November 22, 2002

Thailand, Cyprus, Slovenia

Greetings from Slovenia!

Well, I see it has been a full month since I last wrote so here is the latest update.

After I last wrote I spent the week doing computer training in Kompong Thmal. I spent time helping most of the ADRA project staff learn how to type, although I also spent some time on specific programs (Access, Outlook, etc) with a few of the more advanced users. Some of the staff had never really used a computer before so they have plenty to learn and practice.

On Sabbath we had potluck, which was good as usual, and on Saturday night we played some games, although this time we went to Bryan and Penny's house which is a few miles north of Phnom Penh.

On Sunday I spent most of the day at the Phnom Penh water park with some friends. The water park is geared towards kids, but it was still fun to play on the slides and in the pools. It was also nice to be wet, and hence relatively cool for a change. The park opened this year and has a wave pool, lazy river, giant waterbed covered in water and several slides. On the way back from the water park we went out to eat at a pizza place which I hadn't been to before, and it was very good.

After spending a short week in Kompong Thmal, I traveled by taxi to Phnom Penh on the afternoon of Wednesday, October 23. In the evening I got a haircut and took care of everything I needed to get done before leaving Cambodia for a month.

Thursday morning I got up at about 6:00 am and caught a moto taxi to the taxi stand. I had arranged for a share taxi seat the night before, which was supposedly leaving at 7:00 am and actually left at 7:45 or so. The taxi was headed for Koh Kong which is a town on the Cambodia-Thailand border. The first half of the ride was on a very good paved road, but the second half was on a dirt road that was quite rutted in places. Much of the road wound through hilly, unpopulated jungle areas with plenty of beautiful scenery (we actually passed through at least one national park). We also used four car ferries along the way and had to wait about 2.5 hours in a tiny village because the road was closed for repairs. I had planned enough travel time so that I would be okay spending the night at the border if needed, but we ended up making it to the border about 10 minutes before it closed at 5 pm. After a little hassle with the taxi driver I walked across the border and got right on an air-conditioned mini bus headed for the town of Trat in Thailand. As we sped along the smooth, paved coastal highway I enjoyed watching the sun set between a couple of islands. Public transport in Thailand was quite luxurious compared to the Toyota Corolla taxis in Cambodia (with four in front and four in the back usually). In Trat I bought a bus ticket (AC with a movie dubbed in Thai) to Bangkok. I had 30 minutes before the bus left so I got to enjoy my first Thai food in Thailand, which was wonderful. I finally arrived in Bangkok at 11 pm, although by the time I found my way to the ADRA building (via a combination of local buses and a taxi) it was 1 am and I was glad to get a hot shower and some rest. The one hour flight from Phnom Penh to Bangkok would have cost around $170 (roundtrip), but certainly wouldn't have been nearly as interesting as the overland route which cost a little less than $20 (one way) for the entire trip.

Friday morning I said hello to a few people in the ADRA Asia regional office and then headed for the Bangkok airport. My flight was scheduled for later in the day, but my dad was arriving in the morning. He was visiting Thailand for the weekend and things worked out so that we were able to meet up in Bangkok. We ended up visiting Pantip Plaza which is basically a multi-story mall (complete with food court) devoted entirely to computers. After looking around a little we found some Thai food for lunch. We then made our way back to the airport where my dad got a ride to Mission College and I caught my flight to Dubai. I found that Thailand was noticeably more developed than Cambodia in many ways (cleaner, more electricity, good infrastructure, etc). I also noticed that quite a few familiar American franchises such as 7-11, Pizza Hut, and Burger King (and others) were present in Thailand (but not in Cambodia).

I had about 8 hours in Dubai and had a good sleep on the floor for about 5-6 of them before catching another flight to Larnaka where I was met by my mom. From the airport we went directly to an apartment hotel on the beach (about 5-10 minutes from the airport) where my mom's parents were waiting. My grandparents had been in Cyprus for about a month already when I arrived so we just relaxed at the beach for 3 days until my dad arrived from Thailand on Tuesday. I enjoyed home cooked meals, readers digest and swimming in the ocean everyday. I also had the first of many delicious clementine (mandarin) oranges, which are now in season in Cyprus and was introduced to the great freshly baked whole meal bread that is widely available in Cyprus.

On Sunday the parents of Jonathan, who is the other ADRA volunteer in Cambodia, spent the afternoon at the beach with us and gave me some things to take back to him. It wasn't planned, but it worked out that they were on vacation in Cyprus at the same time as me so we arranged to meet up. It was nice to get to know them a little bit and they told us some interesting stories about the changes that have taken place in Germany (they are from former East Germany).

