I am currently working in Israel, but due to a SNAFU with my Israeli work visa, I had to leave the country for three days. The Republic of Cyprus on the island of Cyprus is a short hop (and more importantly, a cheap ticket) from Tel-Aviv.
Four co-workers and I wake up at o’dark-thirty and hop into a cab so we can catch a 6am flight. After being questioned pretty thoroughly by airport security, we get on a little turbo-prop and prepare to take off. The plane is so small that the steward has to move people around to balance out the load.
First a little history/trivia; Cyprus is the third largest island in the Med, behind Sicily and Sardinia. There is also archeological evidence proving that Cyprus has been inhabited by humans for at least 12,000 years! A little more recently, in 1974 Greece staged a coup in an effort to unite Cyprus with Greece. Five days after the Greek coup, Turkey invaded the island citing a 1960 treaty that they claimed gave them the right to intervene. After three days of fighting, the Greek and Turkish armies agreed to a cease fire. The peace talks fell through though and about a month later, Turkey reinitiated its invasion. International pressure finally lead to a ceasefire that has held, but not before Turkey had taken control of the northern third of the island. In 1983 this chunk of Cyprus declared itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is only recognized by Turkey.There is a UN buffer zone that snakes its way across the island, separating the TRNC from the rest of Cyprus. The British army also has numerous bases around the island, probably a holdover from when the island belonged to them.
Enough history. My companions and I arrived at our hotel fairly early and we spent most of the rest of the day drinking, solving the worlds problems and absorbing the beautiful environment we found ourselves in.
I awoke the next day determined to rent a car and see what this island had to offer. The first thing I saw on the map was that Mount Olympus on the island. I was pretty sure that the real Mount Olympus was in Greece, and a quick check on the Google confirmed my suspicions, the one on Cyprus is not the home of the Greek (or Roman) gods. What the hell though? When am I ever going to get an opportunity to visit Mount Olympus?
In order to get to Mount Olympus, I’m going to need a car. With the day’s goals firmly set, I wandered up and down the road in front of the hotel until I found a place that rented cars. Only to find that they were closed. Undaunted, I continued my trek and found another car rental place, which was also closed. They say the third time is a charm, and in this case it was. The next place I found was open. 75 Euro and a signature later, I was the proud (temporary) owner of a red Fiat Panda POS.
I do a quick inspection of the car:
- Right hand drive? Check
- About 3 sizes too small? Check
- The cheapest, most under powered thing Fiat builds? Check and check.
At least red is the fastest color.
I manage to wedge myself under the steering wheel and away I go. During the hour and a half drive to Mount Olympus the little Panda starts to grow on me. It’s not fast, or pretty or particularly fun to drive, but it was able to cruise at 120kph easily enough and it got me where I wanted to go. Score one for the Panda.
After about an hour, I saw signs for a waterfall. It was time to get out and stretch my legs, so why not?
For 5 Euro, it was actually pretty nice but the day’s mission is not complete. On to Mount Olympus. While it’s not the home of the Greek gods, it is home to a British army long range radar base.
I’ll be posting Part II in a few days. Stay tuned.