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Political Cyprus

Cyprus - Nicosia & Famagusta

semi-overcast 20 °C
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Although the first day going to Kourion was busy, it was the second day that was the real exploration day of the holiday.

Setting my alarm for 6:20am (despite it being a holiday) I got up and ready, and then went up for breakfast as soon as it opened. Eating as fast as I can, coming back down to grab my bits, I then legged it through the McDonalds next door to the bus stop to grab the 8am bus to Nicosia. Luckily I had enough time to spare, as after arriving at the bus stop I found that for the second day running, the stop had moved around the corner. Nevertheless I made it, and just over an hour later I had arrived in the Cypriot capital of Nicosia.

Nicosia is the last divided capital city in the world. The southern side being the Greek Cypriot side, whilst the north side is the Turkish Cypriot side. Closed until 2008, it is now possible to cross in the city centre and visit both halves.

Where North meets South

Where North meets South

I started by city exploration by walking along the edge of the UN controlled buffer zone between the two sides, walking along the only part where both sides meet - the Roccas Bastion, where I noticed I was being watched from the north side, and I then walked along the boundary line seeing the entrance to the UN headquarters, as well as a watchtower, reminiscent of pictures I had seen of Cold War Berlin.

UN Buffer Zone

UN Buffer Zone


Ledras Street

Ledras Street

Heading back towards the centre, I walked along the city walls on the south side, before heading through the winding streets towards Ledras Street - the city's main shopping and pedestrianised street. Heading up the Shacolas Tower I was instantly given views over the whole city and beyond, particularly at the northern side, and in the Kyrenian mountains the large Northern Cypriot flag carved into it. This flag is 450x200 metres in size, and despite being located 12km away, is clearly visible from the capital.

The TRNC flag

The TRNC flag


Views of the North

Views of the North

After taking a view over into the north side, it was now time for me to enter it, and walking back down the very westernised Ledras street, with it's posh shops and very European feel, it was not long before I made it to the border crossing. Handing in my passport to be checked I then walked the short distance through the UN buffer zone and reached the north side. Almost immediately the difference between them becomes clear. Not only do the languages and currencies change, but the whole feel of the area. This was not just a different land (my 60th, incidentally), but a different world. The streets are windy, shops bursting with products, and secular Islamic culture beaming from every angle.

Northern side

Northern side


Inside the converted mosque

Inside the converted mosque

Taking a walk around the, in my opinion, far more interesting side, I took a look inside the mosque, the bazaar, and the caravansarai.

Büyük Han

Büyük Han

Having explored the centre of the city, I continued north, walking towards the Kyrenia gate and the Whirling Dervish museum before making my way to the bus station.

Whirling Dervish Museum

Whirling Dervish Museum

After working out how, I purchased my ticket for Famagusta, and once again hit culture shock getting on the bus. Whilst in the south the intercity buses are spacious coaches, in the north they are minivans, that when the seats are full, pull down expandable seats appear in the middle that block in everyone behind! Thankfully I was staying until the end so didn't have to ask for people to get up!

An hour later, and after driving past a huge mosque in construction, I arrived in Famagusta, on the eastern coast, just north of the UN buffer zone at Dhekelia. The city was historically one of the most important in the region, with it's port being the closest to the Middle East. Arriving just outside the city walls, I walked past the huge dilapidated city walls through the Land Gate, and into the city centre, walking past historical ruins before arriving at one of the most peculiar sights in the world - a former Gothic Cathedral, with its top blown off, and a minaret added to the side converted now into a mosque!

Former cathedral

Former cathedral

Walking towards the city walls again, I climbed up the stairs to get a view of the port on the other side, before walking back towards the Canbulat Gate, and the memorial to the civil war.

Varosha

Varosha

Famagusta was in the 60s one of the world's top resorts, with the majority of people staying in the tourist resort of Varosha. Located just to the south of the city centre, and mostly populated by Greek Cypriots, when the island became split, the northern side, who now controlled Varosha closed it off from the world, creating a ghost resort falling apart and stuck in 1974. One of the most peculiar things about this resort, is the fact that a handful of hotels and restaurants on the boundary of the resort remain open, but to get to them means travelling along a single coastal road from the city centre, that on both sides contain military buildings where photos are not allowed. Therefore these hotels just north of Varosha are effectively closed off from the rest of Famagusta with just the beach and sea for company. Not my ideal holiday destination, but certainly an interesting experience. Walking back towards the city centre along the cracked roads it was easy to see how this would have been a lovely resort many years ago, but due to a lack of investment has since become dilapidated and shabby.

