Nicosia or Bust

Trip Start Aug 09, 2009
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Trip End Oct 23, 2009


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Flag of Cyprus  ,
Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I've left all the madness of the Balkans behind and have flown on to Larnaca, Cypress.  After weeks of Ryanair and Balkan buses, taking a trip on a full service airline was something I am just not used to.  Just flipping through Aegean Air's inflight magazine was evidence enough I am out of place and don't belong with the regular airline folks...ads for $5,000 Bang and Olufson televisions were the norm rather than Ryanair's typical $10 rides into Central London with Terravision or even the one for discount phone sexlines.

I had to pay only a few more Euros to upgrade my experience and with it came free bag checks (which I don't do anyway so it won't get lost), free food and drink (I can eat something beforehand that tastes good), free everything actually (well, you do pay for it in the ticket afterall).  An assigned seat awaited me (I can wait in line at Ryanair and get my exit row every time),  though I didn't have to stand for an hour crushed up against the gate door so I could be at the front of that Ryanair line.  Even talking to an agent at the airport is free unlike Ryanair charging to use the counter (I check in online and prefer not to interact with anyone there).  And Ryanair charges a credit card convenience fee to pay the counter fee anyway!  So if you know the rules and play nicely within them, Ryanair is a great deal. 

My travel experience on Aegean was about as foreign to me as the Bulgarian countryside down below.  While waiting for the door to close, I wasn't subjected to a barrage of prerecorded advertising over the PA or ads plastered to the overhead bins.  Rather than hawking smokeless cigarettes and two for one vodkas like on Ryanair, these flight attendants just came through quietly and handed out lunch.  Whether on Ryanair, EasyJet or Aegean, it's been awesome having confirmed tickets.  It's the best feeling in the world knowing I am going to get on the flight and a few bad apple gate agents don't treat me like I am some smeared piece of dog excrement just because I am trying to fly standby on my pass and I am making them have to work.  You airline people out there know what I am talking about, right!!!???

But the best thing about today was flying on my favorite jet of all time...the BAe 146.  If you are into aviation you know the plane and I won't go into details because the majority of anyone else couldn't care less about some British built beauty.  I enjoyed every second of that ride and it was worth the hassles I am finding in Cyprus that I will get to in a bit.

During my connection in Athens, I had to pass through security and the bag screener there completely amused me.  I hadn't even stepped up to the screening machine and he was already rushing me.  I was going to take the liquids out of my carryon but he snatched my bag right  out of my hand and loaded it onto the conveyor belt before I could retrieve them.  Away went the liquids inside and he fussed at me for not taking them out after the bag made it to the other side.  I had told him to wait a second before he started grabbing my items.  Not my problem he can't listen!

He also wanted me to take off my belt and before I had even reached for it he was yelling, "belt,
belt, belt, belt" and reaching for it himself.  I don't need some overweight Greek man undressing me and I decided to mess around with him.  Slooowing down the process as much as I could was awesome because the slower I undid the belt from my jeans, the more he started bouncing.  "Wallet, wallet, wallet, wallet" was his next command followed by him reaching
for my shoes.  I'd say I wasted about four minutes of his time and it was just great watching him come unhinged.

There was an old English fart in a wheelchair with a giant plastic bag containing something he had purchased and this same security guy reached for it.  The old man told him to be careful because it was fragile and the old man even made motions not to crush the bag.  Mr. Grab At Everything took these motions to mean go ahead and please do crush it and throw it in the trash can.  Which he actually did right before our astonished eyes and that old man jumped out of that wheelchair faster than anyone I have ever seen in the 85+ club.  Whatever precious cargo that yellow bag held didn't survive the five foot journey through security, and I left the screening checkpoint to the tune of a good ole fashion cuss out session by the old man.

There must have been something in the water today because not ten minutes later I also watched a ginormous American woman curse out our gate agent because the seat on her previous flight from America had been too small.  First of all, different airline from this one and I could tell from the agent's bored look she really didn't give a flip that Ms. Ginormous spent 10 hours wedged into a coach seat.  I took a discrete picture of her for your viewing so you tell me if the seat being too small was just a figment of her ample imagination. 

When she hoisted her 300 pound plus body of size out of the chair to go to the bathroom some kids took that as their signal to play around with her wheelchair (actually the airport's).  She was rolling in the Big Bertha model and two children could sit comfortably in it.  When Ms. Ginormous returned she gave them a piece of her mind as well.  Now what do you expect if you leave a wheelchair as wide as a Buick unattended for 20 minutes.  Of course kids will climb all over it.  What is it with all the yelling out there today? 

