It is a windy day here on this wild peninsula, but sunny enough for a t-shirt. We awoke to the sound of the crashing waves of the Mediterranean Sea and not much else. After a traditional Turkish breakfast of tomatoes, cucumbers, white cheese and an egg we drove on to the end of the Peninsula through thyme – infused breezes, hills covered with roaming goats and wild donkeys and a shepherd or two. Our goal was to visit the monastery of the Apostolos Andreas.
The one aging Orthodox priest has remained on site since the troubles of 1974 during the Turkish and Greek conflict over the island. Luckily the priest was not harmed or threatened by the Turkish side. The main building, the church, was built in the 1700s but the monastery ruins date back much farther than that to the time of St. Andrew. Known as a place where miracles can occur, Greek Cypriots travel to this place every November 30 – tomorrow – with the permission of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus government. it appears this is one of the many small attempts the Turkish side has made towards peace and healing.
Although it felt disrespectful to take pictures within the church, I will describe it as best I can. There were wooden seats ornately carved in the back of the church where the ancient-seeming priest sat speaking with three Greek ladies dressed in black. As the ladies came in and out of the church, they kissed an icon of apostle Andreas. The high ceiling had roughly 10 ornate crystal chandeliers of different styles hung across the center of the sanctuary. There was a space to light candles and a donation box but most striking was the full wall of icons at the front of the sanctuary. As I had not changed into a long skirt (something I usually do for any religious space but had not today because I thought it was a ruin with nobody there) I stood in the corner as respectfully as possible and just watch what was going on.
After enjoying the icons tremendously, M. made a donation to the church which is seeking help for restoration of those icons. Although not at all religious, M., is A connoisseur of icons and is chomping at the bit to visit the icon museum in nearby Iskele. As we left the monastery compound – we noted the mesh nets around the priest’s garden that deter the wild donkeys that walk all over the area. In fact, the donkeys wanted to come into our car with us as the photos will show.
Driving back west towards the small town of Dipkarpaz, we happened upon a small fish restaurant where we had the most wonderful and unusual Thanksgiving dinner in my personal history. Owned jointly by a Greek Cypriots and a Turkish Cypriots, the best of friends, this fish restaurant served up grilled Orfoz – hey fish for which we do not have an English translation. What I do know, is that this fish lives in caves and was quite delicious. This was accompanied by the simplest meze including a wonderful cabbage and tomato salad with lemon and olive oil, raw kohlrabi wheat bread, spicy arugula and fresh onion.
As we finished our meal with a Turkish coffee in the sunshine, A group of Greek ladies we had seen in the monastery came in for their lunch. Side note – you see much more coffee here than tea which is the opposite in Turkey. This seems to me to be more about the influence of Greek culture. In any case, I saw one woman pointing to us – she was the person we gave our donation to back at the monastery. She sent over an English-speaking woman who shared the most delicious dessert with us. It was a semolina and orange zest pastry steeped in simple syrup and covered in crumbled roasted walnuts. It was so good that I ate it before I thought to take a picture. She gave us the recipe which I memorized on the spot. M. was so moved by this sharing that he engaged in a very old-fashioned tradition by reaching for her hand and kissing it, I did the same and then put her hand to my forehead as a sign of respect. This clearly pleased the Greek ladies to no end.
Having done our bit for Turkish – Greek relations on Cyprus for the day, we drove back to our new hotel on the northern side of the peninsula. It is the Oasis at Afilon – A beautifully renovated hotel originally from the 1950s. Each room has high ceilings and ornate doorhandles. The breeze blows through the rooms and I can imagine the cool marble tile feeling quite good in the hot days of the Cypriot summer. This hotel is special in that it is nestled between the ancient ruins another church, honoring Apostos Afilon.
As we drove along a most Mediterranean – seeming Road, through fields of wheat and goats and donkeys, we saw several very talented goats pictured here.
Sappy as it may sound, I couldn’t be more thankful for this wonderful trip despite my pain. I am thankful for our ability to travel and spend time considering life in these other parts of the world. I am thankful for my husband. I am thankful for my cross-cultural road trip called marriage more than ever. Wishing you all in the US a very happy Thanksgiving!