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Lefkosa and North West Cyprus


Next day I traipsed out to the quaintly named Museum of Barbarism, which turned out to be just an ordinary house which had been raided by Greek nationalist extremists in 1963 and the resident family massacred. The mother and 3 boys had been found shot in the bath which has been kept in situ as it was, blood stains and all. The remaining rooms are filled with grisly photos of other victims of the unrest, interspersed with headlines from the international press of the day regarding the "Genocide". The term Ethnic Cleansing had yet to be coined but that is clearly what it was. Whole villages were cleared of their ethnic Turkish inhabitants overnight and their property destroyed, the Greek communities seemingly oblivious. Its perhaps understandable then that under the circumstances Turkey felt compelled to intercede, and it was a revelation to discover that indeed it even had a legal mandate to do so. It's open to interpretation but part of the act of independence for Cyprus allowed for the unilateral involvement of Greece, Turkey or the UK should the need ever arise. On the face of it, whatever has happened since, I found it difficult not to come to the highly unexpected conclusion that the Greek community or at least an extremist element had initiated the troubles and had essentially shot themselves in the foot as the island dissolved into involutary partition. Incredible. Whether the Turks are justified in still being there 32 years later is another question.

In the afternoon I took the bus to Girne, a short but dramatic journey across the Kyrenia Mountains. I plumped for another dodgy pension at random frequented solely by Turks, and fortunately I met Mustapha there who had picked up a little English in his former job as a casino security guard. Girne has a very pretty harbour setting backed by the sheer mountain ridge and is accordingly still much reminisced over by the southerners as the jewel of the island. I settled myself in by just relaxing with a beer by the quayside and then Mustapha later introduced me to my first raki.

Thursday 5th October

I had been frustrated with the poor availability of public transport in the south and though the north is certainly better served, it is still very rural in the main. I knew that as is all too frequently the case, the main points of interest are quite isolated, I had notably failed to reach both the UNESCO archaeological site at Chirikhitia and the Troodos Mountains in the south, and so in a fit of extravagance I resolved to hire a car for a couple of days and do more justice to the north. From Girne that would give me one day to the West, one to the East and at a push a short excursion before handing the car back at 11am the final morning. I took my nice shiny silver Ford Fiesta along the coast road to the west which was just a constant mishmash of small, poorly planned tourist developments and I pitied the poor people who had worked all year just to find themselves on vacation in such a shambles. Where the main road turned South I continued West along the coast on a really challenging narrow twisty road with occasional great views of beaches far below, before risking a puncture on a very rough bouldery track to pointy Cape Korucam, the most North Westerly cape on Cyprus with Turkey only 70Ks away. I was rewarded with the meagre presence of a shipping beacon, 2 ramshackle shacks and a jeepload of Febs. The only wildlife (apart from the Febs) found at this "end of the world" location were clusters of white flowered Sea Daffodils. I headed back inland to the village of Korucam, site of the only Greek community remaining in the North, and indeed the only Maronite community left on the whole island. Their massive church devoted to St. George is out of all proportion to the village which surrounds it and with the help of another jeepfull of Febs, scary pattern emerging, the key was eventually tracked down and we got inside. It was remarkably subdued, just whitewash in the main. I rejoined the main road at Canlibel where I chanced my arm at the sight of a tourist sign pointing down a side road, only to find myself at the gates of an army camp. The sentry asked me if I wanted to go to that certain place but not even knowing what it was, I declined and turned round. They must have thought I was the proverbial dumb tourist. Passing through the town I found in fact that the camp was larger than the town itself and it afforded little more than great views of the mountains to the north. South again to the uninspiring town of Guzelyurt then and I had come here for no better reason than to track down the last remnants of Cyprus' now defunct railway system. I stopped in a park by yet another military base and in a corner found a small rusting steam loco on a short stretch of track. It had been made by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia, USA and had been used primarily to ferry the citrus harvest from the once vast orchards surrounding the area. The trains had succumbed to modernity, it seemed crazy that they had freighted the stuff the length of the island in any case when a nearby port would have been a better solution. Almost in sympathy the citrus crop suffered as a consequence of the exploits of renegade owner Azil Nadir, its now a fraction of what it once was. After a dodgy kebab in town I parked up at the Archaeology and Nature Museum where I inadvertantly fooled the guy on the door with my 3 words of pigeon Turkish and got in for the local price. I found a poor display of stuffed animals which looked like they had come emaciated off the ark, but I did find my first Marsh Harrier, a Kestel like bird but with unlikely long legs and a grey ball of fluff which was a Scops Owl. There were local reptiles like the venomous Viper and Collared Lizard, but the most striking exhibit was a malformed lamb with 8 legs, all pointing at different angles. It looked like a tank trap with a head.

I moved on further west into the Western nook of the TRNC, where the Green Line cornered me as it reached the coast. Here I climbed up a crazy winding road to ancient Vouni, a dramatically positioned Persian alleiged city which had been established in order to keep an eye on the nearby Roman site of Solis. I blabbed with the lone sentry doing his one years conscription (it used to be 2), who had good English and whose nominal role was firewatching. He pointed out the rock just offshore a distant headland which demarcated the border with the Greek south and thence the small quirky Turkish enclave of Erenkoy beyond. There were fantastic views of the whole of the Troodos range to the south and he explained that successive ridges were Turkish, UN and Greek controlled. The ruins themselves were readily understandable, the room foundations and courtyards apparent. It didnt have the same wealth of sculpture or mosaics present as at other sites but a strange guitar shaped altar still stood in situ. I later learned that its curves were an abstract form depicting a fertility goddess. I had come to more distant Vouni first since nearby Solis was open longer hours. Here I discovered a more complex site with a fine amphitheatre and the remains of a large temple with mosaic floors. They were in poor condition unfortunately and mainly geometric in design but did have a now famous Swan motif in one part. There was only one main road so I headed back towards Guzelyurt and turned right for Lefkosa.

Posted by andyhay 00:00 Archived in Cyprus

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