Matchbox cars aren’t good for driving up mountains
Leaving the humidity behind, the hills await… but the car isn’t a fan of driving up the steep winding roads.
Meet my Matchbox car; a puce coloured Chevrolet Spark with no power that struggles to get from 0 to 100km/h in under five minutes. It’s not great at climbing hills, struggling to get out of second gear and fitting my luggage into the boot requires a little manipulation.
My wheels for the next couple of weeks in Cyprus, it’s only positive so far is its compact size, I can swing it into tight spaces with little effort.
Today I’ve swapped the hot and humid coast for the fresh mountain air of central Cyprus. Keen to get away from the hordes of tourists eating McDonald’s, KFC and all-you-can-eat Pizza Hut, I drove (or crawled) up the windy hills to the small village of Troodos.
The temperature dropped about ten degrees, and the clouds have been closing in all afternoon. The air is crisp and fresh with the wafting scent of pine.
I walked this afternoon along a trail, alone in the wilderness; the only sounds the gravel under my feet, the birds tweeting, bees buzzing around me and wind whooshing past my ears. There is an elegant beauty in being so far removed from the hustling sounds of the city.
Dotted with wineries and monasteries, the Troodos Mountains are in the middle of Southern, or Greek Cyprus.
The island has been divided for decades, after Turkey invaded in 1974 following a Greek revolt. This came at the end of 11 years of fighting between the Turks and Greeks following independence from Britain. And Britain’s colonisation came after 300 years of Ottoman rule. And before that, rule by just about all the major empires of the region.
Greeks fled the north, and Turks moved from the south. Nicosia is the capital of both the north and the south, but a barbed wire division runs down the middle and is manned by the UN. The Green Line in fact runs across the island, with various crossings dotted along it.
Coming back to my trip so far though, I started in Larnaca where I spent one night (all that’s needed), picked up the Matchbox and began driving to Limassol.
Limassol has a lovely old part with lots of coloured shuttered buildings, cafes and restaurants. There’s an old castle, churches and a mosque and next to no crowds at this time of the year.
Cyprus crashed in the GFC, and it was bad for a while, but there seems to be a turnaround. There’s lots of jobs advertised and the Limassol Marina is undergoing a $300 million upgrade to “the most exclusive waterfront property in Europe”.
Cypriots seem to be a friendly bunch with a good sense of humour. No one has hustled me to buy anything and everyone seems up for a chat.
English is widely spoken, but many signs are Greek only, and the spelling of places often changes between signs. But I have surprised myself with the amount of Greek letters I remember from high school maths.
Driving has been pretty easy so far, but Cypriots are a little impatient when it comes to traffic lights and roundabouts are a “take-your-life-into-your-own-hands” affair. But at least they drive on the correct side of the road (that’s the left-hand side).
The pace of life here is slow and calm, a welcome change from the erratic pace of the Middle East. Being able to take stock and smell the pine trees is good for the soul.