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Published: July 17th 2016
PerneraDay 171 Thursday 7th July 2016 – Nicosia – Pernera
Chapel at Pernera Beach
Damn us for booking our accommodation a week ahead, because honestly could have easily stayed in Nicosia another week – just love this city. Heading to the coast again today to a region that has been described as hedonistic heaven – still don’t know why we are, except to sample another side of life on this island. Had wanted to tour the Turkish side some more but it has very limited tourist facilities and combined with the end of Ramadan it just seemed too hard.
The guy running the kitchen at our hotel is as un Greek as you could possibly meet, perhaps the happiest man we have ever met, with his favourite saying each morning being “I am better than yesterday, and worse than I will be tomorrow”. Not usually an “up” person before my morning coffee, but this guy was infectious and it was great chatting to him in the morning. After brekkie we checked out and walked the ten minutes up the road to the bus station. Once again we were challenged by the bus driver about bringing our camera
The Gothic Mosque entrance
bag onboard but we now know just to ignore their nonsense. We did notice how he only picked on the foreign tourists but seemed happy for the locals to drag on the bus any size bag they wanted.
Today’s bus trip was only an hour long and it was teenage party bus all the way, thank god we had earphones and I could crank Nine Inch Nails up to 11 to drown out their carry on, OMG, I think we are turning into grumpy old people (Scott should speak for himself and not include me in his grumpiness). Heading to a town called Pernera which is a small coastal town near to Ayia Napa, the larger hedonistic capital of Cyprus. The bus did not go all the way to Pernera so we had to get off at Ayia Napa and either get a local bus for the rest of the journey or a taxi. Just missed the connection with the local bus and ended up picking up a taxi for 15 Euro for the rest of the trip. Ayia Napa is just one huge tourist town with 2 kilometres of main road filled with hotels, bars, restaurants
Empty and destroyed
and nightclubs. Like our tourist towns a little more subtle than this and were glad we were not staying here especially after seeing a “Flintstones” themed restaurant and a dinosaur park – love my Flintstones but not while I am eating.
The taxi driver got us to the door step of our apartments without any issue and discovered the place was run by people with next to no hospitality and with the personality of a snail. When booking this place we had read that we needed to pay an extra 5 euros a day for the air con, which was fine as we could factor this in but were told that only covers one of the two air cons in the apartment and if we wanted both we had to pay 10 euros, so we had to choose the one in the bedroom or the one in the lounge room. Did contemplate saying “don’t worry mate won’t pay for either but I have a small tool kit now and will just wire the bastards up to run anyway”. We ended up choosing the bedroom so we could get a good night sleep.
our bags in our sweltering unit and then went for a long walk around the local area. On the plus side, the beach is down the road and although crowded with no waves, it might be nice to soak in. The rest of the town is just filled with endless restaurants advertising “Full English breakfast” and “Fish and chips”, and English Pubs, one of which was advertising that they had “Fosters” – unsure who would be attracted to that, other than someone who hasn’t had a beer since 1985.
For dinner we just knew what ever restaurant we chose it was going to be bad, and it was. After our bad feed we wandered up and down the street trying to scope for something better for tomorrow before returning to our hot unit. Day 172 Friday 8th July 2016 – Pernera
A nice sleep in followed by toast and coffee in our unit, could have gone an English breakfast at a hundred cafes up the road but opted to take full advantage of our kitchen and save a few euros. First thing this morning we
Streets of Pernera at Sunset
checked out tours of the area and a tour agency up the road run by a lovely Greek/English woman who ran us through the options. She had exactly what we wanted a full day tour across to the Turkish side to the town of Famagusta and the ancient city of Salamis, costing us 24 Euros each for tomorrow. The main reason for coming to this town had been the hope of getting a tour like this and lucky for us we got it – well so we thought.
With the tour booked in we decided to spend the rest of the day at the beach. At the end of our street is a small bay which is ringed with orange sand and overlooked by a tiny white and blue chapel, an almost quintessential Cypriot photo. Of course coming down the road you can hardly see the sand for beach umbrellas, but we did what everyone else did and that was to hire one and two beach lounges at a cost of 7.50 Euros. Spent the day in the water and under our umbrella reading before going home at 3.30. Washed out our swimmers, had a shower and
as we went to walk out the door at 6 we spotted a note that had been slid under our door telling us the tour for tomorrow had been cancelled and that we needed to go up to the office to get our refund, damn, damn, damn.
