In the Footsteps of Paul
As you read in the previous blog, Sheila and I were planning to go to Thailand, Cambodia and Singapore for Christmas and New Year’s. But my delay in purchasing our plane tickets and the fact that our friends would not be Bangkok forced us to find a new location for our New Year’s holiday. Because we were up against such a short deadline, we had to find a location that did not require Sheila to apply for a visa. That limited our options but thanks to some “friends” (I use that word very loosely) on YouTube, we found a hidden gem in the Mediterranean Sea.
Before I reveal our New Year’s destination, I need to introduce you to my YouTube friends – Kara and Nate (Click the link to watch their video) I ran across Kara and Nate as I was researching ideas for our holiday vacation to Thailand and Cambodia. I was looking for information on Angkor Wat, a temple complex in northern Cambodia on the UNESCO World Heritage List when I ran across their sunrise visit to Angkor Wat. I immediately started following Kara and Nate and watching their videos. I found kindred spirits as we are both from the south (I’m from Alabama and they are from Tennessee) and love traveling the world. Nate and Kara decided to travel around the world so last January, the two left the United States and began a year that included visits to some amazing places on this planet. They have hundreds of videos on their YouTube channel of their experiences in over 30 countries, including Thailand and Cambodia. However, one of the videos caught my attention and led Sheila and I to the island of Cyprus.
I am sure that most of you have heard of Cyprus. As a Christian, I had read about Paul and Barnabas’s mission to Cyprus and in 2008, I was in a fellowship with a Cypriot. Through my Cypriot friend, I learned that the island was divided into the Republic of Cyprus (the southern part of the island) that is allied with Greece and the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus that is allied with…Turkey! The Republic of Cyprus is a member of the EU and requires Sheila to obtain a Schengen visa to enter. North Cyprus, which again is affiliated with Turkey required Sheila to have a U.S. or U.K. visa. While our last minute flights were a bit expense, once we landed in North Cyprus, the region was very inexpensive. We were able to get hotel rooms for between $50-90 a night and a rental car for five days for only $90. Food cost ranged between $5 for a Turkish doner to $15 for an all-you-can-eat buffet at one of the island’s five-star resorts. Pastries, fruit and cheese were abundant in North Cyprus. We stopped at a farmer’s market to buy fruit and was shocked by the cheap price of fruits and vegetables. A kilo of oranges was only 1.75 Turkish Lira, about 46 cents. CRAZY! However, it is important to note that orange trees were everywhere on the island. The only downside to traveling in December was the inconsistent weather patterns. In the morning, the sun would be bright and high in the sky but by 1:00pm, the clouds would roll in and a brief rain shower would occur. However, by 3 or 4:00pm, the sun would reemerge. Sheila and I tried to make the best of an unpredictable situation.
North Cyprus has beaches, castle ruins, monasteries, cathedrals that were turned into mosque and a mountain chain that runs the length of the island. Driving around the island was like driving through a painted landscape of sandy hills and crashing waves. We were stopping every few miles to snap photos of the surrounding area.
Driving in Cyprus requires a bit of patience and attention. As we Americans say, Cypriots drive on the wrong side of the road (or to state correctly, they drive on the right side of the road). Driving on the right side requires undivided attention because as a left seated driver, I tend to drift to the left and become too close to the end of the road. Not comforting for Sheila (the passenger) when climbing windy roads in the Kyrenia Mountains. And there was that one time when we thought a tour bus was going to take us out on the road to St. Hilarion Castle. When we look back at the video, the situation wasn’t so dramatic but in the moment, we really thought the tour bus was on a collision course with our car. You can hear me in the video yelling NOOO…as the bus approached us. (Check out the video) But this wouldn’t be the last time that we found ourselves in a predicament in our tiny Ford Fiesta…the trip to Cyprus turned out to be more exciting then what we were expecting.
The Road to St. Hilarion Castle (the video of our drive to the top of the mountain)