I finally made it to Cyprus and I must say this place is a very hard nut to crack.  Three highly drunk Russian guys sat behind me on the plane and I thought how odd they would be heading here.  I land at the airport and discover that airlines from Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and more serve Larnaca and this is Russian holiday hell.  Yep, Russians outnumber me 100 to .5.  I say .5 because I am half Russian and I can't really bash on my people too hard.  We'll just say they are slumming it with me outside the fancy resort areas where more refined folks part ways with a lot more money than I am willing to.

There are a few sights scattered across the island I'd love to see so I asked around at the rental car counters for a deal.  The cheapest I could find was some kind of ultra subcompact Ford for over $100 a day.  The guy at Hertz even offered me a Mercedes for $380 a day.  As much as I would love to roll up into my cheap $20 a night hotel in a Benz, that is more than I have spent on airfare for this trip.  Public transport between the airport and downtown Larnaca where I am staying had quit for the day so I had to suck it up and take a 10 Euro taxi ride.  Yep.  $15 bucks down the tubes in a flash.  Do you guys realize that taxi ride was more than it costs to fly Ryanair between London and Marseille or between Malta and Pisa!!!???   

Funny thing is I did actually roll up into my cheap hotel in a Benz but I saved $365 on this ride since it was a taxi.  The girl at the front desk was no help at all when I asked if there are tours or if I could rent a car in town.  Every one of my questions was met with a bored shrug and "Maybe, maybe not."  I am thinking, this is an English speaking island, is it not?  What gives?  Turns out she is from Latvia and the hotel is Russian owned or something so I forgive her now for her limited English skills.  This is the first time I haven't stayed in a hostel and that is a change for me, too.   This place is dirt cheap and suits my needs just fine though...I just miss being around other travelers seeking the same adventures since I am traveling alone this week.

So in my quest to crack this nut I visited 4 rental car joints in town and each had a three day minimum.  No one would rent for just a day.  No exceptions. Frustrated I found a travel agency and asked about an organized tour of the island.  I don't do tours but I need to see something here to kill time.  Of course I had to pass on the offerings ranging from $120 to $300 for the day.  Who spends this kind of money on a day tour???  Not me.

Larnaca is the second biggest city here and I saw its sites in five minutes.  Most people are  here for the luxury beach enclaves further out but that is not my or my wallet's scene.  So the Russians and I are sharing a neighborhood south of downtown whose "beach" is waves crashing up against the asphalt road that sits ten feet above the water.  I was told that people accidently drive off the road and take the plunge from time to time.  Now that would make my trip worth it to see a Mercedes butt end up in the water.  So far no luck with that either. 

The Latvian girl at the hotel told me there is a bus that "maybe or maybe not" runs to Nicosia but service ends at 5pm.  She also said there is "maybe" a stop in town for or "maybe not."  Either way I am going to try to find my way there so I can see the capital and hopefully there is something to hold my interest.  She told me most people are like me...here for a day and a half on their way "maybe or maybe not" to the Middle East.  Cyprus is an extremely cheap bridge between the two areas when the fares are on sale.  She said we all run into the same problems when it comes to renting a car, etc.  I would do maybe $20 a day but over $100 times three days?  Forget it.

So here is my one find so far in Larnaca besides sunburned Russians...The Church of Ayios Lazaros stands right in the middle of town and dates all the way back to the 9th Century and is still in use today.  It towers above cheap little souvenir shacks and other tourist oriented shops in the middle of Larnaca.  I will admit I know nothing about the bible so here goes my attempt to explain this church...it is built over what is supposedly Lazarus's tomb.  This is the Lazareth of Bethany who Jesus rose from the dead and who fled to Cyprus.  Anything more...don't ask me...I am just going off what I read at the church and I am not even sure if I got it half right.  But it sounds good, right?  I hadn't even heard of any of this until I read it myself when poking around there.  And it took me longer to write this paragraph than it did to look at the church.

Cypress has been a crossroads since those times from World History class and Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Byzantines and English have all found their way here.  If people could make it here in 1000BC, why can't an American travel across the island in 2009AD?  I am just having the hardest time in ALL my travels EVER trying to get around this island.  

So the road to Cyprus on my BAe 146 proved to be much easier than the roads within it.  Most visitors remain ensconsed in their beachside enclaves and will never venture inland to see what surprises this island holds.   I fully understand some people just need to be isolated and turn off the world on vacation but that's not me.  Besides, I don't even like the beach so I am eager to try to find a way to see this place that lies beyond the tourists even if I have to do it on foot.  I will find something cool and interesting on this island, trust me on that.
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