Installment 11: June 18, 2001
NOTE: Hello. I am not Janie. Nor am I Jimmy. Nor am I a crazy ferret. I’m Cindy, Janie’s younger sister. Janie has graciously allowed me to write this Cyprus Installment. This is one instance where I won’t heed the words of the song “Little sister, don’t you do what your big sister done.” The Fam is visiting Janie and Jimmy here in Cyprus, and since we’re the first visitors, I thought I’d share with you a little bit about our experiences. Perhaps this will give you a sneak peek at what it’s like behind the scenes of Cyprus.
Our trip has extended a little beyond Cyprus, and that, my friends, is where our adventures began. Mom, Dad, and I had an interesting time communicating with the Greeks. Our first attempt at speaking the language occurred when we told the cab driver “thank you” in Greek. Our efforts were met with a blank stare from him, and I think all of our egos were a little bruised that day. We’ve improved since that blunder, though, and now I can say a handful of words in Greek. That pales in comparison still with my knowledge of the Spanish language. For instance, I can say, “I need a large and handsome pig”, in Spanish, but I haven’t the slightest clue as to its Greek translation. I suppose I’ll have to come back for another visit and expand my vocabulary.
The Athenians seem to enjoy their ruins, seeing as how there is certainly no shortage of them in the city. Downtown, in the metro stations, along the side of the road, you name the place, and it will have ruins. In Athens we saw the Acropolis and the Theater of Dionysus, among other things. Being the budding actress that I am, I was thoroughly impressed by the theater that was built 3,000 years ago and held 17,000 people.
I illegally snuck under the guard rope and jumped onstage. It was my shining moment as I performed a Shakespearean monologue (I didn’t have a Greek monologue handy) on a stage that was used by actors thousands of years ago. I’m sure my fellow Thespians are oozing with jealousy. Hollywood, watch out. There’s a star on the way.
Long ago, in a time before you or me or microwave popcorn, there was a giant active volcano in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea. It got real hot.
So hot, in fact, that it exploded, as volcanoes are apt to do. The midsection of the volcano collapsed and sank, leaving the center and the outer ring of rock to stand apart from each other. As a result, the islands of Santorini were formed. This was our next stop. We took a ferry from Athens, and arrived in a bustling tourist town called Fira, situated on the cliffs of the island overlooking the water. We got there just in time to see the sunset. It was really amazing to watch the sun disappear behind the distant mountains. A novel trait of the island is the black sand beach. I loved the beaches. Imagine red cliffs towering over black sand with calm crystal blue water lapping the shores. Elegant, simply elegant.
But of course we did more than just lay around on the beach. Janie, Jimmy, and I took a boat to the center of the island where the active volcano is located. It was quite a hike, but worth it to see the view (nice views seem to be a recurring theme here), and Jimmy gave Janie and I a little lesson in geology. I’m sure the knowledge that the rocks formed by Santorini’s volcano are of the “medium mushy” variety will come in handy someday.
After we arrived back on the main island, Jimmy and I decided to take a donkey ride back up to Fira, rather than walking the hundreds of ascending stairs. Janie chose to go on foot, and the race up the cliff was on.
We were jostled by our donkeys along with a handful of other tourists who were trying their hand at donkey riding. Mine was the champion donkey and quickly pulled out front to lead the pack for most of the journey. I continuously glanced over my shoulder to see if Jimmy was going to make his move around the outside, but he held steady in second to last place. Even though I nearly won the donkey race, Janie still beat us by three minutes.
I’m told that Cyprus is called “paradise with a problem”. The problem in question is of course the division of the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. I don’t know much about the problem, but I do agree with the paradise part. Variety is the word, when it comes to terrain. Mountains, plains, and beaches all coming together to meet each other, make for some pretty spectacular scenery (there’s those nice views again). Janie took us to Pafos, the site of the infamous marathon from hell. We saw ruins, ruins, and you guessed it, more ruins. The drive was lovely, but I was beginning to really need to use the bathroom just as we passed a sign that read “Pissouri Bay- 5km”. I almost laughed out loud.
I love bread. Other bread lovers will appreciate Cyprus meals as I have. Here bread is baked fresh each day, and it’s served with every meal. I had my first experience with what is known as a Cyprus “meze”. A meze is dinner at a restaurant where you are served numerous dishes of everything from cheese to salad to rice to vegetables to pork to fruit to snails. The meal is an adventure in itself. 32 dishes total. Don’t forget the Pepto-Bismol.
On Saturday morning we packed up the truck, courtesy of the USGS, and headed to the north. Jimmy hooked us up with special passes so we could stay overnight in the Turkish part of Cyprus. It pays to know people in high places. We drove to a monastery located at the easternmost point of the country. The monastery was fairly crumbly and seemed to be inhabited by scores of felines. The icing on the cake, though, was the giant pig that was guarding a doorway to one of the buildings. It was the biggest pig I’ve ever seen. Apparently that pig and others of its kind have gathered enough notoriety to be mentioned in the guidebook of Northern Cyprus. The swine encounter might have been the highlight of the monastery, and Jimmy took a picture of the pig and me face to face. Or rather, snout to face.
We stayed at a spot called Turtle Beach. This beach was even prettier than the beaches of Santorini, and Dad and I went snorkeling. The water was perfect temperature, and the sand was gorgeous white. At night, though, the wind picked up quite a bit and blew through the cabins as we slept. This was only a small problem, however, because in the process of waking up to prop the rattling door open, we got to see a sky full of stars. Janie and I saw the Milky Way for the first time. We looked at the sky for a while and then went back to sleep. That was our night.
Mom and Dad, on the other hand, had a more frightening adventure three cabins away. They didn’t sleep the whole night, because they were awake worrying about “the hurricane”. They holed up in their cabin and planned strategy for escape in case the building collapsed. Thankfully, the next morning, they were able to see the humor in their overreaction. Now they’re actually sort of proud of themselves for surviving their perceived life-threatening situation. Kudos to Mom and Dad for enduring the perils of Mother Nature. They made it through “the hurricane”.
Tonight the Fam is boarding a plane to begin the journey back to Atlanta. We came, we saw, we ate. Now it’s time to go home. For those planning a visit, Cyprus is well worth the trip. Janie and Jimmy and the marble palace are wonderful hosts. Pigs, donkeys, and meze await you.