An island divided in the Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus lies somewhere between Turkey, Egypt and Lebanon in the Mediterranean Sea. The Green Line that runs across the island separates the Turkish North from the Grecian South. This line that had once been a great source of tension between the two sides is now more relaxed than ever before. Still, it is apparent that this is very much a divided nation. We arrived in the south via Lanarca and with only four days on the island we explored the southwest and east of Cyprus.
While most visitors stay on the resorts along the island’s coastline, we based ourselves inland in the Trodoos Mountains. Many of the mountain villages have been abandoned over the years but some are being restored. One such village is Kalopanagiotis in the Marathasa Valley. The owner of Casale Panayiotis has taken a collection of eight traditional stone houses scattered throughout the village and turned it into part of his hotel and restaurants. We stayed in a room in “Loutraki”, situated on the top of the village which required quite a few steps to hike to.
The Trodoos Mountains are known for its painted Byzantine churches and monasteries. In Kalopanagiotis, the village overlooks the Agios Ioannis (St. John) Lampadistis Monastery. We drove up to 1318 meters above sea level to see the Kykkos Monastery, one of the wealthiest monasteries in Cyprus. Many of the Cypriot vineyards and wine villages like Omodos are also located in this region. We visited the Vlassides and Tsiakkas wineries and tasted the local varieties such as the Xynisteri and Mavro, which are also used to make a sweet dessert wine called Commandaria that may well be the world’s oldest wine.
There are now seven entry points for crossing over the Green Line. One of these are located in Nicosia (or Lefkosia), the capital of Cyprus and the last remaining divided capital in the world. We walked down Ledra Street in the old town to the latest crossing which opened in 2008. Crossing over is now a relatively simple process but still requires a scan of your passport. Crossing the line was like stepping back into another time. From modern shops, international chains and Greek Orthodox churches in the south to Turkish kebabs, old cafes and Muslim mosques in the north. We wandered around the old streets and bazaar and grabbed a delicious lahmacun (a sort of “Turkish pizza”) before crossing back over to the other side. While it may appear that the Green Line has relaxed over the years, the last five decades of separation are difficult to ignore and reunification remains elusive.