After spending our whole trip on the southern side of the island’s buffer zone, we were finally able to cross in to the Turkish side today. There we saw what war can do to even the most beautiful destinations.
In the morning we left Nicosia and headed north. Once we reached the buffer zone we had to give our passports for the Turkish army to check, and we were joined by an escort who stayed with us during our time in the Turkish occupied area.
In Famagusta, our first stop was the ghost town known as Varosha. It was once a thriving tourist area, with hotels lining one of the most gorgeous beaches on the island. However, after the Turkish invasion in 1974, people fled in panic. Until recently the only people allowed in have been Turkish soldiers, but now the area has reopened. There are still areas fenced off and places with bright red military signs forbidding pictures, but the vast majority of the area is available for the public to see.
As a group, we have seen some amazing destinations throughout the past week and a half. However, I don’t think any shocked us as much as Varosha. Walking through the abandoned streets you are immediately hit with the potential the area has. Then, looking along the coast at all the abandoned hotels leaves anyone feeling dreary. War hurts people and nature in so many ways, but sometimes we may forget what that actually looks like. For me, Varosha is a near perfect imagery for how conflict kills everything it touches.
After visiting Varosha, we went to the Old City of Famagusta, which dates back to medieval times. Once again the ocean views were amazing, but what struck me more was all of the medieval ruins scattered throughout the town. There were large remnants of churches and buildings everywhere, and the whole town was surrounded by a wall. It was so incredible to me to see remnants of a time that I have only seen in movies. It was a reminder to me that although I may have only seen history through books and movies, it is very much real and should be respected.
Once our time in the Old City was up, we left to return back to the unoccupied part of the island. We spent the rest of the day seeing some more of Cyprus’s beautiful natural sites. At Konnos Bay, we swam in the clearest water I have ever seen. The ocean was so many bright shades of blue that I didn’t want to look away. Then, we went to see some sea caves, which can be found all around the southeastern portion of the island. It was once again nice to enjoy the ocean views while also exploring the caves. Finally we saw a natural land bridge which connected two seaside cliffs.
While driving to one of these destinations our guide told us something I believe to be very important. She said how the most beautiful things in the world are always natural. Man can not imitate the beauty of nature. This immediately brought me back to Varosha. Because although we cannot hope to replicate nature’s beauty, we can easily destroy it. My time in Cyprus has allowed me to gain a deeper appreciation for nature’s beauty and an understanding of its fragility. I hope other parts of the world can learn this lesson as well so as not to suffer the same fate as parts of this island.