Cyprus

Cyprus by CC user graeme on Flickr

Introduction

Though this island nation was separated by a conflict that nearly resulted in a civil war back in the 20th century, the situation on the ground has been stable and peaceful for decades, making Cyprus an intriguing and relaxing tourist destination for the traveler seeking one of the better destinations in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Claimed to be a whole island by the Greek Cypriot majority, and with a Turkish Cypriot minority seeking the same with backing from Turkey on the mainland, the island is split 60/40 into Greek and Turkish sectors respectively.  A buffer zone manned by UN peacekeepers has kept the two groups apart over the decades, though the EU’s involvement in the fracas appears to be drawing the two groups towards a reunification agreement, though exactly when this will happen in the future is uncertain.

For now, tourists are able to enjoy both sides with minimal difficulty, whether they seek the beaches strung along this isle’s lengthy coast, its lofty interior peaks, its fabulous casinos in the northern sector, or the countless historic monuments that can be found around every bend and dip of this countries terrain.

Cyprus has been a coveted possession of many empires and nations through the ages, and soon you will discover that if you found yourself with such power, you would desire to do the same for yourself.

Currency: Euro

Languages: Greek, Turkish

Tombs of the Kings by CC user sonofgroucho on Flickr

What To Do

As alluded to in the introduction, there are many sights to be seen throughout Cyprus.  The list that follows is but a primer to get you started on the major attractions, so feel free to explore further once you have seen the highlights of this list.  Start your adventure by seeing the Tombs of the Kings, a necropolis that contains the final resting places of nobles that administered in government and business in the city of Pathos.

The tombs date back to the 4th century BCE, so what remains definitely appears crumbly, though given its age, it has held well together over the eons. Archeologists are still actively uncovering the site, so respect their right to work undisturbed, but don’t be afraid to ask questions if they happen to be on their break!

Next, the Kykkos Monastery, founded in the 11th century by the Byzantines, is one the wealthiest religious institutions in the country. While the complex is not the original construction from that time, as it has burned many times over the centuries, it does contain two interesting relics worth seeing when you have finished admiring the expansive courtyard and the intricate stonework of the current iteration of Kykkos.

They include an icon of the Virgin Mary, which is said to have been responsible for ending a locust plague, a bronze arm that commemorates a man to lit a cigarette with a vigil lamp and ended up with a cursed arm that went gangrenous, and a swordfish saw, which was a token from fisherman that were saved upon praying to Our Lady of Kykkos to save them from a storm at sea.

Those interested in the history of the Crusaders will want to explore Kolossi Castle, a redoubt that proved to be a solid staging ground for the cause during the attempted retaking of the Holy Land by forces from Medieval Europe during the Middle Ages.

In addition to its militaristic importance, it provided production facilities for the regions sugarcane, as well as protection that allowed one of the world’s longest produced names in wine, Commandria, to be produced, which was declared by King Richard the Lionheart to be the wine of kings during his marriage to a local woman close by.

Early morning at Mount Olympus, Cyprus by CC user melissawall on Flickr

Those seeking to enjoy Cyprus’ outdoors should head inland to the pleasantly chill Troodos Mountains, which attract sports lovers in all seasons. In summer, these highlands allow for pleasant trekking amongst the pine-scented ridges and hills, while in winter, there are ski facilities that will allow you to enjoy carving up some Mediterranean powder in the morning, while arriving back to the coast in the afternoon in time for some sunbathing and perhaps an invigorating dip!

If swimming in Cyprus is an activity you’d rather tackle in the heat of summer, then basing yourself out of Ayia Napa would be an excellent idea, especially if you are the type to live it up once the sun goes down.  Indeed, this famed party town is known for its blinding white sand and opportunities for water sports like paragliding during the day, and a throbbing club scene that thrives at night, which doesn’t stop until the sun makes a re-appearance in the morning!

Meze by CC user thegreatgonzo on Flickr

What To Eat

Cyprus, being situated in the Mediterranean Sea between Southern Europe and the Middle East, has elements of both regions reflected in its mouth-watering cuisine. Meze is a culinary offering widely enjoyed in much of latter region that also has widespread acceptance here as well. Resembling tapas, Meze offers a selection of finger foods that include olives, cold meat, onions, and countless other tasty treats suitable for causal grazing while having a sociable meal with locals.

In northern Cyprus, Halloumi is a very popular cheese, made from a mixture of goat, sheep and even cow’s milk.  Served grilled, it is eaten often with watermelon, lamb sausage, and if you don’t count yourself as a Muslim, with sliced bits of pork meat.

Taramosalata is the salted roe, or eggs, of cod/carp that has been mixed with either bread crumbs or mashed potatoes. A variety of seasonings like onions or vinegar are added for additional flavour, which is then eaten by dipping one’s slice of bread into the creamy mixture.  This dip is often found on platters of mezze, which has been mentioned previously in this section.

Finally, when in the south, Lountza is a main dish that should be sought out by those that love consuming swine. Made from aged pork tenderloin, it is first marinated in wine, after which it is smoked for a significant period of time. The taste is said to be particularly divine!

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