Thursday, March 31, 2011

You Win Some, You Lose Some

I'm in Nicosia (or Lefkosia--there we go with the 2 names again) and I was supposed to meet up with a local Couch Surfer for some coffee and a look around town this morning. Apparently though, we were both waiting at different locations. Then both waited at different locations again.


But since the second place I waited for him was right next to the border crossing I went ahead and crossed into Northern Cyprus and spent the day there. (An aside: Nicosia is the world's only remaining divided capital. The northern bit belongs to Northern Cyprus and the Southern bit to the the Republic. There's a buffer zone in between that UN Peacekeepers monitor. As I walked through the crossing and was given a stamped visa, and as I walked around the buffer zone with it's posters prohibiting pictures, etc. I just kept saying to myself--This is crazy!)

Anyway, my (useless) guidebook had said that the two sides of the city could not be more different. It's cliche, but it turned out to be true.

Walking the 10 feet into Northern Nicosia feels like it takes you miles away and years back. You can see the mountains in the background, there's a gothic cathedral turned into a mosque, and children running around playing soccer alongside the buffer zone. In some parts of the city I could have sworn I was in some small town in a far away mountain. It was fascinating.

It was like all the charm of Turkey with the laid back vibe of a Greek island. The Greek side is for the most part modern and built up, but the Northern side is half abandoned in places, ancient or remodeled in others. You trade Greek for Turkish, Orthodox churches for mosques, coffee for tea, and Euros for Liyras.

I also quickly remembered that all I know of Turkish is merhaba (hello) and coke guzel (which means "very beautiful"). Those two things might not get you too far, but they do get you somewhere. In my case, they got me a bouquet of flowers from a Turkish lady's garden, a laugh from a circle of little girls making daisy chains and an impromptu Turkish lesson from the baklava shop owner.

All in all, it was a beautiful day. 

Lemesos, Kourion and Say What?

I set these pictures to upload while I got some other things done. Then blogger tells me I've run out of space. Say what?! I didn't even know that happened. So you only get some of the pictures right now (it's ok, it's most of them). Also, who knows how to remedy this? 

PS. Dad remember how I joked about how it cost money to blog and you said you would send me money to cover it? I was only kidding then, but now...  : )

Lemesos, or Limassol (several cities in Cyprus have two names...which is confusing), wasn't bad. The crumbly colonial buildings were right up my ally. The Lebanese restaurants were a highlight. Overall though, while I enjoyed it when I was there, now that I have moved on I can say that the city was pretty "meh."The highlight of my time there was the trip I took out to the nearby ancient city of Kourion. The views were absolutely beautiful and the ruins were pretty impressive as well. 

Pictures of both below:

Saw this sign in town. That's harsh. 

Colonial facades 

Roman steam baths in the Agora section of the ruins at Kourion

These trees were everywhere with little yellow fluff ball flowers

Mosaic floors in an old palace

The theater 

These railings surrounded the stadium. As the wind blew through the area it would go through the tiny holes you can see on the underside of these rails and the wind would whistle. Especially with the acoustics of the theatre amplifying it, it was a cool but almost eery sound. 

The view--the water was so blue!

More mosaic floors

More blue seas

Just a beautiful area of the country

Remains of a really early Christian church. 

OK, and I'll get the rest of them up when I figure this "no more space" issue out. But don't worry--I already have one plan to try (and of doesn't involve just getting over it and paying the money!). 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sounio, Corinth and Other Greek Leftovers

A catch up blog! These are from Greece a couple of weeks ago:

We took the opportunity to get out of the city a couple of times during our stay in Athens. The city is huge, and even in the off season there are lots of people packed into a small space. We took day trips out to Sounio on the public buses and then hired a guide and driver to go out to Corinth. Pictures and stories below:

Temple to Poseidon (built around 440 BC)

Lord Byron visited Sounio (even scratching his name into one of the columns) and wrote this of it: 

Place me on Sunium's marbled steep, 
Where nothing, save the waves and I, 
May hear our mutual murmurs sweep

The view!

