Musings of a morbid mind

The general ravings of Scott Baldwin

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Cyprus - the politics 2

There have been a number of attempts to re-unit the divided Cyprus since the war in 1974, all of which have failed. The latest was the plan put forward by Kofi Anan. I have little idea what the details of the plan involved, but from what I was told by the Greek Cypriots, it was extremely unfair to them, and consequently when it was put to a vote about 9 months ago, the result was more than 80% of the population voting NO to accepting the Anan plan.
It was on the news in Australia, but ever so briefly, but even though it was 9 months ago, the evidence was still all around in Cyprus. The most common form of political activism seems to be graffiti.

"No to Anan" (ie no to the Anan plan) - Nicosia

"No to the betrayal" - Limasol

"No for our children's sake" - Limasol

Bad Experience on Poros

As I promised earlier, I was going to say a bit about our bad experience in Poros.
When we got back to Athens we found some really cheap accommodation, and started to plan out our final days in Greece. We decided that the next morning we'd go to one of the Greek Islands. We chose Poros for it's convenience (and because I'd heard of it), and went down to the port. We found a tourist agent selling tickets for the ferry to Poros, and asked what times the ferries were. He told us we could get one that left Athens at midday, and then left Poros at 6:00pm. This sounded good, we could go over to Poros, find somewhere nice for lunch, have a bit of an explore, then head back to Athens and be home in time to go dancing later that night. We glanced briefly at our tickets after we left the shop to discover that the ticket actually said 1:00pm, we went back to the tourist shop and the agent agreed that it was 1:00pm and denied ever mentioning midday. I didn't know because Niki did all the conversing with such people in Greek. So there went 1 hour of exploring time. We caught the Ferry at 1:00pm and arrived at Poros at 2:00pm. The island was obviously very touristy, but because we were there in the off season, most things had closed down, but it was still a beautiful island. Most people there used a motor scooter for transport.

and there were sailing boats and fishing boats everywhere you looked.

We tried to hire a motor scooter, but the guy didn't have insurance for foreigners, so we were stuck with walking. We met an English lady who was living on Poros and she suggested a restaurant for us to have lunch in. Lunch was fantastic, and after a lot of food and a couple of jugs of wine we stumbled out of the restaurant, and headed back towards the wharf where the ferry would depart from. We stop off on the way to have a coffee, thinking we had plenty of time, and at 5:00pm we left the cafe for the wharf. We were about a hundred metres away from the wharf when I noticed that a ferry had just left and it looked like the ferry we should have been on. We ran back to the ferry agent on Poros who informed us that yes that was our ferry, and it was the last ferry out of Poros for the night. We were not happy, we looked at the tickets and sure enough they said 5:00pm, and the agent in Athens had told us the time the ferry gets back to Athens, not the time it leaves Poros. We complained to the girl at the Poros ferry agent, but she said there was nothing we could do about it as we should have checked our tickets, to which I retorted that I was beginning to believe that it was a standard trick the Greeks play on unsuspecting tourists to try and squeeze more tourist dollars out of them.
So even though we had already booked accommodation in Athens and left our suit cases there, we were forced to find accommodation on Poros for the night. It left us with a bad taste in our mouths and a 50 Euro whole in our wallets.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Paphos and Limasol

I have been chided by a friend for not having enough photos on my blog, so with an apology to those poor people still using dial up connections, here are some photos from Paphos (coastal town on the west of the Island), and Limasol the major port in Cyprus which we visited on our final weekend in Cyprus.

Paphos - The Tomb of the Kings

The Tomb of the kings wasn't actually used to burry any kings, it was actually just used to burry Paphos's extremely wealthy, but Tomb of the extremely wealthy wouldn't attract as many tourists, so Tomb of the Kings it is.


Language Difficulties

While in Cyprus, I was trying to learn as much Greek as I could, which is complicated by the fact that the Cypriots speak a dialect of Greek, and the text book I was learning from back in Australia was main land Greek. However cultural difference also complicated things.
We drank a lot of Turkish coffee while I was in Cyprus, (although because of strained relations with Turkey some of them call it a Cyprus Coffee), but from the first time they offered me a Cyprus coffee, they asked me if I wanted it "Metrio" which I knew was the Greek work meaning Medium, which I thought logically referred to the strength of the coffee. They were all having theres "Sketo" which by logical deduction was "strong", I thought that they were assuming that I wouldn't be able to handle it as strong as they could. It was only by accident that I learnt that "Metrio" and "Sketo" referred not to the strength, but to the amount of sugar in the coffee. "Sketo" literally means straight (ie no sugar), "Metrio" (medium as I knew) meant half a teaspoon of sugar or medium sweetness, and "Gliki" means sweet (ie 1 full teaspoon of sugar). By the time I'd found out about this, I was used to having my Cyprus coffee "Metrio", and so I stuck to it, but the Cypriots had a good laugh at my mis-understanding.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Cyprus - the politics

