Cyprus is such a beautiful
country; it's such a shame that it is torn apart by the ludicrous division
following the war in 1974.
We will always have a soft spot in our hearts for Cyprus, as we honeymooned
here in 1991.
Over the past 30 years both Greece and Turkey have proved intransigent
in the extreme concerning the internationally unrecognised Peoples Republic
of Northern Cyrpus.
The EC has made the removal of this state a precondition of Turkey's entry
in to the EU, so the problem is at last receiving some attention. Hopefully
the island will soon be reunited.
Cyprus is an island of contrasts: from the warm sandy
beaches of the Southern coast to the cooler, rockier beaches of the North-East
corner, to the high, rocky mountains of the interior. From the laissez
faire, modern attitudes of the "tourist Cypriots" to the traditional,
black wearing village folk in the hills.
Recently, some terrible incidents have marred the usually
excellent Brit-Cypriot relations: in particular the murder of a Danish
tour guide by some squaddies a few years back.
The "Lager Lout" attitude of many young (and not so young) Brits
on holiday is entirely to our detriment: I dread to think what the Cypriots
in Ayia Napa think of us, and we probably deserve everything bad they
do think of us.
Cyprus is such a strategic island, situated right at
the Eastern end of the Med, that it has to remain studiously neutral in
it's international relations. So we have British Sovereign Areas like
Dhekalia as well as the PLO being in the phone book under "P".....
It's like the IRA having a telephone number in the Belfast telephone directory
I was told lurid tales of Mossad agents chasing PLO terrorists
around Larnaca Harbour, firing machine guns and commandeering boats like
something out of James Bond.
Nicosia is a big, modern city in Cyprus's central plain.
It has a modern ring road, an airport, traffic jams, buses..... and right
in the middle, looking like Berlin circa 1967, a line of barbed wire and
concrete running from East to West, cutting the city in half.
The Turkish sector looks abandoned: many of the houses still have 1974
wallpaper and posters visible from the viewing gallery on the Greek side.
Young Turkish soldiers manning machine guns eye tourists nervously from
the other side of a 50 yard strip of dead ground separating the combatants,
along a line drawn by, and maintained by, the UN since 1974.
Elsewhere on the island, approaches to the Green Line
are monitored by ethnically-indeterminate troops with binoculars in UN-labelled
Land Rovers. Why do the UN always drive Land Rovers? Do we give them away
for the advertising:"Land Rover 110, as used by the UN...."?
In remote areas of the island, usually unvisited by tourists,
lie ghost villages that once were full of Turkish people until 1974, when
the Greek Cypriots marched them all North in response to the division
of the island.
The maps in these areas lie desperately, trying to prevent you from accessing
But a compass, two maps, a 4-wheel drive and a good sense of direction
got us in and out without harm. Thanks, The Duke of Edinburgh for teaching
me how to navigate properly in those pre-GPS days...
The diving in Cyprus is good, driven by squaddies who
want something to do on their days off.
Unlike many holiday destinations PADI does not reign supreme, and many
shops display the BSAC sign instead. As a result, it has to be said that
the technical standard of diving is higher.
I love scuba diving: I learned with BSAC in the Fulham Pools 20 years
when stab. jackets were new-fangled and we learned with yellow ex-RAF
horse-collar inflatables that seemed determined to flip you over on to
your back all the time. I had a very pretty instructor called Christina
who looked good in a wetsuit and rebuffed my advances, but I digress....
I soon became aware that open water diving in the UK is a sport reserved
for masochists: the water is cold, the viz is dreadful and there is nothing
to see down there anyway unless you count a deliberately sunk Westland
Wessex in Stoney Cove. So having trained, I vowed only to dive in warm
places where there was something to see.
Being a BSAC diver abroad is an interesting experience: you turn up in
a group to dive and the instructor wants to see your logbooks. Everyone
gets out PADI logbooks, you get out your BSAC logbook. He starts explaining
to them how the kit goes together and how to put a wet suit on, meanwhile
they just pass you the kit and let you get on with it instead, because
they assume you know exactly what you're doing.
I've even been asked to help with the PADI guys.
Awesome: nice to get some respect occasionally......
We dived on an old ro-ro car ferry in Larnaca harbour,
amongst other places. It was fab, you could see the trucks on their sides
in the cargo hold. Loads of lovely fish, very colourful.
Right in the South East corner of the island, beyond
the suspension limits of normal hire cars and tourist patience, lies Cape
Right at the end of Cape Greco lies the most extraordinary sight: a British
Army listening post.
It consists, unlike the normal Daventry / Barford St John array of vertical
posts and guy wires, of what looks like a radiotelescope.
It's absolutely bloody huge, it's steerable, and it's
I'll bet you can hear Saddam Hussein fart on the loo through that.
This, of course, is why all the other bases are there: to tell the world
to keep off our listening post.
Rumour has it that there are some pictures of Cyprus
in the files that I may get around to putting in here at some point (provided
MI6 don't confiscate my listening post negatives first.....)