Tuesday afternoon we picked up my dad from the airport and drove to my parents' apartment in Nicosia. I had seen pictures but this was my first time to visit our new home in Cyprus. Tuesday night we went out to TGI Fridays to celebrate all of our birthdays. I enjoyed it quite a bit although I was experiencing some reverse culture shock since prices for eating out in Cyprus are actually higher than in the US (and way higher than in Cambodia).

Wednesday evening Greg (my dad's brother) and his wife Mary Kay arrived from Maryland and Thursday morning my grandparents flew back to Oregon. On Thursday and Friday Greg, Mary Kay, and I were shown around Nicosia by my mom while my dad worked in the office. We visited an Independence monument, an old aqueduct, a real grocery store (we don't have them in Cambodia), a farmers market and the old town area which is filled with touristy shops and restaurants. For lunch we had cheese sandwiches made with haloumi cheese which is a locally produced, very mild cheese that reminds me of cheese curds available at cheese factories in the US. For desert we sampled some of the excellent Italian style ice cream (Gelato) that is widely available in Cyprus. We also visited the wall at the edge of the UN green zone that divides the capitol city (Nicosia) between north and south Cyprus. The island has been divided since Turkey illegally invaded about a third of the island in the north in the 1970s. Cyprus is hoping that this conflict will be resolved soon since Turkey is now under pressure to resolve it if they want to be considered for membership in the European Union. South Cyprus on the other hand is on track to join whether or not the conflict is resolved.

Sabbath we went to Sabbath school and church at the Nicosia church, which I remembered from my previous visit to Cyprus in December of 1999. A few people at church (and at the Middle East Union office) remembered me from when I was here before, although many of the people have moved here since then as well. After church we drove up into the mountains where we had a picnic lunch and then visited a Greek Orthodox monastery located high in the hills. Next we drove to the top of Mt. Olympus (a little over 6,000 feet) where they have a couple of ski lifts that usually start operating in January I think. On the way back we visited an old village called Kakopetria that has been restored to look about like it did a couple hundred years ago with narrow cobblestone streets and stone buildings. The village is basically a tourist area now with a few small hotels, restaurants and shops.

On Sunday I enjoyed my first visit to the sailboat in it's new Cyprus home (for those of you who haven't heard about it, the trip from Maryland was a success and my dad was on board for a little over three weeks for the 2000+ miles from Gibraltar to Cyprus). After dropping off Greg and Mary Kay at the cruise terminal in Limassol, (they enjoyed a 3 day cruise to Egypt) my mom and I drove to the marina in Larnaka where we met my dad and some ADRA people who were in town for a workshop. We didn't have a lot of wind, but enjoyed swimming off the back of the boat and had a nice lunch aboard as well.

Monday we got up relatively early and went to welcome people to the ADRA workshop that was starting in Larnaka (Larnaka, Nicosia and Limassol are in a sort of triangle, and are all about an hour from each other). I ended up sitting in on the workshop for the rest of the day since the material was fairly relevant to the project I work for in Cambodia.

Tuesday my mom and I picked up Greg and Mary Kay from the cruise terminal and then made our way along the coast. Along the way we had a picnic on the beach next to the birthplace (according to legend) of the Greek goddess Aphrodite. We also visited some ruins from the Roman period including a theater, a house with ancient baths, a stadium and some rather elaborate underground tombs. We arrived at our hotel in the west of Cyprus just in time to watch the sunset. After we got settled in at the hotel apartment we enjoyed a nice meal at a restaurant in town and then had a night visit to the baths of Aphrodite. Greg and I walked up the path and it was so dark that I ended up "bathing" my foot rather unexpectedly. Judging from postcards and the sound of water (we couldn't see much at night) the "baths" are basically a pool of water with some tiny waterfalls trickling into it.

Wednesday we drove back to my parents' apartment. The route we took first wound along the coast (breathtaking views) and then climbed into the mountains where we had a picnic in Cedar Valley, which lives up to it's name with Cedar trees as well as some others. Some of the trees (not the Cedars) were displaying their golden fall colors and were quite pretty. Since it was on the way back we stopped at Kakopetria again to get some pictures in daylight and explored the area a little bit more.

