Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Katelyn's Visit

Over the last week my girlfriend, Katelyn, came to see me and understand what this beautiful island is all about… Okay so maybe she wanted to see the sun and the beach instead of snow as well, but her being here gave me a reason to rent a car and drive to some of the more remote places here in Cyprus that I hadn’t had the opportunity to see previously. Our exploring was focused on three main parts of the island: The southwest region of Paphos, the Mesaoria plain/Nicosia, and the northeast region of the Karpas Peninsula. I’ll talk about our adventure through the pictures below.

St. Neophytos Chapel and Monastery. This chapel was founded by one of Cyprus' most famous saints who became an ascetic monk in this mountain region north of Paphos. He created a cave chapel, seen above, that still exists today that is covered in wall paintings. Above the narthex of the church there is a hole which is where St. Neophytos himself continued his ascetic ways and looked down upon the other monks who followed him.

Tomb of the Kings in Paphos. These underground tombs were the ancient burial place of the wealthy people in the kingdom of Paphos. 

St. Lazarus Cathedral in Larnaca. After Lazarus rose from again after his first death he spent many years in Cyprus before dieing (his second and final death) in Larnaca. The church's exterior has undergone a variety of obvious building phases under the church is the supposed tomb of Lazarus' final burial place.

A cafe in the center of the Buyuk Han (Great Inn during the Ottoman Period) in northern Nicosia.

Administrative building from the colonial period in northern Nicosia.

Courtyard at the Gardens of Irini in Bellapaix. This was the small BnB we stayed at over the weekend. It's run by a wonderful woman named Deidre who knew Lawrence Durrell (author of Bitter Lemons), whose famous house is just down the block.

Apostle Andreas Monastery at the very northeastern tip of the Karpas Peninsula. The church is still open to the public and is the site of a major pilgrimage spot for the Cypriot Orthodox religion despite its state of disrepair.

Church of St. Barnabas (who was martyred in Salamis). The church is now an icon museum but remains a pilgrimage destination as well.

The ancient kingdom of Salamis. Port city that connected eastern and western civilization as a major trade center in the Eastern Mediterranean.

I'm a little concerned about the condition of this very famous site. This column has obviously either been completely fabricated or reconstructed with rebar or is entirely fake.

Salamis Theater

After a short rainy period (I can't validate calling it a rainy season after the small amount of water that fell in Cyprus over the last few weeks), the flowers were in full bloom around the site of ruins.

The beautiful Kyrenia harbor with the Pentadaktylos as a backdrop

The interior of Kyrenia Castle

Byzantine chapel that was included in the construction of the castle.

On the final day as we drove back to Nicosia, we stopped at St. Hilarion Castle which was also in full bloom after the recent weeks of rain.

Having Katelyn here was a great opportunity for both of us. We got to go to the beach a fair amount when the sun allowed us and I got to explore some new sites with her. In addition, we were able to walk through the things I talk to her about on a daily basis.

Now that these trips are over, it's time to get back to work and prepare for the Fulbright Enrichment Seminar that I am presenting at in Sofia, Bulgaria on April 7th. Unfortunately, I'm learning that this adjustment is easier said than done after such an incredible two and a half weeks of family and girlfriend.

Family Trip

My most sincere apologies to those of you who have been eagerly waiting my return from travelling and playing tour guide for my family and girlfriend. I will attempt to briefly summarize the highlights for you here with some photos.

For three years I’ve repeated time and time again what an incredible experience I had on my study abroad trip through the University of Minnesota in May/June 2008. The Rachel- and Nikos-led excursion to Greece has left an indelible mark on who and where I am today… Greece was a place that I attempted to convince my parents time and time again that we must visit as a family. Finally, with me as their tour guide, they were able to see the sites that I’ve been attempting to explain from afar for years now in Greece and Cyprus.


