Madeline Blount
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Demonstrations in Kyrenia/Girne

April 17, 2009 @ 8:51 AM | Permalink

 On a recent free Friday, I took a trip to Kyrenia (Greek name) / Girne (Turkish name):

Looking at a picture of the harbor there, it's easy to see why.  Now THAT is a picturesque Mediterranean town, if I've ever seen one! (And yeah, I had before this, and Kyrenia/Girne fits the bill that we imagine.)  It is only a 20 minute drive outside of Nicosia, just over the mountains that I look at from my balcony everyday, but like anything across the border in Cyprus, it's in another country.  With the boats and the sea and the castles, it's also a world away from the capital city.

The castle has changed with the city's history, according to the museum that now sits in its ramparts: it was Roman, it was Venetian, it was for French crusaders, it was Ottoman.  The museum also had a so-bizarre-and-garish-it-was-almost-funny display of wax figures being tortured in the castle's dungeon, including a pregnant circa 15th century queen who stared up from her fake confinement, succeeding in freaking me out.  Also exhibited was one of the best preserved ancient shipwrecks in the world; this interested me because it was a clearly Greek civilization boat, being displayed as a proud artifact in a now Turkish museum.  It was also simply a pretty sweet wreck, with the spine of the ship hanging and looking like charred whale bones, and a full jar of millenia-old almonds.  My favorite was that jar of nuts I think (see Pafos post on ancients and their/our food). 

I had a ridiculously pleasant excursion, complete of course with the long coffee on the harbor in the sun.  I paid for one tiny coffee and sat for hours.  The coffee was half the price of anything you would get on the Greek side, one of the side effects of partition economy.

On the way back, as on the way over, I took a service taxi.  These are taxis that you share with other passengers, about the same price as buses and generally the most convenient way to jet around Cyprus, but they have their issues.  When I asked what time the next trip to the border would leave, the driver said:

"When six people come."  Ah, ok.  Pause.

"What if they don't come?"

"They will come."

So I had some time to kill.  I stepped outside the taxi office, right in the middle of a political demonstration:

The flags and people were for the Turkish Cypriot Democrat Party, whose leader Denktash, a former president, is more conservative than the current president of the Turkish Cypriot community.*  I met Osman, who in the last picture is wearing the sunglasses, and who wanted to be called "Ozzie" for short.  I asked him why he and his friends were out for the party, and he said: "We support Denktash, we do not see ourselves on the left or on the right, we just can't let the Greeks get away with all their demands.  We can't let them do whatever they want."  Before asking if that opinion was more on the right than the left, an old man in the group busted out a drum and another man started playing a Middle Eastern clarinet.  To this energizing, celebratory music, the group started a procession through the town, performing Turkishness as much as their political opinion.  Their red recalled the red in the mainland Turkish flag.

Back in Nicosia (and already missing the sea!), I found out when the Turkish Cypriot elections are being held: April 19th.  The same day as Orthodox Easter, by far the most important holiday for the Greek Cypriot community.  A coincidence, or a rival for all the pomp and circumstance?  And there will be a lot of that.  More on Easter to come.


*A president of a community?  The terminology gets fuzzy here, because as some Turkish Cypriots would say that their leader is the president of an independent country, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, only mainland Turkey recognizes this nation.  Other countries (US, EU, etc.) do not recognize it as a legitimate state, and would call the group of Turkish Cypriots a "community."  I've found that some people in Cyprus don't mind the confusion of a mistaken term used (and may be utterly sick of the Problem), while others can be deeply offended.


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Loved the ending on this. Related: I find that sometimes I remember a meeting or moment but can't recall what country it happened in. I also find that if I ...

Saleem Reshamwala on Upon Waking, and Placelessness 2009-03-23

Thanks Saleem -- I've also experienced that tonguetied delirium from speaking multiple languages in the same conversation. . . interesting to think of meaning separate from words, does meaning require ...

Madeline Blount on Upon Waking, and Placelessness 2009-03-26

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