Northern Cyprus

North Cyprus is a quiet and beautiful country with friendly helpful people. It is easy to get carried away in Cyprus . This is Aphrodites Island where the goddess of love drifted ashore on a sea shell.

I have scented her perfume all over the island in the white anemones that are said to be her tears over the death of her lover, Adonis.

At the baths of Aphrodite, a fresh-water pool where she bathed, I have dipped my hands in crystal-clear water, hoping a little of the eternal youth it promises might seep in. Cyprus has romance in abundance, and I hope one day to spend my retirement here.

 

 

Twenty minutes drive from the villa, the old harbour of Kyrenia (Girne) is described in guidebooks as "the jewel of Cyprus", indeed the jewel of the Mediterranean.

The Old Harbour, which bustles with small yachts, is a small bay enclosed by a breakwater, with a medieval castle guarding the entrance. In the evening, you have the choice of eating at a table next to the yachts or on a roof top restaurant, Chennis, with a view across the lively scene.

Next to the castle is the Anglican church of St Andrew, built in 1913 on the mound created when the castle mount was dug. In 1976 the east end of the church collapsed.

On St Andrew's Day, 30 November 2003 the reconstructed church was reopened with an additional room dug into the mound below. The church is a centre for the British community and there are rarely less than 100 attending the Sunday service, an impressive number when expressed as a percentage of the 627 Brits registered with the High Commission as permanent residents of North Cyprus.

 

A short drive up the hill from Girne is the Abbey of Bellapais, perched on the mountainside with superb views across the coastal plain. It was in Bellapais that Laurence Durrall wrote his book "Bitter Lemons". In the capital, Lefkosa (Nicosia), visit the old walled city, the medieval market of Büyük Han and the Church of St Sophia (founded in 1209), converted to Selimiye Mosque in 1570, retaining the tombs of Christian crusaders.

 

If you are looking for remote, unspoilt shorelines, the beaches on which the turtles breed (to the east of Girne) are wild and beautiful. In the Karpas peninsula is a three mile sand beach that, when we visited, was populated by only two people and a dog.

The strategic importance of Cyprus is demonstrated by the impressive remains of the Roman city of Salamis and the strategic importance has continued into modern times. Until 1976, Alsancak was the site of a large US intelligence gathering station employing 50 linguists to listen to radio traffic in the USSR and Eastern Europe.

 

At Vouni, a one hour drive west from the villa, you stand in the middle of a large palace, dating from the fifth century BC, dramatically perched on a cliff. this archaeological site in Cyprus is the small Roman villa of Ayios Trias at Sipahi, where you walk around rooms with beautifully preserved mosaic floors, inhabited now just by lizards sunning themselves. If your taste is ruined castles, there are few more dramatically sited than the medieval castles of St Hilarion and Buffavento.

Both control the route through the mountain from Girne to Lefkosa. St Hilarion was a strategic position occupied by Turkish Cypriot fighters and the site of a battle on 25 April 1964, when Greek Cypriots tried to storm the castle, eventually halted by UN action. Again, in July 1974, Turkish Cypriot fighters guarded the fortress of St Hilarion until the Turkish troops joined up with them.

The first landing of 6,000 Turkish troops on 20 July 1974 was on the beach a mile east of Alsancak. Greeks have inhabited Cyprus since 500 BC, or earlier. Turks have inhabited Cyprus since it became part of the Ottoman empire in 1571. From 1931 onwards Greek Cypriots called for uniting Cyprus with Greece and a relationship with the Turkish minority became difficult, often violent.

In that year, the British Government Villa was burnt down by Greek agitators. Independence was given by Britain to Cyprus in 1960, under a constitution that gave Cyprus a Greek Cypriot president and a Turkish Cypriot vice-president; the vice-president later stated that in the following 14 years he only met the president once. The relationship between the two communities deteriorated until on 15 July 1974 there was a Greek coup which ousted the president; on 20 July 1974 Turkish troops landed in Cyprus to support the Turkish Cypriots.

 

The Northern part of the island (34% of the land area) was, in 1983, declared the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. In November 2002, the UN published a proposal for a settlement between the Turkish community and the Greek community. In April 2003 the border between Northern Cyprus and Southern Cyprus was opened. The general election on 14 December 2003 resulted in a parliament split equally between those for and those against the the UN plan for the creation of a confederation of North and South Cyprus.

On 24 April 2004, separate referenda in North and in South Cyprus on this "Annan Plan" resulted in 64.9% of the North Cyprus electorate voting in favour of the plan, but 75.8% of the South Cyprus electorate rejecting the plan. On 1 May 2004, South Cyprus joined the European Union alone. Events in 2009 are awaited with interest.