I took a picnic lunch, dangled my feet off the edge and stared into the sea. (It was all fun and games until I saw a snake a little while later!)

These huge wildflowers were all over the area and are here in Cyprus too. 

A shot at the temple of Zeus back in Athens. It's soooo big.  

The Corinthian Canal (It's no Panama Canal...but it will do!)

Part of the old Corinthian road! They used to drag ships over the isthmus along this road. If you have ever read background material on 1st or 2nd Corinthians--you have probably read about this!

Inscription found at ancient Corinth which says that Erastus, a city officer, payed for this pavement. Likely this is the Erastus mentioned in the New Testament.

Lots of headless statues--to save time statue makers would have a bunch of statue bodies ready made. They would then carve up a head that looked like you and stick it down into the neck socket. 

Some mosaics

The Bema/judgement seat--or the place where they would hear cases/trials. It's one of the few places they know for sure that Paul was in.

Ancient starting blocks (you know you want to do it too!)

Roman toilets...or as I like to call them: Paul's Potties! (Because he probably would have used them while he was here.)

We drove and then hiked all the way up to Acrocorinth (the high old-old part of the city where the temple once stood). 

It was breathtaking (both the view and the climb!)

A look back over the plains 

It was very much what I think of when I think "castle." 

Finally we stopped at Cenchreae on the coast. This is the ancient port city from which Paul would have sailed east from. (Also this is where, according to Acts 18:18, he shaved his head!). Phoebe was mentioned to be from here as well. The old port and church are all under water now, but you can climb out on it and have a look at it through the clear water. 

Some of the group hopped across some rocks that were sticking out of the water to have a look at the ruins. Some of the rest of us talked Bobby into moving those rocks. I thought it was hilarious. 

The end! Next up a couple more Cyprus blogs, and maybe even some more Nicaragua...We will see!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Troodos Mountains

This morning I loaded up my backpack, grabbed a bus and headed into the mountains. It took some effort to drag myself away from the coast, but I wanted to see a bit of the diversity of the island (which everyone keeps telling me about). Well it's beautiful here. We are over 3,000 feet up and there are pine and cedar trees everywhere. It's a nice change of scenery and a chance to get a bit of hiking in (not that I won't be getting more than my share of that starting next week!). My only complaint is that it's pretty chilly this high up! At the moment it's only 9 degrees out (ok, it's celsius, but still!). I'm all layered up and happy to be headed to the capital tomorrow!

Picture of my bus on the way up. You can see a bit of the scenery out the windows, but what I really wanted you to see is the drivers 'stache in the rearview mirror. 

The cold meant I had to try out the stifado--the local beef and onion stew. They brought out a massive amount of food (including a steamingly fresh Cypriot pita). 

A little hiking. After my last waterfall hike experience I opted for the less steep trail. 

Some mountain views and nature-y bits

Monday, March 28, 2011

How To Make A Good Day Better

Lebanese food picnic at the beach!
{Fattoush salad, falafel (+ yummy assortment of other things) wrapped in the good Lebanese bread and a pull tab Coke}

I even remembered a little Arabic to throw at the waiters this time. Perfect ending to the day. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Week in Review Sabbatical Style: Week 10!

