A Travellerspoint blog

September 2017

The Green Line

sunny 30 °C
View Girne on IainT's travel map.

Green Line (South Side)

Green Line (South Side)

Visiting a new destination is something I almost always enjoy. I’ll spare the blushes of the exceptions.

When it’s in a country I’ve never visited before that makes it extra interesting. This week may be the first time I’ve visited a place where there’s controversy about whether it’s a country at all.

It’s the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, or KKTC. It’s only recognised by Turkey.

Why am I here? Well, it’s here so why not? I’ve never been to Cyprus (Kıbrıs in Turkish) before and this seemed as good as any way to start. I like Turkey. I like Greece. I like Crete, but I don’t like Rhodes. I like Bodrum and Alanya, but I don’t like Marmaris. I love Athens to bits, and feel the same about Istanbul. Get the idea?

Here are some impressions so far:-

  • I traveled on Turkish Airlines from Istanbul to Ercan (KKTC’s airport). It’s an international flight. Passports and customs. The lot.
  • KKTC uses Turkish Lira as its currency. Maybe it has no practical choice with no international recognition. It certainly isn’t the only country which uses the currency of another - lots do.
  • KKTC has its own postage stamps. I bought some for postcards. I guess their postal service has a “deal” with Turkey, but I wonder how that works with the destination countries. These things are dealt with by international treaty. New countries sign up to them.
  • In many ways it feels like being in Turkey, but I suspect that’s a superficial judgement resulting from the language being the same and the landscape being so similar to a part of Turkey I know just a short distance across the Med (Alanya).
  • I have seen Turkish troops on low key patrol - 2 soldiers walking around Girne armed with truncheons. I’ve seen several sites surrounded by barbed wire fences and where photography is banned. Military bases.

Today I visited Lefkoșa/Nicosia - and crossed the Green Line into the Republic of Cyprus. It cuts the city in two, as it has since 1974.
The crossing is now quite routine for foreign visitors who are EU citizens. Technically I believe I entered the Republic of Cyprus illegally when I arrived at Ercan (and got my illegality validated with a stamp in my passport).

Locmalı Crossing

Locmalı Crossing

In fact their border guards seemed less interested than the KKTC ones. On my way back into KKTC the Republic of Cyprus guard just winked and waved me through.

North of the Line

North of the Line

To a former student and practitioner of public international law, this is all fascinating.

Feel free to yawn if you wish.

South of the Line

South of the Line

Footnote:- Some words of warning. The Green Line crossing arrangements I’ve mentioned don’t necessarily apply to anyone who doesn’t hold an EU passport, and probably don’t. Even EU passport holders should check very carefully as to what the up to date position is before crossing.

Posted by IainT 12:06 Archived in Cyprus Tagged cyprus nicosia kibris lefkoșa Comments (0)

Old Friends

semi-overcast 22 °C
View Girne on IainT's travel map.

On Monday night and Tuesday morning I found myself back in Istanbul after a long absence.

Was it 8 years or 9? I’d have to check my old passport.

This week was my 4th visit, or maybe my 5th, depending on the answer to that question.

I was on my way to Girne in North Cyprus and even direct flights (there are none from Scotland) have to land in Turkey for 45 minutes on the way. Istanbul was the obvious (and most attractive) choice as a stopover.

It turned into a real trip down memory lane. I stayed at the Terrace Guesthouse, as I did several times during those visits between 2006 and 2009. It felt like meeting an old friend when I arrived about 11pm.

I went for a short walk before bedtime, around the Sultanahmet area which the guesthouse shares with the Blue Mosque (or Sultanahmet Camii, to give it it’s posh name) and Aya Sofya.

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

Breakfast was on the terrace at the top of the building, and normally it comes with amazing views of the Bosphorus and the Asian Side. That morning it was raining, but the view was still great.

Breakfast View

Breakfast View

Next on my whistlestop tour was an hour gossiping with Doǧan, the guesthouse owner, and another old friend. We didn’t solve all the world’s problems but we identified a lot of them.

Before heading back to the airport for my 16:30 flight, I had time for a leisurely walk around - down out of Sultanahmet to the Galata Bridge, where the Bosphorus meets the Golden Horn. I was tempted to get on one of the ferries which will take you across to the Asian Side in 20 minutes for 5 TL (£1 or €1.10) each way. The views of the city from the water are the best.

Eminönü

Eminönü

I suppose I must be at the old and boring time of life, because common sense took over and I decided I might not have time.

I did have time for lunch before checking out and getting my taxi. To a Scot it’s always a special thing to have lunch outside - and not have to run inside when the rain starts.

Lunch Stop

Lunch Stop

Well, I have another stopover in Istanbul on my way home next week. It will be a wonderful way to finish my trip. I hope the list of the world’s troubles isn’t any longer by then.

And by the way, if you've ever felt the urge to visit Istanbul, go for it! My flight (from Edinburgh direct) was about £200 (€210) return. If you do go, think about staying at the Terrace - and I'm not suggesting that because Doǧan is a friend or because I'm Mr 10%!

Posted by IainT 11:03 Archived in Turkey Tagged planes ferries istanbul Comments (0)

A la Recherche du Temps Perdu

sunny 0 °C

Isn’t it strange how sometimes the past can jump out behind you and bite you on the bum?