The very first day I arrived in Cyprus, Niki's father handed me a book called "The Cyprus Conspiracy" that explains the events that have caused all the problems in Cyprus. For those who aren't familiar with the plight of Cyprus, the current status stems from the Turkish invasion in 1973. Turkey now occupy the Northern third of Cyprus and it is called "The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus". They have their own flag and they use the Turkish currency, but Turkey is the only country to officially recognise them as an independent nation. The book is quite interesting, and explains the extremely rough path from British colony after the second world war to independent nation in 1960 and then the events that consequently caused Turkey to invade. It really scares me all the dirty tricks, hidden agenda's and double dealing that goes on in the world of international politics. The British and Americans have an awful lot to answer for. Nicosia, the capital is left divided between the independent Cyprus and The Turkish occupied North. In the mountains overlooking the city of Nicosia, is an image painted into the mountain of both the Turkish flag, and the flag of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

You can see this image from many parts of the the independent side of Nicosia, a blatant reminder of the turmoil. I promised previously more on Macarios. Macarios was the Arch Bishop of Cyprus from 1950 til 1977. Because of the religious orientation of the Greek Cypriot population, Macarios in his position as Arch Bishop, also assumed the role of President. Macarios was instrumental in the struggle for independence from Britain, and many still consider him a hero. He did however, make some mistakes, his support for the guerrilla movement EOKA, made up of Greek Cypriots, and his doctrine of enosis (union with Greece) caused a rift between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot population which (amongst other circumstances) eventually lead to the Turkish invasion in an attempt to protect the rights of the minority Turkish Cypriot population.
Although not necessarily a mistake, Makarios felt compelled to seek support from the Soviets which caused the Americans to panic at a very crucial time during the cold war. They feared that the Soviets may gain too much influence over NATO's "unsinkable aircraft carrier".

Greek / Turkish Cypriot

I feel that it's quite important at this point to clarify the terms Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot. Because of all the divisions caused between the two different communities in Cyprus, there are some who really don't like the terms Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot preferring to identify simply as Cypriot. However, in attempting to understand the Islands socio-political make up, it does make it easier to distinguish between the communities in such a way that Greek Cypriot means someone who speaks Greek, is Greek Orthodox, cooks Greek style food, and barracks for the Greek soccer team in the world cup, and Turkish Cypriot as someone who speaks Turkish, is Muslim, and barracks for the Turkish soccer team.


One of Niki's cousins 6 year old Christos doesn't speak any English, so I was at a loss as to how to make any kind of a connection with him, until I noticed him bouncing a soccer ball around the room. I signaled to him using gestures that I would like to go outside and kick the soccer ball around with him. It's surprising how 'goal' is understood in pretty much every language. After about 10mins of play I was called in for some dessert. Christos followed me inside and waited patiently.... for about 3 minutes then went up to his mum and asked (in Greek) 'how do you say 'ella' in english' a few seconds later he comes up to me and says 'come Scott', and gestured for me to go back out and play more soccer with him. I think I not only broke through the language barrier but also made a friend.

Back in Athens

Our last 4 days in Greece were back in Athens, and after Thessaloniki, the traffic in Athens seemed quite serene. We stayed in a hotel in a place called "monesteraki" which means literally "small monastery". There were a whole heap of flea markets nearby, so we spent all afternoon looking at the fleas. The rest of the day we spent wondering around Athens looking at all the ancient sites. The next day we decided to go to the island of Poros which is about a 1 hour ferry ride from Athens. Poros itself was a really lovely place, but we had a bad experience there which meant that we didn't enjoy it as much as we perhaps could have, more about that in another post. The next day we went to an exhibition of works by Escher, I know this makes me look like such a geek, but Niki really enjoyed it too. That night we went to a tango social dance, and this time stayed until 3:00am. We left the Acropolis until the last day, and with our luck, it poured down raining. We braved it, but alas our $5 umbrella was not up for the task. We got drenched. That evening, we found a nice restaurant that had live traditional Greek music. We left very early the next morning for Cyprus.