When we got up to the office they told us how they had contacted our hotel and they had looked up our details and our phone number and thought they would call us, but unfortunately they called our home number back in Australia and dragged our good friend (maybe ex friend) Mark out of bed, to tell him his tour tomorrow was cancelled. Felt sorry for Mark being dragged out of bed but felt doubly sorry for us as our plans had just gone up in smoke. We had both been really looking forward to this one and there was no plan B, other than drowning our sorrows. The only good point for the night was getting a good feed of Greek Lamb at a restaurant right at the end of the shops and playing with a puppy Chihuahua called Ellie at a Pub called Pani’s Bar afterwards.
Pernera Day 173 Saturday 9th July 2016 – Pernera
Ellie attacking Shelley
Woke up in the morning with a dark cloud hanging over us because we had our tour cancelled. The tour woman was telling us how this area is still struggling financially especially all the bars, restaurants and tours. These “tourist” zones only operate 6 months of the year and basically everything closes over winter so everyone has to make enough money in summer to get them through the rest of the year. The GFC hit hard as tourist numbers declined but what is doing more damage is the new wave of “all inclusive” deals being done by resorts and hotels. Tourists these days are preferring to pay a premium on a place that beds, feeds them and gets them pissed without leaving the front door rather than walking down town and spreading the cash around. We certainly had noticed over the last couple of days how most restaurants were empty and the bars only had small groups, really do feel sorry for them. We have been kind of reflecting over the last couple of weeks how we feel travelling has changed and how independent
travelling is sort of dying off and becoming harder. Package tourism seems to be more dominate, and although certain elements of independent travelling are easier like booking hotels and staying in touch with back home, it doesn’t feel as acceptable. Perhaps we are just getting too old and cranky (again with the old and cranky speak for yourself).
Of course with the tour not happening we only had one other thing to do and that was to go back to the beach for another day of swimming and reading. For dinner we headed once again to the same Greek restaurant as last night for yet another fabulous Greek feast. Afterwards we had to return to Pani’s bar so Shelley could play with Ellie some more. Sort of think it is a clever idea by the owner having this baby Chihuahua as it sure does draw in the women tourist who all want turns at cuddling her, but the owner really does care for her and always is keeping an eye out for her so she doesn’t take off, or kidnapped. Whilst here an English couple Mike and Jane turned up and we started talking and before we
Gold inside Lazarus Church
knew it, it was 2am; time to stagger home. Day 174 Sunday 10th July 2016 – Pernera
Because we had such a late night we slept in till 9 and then headed into town for something a bit more solid for breakfast other than toast. As stated before everywhere advertises that they do “the best English breakfast in town”. Ended up choosing a café/bar we had been to before and Shelley got a large breakfast for 3 Euros and I got the “huge” for 4 Euros and soon discovered that our eyes were bigger than our bellies, great value. Shelley then had the brilliant idea that we should go for a walk to the next town which was 3.5km away in the glorious 37 degree heat. The one commodity that is seriously lacking on Greek Islands is shade, and after walking for 15 minutes in the blazing sun I had hit my limit and decided that a day out of the sun would be a far better idea. So basically we argued on the side of the road till I got my way and we went back to the hotel
where we spent the day on the balcony reading and cooling down.
Dinner was a repeat of last night with an earlier finish and Shelley saying goodbye to Ellie. Day 175 Monday 11th July 2016 – Pernera - Larnaca
Up at 7.30 for a coffee on our balcony whilst checking our emails and the news of the day. Our hotel has a limited range on its WiFi, and they told us it was only available in the foyer and around the pool, but because our unit is next to the pool we can get WiFi on our balcony if the winds are blowing our way and no one else is tapping into it. We packed our bags, checked out and then went looking for a way to get to Larnaca, with our choices being.
1. A taxi all the way which would cost anywhere between 50 -100 Euros depending on who you get and how hard you bargain.
2. Getting a taxi to the next town of Paralimni (10 minutes away) and then get an intercity bus to Larnaca that takes
Walls of the Bathhouse
an hour and costs 4 Euros each
3. Take the local bus that stops at every village and takes 2 hours but only costs 1.5 Euros. This bus however doesn’t have any luggage storage and may need to either buy a seat for our bags or sit them on our laps for the whole journey.
Tourist information kept pushing for option 3 the local bus but I just didn’t want to be nursing all our bags on a hot bus for 2 hours so we took option 2 and managed to get a taxi to Paralimni for 12 Euros. Today was yet again another stinking hot day with high humidity and by the time the intercity bus pulled up at 10.45 I was a complete puddle of sweat. Thankfully the bus had air con and the one hour trip to Larnaca allowed me to cool down.
