This post is a bit of a ramble. Then again, so was my trip.
Last weekend, I took a one-night road trip sans toddler and husband.
My destination, Kyrenia, is a beautiful harbor city in either the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus or the area occupied by Turkey, depending on whether you ask Turkey or the rest of the world. I won’t get too far into the details of the north/south split, other than to say that since 2003 it’s been fairly easy to cross the border. (I had no problems in either direction, other than that the border crossings aren’t particularly well-labeled, perhaps as an attempt to pretend they don’t exist.)
My mobile phone doesn’t have a functioning SIM card and is basically a glorified iPod touch, so I relied on paper maps and screenshots to navigate. This was fine for most of the drive, which was fairly uneventful and well labeled, other than the border crossing. However, when I arrived in Kyrenia I quickly realized that my screenshots maps were entirely inadequate to find my hotel, and that none of the many paper maps I’d been given by the rental car agency in the south had information about cities in the north.
I drove around randomly for a bit, hoping to recognize a street name from one of my screenshots. No luck. Eventually, I saw a sign for Bellapais, and I decided to postpone further hotel searching by visiting the town and monastery that Lawrence Durrell writes about in Bitter Lemons of Cyprus.
After about 30 minutes of further confusion (roundabouts might be great for keeping traffic flowing, but these ones also sent me randomly onto lovely, narrow, dead-end roads surrounded by citrus trees), I arrived in Bellapais. I gratefully exited my car, explored the monastery, and ate lunch.
Heartened by stunning views and calories, I began my hotel search again. This time, luck was with me, and I fairly quickly found a landmark from my screenshot map and, from there, my hotel.
The reception at Kemerli Konak Boutique Hotel was probably the friendliest I’ve ever experienced; over the course of my stay, the man at the front desk upgraded my room, offered to give me a phone charger that I had borrowed, dispensed advise and Turkish coffee, and insisted that if I had any translation problems, even after checking out, I should call him for assistance. My room was comfortable, beautifully decorated, and had a small balcony with ocean and mountain views, depending on which way I oriented myself.
After a heartening cup of tea, I ventured down to the harbor. It was sprinkling off and on as I poked around town… and then suddenly it started to pour. Some nice men offered me shelter under their restaurant’s umbrellas, from which I watched the streets turn into rivers. (See evidence in the photo below.)
After about ten minutes, the rain suddenly stopped, and I hopped from dry patch to dry patch, trying to stay out of the lingering street rivers while exploring.
Kyrenia seems like more of a party-town than anywhere I’ve visited recently (though I’m probably biased by not usually being out and about during the evenings without a toddler), and I was invited to go clubbing twice. One invitation was from a person who runs a club inside of Kyrenia castle, shown below. However, I’m more a fan of a sleeping than clubbing, so I headed back to my hotel room after dinner.
One of the main reasons that I took this trip was to see more of the island. The next morning, I decided to take the long way back, which Google had estimated at 3 hours and 30 minutes. (In reality, it took me about 6 hours of driving.) The countryside was stunning, to the point where I may have immunized myself to the beauty of mountains, oceans, and flower-filled fields for at least the next few months.
I’ve been crazving a Turkish meze since Istanbul, so I delayed looking for the border until after lunch.
Since I was crossing at a different point than before, I again had trouble finding the border crossing, and I ended up going up and down a mountain twice (poor car.) As I searched, I kept encountering the ever-present “entry forbidden” signs of the northern, Turkish side, which generally feature silhouettes of a man with a gun. (Turkish people: generally very friendly. Turkish signs: not so much.) This version of the sign shown below, which told me that I MUST NOT PASS INTO THE FORBIDDEN AREA, did not have the silhouette, but it was conveniently hidden behind a tree.
I finally found the border crossing. Passport control on the nothern side glanced at my documents and waved me through. The south doesn’t operate passport control at the north/south border, but they do have an id check and questioning.
“Are you bringing anything back from the occupied area.” – Man, sternly
“Just strawberries” – Me
Softening, “Strawberries are nice.” – Man
The man asked if I was planning to stay in the village by the border or travel down further to Paphos. When I mentioned that I was returning to my husband and son who were still in Pissouri he frowned again.
“Don’t you think they would have liked to come along too?”- Man
“Well, my son is three, so it would have been a lot of driving for him.” – Me
“Oh, he would have slept.” – Man
To which I could just shrug and imagine offering to let him take an extended road trip with Theo. I was allowed to continue on to more lovely landscapes, beaches, and several herds of wandering goats.
Apparently I wasn’t completely immune to the lures of beauty; I stopped by Aphrodite beach (near our house) just in time for sunset.
When I arrived at home soon after, I felt satisfied that I had seen more of the island… and was thoroughly sick of driving. So, of course, Brian, Theo, and I hopped back into the car and went out for Indian food.