OKAY, so before I tell you my CYPRUS story there is a very important piece of information you need to know about the little island to the South of Turkey and to the SE of the mainland.
FACT: Turkey invaded Cyprus on Saturday, 20 July 1974. Heavily armed troops landed shortly before dawn on the northern coast meeting resistance from Greek and Greek Cypriot forces. The operation, codenamed “Operation Atilla”, is known in the North as ‘the 1974 Peace Operation’.
The Turks ended their invasion successful taking over 3% of Cyprus in the North while approx. (
5,000<– Wikipedia is wrong) 200,000 Greek residents fled to the South. Today there is a barrier between the North that the Turks own and the South where the Greeks live. We were not allowed to travel to the North of the island while I was visiting, but I did get to go on two tours which were fun and awesome!
DAY 1- JEEP SAFARI TOUR
This tour was definitely the better of the two and at first I didn’t really know what to expect, but it was a glorious day and I had the 0300-0800 quarter deck watch the night prior, so I dozed in the jeep on the way to our first location which was about an hour and a half from the ship. We were picked up early around 0800, so I had to scurry to get ready when I was relieved from watch and then hurry to the pier because the jeep was already there waiting for us. Our tour guide/driver’s name was Uli and he was a local Cyprus guy without a care in the world. There were 8 people signed up for the tour but only 6 ended up going which was a perfect size and not too crowded. We got in the jeep, exchanged names with the driver and then we were off zipping along the highway towards the traditional style villages and ultimately headed for the top of Mount Olympus. There is a Mount Olympus in Cyprus and in Greece which does raise a question as to which one is the real one?!
FUN FACT: The funniest thing is that everyone’s water heater is on the roof of their house with solar panels because it’s always so sunny this allows them to get free hot water, and it was very funny seeing all of the houses with water tanks on the roof. Ha!
After napping I awoke and we were at a house in the hills that sold silver and hand sewn lace. They gave us wine and explained some things to us about the lace and the silver and then let us look around. I ended up buying a small piece of the lace to frame, because it was very pretty. Then we were off again and at this point we started our tour of all of the villages on the mountainside. The first one we drove through specialized in honey so they solely work on honey combs with bees to produce the honey which they supply to the island and elsewhere. The second town specialized in oranges. Uli stopped off to the side of the road and allowed us to pick some from a tree and they were extremely juicy and just a perfect treat for the drive. L and I stuffed about 4 each into our bags. We also stopped to look at a Carob tree which is what they use to make chocolate on the island, I tasted the plant, it wasn’t bad but a little dry because they were out of season.
The next town grew all of the grapes to make the wine, and the last town where we actually did stop for a drink specialized in olive oil. Here we bought beers (well I did at least) and sat under the shade of a grape-vine to drink and eat snacks and then we walked down the road a little ways and took pictures of a greek orthodox church that was very old and beautiful in its own way. I enjoyed myself thoroughly during this stop, it was very relaxing. Afterward, we headed up the mountain, and the pressure in my head intensified as we ascended. I tried really hard to pop my ears but since air comes out my eyes, it didn’t work very well. ha!
About 3/4 of the way up the mountain we stopped at some shops and I bought some homemade wine, rice cheese cracker snacks, and pistachios! All of these snacks were very good and I still have them to enjoy on the ship (well, except for the wine). We then went the rest of the way to the top of the mountain and what a gorgeous sight we beheld. The Northern area of the island was taken over by Turkish rule a few years back and you could see their side of the island that we weren’t allowed to visit. They consider themselves a nation but no one recognizes them as such except for Turkey. Odd. We could see down along the coast and the funny thing is there were ski slopes at the top of the mountain because in the winter months there are around 3 meters of snow at the top of the mountain even though the beaches stay very hot year round. Uli said that most of the Cyprus people go to the top of the mountain for skiing in the morning and then down to the beaches for wind surfing in the afternoon. All of the trees at the top of the mountain are bent from holding the snow and there are little villages established for summer homes so that Cyprus people can escape the hot summers and climb the mountain to the cooler areas.
I found some volcanic rock which I analyzed with an expert eye, Not, and then we headed down for lunch. We stopped at a magnificent place and ate in a very open breezy restaurant that served a 6 coarse meal. We were famished and so of course we ate it all, I now agree that the mediterranean food is VERY VERY good. I had humus and a yogurt dip for bread, then some sort of pot pie with egg-plant and potatoes, and pork, steak, french fries, plus a few other dishes which I just didn’t know exactly what they were made of. We were even given crafts of wine, which we indulged in.
