The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is that side of the island that is home to the ethnic Turkish Cypriot population. In common with most of the Mediterranean peoples, Cypriots are sunny natured and warmly welcoming. A wander through one of the villages will be rewarded with many greetings of “merhaba” – hello! Children will clamour for your attention by showing off their skills with the English language, usually, “Hello! What’s your name”? and grin with genuine delight when you answer them. Within five minutes you will probably have become friends for life!
The centre of all villages is the square, usually dominated by a bust or statue of Mustafa Kemal, known as Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey and everyone’s local hero. For the men of the village the hub of all social life is the coffee shop, where endless cups of strong Turkish coffee are consumed while playing endless games of backgammon. It is an easy laid back life that seems to lack any urgency and work will be done only when it is necessary.
The village shops are extraordinary emporiums that sell just about every domestic consumable product. It may well have been in stock for twenty five years or so, the packaging yellowed with age, covered in dust and the price in some long forgotten currency valuation, but the shopkeeper will be so happy that he has been able to find what you want.
Out in the open countryside, driving through farmland, you will pass through carob and citrus orchards. Olive groves and market gardens, can be found beside the roads no matter in which direction you go. The great Mesaoria plain, known as the “Breadbasket of Cyprus” will be blanketed in green cereal crops in Spring, and harvested by the end of May. Come Summer when the plain is reduced to a dry and arid dustbowl, it is hard to imagine that anything ever grows there, yet dotted across the fields there are golden bales of straw to show that the harvest has been successful and they only have to be carried away and stored for winter use.
There are many mountain routes that are perfectly safe to drive. Well surfaced roads have replaced the rough tracks of old and there are many places to stop and have a picnic. The mountain air is cool and there is nearly always a gentle breeze coming in off the sea. The scent of pine and the buzz of bees as they gather pollen to make the wonderful Cyprus honey will linger long in the memory.