Thursday my dad and I got dropped off at the sailboat early in the afternoon (the others went on to explore other parts of the island). We then headed about an hour up the coast by boat and picked up some ADRA people from the hotel where the workshop was taking place. We didn't have much wind again so did some more swimming before dropping off the ADRA people back at their hotel. We used the dinghy to row people to and from shore. After dropping the people off my dad and I cooked supper (pasta) and then went to sleep. During the night the waves picked up in a different direction than the breeze so that the boat started rocking in a way that made it hard to sleep. Since we were both awake we started sailing at about 3 am and the wind gradually increased throughout the morning. By the time the sun was fully up we were really having a good sail. We sailed along the coast and then anchored in a cove around noon where we met up with Greg, Mary Kay and my mom. After enjoying some swimming (I even snorkeled a little bit) we all had supper on the boat.

Sabbath we explored the coast by car and enjoyed sea caves, arches, jagged cliffs and a church. For the rest of the day Greg, my dad and I sailed the boat back to it's home in Larnaka marina. The "sailing" was actually motoring with a couple of sails up at first, but later in the day the wind picked up and we enjoyed some excellent sailing, including some at night before arriving in our marina at around 9 pm.

I spent Sunday and Monday at home and Greg and Mary Kay flew back to Maryland Monday morning. Tuesday I ran some errands with my mom and then we left for the airport at about 2:00 am Wednesday morning. After a layover of a couple of hours in Budapest we arrived in Zagreb, Croatia Wednesday morning. We were met at the airport by a taxi that took us to our hotel in Rogaska Slatina, Slovenia (about an hour from the Zagreb airport).

We are visiting this part of the world because my dad is attending meetings here. My mom was already planning to come with him and since my visit to Cyprus ended up overlapping with the meetings my parents decided to bring me along as well. The town we are staying in is quite small and is basically a spa resort with all kinds of "cures" ranging from massage to aromatherapy to acupuncture to the painful sounding "lymph drainage". They like to hold meetings here because it is a central location and the prices are considerably lower than Western Europe. Full board is included in the room package and the food is very good with buffet style appetizers and salad followed by a choice of entrée and desert. By now we are often skipping the entrée or just ordering a fruit plate fairly often since the appetizers are so good and it's easy to eat too much. It has been interesting to meet and dine with lots of church leaders who are attending the meetings from all over the Trans-European Division. As you might imagine we had a good Sabbath with the majority of the congregation made up of pastors and plenty of people to share the speaking at vespers and church services.

While my dad has been in meetings most of the time, my mom and I have been relaxing. There are a couple of different hot pools fed with mineral rich spring water that we have visited. The larger pool complex has an outdoor portion and a variety of different water jets including some in-water lounge chairs that use bubbles to give you a gentle massage-like experience. One rather unique thing here is that they have coed locker rooms. They have little changing rooms like you would find in a department store, but the rest of the locker room, including the showers is open and coed. Although everyone wears swimming suits it is still a little different than what we are used to in the States.

We have also enjoyed walking/hiking in the hills surrounding the hotel. My favorite trail so far is one that goes to the top of the local ski hill where they have a lookout tower with a good view of the area. Unfortunately for me they don't have snow here yet so I haven't been able to do any skiing.

On Monday we walked a few kilometers out of town to the local Crystal factory where we enjoyed a tour. They certainly don't have the same safety standards as in the US since we basically walked right through the glass blowing area with no safety railing or anything like you would have on a factory tour in the US. This factory actually supplies Crystal to several famous brands in the US but you can buy it here at very reasonable prices.

On Tuesday a lady who lives in this area picked us up and took us around. We first drove to the top of a mountain where it was quite cold (close to freezing) and we had a great view of the valley below. I again was wishing for snow since we saw a gondola ski lift at the top of the mountain. She then took us to visit several castles and one old town. After lunch our next stop was at the Adventist school where she lives, which is just across the border in Croatia. The school is very nice and even has a castle on campus that they used to use as a school before they built the new buildings. Our last stop was at another castle that we visited just as it was getting dark. These castles are relics of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (Hapsburgs), which ruled in this area until World War I.

Yesterday and today have been low-key relaxation days and tomorrow we are going to the airport to fly back to Cyprus. After spending Sabbath in Cyprus I will start my trip back to Cambodia Saturday night.

Well, I guess I should have written sooner since this has gotten rather long again. Oh well, perhaps the next update will be a bit shorter…

Until next time,

Andrew

August 29, 2003

suez canal and my plans for the next year


here is a map of our sailing route
Greetings from Cyprus!

Well, it has been over a month since my last update and quite a bit has happened. When I last wrote we were preparing to leave Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt. It took most of a day to finish up all of the formalities with customs and the other various officials, so by the time we got under way we were well into the afternoon on Thursday, July 31. We planned to travel straight through the night for at least two nights in order to reach the port of Suez on the south end of the Suez Canal, so the late departure time wasn't really a problem.