The few nights we stayed in Athens allowed us to experience the street culture and architectural history of the bustling Greek capital. The layers of culture and history surrounded us as we walked down graffiti covered shopping streets, past sunken churches in public squares, toward the acropolis.

The Caryatids of the Erechtheum on the Acropolis
View of the Acropolis from neighboring Philopappou hill

Side street off of main commercial street (Ermou)

Changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier below the Parliament Building across the street from Syntagma Square


One of the days we took a day tour of three islands in the Saronic Gulf: Hydra, Poros, and Aegina. The hour or so that we were able to spend in each port gave us a great sense of these quintessential white washed island harbor towns. Hydra, the first stop on our tour, is famous for not allowing automobiles on the island. Distances can only be traveled on donkey.


Our next stop was the Peloponnese. We stayed in the original capital of the modern Greek state, Nafplio, which surprised us with a wonderful variety of activities for us as tourists. Some of the notable highlights are the large historic town center along the harbor, scenic views over the tile roofs from our hotel, hiking on the neighboring small peninsula, beach, an island mansion, and a massive castle for me to explore (which as you can see from the photos was my favorite part).  In addition to Nafplio, we took a number of side trips to see the cyclopean (massive masonry) construction of the ancient walls of Mycenae and Tiryns as well as the ancient theater at Epidavros.

Harbor and part of the castle in Nafplio

Red tile roofs of the town center

Executioner's House located in the center of the harbor. This building used to be used by the Venetians for defense of the harbor as they would extend chains across from the mansion to mainland on both sides to block entry.

The Palamidi. This fortification designed by the Venetians was by far my favorite part of the city. My mom and I hiked the hundreds of steps seen here up to the entrance of the fort.
What I found most fascinating about the fort is the multiple layers of defense that it has... Forts within forts

The keep for knights

Theater at Epidavros. The acoustics in this ancient theater is are so incredible that you can here a coin drop on the centerpoint of the stage from the highest edges.

The Lion's Gate at Mycenae. The size of these stones are incredible and to think that they could only have been quarried from miles away makes the site even more impressive when considering how it was constructed 3500 years ago. It's also worth mentioning that on the other side of the stone there is a sculpture of two lions (hence Lion's Gate) which is said to be the first piece of relief sculpture in western civilization.

Finally, to end the trip, I was able to show my family the country that I’ve been trying to explain to them for the past two years! After spending an entire evening exploring Nicosia we headed north to see Famagusta, Varosha, and Kantara castle. The final day we drove through the Troodos Mountains to Limassol and Paphos with a stop at Asinou church and Aphrodite’s rock (Petra tou Romiou) along the way and ended the trip with the best meze (buffet-style meal at your table) on the island at Seven St. Georges before driving to the airport.

Asinou church in the Troodos Mountains. The interior of the church has some of the best preserved frescoes (wall paintings) on the island and the exterior is the result of numerous building phases dating back to the 11th century .

One of the last things we decided to do is a small design project at the Rock of Aphrodite (where she supposedly rose from the sea in the wake of her father Uranus' testicles). Having noticed that the three major colors of rocks on the beach were red, white, and blue we decided to make an American flag. I call the piece "Aphrodite Bless America".

To sum it all up, having my family see exactly what I've been exploring here for the last six months (I've been talking about it for much longer) was incredible and I'm so glad that they made the trip over. I ran them ragged with all the walking we did, but this is a trip none of us will ever forget.

If you want to see more images check out my Flickr page or see this Facebook album

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Off to Greece

Dear Readers,

Over the next week and a half you will undoubtedly not hear from me as my family and  I travel to Greece and return to Cyprus together to see the sites. I will post some pictures of our trip when I get a chance.