Of course once we got dropped off we had another 10 minute walk with our back packs in the blazing sun till we got to our hotel. Only midday so they wouldn’t let us in and had to come back at 2 so we headed
down to the beach and found a café to have lunch. After this we went hunting for a barber to cut my mop of a hair and found one about five blocks away. Classic old Greek barber shop with old fashioned barber chairs and on the wall were photos of him cutting hair back in the 70’s – gee I sure miss safari suits.
We finally got into our room at 2pm and fired off some emails to a tour company about doing a tour to Famagusta on Wednesday. Thankfully late in the afternoon they let us know that we were locked in, which made us very happy. Last time we were in Larnaca it was festival time and the main street was turned into side show alley and wasn’t overly attractive. That’s over with now and the place looks much better and in fact the whole vibe if the place feels better. We left Larnaca not actually feeling like we wanted to come back but on our return it felt great to be here. We managed to return to a few of our old haunts for drinks and got a great feed at restaurant we hadn’t
Outside the St Barnabas Church
tried before. Larnaca is a great place to be. Day 176 Tuesday 12th July 2016 – Larnaca
Slow start to the day with our first chore to call home. Had crap WiFi at the last place so it was good to let family know we were still alive. For our first morning back here I opted to indulge myself with a full English breakfast at our favourite café, while Shelley just had an ice coffee and looked on in disgust.
Shelley wanted to return to the Lazarus Church for some more photos and then spent a few hours looking through the shops buying souvenirs. Cooled off back in our room in the late afternoon before once again heading out for some drinks and a feed and watch the sunset over Larnaca. Day 177 Wednesday 13th July 2016 – Larnaca
Up at 6.30 to get ready for our tour today. Went to use the toaster in our room and discovered that the plug was wrong and we needed an adaptor, very odd, which now meant we couldn’t toast our bread,
The tomb of St Barnabas (Barney Rubble)
which meant no breakfast. Walked up to the bus stop at 7.30 to get our bus and thankfully a kiosk was open so we could get ourselves a Kit Kat for brekkie. The bus was a very large coach which was just as well because there were a lot of people getting on here, and as it left Larnaca it stopped to pick up more till we were full.
Just outside the town of Napa the bus pulled over and all the people that wanted an English speaking guide had to get off and transfer to another bus before we were underway again and off to “the other side of the island”. All of today’s sites are on the Turkish side of the island and in an odd twist, to get there we first had to travel through British territory. When England gave Cyprus their independence they retained 18 military bases on the island covering a total of 250 square kilometres of land. Had passed through a few others on this journey and there is no passport checks or controls and except for a few English flags and a bit of over use of barbed wire you
Outside the vast city walls
wouldn’t know that you were in theory in another country. So within a few kilometres we went from the Cypriot Republic, to England and then into Turkish Cyprus. Crossing the border was a simple process with just the one stop on the Turkish side and we just had our passports collected, processed and returned without leaving the bus.
Today’s tour is almost a broad cross section of Cypriot history covering ancient Cyprus, medieval Cyprus and modern Cyprus, detailing all the conflicts and dramas that makes this island so interesting. First stop today was the ancient town of Salamis. The oldest archaeological findings in Salamis come from the 11th
Century BC but it is thought to be much older, and through its history it has been occupied by Mycenaean’s, Assyrians, Persians, Ptolemies, Romans and finally Christian Byzantines, before the inevitable earthquake hit and destroyed the town. The Byzantines tried their best to rebuild the town but the harbour silted up and then the Arab raiders attacked in the 7th
Century AD and it all became too hard, and everyone just moved on up the road to Famagusta. The city of Salamis was huge for its day and finds
The rear of the Mustafa Pasha Mosque
are scattered over a wide area but our tour was only 30 minutes long and through the central classical part of town showing us the Gymnasium, Bath house and the restored theatre. It would have been great to have been able to wander around a bit more through this incredible historic town, but you never get enough time on these sorts of tours. The other shame about Salamis is that since the Turkish invasion of 1974 all archaeological work has stopped here and it shows. Up the road from Salamis is the Church and tomb of St Barnabas, and we were able to go underground and peer at the last resting place of the revered Saint (or as we called him “Barney Rubble”) as well as look over the church which has been turned into a museum.
