The Other Side

Sorry, this post is coming a day late because I was exhausted yesterday. Yesterday, we crossed the dividing line between the Greek part of Cyprus and the Turkish occupied part of Cyprus. The two nations have been at a standstill since the seventies, so although the border is peaceful and the two nations get along, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is not recognized as a country by Cyprus, or the rest of the world for that matter. It is a rally weird situation to me that I am not sure I completely understand.

We went and walked around the city of Famagusta, a city on the sea that used to account for eighty percent of Cyprus’s tourism industry before Turkey invaded. In 1971, the Turkish army bombed and plundered the city. Recently, the old city of Famagusta became open for tourism purposes, but nothing was restored. We walked in the streets and saw all of these destroyed, abandoned buildings that came as a result of that invasion. Everything was like a ghost town. It was very eerie to walk around this place that hasn’t had people living in it in decades, to see what used to be people’s livelihoods just sitting empty in front of us. Our tour guide told us that she grew up in Famagusta, and the day the Turkish army invaded was supposed to be her wedding day. That broke my heart a little bit. She also told us how many people she knew and pointed out their stores and houses. It was really sad to see. Apparently, the whole city evacuated and people did not know they could not go back after a few days so they went back to their homes to try and retrieve new clothes. Those people never returned and their bodies were never found. It was so interesting to see this dark part of this beautiful island’s history. This was not because I am pro invasions or anything, I just find the situation that arose after it to be fascinating.

Our tour guide also told us how the Greek and Turkish Cypriots, not mainland Turks, were essentially the same in DNA. When people did those ancestry, twenty three and me type DNA tests, their DNA was unique from both Greeks and Turks, and was a sort of Cyprian combination of the two. The northern Cypriots who are native to Cyprus share the same DNA as the Christian, southern Cypriots. It is so weird to see how something that is seemingly originated on racial tensions actually has no grounds to stand on from that perspective.

After we walked around, we had some free time in another town on the Turkish side. Me and some friends went in the Othello Castle, named after Shakespeare’s play. It was a castle from many hundreds of years ago and it was still intact. There were lots of rooms, lookouts, and pigeons. Our tour guide then walked our small group around the town and showed us some religious buildings and told us a story about how a group she was giving tours to once told her they were reincarnated crusaders there to look at Cyprus. It was really weird but also funny. I got a cheese ring pastry for lunch in that town as well.

We saw the sea caves and went to the beach after that. I cannot even express how clear the water was. The sea caves were a bit underwhelming though, just because I think you had to be from a certain angle. Overall, everything was stunning though. We came back and did a walking tour of the old city of Nicosia with our University of Nicosia representative. He showed us where a bunch of good food places are. Today was a good day.

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