I entered an anomaly today
I entered an anomaly today. It wasn’t so different from everything else I’d been seeing all day but it was an anomaly non the less. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognized by no one but Turkey. Of course in real life the innumerable UN vehicles, barbed wire, blue helmeted soldiers, massive Greek and Turkish flags, watchtowers and armed soldiers mean that it’s impossible not to recognise that going to North Cyprus is like going to another country.
Getting to the border is an effort. No I lie, finding the border is no problem. I’d been butting up against it by accident for several days now. Only now I wanted to cross and it became clear that no one was going to clearly signpost where the border crossing was. A quick search on the net solved that and following those directions I soon found myself at a border control point. Kinda anti-climactic after all the sandbags, soldiers and barbwire I’d been seeing for days this was a handful of huts, sleepy immigration officers and nary a gun in sight. Ok maybe there were a few guns but definitely no tanks – that I could see.
Border crossing was painless except for €20 that I had to pay for car insurance to take the car north. They don’t stamp my passport but instead stamp a separate white bit of paper in case I ever want to go to Greece or return to Cyprus (the southern bit) … seems like they’re still a little sensitive to people visiting the North.
I drive north, past Turkish flags so big they’d envelope a truck, to my left the hillside has been carved out so that a Turkish flag can be seen clearly on it’s slope. It’s a real in your face gesture to those in the South who can clearly see that mountainside. Over the mountains (big hills) I drive to the port of Kyrenia or Girne. The Cypriots love nothing more than to give every town several names and it’s up to the hapless visitor to know them all. So now I know my Lefkosa from my Lekosia from my Nicosia.
I arrive in Kyrenia, park and wander down the road. There I am heralded by a fantastic little harbour, almost fully encircled and containing all manner of small boats and surrounding the harbour many little cafes. It reminded me of the port cities in Turkey and it made me like the town already.
It’s starting to drizzle so I head up to the castle. Like everything in Cyprus it’s a mixed bag of Byzantine, Crusader, Ottoman and British. Everywhere you go on this little island you’re reminded of it’s position at the crossroads of history. Everyone from Knights Templar to Catholics saints has been here. Often you’ll come across a church that has been a mosque that was a church or a castle that changed hands many times. Like the one that sits between the old Roman Harbour and the newer Byzantine Harbour of Kyrenia. I wander the castle for a few hours, it’s one of the more interesting castles I’ve visited and it’s location at the foot of the hills, next to two harbours and in front of both a church and a mosque seems to encapsulate the history of Cyprus in one very real, solid bit of building.
I like the anomaly that is North Cyprus. It feels less touristy, more real, and a bit more unfamiliar. I particularly like Kyrenia – this little town of history with it’s scenic little harbour. It begins to pour and thunder sounds, the sun has disappeared but I’m smiling as the rain soaks me atop this ancient castle.