Sunday, July 31, 2016

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Friday, July 29, 2016

Friday Travel Tip - Cyprus - Mountain Drive On A Hot Day

In Cyprus there are two ways to cool off on a hot summer's day. You can go to the seaside and dip into the cool sea water, or you can drive into the hills and cool off in the mountain air. Most tourist tend to choose the day at the seaside, but many Cypriots will actually choose a day in the mountains instead. It's really one of the best kept secrets of this island nation, and one that should not be overlooked on any Cyprus vacation.

The two areas worth visiting on your trip into the Cypriot mountains are Troodos and Plantres. Troodos is a small resort area deep in the mountains. There are a few little shops here, but mostly it's just small cabins and beautiful hiking trails. Plantres on the other hand is a beautiful mountain village just waiting to be explored. Plantres is also a bit of a foodie town with many fine restaurants and a very peculiar chocolate shop to taste test.

One thing about visiting the mountains is, it's not just about the destination. The mountain roads have all kinds of fun sites to see, from an abandon asbestos mine, small cool springs along the road, and beautiful villages dotted all over. You can visit the mountains on a day trip from Nicosia, or spend a long weekend and explore a little deeper.

Later

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Friday, July 22, 2016

Friday Travel Tip - Cyprus - Flying Into Cyprus, Get A Car

Flying into Cyprus used to be fairly straight forward, since the main airport used to be located in Nicosia, the capital city. Since 1974 however, the this airport has been stuck in the UN buffer zone and is currently a UN military base. Today's main airport is found next to the town of Larnaka, a sleepy beach resort town with a few attractions. If you're planning to visit the big spots like Nicosia, Pafos, or Limmisole than you're at least 45 minutes or as much as 2 hours away.

The best way to get around the island is by car. You can rent a car at the airport, and for less than a taxi ride to and from Nicosia you can have a car for 4 days. A car is very handy since the island is fairly small and the roads are in fairly good condition. You're never more than an hour or two from the water, and almost the entire island is a day trip out of Nicosia. There is a bus system on the island, but then you're stuck with difficult schedules, and you still have to find your way from the airport to your hotel (even the closest Larnika hotel is an hours walk away). There are also no trains in all of Cyprus, so this is not an option.

Be warned that if you want to cross over to the North, most car rental insurance does not cover you. They will offer to sell you insurance on the other side, and that might be a good idea. If you get into an accident on the North side, and you don't have extra insurance you might be in trouble.

Later

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Friday, July 15, 2016

Friday Travel Tip - Cyprus - Not To Miss, Ports and Beaches

One of the advantages of being on an island is the fact that you're literally surrounded by water. When you're surrounded by water, and you have a mild to warm average temperature, the seaside is the place to go. In the cooler months only the daring might actually take the plunge, but in the summer they're packed with people looking too cool off on a hot day.

If you're looking for the kind of place where you can spend a few days enjoying the seaside, Pafos is the place for you. Not only are there many beaches in the area, but there are also plenty of other things to see and do. Along the water there are many caf├ęs and restaurants to keep you fed, or to just sit back and watch the day go by. If you're interested in seeing some great archaeological sites, you can visit the Pafos Archaeological Park, The Tomb of the Kings, and wander into the Medieval Castle, all right next to the water.

If you're interested in historical beaches, one of the worlds most famous is found on Cyprus. Legend has it that Petra tou Romiou is the beach where Aphrodite came ashore, and it is said that if you swim around the rock 3 times, you will have eternal youth. This beach isn't the prettiest beach in the world, but it is always crowded with tourists because of it's notoriety. Parking is available across the road and there is a tunnel that will take you right to the beach. If you are going to attempt the swim for eternal youth, make sure you're a strong swimmer as the tide can be strong.

Later

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Friday, July 8, 2016

Friday Travel Tip - Cyprus - What Can You Eat In Cyprus

Most people really don't know what to expect when you say you're eating Cypriot Food. Most people assume that Cyprus is a Greek island (which is wrong) so they just assume that the food will be exactly the same as what you would find on other Greek islands. While there is a great deal of Greek influence on Cypriot cooking, there is also some influence from other parts of the Mediterranean, as well as a little British flavour. You also can't forget that across the Buffer Zone is an area occupied by Turkey, thus there are some great Middle Eastern foods availble in parts of the island as well.

Restaurant wise you are going to find many Greek Cypriot style tavernas, particularly in tourist areas. These tavernas do have a Greek feeling about them, but they offer a few unique dishes that are truly Cypriot in nature. The most famous Cypriot dish is Haloumi cheese. This is a salty cheese that is grilled, sometimes fried, and never melts. Cyprus is also very famous for their sweet treats, including walnut spoon sweets and Lokum.

One of the other great things about eating in Cyprus is that they have a much broader choice of foods when compared to the Greek islands. You're more likely to find a good British Pub, or fine Indian restaurant in Cyprus than you are in most of the Greek islands. All that and by simply crossing the border you have a huge range of Turkish food available as well.

Later

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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

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Allison Trying to Kill Me Part 2

Last time, I wrote about Allison trying to kill me in Australia.  Two things may have not come across clearly in that post.  First of all, Allison loves me and wants me to live a long life, sort of.  She doesn't want me dead; she's just Ok that if I go, it's on some kind of epic adventure.  Secondly, some might say that Australia is the place where everything wants to kill you, so how could a visit to this country be seen as overly adventurous? Millions of people visit, and they don't die. I agree that Australia itself is considered a dangerous place, and you might not clearly understand how my adventure was "more" dangerous than most. So I thought this second story about Allison trying to kill me might clear things up.

