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Published: March 11th 2012
Blue Sea Hotel Harbor
It was a lovely hotel and would be perfect if you were in Cyprus to go fishing or if you had your own boat and wanted a hotel with a harbor.
As I’ve said before, traveling is a lot about firsts. Here’s the short list of my big firsts in Cyprus:
It's the first time I’ve been to Cyprus, the first time I ever rented a car, (they gave me a Chevy Aveo), and the first time I got to drive on the left side of the road, like the British.
Getting out of the city is a big priority for me this spring. While it was cold and snowing in Istanbul, I walked the beaches of a Mediterranean island. It wasn’t hot swimming weather, but it was sunny and warm enough to be outside all day.
I found a deal on flights that left Friday afternoon and came back Sunday afternoon, for about $50 round trip. That’s all I need. It was even cheaper than my Kartalkaya trip.
Getting there early in the afternoon my plan was to drive out along the northeastern Karpaz Peninsula until either I got tired of driving, saw a town I wanted to stop at, or it started to get dark. I had so much fun driving that I realized the first criteria for finding a hotel was not applicable. After dealing
The southern coast of the Karpaz Peninsula is lined with beautiful sand beaches, separated by rocky outcroppings. I had the whole place to myself.
with Istanbul transportation all winter, it was freeing to be able to choose when and where I went. Plus, the roads were all but deserted, little two-lane country roads through spectacular landscapes.
Since getting tired of driving was out of the question, I started looking for a town so cute I couldn’t pass it up. Most of the road went along the coast and as I got farther out on the peninsula the towns were increasingly quaint and picturesque.
I finally had to stop after the town of Dipkarpaz. On the map it’s the last town, almost to the end of the peninsula. I parked in the central square and talked with a couple of elderly gentlemen who were out enjoying the last rays of the afternoon sun. They asked if I wanted dinner or a hotel. I needed both. Dipkarpaz is in the center of the peninsula and quaint, but not on the beach. They directed me out of town and said 3 kilometers farther on there was a string of hotels on the beach, which would also serve dinner. The road went along the southern coastline and I stopped at the first hotel I came to:
Driving British Style
This really was so much fun!
The Blue Sea Hotel. It was on a small bluff, with a little marina on one side and a beach on the other. There were no cars in the parking lot, but the sign said Open.
As I pulled up a gentleman came outside and I asked if the hotel was really open. He said sure, but didn’t sound too convinced. Inside it was silent and deserted but he said he could cook dinner, that he would give me a winter discount and that I would have my pick of rooms. I had an excellent grilled sea bass that he cooked on coals in the fireplace inside the dining hall. The ceiling was hung with fishing nets and the whole place was covered with marine decorations. It was like a hunting lodge, but for fishing.
I picked a room with big windows overlooking the harbor and woke up to bright sun, a sparkling sea and fishermen rigging their boats on the dock below, ready for a day of work.
After a delicious breakfast I set off driving farther towards the end of the peninsula. Just past the Blue Sea Hotel were the Golden Sands beaches where sea
There was only one road out along the peninsula. It wound through little valleys, went along the coast and was generally deserted. I stopped the car in the middle of the road several times to take pictures. Nobody was there to mind.
turtles come in the summer to lay eggs. In August, the beaches are closed at night to protect the newly hatched baby turtles from human feet. In early March there are no turtles, or human feet. My footprints were the only ones I saw all day. I stopped to park at other hotels along the coast for beach access. Everybody was welcoming, telling me to park wherever I wanted and invited me to walk through their hotels to the beach.
It seemed to be construction season as each hotel was in the process of remodeling and adding rooms or beach bungalows. They offered me tea and business cards with their website addresses, saying I should come back in mid to late June, when the sea turtles first arrive, but before the real heat of summer sets in during August.
After getting my fill of walking on the beach and climbing along the rocks, I got back in the car, intent on getting out to the very end of the peninsula. By this point I felt completely comfortable with driving. From the start, driving on the left wasn’t as weird as I thought it would be, and neither was
Apostolos Andreas Monastery
If you are interested in the history of the beginnings of Christianity this is a must see.
having the steering wheel on the right. I was relieved that the pedals for my feet were in the same order: gas on the right, break in the middle and clutch on the left. It was hard enough to train my left hand to shift. It might have been disastrous if I had had to train my left foot to do the gas and break. The gears were in the same order that I’m used to, with first gear on the left and fifth on the right. What was hard was getting used to pushing away from me for first gear and pulling in towards my knee for fifth. Actually, the hardest part of all was shifting with my left hand. It felt completely unnatural at first. Several times on Friday, my right hand hit the window when I wanted to shift. It would take me a second to realize I had to put my right hand back on the steering wheel, find the shifter with my left and remember to pull towards me to shift up. By then my foot had the clutch in so long that I had lost my speed and didn’t need to shift up anymore.
Do not feed the wildlife!
The monastery cats and donkeys were not at all shy of people or cars.