Next stop was the next stage of Cypriot history, the Medieval period. Where Salamis had been the stomping ground for just about every civilization in the ancient world, the town of Famagusta was to be the battle ground for every ratbag in the medieval period. The town really started with the Byzantines who moved here when Salamis declined but it
The interior of Mustafa Pasha Mosque
was the Crusading Franks who set about establishing this town. From then on the Genoese and then the Venetians took the town before finally the Ottomans came along. The greatest period for this town was when under the control of the venetians who not only beefed up the city walls (that survive to this day) but went on a mad church building spree. It is said that there was a church for every day of the year within the city walls. When the Ottomans besieged this city for thirteen months starting in 1570 the spires of the churches sticking above the city walls made great targets and most were destroyed or damaged. It is claimed that 6000 defenders held off an Ottoman force of 100,000 and that they lost 50,000 men taking Famagusta and when they surrendered they had the Venetian commander flayed alive. Once captured the Ottomans expelled all the Greek inhabitants and wouldn’t let any return, and so all the merchants moved to the new town of Larnaca and the now ruined town of Famagusta went into decline.
Today the old town of Famagusta is a treasure trove of ruined churches and is still ringed
The Mustafa Pasha Mosque and the ruins of another church
by 2.6 kilometres of fantastic quality Venetian walls. On the seaboard side at the entrance to the harbour is Othello castle a citadel that is named Othello because it is cryptically mentioned in Shakespeare’s play. This is a huge lump of stone that has just been completely restored but unfortunately probably wasn’t worth the 3 euros each price tag to visit. The real show stopper in Famagusta is the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque originally known as Saint Nicholas's Cathedral. Built between 1298 and 1328 this huge cathedral is a classic example of Gothic architecture, rarely seen outside of France. The towers were destroyed in the siege and a minaret was added and inside the walls are now white washed but it still an incredible structure and seems so out of place here in Cyprus.
We thankfully had two hours to walk the town and was able to get a look in at another 5 other converted and ruined churches, with one of the best being the remains of the Church of St George of the Greeks. On what is left of one of the walls you can see all the hits it took from cannon balls and
The ruins of St George the Greeks Church
high up near one of the windows you can still see a steel cannonball lodged in the stone work.
Just before leaving we tried to get a toasted sandwich from a restaurant thinking “that won’t take long to make” but ended up eating it as we ran back to the bus but thankfully we weren’t the last ones.
Next and final stop for the day was the Ghost town of Varosha a modern day tragedy caused by the Turkish Invasion of 1974. Adjoining the port town of Famagusta is a lovely long stretch of beaches that became a tourist hot spot in the 1960’s to the point that by the early 1970’s half of the hotels in Cyprus were here. When the Turks invaded in July 1974 they bombed Famagusta and quickly overran this area. It is said that many Greeks had to run for their lives leaving everything behind thinking that they would be able to return soon after. When the Turks took the town it was looted and then sealed up and has become part of the Green line across the island, and sits to this day with no one living in
Cannonball still lodged in the wall of St George the Greeks Church
it. Our bus dropped us at a beach right next to Varosha so we could go for a swim if we wanted to. A wire mesh fence with shadecloth on it ran along the beach and behind stood gutted high rises of yesteryear. Signs everywhere told us it was forbidden to cross in to the area or to photograph. Our guide informed us that we could photograph the beach and the water but do not turn around and take a photo of the buildings, just plain stupid, and no one listened to her.
The causes of the 1974 invasion are complex, and I do not know enough to say if one side was “more wrong” than the other but looking at those gutted resort buildings made me angry to think why did it happen and why hasn’t this island healed. I guess the Ottoman invasion from 1570 is still playing out and Cyprus is still caught in its own long history of being the battle ground of other nations.
Left the beach area and we had a short drive around the perimeter of the Varosha town peering over the fences at abandoned churches, houses
The Green Line with destroyed building beyond
and buildings before going to the border and returning to the Cypriot Republic. On the drive back to Larnaca our bus drove down roads next to the Turkish Cypriot border past other deserted towns ringed with guard posts, and made me realise that this island may always be divided. Got dropped off at Larnaca at 4.30 and got some washing done at the hotel laundry before heading out for a feed and a drink.
Leaving Cyprus tomorrow so it was fantastic doing the tour today and seeing so much history in one day. We basically got to see the entire history of Cyprus played out for us right up to the painful present, can only hope for the Cypriots that history doesn’t continue to repeat.
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