Uli came and got us after the meal was over and took us to a big waterfall on the mountain. We took pictures there and stuck our feet in the water but it was freezing cold because it’s the run off from all of the snow in the winter. We bought ice cream from a vendor that was at the waterfall and enjoyed it as we got back into the jeep. We made two final stops after this. One was to a small store that a woman owns whom makes homemade jam. I bought 2 jars for toast, and then finally we went to a damn and saw a church that was very old and falling to pieces. We stopped there simply because it was a beautiful sight to see and then Uli headed back to the ship to drop us off.
L and I, the only two officer’s on the tour of 6, dropped off our bags, changed into summer dresses and headed back out to the main strip for dinner. I had this huge greek salad that was very good but I had eaten so much already that day I gave half of it away to one of the pilots on shore patrol. We then got Galata ice cream cones and L and I took a cab back to the ship because by this time I really was exhausted and it was going on 11pm. All of the cabs on the island are Mercedes for some reason and they drive like 90 mph down the streets so we were holding on for dear life, as we zoomed back. They also drive on the wrong side of the road in Cyprus, same as London. Luckily we made it safely there and I jumped into my bed and immediately passed out!
I woke up early in the morning and got ready for a 0800 departure again as usual. Today’s tour was called the Footsteps of Aphrodite. There was a big coach bus that came and picked us up so there were definitely a lot more people on this tour than the first one. We had a group made up of 3 pilots and 4 officers, then whoever else just happened to be on our bus.
Our first stop was at this area where they had roman bath ruins and also a reconstructed theater/arena. This day was also a good day for touring so we set off and started the picture-taking as soon as we got off the bus. These two places I will send pictures of, because it is very hard to explain them. Afterwards, we went and saw Aphrodite’s rock which legend has it, is where she was born. I had a few beers, and we took some really great pictures on the mountain side with the big beach and the rock in the background, and then we headed to a Greek orthodox church with ancient ruins out front. The church was in session since it was a Sunday so we stood outside and took pictures and found out that some of the ruins are centuries old.
Afterward, we went to the tomb of the kings which is a place where they had found hundreds of tombs after much excavation. Rumor has it that no real kings were buried there, but seeing the graves was eery and awesome all at the same time. I of course don’t get that freaked out since I have worked with the dead, but it was fun freaking out K and H. Haha.
For the rest of the afternoon we went to a combined place where they had the house of Dyuses, up on a hill right by our lunch spot and markets on the water. Here we saw mosaics that had been hand-made during greek times, many many many years ago, it was crazy. They were beautiful and must have taken years to make. We had lunch outside, and we laughed hysterically the whole time, it was great! I just know my stomach really hurt at the end of the meal. We also drank during lunch and then got ice cream. We really like drinking and ice cream! Then we walked along the water and did some shopping, but I really didn’t buy much here, because it was pretty crappy stuff. We went back onto the bus and headed back to the ship.
Again we changed and within minutes were heading back downtown for dinner and drinks, go figure. Haha. We stopped at a bar on the beach and drank some there and laughed again, this time two more pilots had joined the group and we had lost L and E because they decided to stay on the ship. We then ate at a Russian/Greek restaurant. I did forget to add that there are A LOT of russian’s on the island and this is a major area for the Russian mob and human trafficking, so they have three languages for everything. Greek, Russian, and English. The restaurant was right next to a Starbucks so we all immediately pulled out anything with wi-fi (my iPad) and jumped on to Skype with friends and family. I was able to talk to Dad, one of my sisters, and M. A little later on, I also was able to catch Mom who was at work.
After dinner we went to a karaoke bar which half the ship was at. It was a repeat of London with all of my guys. So of course I did what I should, bought them all a round of drinks. They tried to get me to karaoke but I politely refused and then we headed back to the ship. The bus came and it was full so I got off the bus with Heather and Kaye (my liberty buddies) because we will not get in trouble for getting back late, but I made one of the chief’s buy me a beer for waiting, which he did. Haha. We got back to the ship after midnight (that was our liberty expiration time) but all was good and we went to bed. I then woke up at 0515 the next morning for sea and anchor which was not very fun but it had to be done. We then said goodbye to Cyprus headed towards Haifa Israel.