For the first few hours of the trip we had to head roughly southwest in order to clear some land and we were able to make good time using our sails for this first leg of the trip. As we entered the Gulf of Suez and began heading north
sunrise in the gulf of suez
the wind pretty much died so we had to start using the engine. We were still able to make fairly good time at first, but as the night wore on the winds began to pick up. By the time my watch started at midnight we were motoring directly upwind and the waves were growing larger by the hour. We had set up a watch schedule for the trip where each person would be on watch for one 3 hour shift every 12 hours. During the off duty hours we tried to stay caught up on our sleep.

We originally predicted that our trip to Suez would probably take about 2 solid days, but due to the very unfavorable winds it ended up taking over 5 days instead. For the first two days we traveled straight through the night, but the wind and waves reduced our motoring speed from a more typical 5 knots to under 1 knot per hour for much of the time (1 knot per hour is slightly faster than 1 mile per hour). It was particularly frustrating to wake and see roughly
my mom posing as we leave an anchorage
the same scenery after sleeping for 6 or more hours. In the morning after our second night underway we decided to try sailing for a while since the winds were very strong and we weren't making much headway using the engine. When trying to make headway directly upwind under sail power you have to tack back and forth since it is not possible to sail directly upwind. Usually you can still make decent headway by doing this, although our boat can't sail as close to the wind as we would sometimes like. After doing several tacks back and forth sailing at around 6-7 knots we found that we were able to gain ground towards the north about twice as fast as we could under power. On top of that the ride was a bit smoother and we could enjoy the thrill and peacefulness of sailing without the noise of the engine. Needless to say we continued to use our sails for the rest of the day.


one of the many container ships that passed us
Towards the end of the day we decided to look for a place to anchor for the night. We didn't feel comfortable sailing at night since there were quite a few oil platforms in the area, including some that were unlit so we would have had to switch back to making almost no headway using the engine. We also thought the idea of sleeping through the whole night without keeping watches sounded quite nice. Using a guidebook we found a fairly sheltered anchorage just as the sun was going down. We were well sheltered from the waves, but the winds were still very strong and it took several tries to get our anchor set. Since we were anchored near the shore the winds brought with them quite a bit of dust which coated everything on the boat including us. We were glad to get showers and spend some time below with all the hatches closed and the AC running to cool us off. By the time we went to bed the wind and dust had died down considerably and the weather had cooled off enough that we slept quite well with the hatches open again.


sunset in the suez canal
In the morning we decided to just stay put and take a day to rest and wait and see if the winds would change in our favor. After sleeping in we basically spent the day reading and relaxing with a couple of breaks to eat.

Monday morning we got up before the sun and raised the anchor. Our hope was to make some headway using the motor before the winds got strong, but that didn't really work out. The winds were already strong, even right at sunrise so we spent the entire day sailing. We managed to make some headway but decided to find another place to anchor for the night. This time we spotted some dolphins near our boat while we were at anchor and also enjoyed some swimming before watching the sunset.

Tuesday the winds were still against us, but we continued to make progress.
even submarines travel through the canal
Towards the end of the day the wind began to die down and we eventually started up the engine. The wind continued to die off and as it did our speed under motor increased. I think the waves were also a little smaller since we were getting close to the end of the gulf. We figured out the distance and decided that with the favorable motoring conditions we could keep going and make it to Suez by around midnight. It was a little challenging to come in and find a spot to anchor at night since there were lots of big ships waiting to pass through the canal, but we managed just fine. During the night we were awakened by a police boat, the crew of which asked a couple of questions about where we were coming from and going to before they moved on.

Wednesday morning we motored the last mile or so in to the Suez Yacht Club, which is really just a small area for boats to tie up. They only have one short dock so we had to row ourselves to and from shore using our dinghy. While our
this is the only bridge over the suez canal
agent for the canal transit took care of all the formalities my sister and I caught a share taxi to an internet cafe several kilometers down the road to check everyone's email. On the way back we stopped at a fruit stand and picked up some fresh, ripe figs which were very sweet and really hit the spot for supper.