Last weekend my son (finally) left home aged 23 to go to university as a mature student. This event brought back a lot of memories of the good times we had together, going back to the period before he hit the teenage doldrums. I’m happy to admit I made a conscious decision to indulge myself with those memories - for a week or two. Why not?

Then a couple of days later I went hunting through the cupboards for a household item I hadn’t used for ages, and opened a few doors which remain closed for years at a time. I found a box of “collectables” (as Ebay would classify them) which I’d thought had been binned the last time we moved house - 1999.

It’s airline “junk” picked up on my travels in the 80s and 90s. Wow! More memories.

large_P1080582.jpg

The Estonian Air ticket is from a flight from Vilnius to Tallinn in 1997. I’d been asked to go there on short notice at the end of a week working in Vilnius, to spend the Friday “lobbying” in support of a project we were going to bid for.

Vilnius

Vilnius

This meant 7 meetings in one day at various ministries, and probably the British Embassy and the EU Delegation too. I had to walk from place to place as they were all in the Old Town and it’s car free. It was November. The streets were covered in slushy snow. It was cold, wet, dark and horrible.

A challenging day, if I can put it like that.

Tallinn

Tallinn

We didn’t get the project. I suspect we didn’t even bid. After my visit we were approached by someone in a position of influence who offered to make sure we’d win if we made it worth his while. End of story. We didn’t do that.

Estonian Air shut down in 2015. My hoarded memorabilia contains items from many long lost names - Dan Air, Lauda Air and Air Inter, to name just a few.

The Cathay Pacific menu is from a trip to Singapore from Bangkok. I think it was with the Former Wife, probably in 1990 or ’91. We’d have been on holiday in Thailand and then went to visit a mutual friend who emigrated from Scotland to Singapore in 1986 (and has been there ever since).

Luxury in Economy

Luxury in Economy

Cathay’s on board service was wonderful even in economy class. Mixed salad, then stir fried beef with noodles or sautéed scallops with leeks and fried rice. Nice wines too. A white Cotes de Duras 1988... a vintage Sekt.

Real Food!

Real Food!

OK, enough nostalgia. But a wee bit is fun...

Posted by IainT 04:36 Archived in Lithuania Tagged children singapore bangkok estonia tallinn vilnius lithuania Comments (0)

Lismore/Liosmòr in 2 Days

sunny 18 °C
View Lismore on IainT's travel map.

Well, if you decide to visit Lismore, what is there to do?

If you like cycling and hiking it’s an ideal place. The island has one “main” road, which is single track. A handful of other single track roads lead off it - to Port Ramsay for example. Traffic is minimal and is mostly the islanders going about their business as opposed to tourists.

Heritage Centre

Heritage Centre

The roads are undulating as opposed to hilly, so even occasional cyclists can manage them easily. Knowing your “single track road etiquette” is important, of course.

Port Ramsay is the place to go for a picturesque and very quiet spot. I could have sat there all day...

Port Ramsay

Port Ramsay

If (ruined) castles are your thing, Coeffin and Achanduin are easily reached from opposite ends of the island. They’re both 13th century and both on the west coast.

13th Century

13th Century

On the east coast you’ll find the Tirefour broch - an Iron Age relic. Ironically, it has survived in better shape than the castles.

Iron Age

Iron Age

When it comes to dining out, Lismore is not the place to be. You’ll find a fish and chip van at the Calmac ferry pier in Achnacroish. That’s it... The nearby fleshpots of Oban could be a million miles away - the last midweek ferry leaves there at 17:15.

However, it is possible to have an early dinner at the Pierhouse in Port Appin. The last ferry back (midweek & Saturday, summertime only) is 20:00. It’s a 10 minute crossing and only £1.85 (each way). Port Appin Ferry

I brought a picnic for my first evening and ate at the fish and chip van the other night. I enjoyed both - the kind of “something different” thing it’s good to do when you’re away on holiday!

During the day you’ll have more options. As well as the Pierhouse you could take the ferry over to Oban Oban Ferry. A return ticket for a passenger is £5.30. For two people it’s less than a taxi.

The Heritage Centre has a cafe which is open from 11am until 4pm. I ate there twice and the food was excellent - a Hebridean lamb burger one time and chickpea and vegetable soup with a toasted panini the other time. Both were excellent. Their cakes are great too. They have a terrace for outdoor eating.

Lamb Burger

Lamb Burger

The Heritage Centre has a small museum, a rebuilt traditional cottage and a shop.

The Cottage

The Cottage

You’ll find the island shop a bit to the south of it.

It’s a very historic place in the context of Christianity coming to Scotland through St Moluag at about the same time as St Columba, and in a variety of other ways. The Heritage Centre’s website is a good introduction to it all.

I really enjoyed my visit. The weather was mixed (well, it’s the islands) but overall it didn’t hold me back more than a couple of hours one morning. For fresh air, exercise, tranquility and landscape it takes some beating.

Then there’s the wildlife. Did I mention the eagle?

Huge

Huge

Posted by IainT 12:10 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland ferries lismore calmac islandlife Comments (0)

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