Sri Lanka - We decided that the best way to visit Sri Lanka would be a three-stage process.  The first stage would consist of settling into the culture and time zone.  That manifested itself as our first night at a fairly nice hotel in Colombo.  The second stage was to be our adventurous stage, where we would explore this island nation on the cheap and constantly on the move.  The third and final stage was to be our relaxing period, at a beach resort doing nothing at all.  As you can imagine, the second stage was when I thought I was going to die.

For the most part, the adventurous traveling was fun, and although it wasn't luxurious, it was perfectly comfortable.  The hotels were mostly homey, a little rough around the edges, but charming enough.  The part where things got hairy was the transportation.  At first the transportation was also charming. We started with a train ride from Colombo to Kandy, which is world famous and boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.  We went for second-class tickets, but for the most part the ride was cool enough and there weren't many people so we could move around comfortably.

After that train ride, our transportation descended in quality.  We went from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya, high in the mountainous tea country, in a bus.  The bus was very full. By this I mean the bus (which was a van) that should have seated at most 10 people was filled with at least 25.  It wasn't that bad because Allison and I managed to get seats.  Sure our seats were crunched at the front of the bus with no legroom, but everything was OK enough despite the crazy driving through the switchbacks.  After a few days in Nuwara Eliya the plan was to take a longer bus ride to Galle.  We would have rather taken a train, but it appeared that no train went straight to Galle from the mountains.

As it turns out, it was impossible to build a train into these mountains.  We didn't really think much of this until the bus ride from Nuwara Eliya to Galle.  As with the bus before, there were many more passengers than there were seats (about 80 passengers and 45 seats).  This bus, however, also had the "advantage" of being decorated to look like a cross between a Buddhist shrine and a 1980s Florida disco.  There was very loud Sri Lankan disco music blaring from very large speakers all around the bus.  Your senses were instantly assaulted before the bus even started moving.  The worst part about this bus is that we were convinced by the local bus station manager to change to a first class bus from a second-class bus just before we left.  I'm wondering if maybe the second-class bus might have had a little less bling; that would be a good thing.

So off we went, working our way down the steep and treacherous hills of Sri Lanka's tea country.  At first it was fairly calm and easy going.  I even thought it was charming that our bus conductor (the guy who helps people get off and makes sure everyone pays) would drop a few coins at each temple and say a little prayer.  Little did I know then how important those prayers might be.  After about an hour the bus started to fill up, and the speed of the bus started to increase.  The quality of the roads also started decline and the height off the cliffs seemed more and more dangerous.  I'm also pretty sure that the music was getting a little softer, but that could have been my sheer terror causing temporary deafness.

The moment where I was sure that I was going to die happened at a pretty sharp turn, with cliffs on both sides of us.  One cliff was a sheer rock wall; the other was a sheer drop.  We took a turn fairly fast, with traffic heading straight for us.  Our wheels were screeching, and the bus was leaning pretty heavily.  I'm pretty sure on this particular turn only two of our wheels were actually touching the ground.  I had been given the window seat, with an open window (because the AC wasn't working).  The larger group of people standing on this bus heaved into Allison, who then heaved into me.

The open window was the only room for me, so I was halfway out of this bus, hanging onto a bar that was outside of the bus.  I was leaning out pretty far, and that's dangerous enough.  As I leaned out I realised that I didn't have to worry about hitting anything.  That was because there was nothing to hit.  I looked down and I didn't see road... I didn't see shoulder... all I saw was down, I saw down several hundred feet to the bottom of the mountain we were zipping down.  I hung on for dear life and figured that this was the end.  Eventually we made another turn, and I was thrown back into the bus.

I should mention that in Nuwara Eliya, a local car driver had asked us if we wanted lift into Galle.  He said it would cost us something over 100 dollars, but we could enjoy a nice leisurely drive with stops along the way.  The bus cost us about 3 dollars all together, and since this was the adventure part of our trip and not the luxury part, we chose the bus.  As I pulled myself back into the bus, I looked at Allison with what must have been a look of sheer terror. I screamed something at her about how we saved a little money, but now we're going to die.  This is when she grinned at me and calmly said, "If we live, we'll have a really cool story to tell".

Later

Friday, July 1, 2016

Friday Travel Tip - Cyprus - Language and Currency

While English isn't the first language for most Cypriots, most can speak it very well. This has a great deal to do with the fact that Cyprus used to be a British colony, and also with the number of foreign UN soldiers that live on the island. Because of this, signs and just about everything written offers an English translation. The other language you hear very often in Cyprus is Russian. Cyprus is a very popular place for Russian tourists, so you'll find many restaurants catering to Russian tastes, and a great deal of Russian on signs all over the island.

The native language in Cyprus is a bit more complicated. In the past it was a mix of both Turkish and Greek, however, after the problems during the 1960s and 70s there is a great divide. Today you'll find that just about everybody south of the buffer zone speaks Greek, and almost everybody North of the buffer zone speaks Turkish.

Currency wise, Euros are probably your best bet. To the south of the buffer zone you’ll find everybody uses Euros, while to the north of the buffer zone most uses Lira. My experience has been that people on the southern part of the island are far less likely to accept Lira, and the people on the northern part of the island are happy to accept euros.

Later

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