A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about history

Political Cyprus

Cyprus - Nicosia & Famagusta

semi-overcast 20 °C
View Cyprus on kmmk17's travel map.


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)

Ancient Cyprus

Cyprus - Limassol

semi-overcast 20 °C
View Cyprus on kmmk17's travel map.


For the 11th and last holiday of the year I went to Cyprus to explore the history, politics and tourism of the Mediterranean island.

Unfortunately as this was now the winter season, I was limited to a twice-weekly Monarch service from Luton to Larnaca - where I wanted to base myself, and this is where I realised just how bad a service this airline provides now. They clearly are on the back foot in terms of proving a no frills service - with expensive seat selection, no food or entertainment, and old planes (with bulky seats) squashed together so much that half the plane probably ended up with DVT by the time they arrived on the island.

Although I had to pay £10 to make sure I had a window seat (so at least for the 5 hours I would have something to lean on), it ended up being quite fortunate, as the two people next to me moved to spare seats at the back of the plane meaning I therefore had the whole row to myself - possibly worth the £10 charge?

Electronic Infobox

Electronic Infobox

After the disappointing flight, however, my room at the hotel was amazing! Being super modern, there was a digital box outside the room showing the room number and the message to leave - instead of a paper hanger on the door requesting not to be disturbed, or to have the room made up, a touch pad inside lit up the desired notification on the box outside. There was also a speaker in the bathroom, connected to the TV, so you could still listen whilst showering, LED lighting around the ceiling, and a balcony with a sea view. The most awesome hotel I'd stayed in in a long time!

Nightclub style room

Nightclub style room


Amongst the ruins

Amongst the ruins

After waking up the next day for breakfast with a sea view, I caught the bus to Limassol, where after taking a quick look at the castle and promenade, transferred to another bus ending up at the historic site of Kourion, located just within the Akrotiri base. This contained a restored amphitheatre facing the sea, as well as many ruins that could be walked amongst and some historical mosaics.

Mosaics

Mosaics


Kourion Amphitheatre

Kourion Amphitheatre

As there were only a few buses on Sundays I had to watch my timings to make sure I didn't get stuck in the middle of nowhere, but as I was on time I had an extra ten minutes before needing to make my way to the bus. I therefore decided to go back to the amphitheatre to take some more photos, and decided it might look good to take a photo of myself on the other side of the ring. However as the time only had ten seconds and it was quite a large structure, I had to run as fast as I could around it to the spot I had selected with just enough time to turn around and pose. After waiting for other people to clear the area I needed, I made it to the right spot on time as the other tourists watched in bemusement at what I was doing. Nevertheless it made a nice photo!

Running around the amphitheatre

Running around the amphitheatre

Despite being two hours away by bus from Larnaca, it was definitely worth visiting, and gave me the historical basis to begin my journey in Cyprus.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Cyprus Tagged history ruins ancient modern Comments (0)

"Forget Skopje 2014, it's all about Skopje 2015"

#BalkanBants - Skopje

sunny 39 °C
View #BalkanBants on kmmk17's travel map.


After some busy days hopping through Greater Albania, Johan and I had arrived for a bit more of a relaxed time in Skopje. Although not being a particularly big city, we gave ourselves two nights here so that we could catch up on some rest before the conclusion of the trip.

Arriving in Skopje and getting to our apartment was a bit of a nightmare due to the lack of communication with our host - although costing just £32 for two nights for a two room apartment we shouldn't complain too much. After getting settled in a slightly different, and larger apartment due to the original requested one having problems with the aircon in the 40C heat, we made our way into the city centre and the first experiences of the Skopje 2014 project became clear.

I had read about the Skopje 2014 project many years previously, and I had found it so fascinating that I had even included it in my exams at University. For those of you who don't know - it's a project by the government of Macedonia to build new Neo-Classical buildings and statues in the city centre dedicated to the history of the Kingdom of Macedonia, with the justification that after the earthquake in 1963 and the Communist rule of the country for decades, Skopje is lacking its historical architecture that other countries hold.

However it is not just the huge cost in a relatively poor and underdeveloped country that has divided opinion, but because the city itself is on the very edges of the Macedonian region (and therefore not really in the heart of the ancient Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great, as the project would have you believe), much of what is being built never even existed in the city to start with! Well, you can't beat a good bit of simulacra on a Tuesday!

It's very difficult to explain how this all comes across. I guess the closest thing it's similar to is a theme park. However as this is a city with real life continuing around it all feels very odd and out of place.

Fallen Heroes of Macedonia

Fallen Heroes of Macedonia

The first place we reached was the park opposite the parliament building, which was absolutely littered with statues related to the "Defenders of Macedonia" and the "Fallen Heroes of Macedonia" amongst others, literally metres from each other.

Porta Macedonia

Porta Macedonia

Just a short walk away is the huge Porta Macedonia, a big Arc de Triomphe type gate that cost €4.4m to build and commemorates the struggle for Macedonian independence. This opens up the the pedestrianised central area with the huge "Warrior on a Horse" (and quite obviously Alexander the Great) statue that symbolises the project.