Thursday morning a pilot assigned to us by the canal authorities joined us around 10 am and we began the first leg of our journey through the Suez Canal. Traffic in the canal runs in only one direction at a time as it isn't wide enough for two large ships to meet each other safely, although there are a couple of wider parts where the north and south bound convoys can safely pass each other. There are usually two north bound convoys and one southbound convoy each day with traffic traveling right through the night. Smaller boats
customs building in port said
like ours however are officially only allowed to transit the canal during daylight hours and usually have to stop overnight in the town of Ismailia, which is about half way through the canal. On the first day of our trip we started out right at the end of one of the north bound convoys, but also met the southbound convoy along the way. Since our boat is so much smaller than the large cargo ships it wasn't a problem to just stay along the edge of the canal when meeting the southbound traffic. Part of the Canal travels through a pair of lakes which are quite large, although traffic usually stays within a well marked deep water channel. Along the banks of the canal there were many police posts and our pilot had to check in with authorities along the way via radio. By the time we arrived in Ismailia the sun had already set. After dropping off our pilot we took a walk in to town where we enjoyed an Egyptian style supper of koosheri and falafels. Koosheri is an excellent dish made from pasta, lentils, and tomato sauce while the falafels
under sail in the med
were served in pita bread with fresh veggies and some strong cheese. We ate in a small cafe and paid a whopping $1 total for the four of us to eat until we were full, and the price even included a soft drink. For dessert we bought some mango popsicles from several vendors along the way as we walked back to the marina. At the marina we moved the boat a ways out from the pier and dropped our anchor for the night.

Bright and early Friday morning we were awakened by our pilot for the day and continued our journey north through the canal. Along the way we met many more large ships and even got to see a US Navy submarine that was transiting the canal. We also passed under a tall bridge which was built in cooperation with the Japanese. It is the only route over the canal, although there is at least one tunnel under it and there are many car ferries which cross it at various points as well. Most of the land along the canal seemed to be rather desolate
still sailing in the med...
and unpopulated, but in some areas there were more people and buildings. In the more populated areas we saw people fishing and swimming in the water, especially in the hours just before sunset. Some entire families were out enjoying the water, although most of the women kept everything except their faces covered at all times, even when splashing in the water. Thanks to the early start of our day we made it to Port Said, which is at the north end of the canal, fairly early in the afternoon. After a boat came by and picked up our pilot we continued directly through Port Said and out into the Mediterranean.

Once we cleared the shallow coastal waters of Egypt we set a course for Cyprus and raised all four of the sails. Thankfully the winds were favorable for the rest of the trip and we didn't have to tack or even lower any sails for the entire 2
sarah climbs aboard after an evening swim
day trip to Cyprus. The winds did get pretty weak for a couple of hours once or twice, but they never completely stopped so we were able to keep on sailing without the engine until we reached Cyprus.

We arrived in Cyprus Sunday evening, but decided to anchor out one more night to wait for the customs office to open up Monday morning. We dropped our anchor near the marina and enjoyed a nice sunset swim and a good nights sleep. In the morning we packed everything up, loaded the car, got cleared by customs and immigration and parked the boat before driving the 40 minutes to my parents apartment in the town of Nicosia.

In total I spent just over 3 weeks on the boat and definitely had a good time. The sailing itself was lots of fun, but the snorkeling and quick trips in to town
my parents car after sitting under a tree for over 5 weeks
were also very interesting. It was also especially nice to spend time with my family.

For the first week back here in Cyprus we mostly just got caught up on laundry and sleep, although on Friday we decided to go camping with some friends. We spent the weekend at a campground in the Troodos mountains which have a considerably cooler climate than the rest of the island due to the elevation. We enjoyed sitting around the campfire and of course made camp bread a time or two. On Sabbath we visited a nearby waterfall and took a couple of short hikes out of our campground. On Sunday we stopped at some touristy shopping places and also drove up Mt. Olympus on the way home. The Cyprus version of Mt. Olympus rises to 1952 meters (6400 feet) and is topped by a military compound. This was the first time that we were able to drive up the access road, which has been closed in the past, and we were able to walk around the
we all enjoyed our visit to this mountain waterfall
top of the mountain, staying just outside the military fence. One of the four ski lifts on Cyprus also ends near the top of Mt. Olympus, although the hot weather right now isn't very good for snow skiing.

Most of last week we stayed at home, but on Tuesday we drove down to the beach. As part of my birthday present my sister and I went parasailing behind a boat near the beach and also spent a few minutes on wave runners thanks to a combination deal. It was pretty fun to go so high above the beach and it was also fun when they dipped our feet in the water before bringing us back to the boat. It was also lots of fun to ride the wave runners in the ocean where there were bigger waves than you get in the lakes where I had ridden before.


sarah even went for a swim in the cold stream
On Thursday my sister flew back to Maryland. Her flight was delayed and she missed a connection or two, but still made it in time to enjoy the weekend before her college classes started.

