by Barbara Barton Sloane
A Zen parable says:
“When a fish swims, it swims on and on and there is no end to the water. When a bird flies, it flies on and on and there is no end to the sky.”
Here on this ancient island one enters into a Blue Zone. The color of the Mediterranean changes from crystal clear turquoise to lapis to azure and there is no end to blue water. With perfect weather almost 365 days of the year, the sky above remains the color of a robin’s egg and there is no end to blue sky. I have just arrived in Cyprus and as its famed golden light washes over me, my mood is far from blue!
There are few places on earth that can compare with the charm and beauty of Cyprus. This carefree, gentle island marries European culture with ancient history and offers an incomparable blend of classical legend, historic architecture and rich tradition. Cyprus is a small country of 3,600 square miles. It encompasses four major towns: Lefkosia, Larnaka, Lemesos and Pafos. Situated at the crossroads of three continents – Europe, Asia and Africa – this geographic position has, from antiquity, played an important role in the island’s 10,000 year history. Almost no matter where you go, you can be sure that you walk on a piece of the past.
As I explored the countryside, I traveled through tiny villages, visited Byzantine churches and remote monasteries and was entranced by a landscape of rugged hills, lush forests and ancient olive groves. On this island once walked Jesus’ apostles. In 395AD the Byzantine Empire flourished here and Christianity was declared the official religion. Cyprus was also a part of the Ottoman Empire for three hundred years. Fast forward to 1878. Cyprus came under British rule and remained that way until 1960, when the independent Republic of Cyprus was established and Archbishop Makarious III was elected the first President.
In 1974, Turkey occupied the northern part of Cyprus and today 37% of this country is under Turkish rule. The Cyprus/Turkish problem continues although there are now on-going talks for reunification. My travel companions and I were only vaguely aware of this separation. However, when we visited villages in the north, and saw areas enclosed by barbed wire with United Nations flags flying, we knew that our travels in Cyprus ended at this fence.
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