Another week has come and gone. And let me tell you, this week has gone well. It's the week in review: 
  • In the end I found an even cheaper deal for another night at my hotel here in Agia I just stayed another night. No complaints.   
  • Apparently I when I advanced my watch when I came to Europe it messed the days up (although any of you who have seen my watch lately will wonder how I see anything off of it). I couldn't remember what day it was this morning, and my watch said Sunday. So Sunday it was. Until about an hour ago when I realized my computer and the hostel booking devises were telling me otherwise. This makes the confusing conversation I had with the receptionist about the time change tonight make more sense. 
  • Tonight begins "summer time" (aka the end of daylight savings time). 
  • Tomorrow being Sunday also means that buses tomorrow are very limited. 
  • I got another cup of Greek coffee from the same place. The first sip sent an actual shiver up my spine. (I will say though, the thing about coffee I really love is the little jolt you get about 2 sips in. This stuff? It sends caffeine fireworks through your system. I can barely type.)
  • For those keeping track, I decided to start my Camino in Pamplona. 
  • I also bought a small 4 euro bottle of contact solution. It is 120 ml, and here the limit for bottles that go in your zip lock bag for the plane is 100 ml. If they make me throw this one away too I will not be happy. 
  • In Larnaka I got chatted up by the Arab waiter at the restaurant I went to. His name was Ibrahim. Imagine that. 
  • In Cyprus people drive on the left side of the street. I have almost died crossing the road...twice. 
  • OK, I probably wouldn't have died. 
  • I have been getting a lot of reading in here, which was part of the plan. I read Love Wins and Northanger Abby this week. Kind of an odd combo, but hey, I enjoyed both. 
  • Remember how I went on about the Central American sun being bright? Yeah well the sun is pretty strong here too. Hello sunburn!
  • I had some great moments of depth perception this week. I love it when that happens. (See this if you are confused by that statement.) 
  • I got a check in the mail this week to cover the replacement (and major upgrade!) of my laptop. The insurance covered ALL of it (including a copy of Microsoft Office that was on there). Seriously people, if you are students (and I am pretty sure even if you aren't) run to get yourself some student insurance: (especially if you are as clumsy/accident prone as I am...)
  • I've been catching up on the news since I have a TV with 2 English channels. Kind of glad I ended up nixing the Middle Eastern portion of my trip right about now. 
  • The plan for the next few days: head to Limassol for a couple of nights (another coastal city), head into the mountains to see some villages and monasteries, then see the world's only divided capital.
  • I just realized (again) that today isn't Sunday consider this a week in review a day early!  
Just a few pics below: 

My "beach recliner"

The view from the recliner. I had the beach to myself. 

Arabic on the tea, Greek on the cream, Hebrew on the Sweet and Low

The view from here. That coffee looks innocent enough, but whew. I'll be up all night. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Agia Napa

Now that I am here I can see how Agia Napa could be considered tourist hell in the summer. Thankfully though, it's not summer. It's spring. That means there's wildflowers everywhere and I had the beach almost entirely to myself today. It also means that I got a 200 euro hotel room for 40 (slippers and all!). Not bad Agia Napa, not bad. 

(The one thing my fancy hotel does not have though, is free wifi. So here I am at the cafe down the road drinking the cheapest thing on the menu to use their wifi. And let me tell you, this Greek coffee has some BITE.)

Oh, and one more interesting fact before the pictures: Any idea where Agia Napa gets its name? Agia/ayia we know is "holy." Napa anyone? Think napkin. The town gets its name from the monastery here which was named after the "holy handkerchief" supposedly used to wipe Jesus' tears with on his way to the cross. Interesting, no?

OK, moving on...

My spiffy digs

My balcony. Today was divided between laying out and reading at the pool...

then laying out and reading at the beach. 

Yesterday I went on a long walk (round trip I think it was almost 20 kilometers--which is good. That's the daily average for the Camino). 

The water, the views, the flowers--it was all beautiful. 

Up until this point of my walk I had been barefoot (I just continued walking from the beach). I finally put my shoes back on (sans socks/rolling my pants back down) to look at some cliffs and then just decided to rock the look the rest of the way. Yep. (There's hardly anyone but old Germans here anyway.)

The sea caves were breathtaking

Another look at them from the return

Fields and wildflowers

Just an overall lovely walk and lovely day.  

This morning I woke up early(ish) and went to the monastery here. This 600 year old sycamore tree is in the courtyard. 

The monastery--built 1570. 

Icons inside

More monastery 

Fountain in the courtyard that predates the monastery

And some religious kitsch for good measure. 

Tomorrow to the capital! That is...unless I decide to stay.