Our itinerary includes:

  • Athens
  • Boat trip of the Saronic Islands (Poros, Aegina, Hydra)
  • Nafplion (with stops along the way)
  • Cyprus

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Photo of the Day - "Moderno Mini"

I found this shiny Mini Cooper not far from its owner (out of the shot to the left in this photo) and complimented him on his ride. I'm pretty sure it wasn't intentional, but I liked the connection between the classic mini body style and the faded Moderno shoes sign above. It is worth noting that despite the faded sign, the shoe store is still open for business most week days... Although it's selection does not seem to be all that modern.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Photos of the Day - "Young Cyclist"

This young man begged for his photo to be taken near the demonstrations mentioned below in northern Nicosia. I attempted to applaud him on his bike riding but I'm sure it was not understood.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Demonstration in North Nicosia

As a close neighbor to many of the uprisings and regime changes, it was shocking to me how little the issues in the region were being discussed. It felt for a while as if I was a world away from the demonstrations, protests, and fighting that have overcome North Africa and the Middle East rather than an hour flight from Cairo.

However, over the past week or two, the walls of Nicosia have begun to tell a different story. Near the coffee shops and main commercial street (Ledra Street) in the Old City, supportive slogans have begun to crop up on plastered walls.

I'm a big fan of the V for Vendetta/Pharaoh stencil in this one.

Then yesterday the reality of demonstration struck Nicosia. For the second time in the last month, Turkish Cypriots gathered around Kyrenia Gate at the north of the circular city walls in numbers unprecedented for the shrinking community. The protest was conducted in response to a number of growing Turkish Cypriot fears including austerity measures planned by Turkey, the massive Turkish military presence on the island, the large population of Turkish settlers in Cyprus, and their wish for self-determination and/or a resolution to the Cyprus Problem. 

Many political parties were represented at the rally in large numbers 

I was mistaken for media personnel and had the opportunity to capture the demonstration from atop an apartment building in the Old City.

Notice how the city walls and gate were used as a seating platform in and around Kyrenia Gate.

Anti-Turkish immigrant, and self-determination signs.

Almost 30,000 people are said to have joined the demonstration which included many speakers and a live band. I was thoroughly impressed with the volume that the protest was able to reach and the passion that the Turkish Cypriots brought to the rally. I hope Ankara could hear Nicosia today.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Flickr Feed/Glossary

To those of you who simply can't get enough of my view of the Cypriot landscape and/or want to see more of my travel photography, please stop by my Flickr page. Although this site will remain my blog and I will continue to post photos on here, the Flickr allows me to upload an unlimited quantity of photos and share them with a larger audience.

Also please note that I've added some new features to my blog. First, is a  slideshow that scrolls through my Flickr along the right side of the page. If you click on the pictures a new tab will open to my Flickr photostream. Then, I've also added a glossary of terms that I use often. Please don't hesitate to let me know of other terms you would like for me to define.

Road Trip - "Cape Kormakitis: A Diverse Landscape"

This Sunday’s road trip ended up proving the wealth of natural beauty that Cyprus has to offer. Our goal was to make it to the northwestern tip of the island, called Cape Kormakitis. We headed north of the Buffer Zone from Nicosia in the direction of the massive Turkish/”Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” land flags toward Kyrenia. On our way we found acre after acre of rolling hills, the valleys of which were being farmed.

After driving down the coastal road along the north edge of the island, we made a stop in the lush city of Lapta in the foothills of the Pentadaktylos Mountains, where we again had an opportunity to photograph goats.

The sea was a wonderful shade of blue on this clear day, so we stopped in “Horseshoe Bay” for lunch and some backgammon.

For the final few kilometers to the cape we drove along a dirt road that was lined with fields of yellow flowers.

Not far past these fields we found two abandoned buildings that had an eerie presence overlooking the sea. Both buildings were abandoned and empty so we spent some time filming a pilot episode for a future reality tv show that combines features of Man vs. Wild and Locked Up Abroad.

At the northwest tip of the island there is a small islet that would have been easily reachable if the water was warmer and the weather had not turned windy and rainy. However, this is another area on the island where the beach is not a very pleasant area to sit and enjoy. The sea-worn rocks that make up the shore are extremely jagged as you can see below.