But that was Friday, and by Saturday I had the hang of it. A few kilometers after the Golden Sands I came to the Apostolos Andreas Monastery. Like everything I had seen so far, it was quiet and almost deserted. According to my guidebook “The monastery is found at the very tip of the Karpaz Peninsula, on Cape Zafer. Apostolos Andreas, who originally was a follower of St. John the Baptist, was called for by Jesus Christ to spread Christianity. As he was the first man who was called for becoming a priest, he also received the title of ‘O Protoklitos’ which means ‘The First One to Have Been Called.’ This monastery is accepted to be sacred by both Turkish and Greek Cypriots.”
There were a few caretakers in the monastery and a few people outside with tables of things for tourists to buy. I bought some local almonds and hazelnuts to snack on and ordered a cup of tea. I had barely sat down with the tea when three busses pulled up and out poured a swarm of tourists well past retirement age. They made a beeline for the tables of tourist kitsch as if it was
This was so different from any other wildlife protection area I've ever visited.
a race. I had thought the piles of bright plastic water guns and kids toys would be sitting there until June, but that was what caught their eyes first. I was glad I had a cup of tea as an excuse to sit back and watch them. I assumed that they were from the Greek side of the island since they were asking prices in English and what I took to be Greek. At any rate, it wasn’t Turkish. Listening to them, some of the tourists were clearly British, but the majority seemed to be elderly Greek women. They picked over the toys and plastic serving trays with pictures of the monastery printed on them, then moved on to the tables of locally crocheted table cloths and pillow cases. Almost everybody bought something, then made a cursory visit inside the monastery before clustering around the busses taking pictures of the donkeys hanging out in the parking lot, surrounded by herds of cats. I enjoyed every minute of the spectacle.
After they left I braved the cats, who were still milling around in the parking lot, begging and looking pitiful. They were cute, but I didn’t have anything to give
The donkeys in the wildlife preserve were much more skittish than the ones at the monastery.
them and I certainly wasn’t going to take one with me. The donkeys were a bit more of a challenge. I thought once I got in the car with the windows up and the engine on they would back up. No such luck. They surrounded me and one chewed on the edge of the door. I wanted to take a picture of the huge teeth and tongue pressed up against the window, but was actually afraid he might break the glass and backed up as slowly as I could, also afraid of squishing a cat or bumping into another donkey.
The asphalt ended at a cattle guard with the gate proclaiming that I was entering the Wild Donkey Protection Area. I don’t know how long livestock has to be out on it’s own to get it’s own wildlife preserve, but I’m fairly certain donkeys will never be listed as an endangered species.
The rest of the road out to the end of the peninsula was a mostly well maintained dirt road. Besides the rocky bits, and a few places with giant puddles the width of the road, it was in better shape than most dirt roads in Idaho.
Turkish Northern Cyprus
On the bluff above the peninsula's point they're flying the Turkish flag (left) along with the Northern Cypriot flag (right). This is a political issue so complicated that I'm not going to even try explain.
The car rental company didn’t have my credit card number, and I had paid in cash, so I figured even if there was a little wear and tear on the Aveo it wouldn't cost me any extra. I had actually bargained down the price and paid with the British pounds that were left over from my trip to London.
I walked out to the end of the peninsula, took a few pictures then headed back towards Dipkarpaz. The town was deserted, but when I walked into the grocery store to buy a bottle of water a guy came running from a nearby house to take my money. I asked him if there was a restaurant open and he led me across the street, gave me a menu then went back to the house and returned with a woman who told me she could cook anything on the menu, but that the Adana durum and pide were her specialties. I went for the pide, which is like a canoe shaped pizza, with minced meat in the tomato sauce.
While I was waiting the guy came back followed by a group of UN peacekeepers. They were Slovakian and told me
The Karpaz Peninsula
Looking east, towards Syria, with the Mediterranean on both sides.
that they were responsible for the eastern third of the buffer zone between Turkish North Cyprus and Greek Cyprus. I read about the history of Cyprus in “A Traveller’s History of Cyprus” by Timothy Boatswain, so I was familiar with the idea of the buffer zone. Currently, a team of Slovakian and Hungarian soldiers were working the eastern portion. They rotate with other Eastern European countries, but the British are always responsible for the middle third of the “Green Line,” which runs right through the city of Nicosia, called Lefkosa by the Turks. The western third is maintained by South American troops, currently a mixture of Argentines and Chileans. Everything is calm now, but that’s a recent development. The UN peacekeepers have only been there since 2001. The violence mostly ended in the 70s, but political confrontation has continued. Since the 90s there have been a series of diplomatic solutions proposed and rejected by both the Turkish north and Greek majority. It’s a very complex issue that I am not in any position to tackle in this blog. If you’re interested I recommend Boatswain’s book as a starting point for further research.
Sunday I had a leisurely morning, then
Ayios Thrysos Church
Cyprus is dotted with ancient churches and other archeological finds. This 15th century church is built next to a much older Byzantine church.
drove back to the Ercan airport, north of Lefkosa, which only took an hour and a half. It’s a small island, but I only explored a tiny part of it. If went back in mid to late June I would go to the Golden Sands beaches to see the sea turtles. At any other point in the year I would probably want to check out the Greek side of the island. Apparently there are mountains high enough that it snows. I had no idea it would be possible to ski Cyprus!
It was a fun weekend and I would definitely go back if the opportunity arose.
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