Warrior On A Horse

Warrior On A Horse

As with Albania and Kosovo, dedications to Mother Teresa are everywhere. Despite being an ethnic Albanian of Kosovan origin, she was actually born in Skopje, and therefore there is a memorial house to her located on the site of the church in which she was baptised, containing memorabilia and items from her private collection.

Mother Teresa House

Mother Teresa House

Heading back towards Macedonia Square, we crossed over the Vardar River and took a quick look inside the Museum of Archaeology, which had clearly been placed in front of the existing riverside building making it look very imposing over the city.

Macedonia Square

Macedonia Square

One of the bridges over the Vardar

One of the bridges over the Vardar

We then crossed over some of the newer bridges, each of which very grand looking with lights and statues covering the sides, before taking a quick look in the old Ottoman Bazaar area. On the walk back we again passed the river, and noticed some of the metal framed ships being built on the river to be opened as cafés and restaurants. Another perfect example of just how fake this whole project was.

Old Bazaar

Old Bazaar

Going back to the apartment to eat we relaxed as well as cooled down from the high temperatures of the city. However being many days into the trip we had acclimatised quite well - so much so that with the air con being set to 25C, I started getting cold and ended up turning it off and putting a jacket on!

As sunset approached we headed back into the city centre to view it illuminated, again proving us with impressive views, and ended up sitting in a bar on the riverside, opposite the impressive illuminated new buildings, having a few drinks.

Museum of Archaeology by night

Museum of Archaeology by night


View from Mt. Vodno

View from Mt. Vodno

The next morning, after failing to sort out our apartment moving we headed for the cable car to take us to the top of Mount Vodno for views over the city and surrounding area. Heading back down we stopped off at the Museum of Skopje which had some excellent exhibits on the 1963 earthquake, before crossing the river and heading into the bazaar area. After stopping for a bite to eat we headed up to the Kale Fortress for views over the city, where the heat and dryness had killed all the grass, before heading back down and to our apartment for our last night in the apartment and the former Yugoslavia.

Kale Fortress

Kale Fortress

Skopje was a very interesting place to visit as the Skopje 2014 project has completely changed the city with its renovation, even if it is completely out of place and fake. With the project not yet completed, and many plans still to be realised it may be a really interesting place to visit in a few years time. There are also some beautiful scenic places like the Matka Canyon that we didn't visit due to the heat, so this is one city that I'm not yet done with!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Macedonia Tagged statues hills history fort yugoslavia themepark fake simulacra balkanbants Comments (0)

Magnificent Montenegro

#BalkanBants - Kotor

sunny 33 °C
View #BalkanBants on kmmk17's travel map.


After a couple of days in Croatia, Johan and I continued our Balkan Tour just down the coast in Montenegro. Although just 37 miles to the south, as the whole of the Bay of Kotor was essentially fjords, it actually took 2 hours to travel the 60 miles by road. Although as there were stunning views of the bay, this wasn't really a problem.

View from the window

View from the window

After arriving in Kotor and settling into our apartment with stunning views overlooking the bay, we went to explore the Old City, taking a look inside the Cat Museum, the churches, and admiring the stunning coastal views of the nearby mountains.

Views over the Bay

Views over the Bay

The following day we took a morning stroll up to the St. John Fort, which gave us some absolutely stunning views of the bay, and after a photoshoot with some epic pictures and guzzling our drinks, we then headed for the bus station to catch a bus to Perast, just up the coast.

By the Bay

By the Bay

From Perast, small boats can be hired for €5 that take you over to the little island in the middle of the bay. The island has a church and a gift shop, as well as stunning views of the fjord all around. On our return back to the mainland, the captain even let us sit on the front of the boat, giving us front row seats as we encircled the island.

From the island

From the island

Whilst the weather was beautiful, the heat and mild humidity contributed to some of the sweatiest experiences of my life, and after waiting for a while for the first bus to take us back to Kotor, we found that it was very very busy. Standing all the way back to Kotor I was literally dripping with sweat, standing over some of the other passengers, as I held on trying not to fall over around the bends of the fjord.

Heading back to our apartment for dinner, we ate as we watched today's cruise ship leave before the sun set over the beautiful mountain view, all the time from the window of our apartment. Our last activity in the area was the head back down into the city to enjoy it lit up at night.

Old City by night

Old City by night

The following day we made our way down back into the Old City for our transfer to the wonderland of Albania.

Kotor was unbelievably beautiful, with stunning views that can only be matched by places such as Norway. However with this being the Balkans, the weather was completely different and meant that views from the tops of the mountains were entirely possible. Unlike Dubrovnik, the area was not so busy, and despite the tourists we were fully able to enjoy its splendour. It is one of my favourite places and I despite its small size, I would highly recommend it.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Montenegro Tagged boat history fjords island hill balkanbants Comments (0)

Costa Dubrovnik

#BalkanBants - Dubrovnik

sunny 32 °C
View #BalkanBants on kmmk17's travel map.


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)

(Entries 16 - 20 of 56) Previous « Page 1 2 3 [4] 5 6 7 8 9 10 .. » Next