On Sabbath we had an ordination ceremony which went very well and was followed by a nice potluck. During potluck I enjoyed visiting with the very friendly and international church group.

Sunday morning my dad and I took a couple of families out on the sailboat for a couple of hours. There were some small kids along so the short trip was just the right amount of time to spend on the water with them. We sailed a little, but also stopped for some swimming along the way.


our campsite
Yesterday (Thursday) my mom and I dropped my dad off at the airport where he caught a flight to Kuwait. After dropping him off we drove along the coast for a couple of hours and found a couple of nice beaches that weren't too crowded. We even found one that has a small fishing shelter which may make a good destination for a weekend sailing trip some time.

This morning I helped one of my dad's coworkers move into a new house. Many people here in Cyprus live in apartments with narrow stairs and no elevators, and the one that we moved furniture into today is one of those. To make the moving job easier we hired a special truck that has a platform on a long retractable arm which can easily lift all of the heavy stuff up to the balcony for easy unloading. These trucks really help to speed up the moving process and in fact make it possible to bring larger pieces of furniture that would never fit in the stairwell directly into the house.


parasailing
Not too much else has been going on this week, although I have been finalizing my plans for what I'll be doing next. I am now officially going to Guam where I will work with Adventist World Radio for about a year doing mostly computer related stuff. I'm scheduled to fly directly from here to Guam, leaving this coming Sunday and arriving there on Tuesday. My only stops along the way will be in the Dubai and Manilla airports for a few hours each. I'm definitely looking forward to the challenges and new experiences that I will have during this next year.

For anyone who doesn't know, the island of Guam is a US Territory in the Pacific Ocean about 3,700 miles south-southwest of Hawaii (actually, Los Angeles is closer to Hawaii than Guam is). It is about 30 miles long and the width varies between 4 and 12 miles. If you want to learn more about Guam you can check out http://www.gov.gu/ for details including maps and pictures.


heading out on the waverunners
I realized the other day that I've basically been traveling for the past 5 months with only a short 3 week break to finish up my work in Cambodia. It has been lots of fun, but it will also be nice to settle down in one place, at least for a few months. Well, I think that's it for now and my next update will probably be posted from Guam.

Until then,

Andrew

January 13, 2005

Christmas in Cyprus


melissa bundled up for the amsterdam weather
Greetings from Tennessee!

Well, it's been quite a while since my last update and I just got back from a fun trip to Cyprus. Before going to Cyprus I visited my girlfriend's family in Arizona for Thanksgiving and then again for a couple of days on our way to Cyprus. I enjoyed getting to know them and had fun playing miniature golf, tennis and basketball there.

In between the two Arizona visits I took a quick trip up to Ohio where I spent the weekend at a state park with some family from Maryland and Michigan. We chose a location that is roughly in the middle for all of us to meet up and enjoy a weekend together.

On the way to Cyprus we had a stopover in Amsterdam for a few hours. After getting boarding passes for our flight to Cyprus we still had plenty of time so caught a train to downtown Amsterdam. The weather was cold and rainy but that didn't stop us from walking around for a couple of hours. We arrived quite early in the morning so most of the businesses
rainbow and view at st. hilarion castle
weren't open yet but we enjoyed watching schoolchildren hurrying to class and other early morning sights. Eventually we found a bakery that was open and sampled several items for breakfast. After eating we walked to the Ann Frank house which has been turned into a museum. We enjoyed going through the house and seeing the famous Hiding Place where Ann Frank and her family were hidden during the war. It was my second visit to the museum but they have done some remodeling and expanded it since the last time I was there. From the museum we headed back to the train station and then back to the airport to catch our flight to Cyprus.

In Cyprus we were met at the airport by my parents and sister. My parents have lived in Nicosia, Cyprus for about 3 years now and this was my 4th visit to the island. This visit was unique though because we had several other extended family members visiting for the
cloudy weather at the top of st. hilarion castle
holidays as well. It was really fun to spend time together with everyone (we had a maximum of 13 people in our group). When we got to my parents apartment from the airport we had supper, visited some and then headed to bed to catch up on our sleep.

The next morning (Thursday) we split into two groups for the day. The first group went shopping while the second group (which I was in) headed down to Larnaka for some sailing on my parents sailboat. The wind wasn't very strong but we still enjoyed getting out on the water for the day.