Varosha

Varosha

Having now seen all I had wanted in the north, it was time to make my return to Nicosia, and eventually Larnaca. Having arrived back in good time in the capital I quickly hurried through the city centre to catch my bus, leaving from a very eastern world straight into western in a matter of a minute or so. An experience previously only witnessed in Sarajevo.

Despite spending over four hours on buses, travelling 140 miles, and getting back to Larnaca almost 10 hours after leaving, it was a brilliant, if tiring day. So much history and culture to see that is highly recommended.

Luckily my final full day was going to be my 'relaxed' day, and I could at last have a lie in!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Cyprus Tagged mosque beach religion history island cathedral border war islam Comments (0)

Costa Dubrovnik

#BalkanBants - Dubrovnik

sunny 32 °C
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Arriving in Dubrovnik in the evening was a bit of a culture shock. After travelling through standard cities we had suddenly arrived in a tourist hotspot. As we got on the bus into the old city, the first people we saw were drunken, sunburnt Brits.

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik

After a busy few days through Bosnia it was quite a relief to be spending two whole days in Dubrovnik giving us chance to get settled, have a lie in, and do a bit of washing, and luckily for us we were staying the Old City itself, meaning we were super close to all the attractions, and were able to pop back during the day to recover from the heat - and despite being crazily busier on the main street, the side streets were quiet enough for us not to be disturbed, and achieve a good old rest.

On the Stradun

On the Stradun

On the first day we explored the Old City, walking along the Stradun, and around the Harbour, before having our beach afternoon taking a dip in the sea overlooking the Old City. Unfortunately so hot was the weather that after just a little bit of time I was absolutely exhausted and needed to go back for an afternoon nap.

Dubrovnik Beach

Dubrovnik Beach


Old City from Mt. Srđ

Old City from Mt. Srđ

After recovering we ventured down to the aquarium before eating and then going up Mt. Srđ for sunset, to witness the great views of the city in both day and night.

Old City by night

Old City by night

Coming back down and taking a walk around the city lit up at night, we headed back to the apartment for the night, and the following morning we took a walk around the city walls.

Rector's Palace

Rector's Palace

After an ice cream to cool off, we went for a walk around the Lovrijenac fortress before coming back to the harbour to take a boat tour around Lokrum island.

Lovrijenac from the boat

Lovrijenac from the boat

After an evening enjoying the sunset with a few drinks on the rocks outside the city walls, our short busy-yet-restful stop was over and the next morning we were headed just down the coast to Kotor in Montenegro for more stunning views.

Dubrovnik was very pretty however it was a bit tainted by the huge masses of tourists that meant the views were not as enjoyable as they could be. This was as near as I had come to a holiday resort in a long time and hopefully it will be the last for a while too.....

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Croatia Tagged beach history mountain city tourists balkanbants Comments (0)

Dead Sea

Holy Land - Dead Sea

sunny 25 °C
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The second part of my trip to the Holy Land took me outside of Jerusalem to explore the rest of the country. Leaving Jerusalem as another terrorist incident occurred, I boarded my bus that drove eastwards towards the Dead Sea.

Whilst Jerusalem and the area around was very hilly, eventually you get to a huge valley, marking the border with Jordan, which at the bottom is the Dead Sea. As you then wind down the hill side there are some plaques denoting the elevation. And it is not long before you reach the "0m - Sea Level" sign. Fair enough, except when you look out to your left, you see the valley continues even further. Then it goes down "-200m", and you're still barely half of the way down.

Ein Bokek

Ein Bokek

Passing by the Masada, I eventually arrived at the spa resort of Ein Bokek, lying 426 metres below the sea level, the lowest dry point on the planet. It is a scary thought that you are so low, but luckily the nearest sea is around a three hour drive away, and I wasn't there for too long.

