we would leave them where they were until the weather improved.

We checked all the moorings on all the boats including "Contango" Tony's big boat to make sure that they were not going to come to any harm in the prevailing conditions and went home again.  On arriving back to the south of the island I found there was still only a light breeze here, weird this island weather!
Looks more like the Arctic than Lefkas.

JCB to the rescue this morning.

On the subject of weird weather we had a cold day yesterday and in the middle of the afternoon it started snowing.  As can be seen from the pictures we ended up with quite a lot of the stuff although there doesn't appear to be any at the bottom of the valley in Vasiliki.   Our landlord and neighbours, Mike and Tree had to abandon their car in the village and walk up to the house were Mike had to have a medicinal brandy in order to recover! I took a few pictures and posted some on Facebook and a couple got shown on our ITV regional news programme in Yorkshire, "Calendar",  so we were dead chuffed to see them on the telly.  Sandra was so excited she had to make a few telephone calls to let the world know that we were now famous!

Anyway suffice to say we are now thawing out quite well this morning and although it's not warm weather it is at least melting fairly quickly after we were ploughed out this morning.