Friday we drove to the northern part of Cyprus. The island of Cyprus has been divided since the Turkish army occupied the northern part in the 1970s. Currently relations between the two sides are better than they have been in a long time so the border is much more open now. This means that it's easy to visit the northern part of the island for the day, or even for a few days. In the past it has been much more difficult so this was my first time to visit the north.
this dome with mosaics was part of the ruins at salamis
Our first stop of the day was at St. Hilarion Castle. When we arrived the weather was cloudy but dry for the most part so we started exploring the castle ruins. We enjoyed some panoramic views of the ocean far below in the distance and even spotted a rainbow before it started to rain. Unfortunately we were nearly to the top of the castle and as far as possible from the cars when the rain hit so by the time we got back we were all quite wet. We still enjoyed seeing the castle though and decided to continue to our next destination in spite of being wet. The harbor town of Kyrennia was our next stop
ancient roman toilets
where we walked around a bit before retreating to the cars for a picnic lunch. We decided to cut the afternoon activities a little short on account of the rain but still enjoyed a drive along the northern coast before returning to Nicosia.

On Friday night we enjoyed a nice Christmas Eve service at our local church and then on Sabbath morning we had a Christmas church service as well. After church we enjoyed a picnic lunch in the car on our way to see some more sights in northern Cyprus. Along the way we took a few secondary roads which took us through some small rural villages.
this cathedral has been converted into a functioning mosque
It was fun to get off the main drag. Our first major stop was at the ancient coastal city of Salamis. Salamis is the town where Paul landed in Cyprus during his first missionary journey and its ruins are quite extensive. We enjoyed exploring the ancient baths, gymnasium, amphitheater and other ruins. From Salamis we drove further south to Famagusta. This has a large collection of beach front hotels which have been abandoned since the 1970s when the UN buffer zone
avakas gorge
was set up. Unfortunately this stretch of beach and hotels fell within the buffer zone so they now sit empty. In Famagusta we also visited the harbor and climbed the old city wall before ending our tour for the day at an old cathedral that has been converted into a functioning mosque. It isn't very often that you see a mosque with this sort of architecture!

Sunday we headed to the Akamas Peninsula in the eastern part of the island. Along the way we stopped in Paphos for a picnic lunch before visiting Avakas Gorge. The gorge is a very narrow canyon with a stream in the bottom of it so we were glad to have sunny weather without any rain to swell the stream. From the parking area we hiked up the river and into the gorge where we enjoyed some breathtaking views of the towering canyon walls. After we finished exploring the gorge we drove further along the peninsula to a small restaurant which was closed by the time we got there. The area was full of cats, which were fun to play with. We enjoyed the view of the beach and stayed long enough to watch the sun sink into the
sunset on the akamas peninsula
Mediterranean Sea. On the way back we stopped in Pafos for supper and planned to get our first taste of the very good PAHIT ice cream. Unfortunately the ice cream shop closed while we were eating our supper next door so we had to wait another day to get our PAHIT ice cream.

On Monday we had planned to go sailing but since the wind wasn't very good we ended up doing some shopping in Nicosia instead. For lunch we enjoyed sandwiches made from fried Haloumi cheese which are a specialty in Cyprus, followed by some PAHIT ice cream for dessert.

Tuesday we visited Cape Greco in the eastern part of the island. Our first stop was at some sea caves where we posed for pictures with the aqua blue water in the background. A few of us also wound up jumping off the cliffs into the water which was about 63 degrees
tom jumping off the cliff
Fahrenheit. The air temperature was probably in the low 70s so it was a bit cool for swimming but not too bad. Our next stop was at the top of a bluff where we enjoyed a short walk and more spectacular views. Before stopping for a picnic lunch we also visited a natural arch, a small church and a cave. After lunch we spent some time on the beach at Fig Tree Bay and then headed to Larnaca where we visited the Greek Orthodox church of St. Lazarus. According to tradition this church was founded by Lazarus after he was resurrected by Jesus and had to flee from persecution. They say he was originally buried there before his remains were later moved to another location.
In the basement of the church they have discovered several burial sites including one which they believe was the site where Lazarus used to be. After visiting the church we went to an ice cream shop where we got some more of the excellent PAHIT ice cream before heading back to my parents' apartment.

