On Wednesday we took a trip to the capital city of Nicosia- which was the last divided capital of the world. Following up from my last blog—it was definitely a cool experience and nothing like I expected. I personally didn’t cross over to the Turkish side of the capital, but some of my classmates did and got some lunch and then returned to the Greek side of the capital. We went to an observation room to look out and see the difference between the Turkish side and the Greek side- and there was a distinct difference. In the distance we saw Turkish flags, mosques and different architecture than the Greek side. In the picture below you can see the Turkish flag painted into the mountainside which the Turkish invaded from.
On the way to the capital we stopped in a little village on the top of a mountain called Lefkara. They are known for their hand sewn lace, especially the Da Vinci pattern which Leonardo asked for when he visited this village. There were many elderly ladies just sitting in the street sewing! We stopped in a jewelry and lace shop and the owners gave us fresh lemonade and talked to us about our travels. There was also a school in the village and we saw all the kids playing at recess and in the streets.
On the two hour ride to Nicosia, we traveled on new highways with beautiful landscapes. Cyprus has greatly invested in energy, transport, and infrastructure in recent years. We also passed the British base that houses their weapons (possibly nuclear) and 10,000 soldiers and families. They have a high school on the base for the British students. We also spoke about the water shortage as a major issue in this part of the world, since there is not a lot of rainfall. Fun fact- there isn’t one river in Cyprus! Because of this, they don’t have a lot of fish at all. The fisherman need to go very far to catch fish deep into the ocean and for this reason the fish is expensive.
More on water- there are only two salt lakes and one goes through desalination to send water to towns across the island. There will be wars in this part of the world over drinkable water. It’s a vital need and Israel has a huge control over water… they will put their weapons where the water is. Our tour guide told us in 2008 there was such a shortage that they had only a few tanks per village and couldn’t shower. She is very upset when she sees people waste water. Also, the irrigation systems in Cyprus are a lot more practical- the tanks are on the tops of the houses, which makes more sense than our system but it is not as aesthetically pleasing to see tanks on the roofs of every house.
We were taught about the pomegranate, which is a symbol of happiness, good luck fertility. They are present at Greek weddings and in households. There are 365 seeds in a pomegranate- one grows every day of the year before harvest. Cypriots always keep one in the house from the harvest and when the next year comes they don’t throw it out, they bury the old one in the ground. Roses are also precious and they make rose water, candies, ice creams and desserts with them.
We also passed through Limassol. The skyline of Cyprus as a country is short— Limassol has the tallest building and it’s only 15 stories. Many new buildings are empty now because they were built before the economic crisis and now no one has money to buy them or invest in them. People can only get part time jobs and they only get 500€ monthly. Many times, people live with their families until they’re 30 years old to save money. Approximately 80,000 Russians live in Limassol and they have gang wars a lot. We also saw the pier where they bring in the gas from the offshore drilling and the future plan is for the gas coming from Israel, Egypt and Palestine to be sent to Europe from Cyprus– this is the optimistic plan for Cyprus.
We stopped to see the prison where the British held the freedom fighters in the fight for independence in 1955. Eight Cypriots were executed for fighting for their freedom from Great Britain. We met one of the men who was held prisoner but escaped and he now works in the gift shop. He told us stories and showed up pictures from books of this horrific time that he unfortunately experienced.
On the way home we stopped at Aphrodite’s rock which is the mythological birthplace where she was born from the sea foam. As legend has it, if you swim 10 laps around the rock you will become more beautiful. The rapids were quiet strong, yet we all swam together out to the rock and enjoyed the beautiful afternoon.