Northern Cyprus


When I was about 10 years old, we went to Northern Cyprus as an extended family holiday. By extended, I mean uncles, aunts, cousins. My parents and I flew there from Istanbul. We were warned not to get a stamp on our passports but on a separate sheet of paper as otherwise, this would jeopardise any future travel into Greece. We were later joined by our extended family in our hotel in Girne. They had arrived on a ferryboat from the Mediterranean cost of Turkey. It had taken them only a couple of hours to reach the island but these couple of hours were a complete nightmare for them. At the time, my mom’s older brother was very into video recording everything that was going on around him. So he recorded their nightmarish journey on the ferry. Almost everyone travelling was seasick. People were taking turns to throw up in a common barrel. My uncle even video recorded his wife who was about to put a pill in her month to stop her being sick when she failed immediately and threw up even before she could take the pill. We had laughed very hard and a long time about this experience and the recordings during our time in Cyprus. We had arranged a tour company to take us. My parents and I were hoping that the guide would take us around the island and show us the historical sides. But the tour company had something completely different planned for us: a shopping trip – one thing that my parents and I were so not interested in! Overall, our impressions of the place were that it is a place with beautiful beaches and water, old fashioned but quiet cars , lots of tacky casino hotels and a place, which is highly and lazily reliant on Turkey for money. Of course, they didn’t have much choice; the embargo really crippled the economy. There was no industry, it was very barren. It was pretty much like a large village in Eastern Anatolia but with more modern and westward people. We also had the impression that the Turkish Cypriots didn’t mind relying on Turkey for everything; they seemed very “chilled” (I want to refrain from using the word lazy). The way they speak Turkish is also very distinct and certainly carries an islander quality. We were taken to some houses, which were attacked during the war and the elderly explained to us how their family were showered with bullets, tortured and killed by the other side. We also went around the only capital in Europe, which is still divided between two countries, Lefkosa (Nicosia as they call it on the other side of the island and in English). The embargo had definitely taken its toll on Lefkosa as it is hard to call it a capital city as it stands. I guess the word “basic” would fit well here. One of the only tall buildings in this city is the hotel where reporters stayed during the war time. Bullet holes were still visible when we went there. We went up the building and had a clear view of the other side of the UN Green Zone only a few meters away, the Greek Nicosia. The difference between Lefkosa and Nicosia could not be more enormous. We were shocked by the difference. Nicosia was a modern, crowded city with high-rise building – only a few hundred meters away. The whole place is considerable small anyway. In Northern Cyprus, you can pretty much travel from one “city” to another in about 15 minutes. It makes you think how ridiculous it is that a small island and a group of people who share the same history and kinship have to be divided due to the desire to “have it all and rule it all.”

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