Our first tour stop on Wednesday was at Kolossi Castle near the town of Limassol where we enjoyed exploring the castle keep. This was our first day
gladiator mosaic at kourion
with the full group of 13 people so we also enjoyed visiting with each other along the way. Our next stop was at a large complex of ruins called Kourion. These ruins include elaborate mosaics from bathhouses where the remains of the plumbing and water heating systems are still intact. There is also an amphitheater and the ruins of several other buildings in this area, all of which are overlooking a gorgeous view of the coast. Some of these ruins date back to around 500 BC. From Kourion we headed into the Troodos mountains of Cyprus where we visited a waterfall for a picnic. After lunch we drove up Mount Olympus which is the highest point in Cyprus at 6,401 feet. The very top of the mountain is fenced off with a couple of communications installations, but we got pretty close to the summit. Near Mt. Olympus we spotted a few skiers and snowboarders using the local ski lifts which were open for business. Next we stopped at the burial site of the first leader of modern day independent Cyprus. The site is located on top of a mountain with some very good views. Our last stop in the Troodos area was
we used creative picnic tables for several of our lunches
at Kykkos Monastery. The monastery was founded around the end of the 11th century and is home to an icon of Mary which according to tradition was painted by the apostle Luke. The monastery is situated in a scenic mountain location and is a popular tourist attraction.

On Wednesday evening we finally had the whole group together so we celebrated Christmas by opening presents. Since we were busy with sightseeing during the day we postponed our traditional Christmas meal until Saturday night. This year we didn't necessarily celebrate everything at the 'right' times,
scenic overlook above aphrodite's birthplace
but we still had a lot of fun and enjoyed having lots of family together for the holidays.

Thursday morning we headed towards the coastal city of Paphos for some more sightseeing. On the way we stopped to admire the view along the coast and then spent some time on a pebble beach at the traditional birthplace of Aphrodite. The sun was shining and the water was the typical bright aqua blue of the Mediterranean so it was hard to leave the beach to continue the day's activities. Our next stop was at the Tombs of the Kings which is an archeological site where no kings were buried. As it turns out the burial chambers actually belonged to wealthy citizens of Paphos who were buried between 3 BC and 3 AD, but no real kings were buried there. The tombs are carved out of solid rock and are very elaborate. They often contain several rooms with ornate carvings, pillars and other decorations. After exploring the tombs we headed into Paphos where our first stop was at a pillar at which Paul was flogged by Romans, according to tradition. In the same area we visited an old church and spotted a wedding party posing for a photo shoot. Next we drove down to the waterfront
walking on the beach at fig tree bay
area of Paphos where we visited another large archeological complex. The ruins there are primarily of villas from the 3rd to 5th century AD, most of which have remarkably well preserved mosaic floors depicting scenes from Greek mythology. From the ruins we walked along the Paphos waterfront area which is lined with cafes and shops. We arrived at the end of the pier just in time to watch the sun sink slowly into the ocean. On our way back to the car several of us found another place to get some PAHIT ice cream which tided us over until supper.

Friday morning we visited the village of Lefkara which is famous for ornately carved silver and intricately woven lace. We were able to see how these things are made by hand and of course there were many shopping opportunities. For lunch we had a picnic on a hill overlooking the village and then we headed back to Nicosia. Our first stop in Nicosia was at a handicraft center where more purchases were made. Next we visited some of the main tourist sights in town including a freedom monument and the ruins of an ancient aqueduct. Finally, our last tour stop was at Ledra Street which is a pedestrian only shopping street inside the old city walls of Nicosia. Besides shopping we also visited the end of
sunset at the ruins in paphos
the street where you can climb some stairs and look across the border into the UN buffer zone and beyond to northern Cyprus. According to the onsite information Nicosia is the last remaining divided capital city. The wall is similar to the one that used to separate East and West Berlin. The empty, run down buildings of the buffer zone stand in stark contrast to bustling Ledra Street with it's many shops and cafes. On the way back from Ledra Street several of us stopped at a couple of grocery stores to pick up some supplies for the weekend. With so many people to feed the refrigerator seemed to go from full to empty in no time. In the evening we had a New Years Eve program at the church. The program was organized and put on by our family members and included a quartet, special readings and a singing group.


fort on the waterfront in paphos
On Sabbath after church most of the group went sailing for a couple of hours. It was fun to get out on the boat again. In the evening we had our big Christmas dinner and then opened some presents in a white elephant style gift exchange. After the gift swap we also celebrated several anniversaries and birthdays before finishing up our packing and heading to bed.

On Sunday Melissa and I traveled back to Tennessee where we have been getting back into the routine here. Unfortunately we both got sick towards the end of our trip, but we are on the mend and feeling much better now.

Well, I think that's about it for now so I'll end this and start looking for some pictures to include.

Until next time,

Andrew

Many more pictures here.