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. 

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