Cyprus Newsletter

June 2003

To continue the story of crossing the 'green line', the border that separates the occupied northern part of the island from the Republic of Cyprus.
My second visit was an entirely different experience to the first.
This time I drove my own car. We had to queue for 5 hours at the check point before we were able to cross. Unlike the first occasion when we walked past the long lines of vehicles and crossed on foot. The movement forward was so slow and the numbers of cars even more than on our first visit. It was 4 p m before we finally broke free of the queues. I drove on bumpy, one car wide country roads towards the highway leading to Ammochostos (Famagusta).
As the driver I was much more aware of the poor quality of the road surfaces. I feared for my car when we hit the 'impossible to avoid' potholes.
But it was great to have the freedom to go where we wished.
 Ammochostos, was very busy, lots of traffic and the drivers seemed to be careless of their own safety. Just had to go for it and keep my nerve.
Our first intention on this trip was to gain access to the property of two of my friends. In August 1974 they fled in a panic stricken  hurry, leaving their possessions behind in the hope and belief they would soon return home.
On our first visit we had been unable to obtain permission to see inside the building, but this time we were determined to find a way.
Eventually the key holder, a surly soldier, was found and the door unlocked. Much of the furniture has been removed, but it was shocking to see the bed of my friends with bullets still embedded in the bed frame. 'What if?' was the silent question on every ones lips. Tears of frustration were shed as we were asked to leave after only 15 minutes, no time to see everything or to dredge up the memories of what was missing. No idea of when we would be allowed access again. The building was occupied by the military and it was obvious they were unhappy with our presence.
We left with heavy hearts.
Our next mission was to find the burial place of close relatives. My friends directed me to a tiny country church set among open fields, with no other building in sight.
The sight before us totally shocked me. I was unprepared for the desecration. I was mesmerised by the vandalised graves, every cross that had marked a grave was smashed to small pieces.
I could not look at my 4 friends. If I felt so much pain how were they feeling?
With great bravery they searched among the shattered wire and stone pieces of the crosses. Like some macabre jig saw puzzle, they began to fit the pieces together. They recognised some names and remembered where their relatives lay. The stones were heavy, but they restored some order and lit candles for their family members.
Later, when they were ready, we went into the church. It too had been desecrated. With animal faeces covering the floor it had obviously been used as a stable. Most of the roof was missing and the interior was crumbling.
Silently we went back to the car and I drove my friends away from this terrible scene.
 We returned to the village of their birth where we had received such a warm welcome a few days before. Again we were greeted warmly. But the sadness of the past few hours stayed with us and we found it difficult to respond.
We all needed time alone with our thoughts.
We continued on our way through the village and out the other side to look at some land that belongs to the family. We were very aware that, according to the current UN plan, this village and surrounding land will not be returned to the pre 1974 residents.
The family land had been a productive farm. Sheep, citrus fruit, olives, vegetables and much more had been produced, enabling the family to be self sufficient and to have produce to sell or trade. Today all of that land stands empty. If the UN plan is adopted the family will not be permitted to return and use their own land again.
We travelled on to look at 2 family houses that had been newly built single storey homes in 1974. The current residents have added another storey and balconies. How to decide who owns that property? 
Contrast this situation with another family member who returned to her old home, again newly built in the early 1970's. She found only one wall left standing. The whole house was destroyed and the surrounding farm land left untended.
The more we looked and understood something of the current situation the more problems we could foresee in the future.
So many difficult situations to resolve and still maintain peace.
Everybody I met remained as determined to work towards a peaceful settlement as in the first heady days of the border opening.. But how to achieve that?
Darkness closed in around us and we were glad of it.
Time to take my friends home? Or was I taking them away from their homes? Now where do they feel their roots are?
In the days that followed this second visit all the family members became ill. Nothing life threatening. Colds, coughs, gastric problems. But were these illnesses the result of the stress they experienced on their second visit to the lands of their birth?

Questions answered here.


 Other Newsletters


Sylvie moves to Cyprus

Sylvie explains more

The first trip to the North

Sylvie's 4th

Sylvie recommends a trip

I want to share this one with you, because it is a never to be forgotten experience. A trip to remember. But in my case, trips to remember.

 As I have mentioned in previous newsletter meanderings, friends and family from the UK visit me frequently.High on the agenda of this hostess with the mostest is 

'How do I entertain the guests?' 

These trips to remember take you all over the unoccupied part of the island. Mountains, monuments, ancient sites, sea side etc etc etc.
Every delight that Cyprus has to offer can be sampled during these excursions. 

Visits to out of the way places took us to the calmness and tranquillity of areas far from the usual tourist haunts. 

We sampled delicious locally grown food in remote mountain villages. If I were alone I would probably drive on past these tavernas. But our guides knew exactly where to find the best food. Washed down with some village wine, it all tasted delicious.

A wonderful thing about these trips is the small group size, this meant we got personal attention at all times. We were always so well looked after. 

I cant begin to describe the fun of touring around the mountains from a hotel base high on Troodos or the wonderful walks in Akamas from a hotel base in the west of the island. Larnaka is the base for sightseeing the eastern end of the island.

Visiting the ancient sites, churches and remote areas with such a knowledgeable guide makes the whole experience of living on this wonderful island even more exciting.
So I wont go on trying to describe these wonderful trips. 

Sample them for yourselves and see if you can help me with the superlatives.

Sylvie recommends a trip


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