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The Land of Love and War

Republic of Cyprus

Cyprus is one of the most interesting cruise destinations you can hope to visit during your voyages on the high seas. It’s a land with four thousand years of history behind it, and one of those remarkable places where history and prehistory intertwine most vividly, giving way to myth. It’s the focus of several of the Greek myths, most notably the story of Aphrodite, the goddess of Love. Modern Cypriots make a great deal of this connection, and work hard to attract honeymooners and baby-boomers trying to recapture the intense feelings of their youth during a romantic break.

Cyprus, Central Larnaca But it remains, in one sense, an unhappy land. Although visiting Cyprus is no more dangerous than visiting any other Western European or US destination, you can’t help but be aware, as you walk through the streets of Nicosia, the island’s capital, of the tragic recent history of the island. This part of the Mediterranean was, for hundreds of years, the battleground of Greeks and Turks, the two ethnic groups that dominate the region. They tend to fight their battles across the floor of the UN these days, but it’s only thirty years since things were significantly more bloody. In July 1974 Turkey invaded the island in response to a coup attempt by groups backed by the Greek government. Turkey instigated an ‘independent’ republic on the northern third of the island, which remains to this day.

So it remains a divided land: changes may be afoot, however, as Turkey is keen to join the European Union, and may not be allowed to do so until steps towards reunification have been taken. Further civil unrest and military conquest is extremely unlikely – so although the political situation leaves a lot to be desired, Cyprus has become a hugely popular cruise and vacation destination for travelers of all ages.

All the usual delights of a Mediterranean cruise destination are on offer in Cyprus. Younger cruisers will find that Limassol and Agia Napa (sometimes spelt ‘Ayia Napa’) are among the top destinations in Europe for people seeking fun in the sun. Both locations are full of clubs, discos and taverns serving great food, wine and beer. Agia Napa, especially, has something of a reputation as a hotspot for northern European twenty-something's to cut loose and have a good time. Within this group the heavy-drinking nations of the UK, Germany, Denmark, Norway and Sweden are very strongly represented, so Ayia Napa is probably not the place to go if you want a little peace and quiet away from noisy crowds of drunken young men and women. If you can tolerate the rowdiness, though, Agia Napa is recognized as a center for dance music. During the summer season the music in its many clubs is usually provided by British DJs in the vanguard of their popular art form.

If you crave a little peace and quiet, though, Cyprus has much else to offer. For centuries prior to its fall in the fifteenth century, the Byzantine city of Constantinople (now Turkish Istanbul) ruled the island. The Byzantines, like the majority of modern-day Greek Cypriots, were Orthodox Christians. On Cyprus you can find several of the Byzantine Empire’s monasteries – havens of peace and quiet, usually set back a little from the tourist bustle of the coast. Ammochostos monastery in Agia Napa (dedicated to ‘Our Lady of the Forests’) seems worlds distant from the hectic social whirl that goes on every night just a few hundred yards away. The monastery’s church, built in the sixteenth century, is partially underground, cut deep into the local rock. Its cool interior is a haven of peace, a welcome break from the heat of the Cypriot midday sun. If you’re planning on visiting any church or monastery during your stopover in Cyprus, bear in mind that it’s considered respectful and appropriate to cover up bare limbs. Shorts are generally not acceptable for either sex, and women should cover their shoulders.

Cyprus Beach If your cruising with kids, and you get dropped within easy distance of Larnaca, you should consider visiting the Camel Park in Mazatos Village. You can learn all about these amazing beasts of burden, find out about their natural habitat and how they’ve been domesticated for human use. And, of course, you can enjoy a humpy ride on a camel’s back! The park also has a restaurant, swimming pool and play area – great fun for kids of all ages.

With luck, the beautiful island of Cyprus will soon put its troubles behind it and be whole once more. As a cruiser, pumping dollars into the local economy, you can only help that process. So as you enjoy the sun and sand of Cyprus, cross your fingers and wish for a happy future for this island paradise.

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