Dead Sea

Dead Sea

Getting out in a lovely 27˚C, I took a short walk to the public beach, and then took a dip in the Dead Sea itself. The feeling is quite sensational, as even in my tiny frame you start to float immediately, and in any position you fancy - arms spread out, arms crossed on your chest, arms crossed behind your chest. Swimming backstroke there is a beautiful view whichever side you lay. On one side you look at the resort town itself with the large beach front hotels with their palm trees and a backdrop of the stunning mountains, whilst on the other side you the Jordanian mountains reflecting in the very water you are lying.

The Beach & Resort

The Beach & Resort

After having a float for around an hour, I then took a shower, got back changed and took a little walk to the Petra Shopping Centre - the lowest place to shop in the world, before waiting at the bus stop for my onward bus to Eilat.

The Lowest Place to Shop in the World!

The Lowest Place to Shop in the World!

Eilat is the southernmost city in Israel and is separated from the rest of the country by the huge Negev desert. From Ein Bokek at the edge of the Negev it took around three hours of almost emptiness to reach the resort on the Red Sea.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Israel Tagged sea beach relax holyland Comments (0)

Flanders For Free


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One of the highlights of the summer occurred when I took a day trip, along with Saman, Matt and Jenna over the channel to Flanders. And best of all....the ferry was free! Having underwhelming service on the Christmas Ferry out to Lille back in December, we complained and were awarded free, unrestricted ferry tickets for 2014.

The day trip turned into a weekend for me, as I left work straight to London, staying at Matt's on Friday night before the early start on Saturday. Leaving at 5:30am we blasted out the #choons as we made our way down to Dover. As the weekend was the first day of the summer holidays it was absolutely packed, and we ended up spending the whole journey across the channel in the restaurant queuing for breakfast.

After this energy boost, we got back in the car, entertaining the other passengers with our singing and dancing as we entered the French roads, making our way over to the Belgian border, and our first city of the day - Ypres. Being Kevin I had sussed out the sights, prices, and car parking arrangements for us all, and we headed straight to the centre of town before the Market closed down. After this we headed over to the Menin Gate, the commemorative arch to Commonwealth soldiers without graves during the First World War.

Menin Gate

Menin Gate

Whilst there, and going up the stairs to the elevated gardens we found Tony Robinson from Time Team doing filming for a TV show! So we stayed around for a while to watch him fluff his lines before heading back down for a photo shot of us by the arch, before heading back round the City Moat, and back into the centre for Waffles and finally to visit a Commonwealth cemetery, which was immaculate.

Commonwealth Cemetery

Commonwealth Cemetery

Leaving Ypres, we headed to the south to a restored trench system known as "Bayernwald". After racing to the local village to get tickets before closing we entered the site, and had a wander inside them to get a feel for how soldiers had to spend their time, including seeing some of the dugouts where soldiers would have slept.

Bayernwald

Bayernwald

After the morning of history in Belgium, we headed back into France, towards Dunkirk for a bit of beach relaxation. Whilst the weather wasn't the sunniest, it was still a warm day and the beach in Dunkirk was lovely and sandy.

Beach Relaxation

Beach Relaxation

After a few games we hired a quadracycle and caused carnage along the promenade, screaming, shouting, driving on the 'wrong' side of the road, and getting clothing caught in the thing!

Reconstructed image of the bike

Reconstructed image of the bike

The last thing before heading home was a 'lovely' French meal, where we were reacquainted with the stinky cheese of 6 months ago. All I can say is that the food wasn't great.....

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Belgium Tagged beach history friends war Comments (0)

Miami Beach

RTW - Miami

overcast 25 °C
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Having briefly visited Miami (well, the airport) ten days previously, I returned to the the city after flying back over the beautiful Caribbean.

Miami Beach

Miami Beach

This time having a much longer transfer, after getting through the rudest immigration department I have <u>ever</u> had the misfortune of dealing with, and having to re-check-in my luggage I went into the city itself. There wasn't an awful lot to see other than Miami Beach and the downtown areas - the novelty of these had probably worn off by the better examples in the Caribbean itself. However it was interesting to see the famous city, and it gave me something to do whilst I waited in the airport to board my flight to New York.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in USA Tagged beach rtw Comments (0)

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