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Two worlds – a thousand ways
Cyprus is not just an island. Cyprus has a border, two countries, two mountains and around 2000 kilometers of forest roads on 9851 square kilometers. Who offers more?
How weightless the machine flies beneath me.
Sweeps over the solid dirt road, curves around small boulders, dives nimbly into depressions, sets over knolls, plows through square meter-sized puddles – undeterred and fearless, the little one moves her way, accompanied by me rather than guided. Slowly the numb feeling of arriving is falling away from the four-hour flight here to the southeasternmost end of Europe. Carried away by this ingenious slope between Pafos and Akamas and by this highly motivated 350cc who, like a good German Shepherd, seems to know both the way and the pace for it. After all, it comes from here. Thanks again. On the right, light limestone cliffs have been piling up for a few kilometers, on the left the eastern Mediterranean crashes onto the beach. For about half an hour the tourist catchment area, or rather the emanation area, of Pafos has been behind me, with its hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops, and its whole chain of hills full of apartment houses made of horrible gray shotcrete. Anyone who has the romantic postcard fantasy of Cyprus with white, cubic houses in front of a blue sea-sky combo, possibly completed by the inevitable cat, will be brutally awakened by Pafos. I confess I am one of them. Cyprus is an extremely well rested island, which despite decades of political squabble and a division into a Turkish and a Greek half has achieved a small economic miracle and has a steadily growing economic balance. Although geographically closer to Africa and Asia than Europe, Cyprus still represents a standard of living roughly on a par with northern Italy. An off-road vehicle crawls towards us on the way. His red license plates expose him as a rental vehicle – an interesting safety precaution, because the left-hand traffic left behind by the former colonial power Great Britain sometimes causes dangerous confusion for tourists. However, red signs indicate to anyone oncoming that an unsuitable choice of lane may be to be expected here. I have gradually reached the Akamas Peninsula, and according to the map, a small mule track should now lead over the 600 meter high mountain range to the east. Indeed, a narrow, stony path branches off to the east and climbs up the ridge. At the top, soaked in sweat, I can see over the green Akamas hills and the sea to the pale outlines of the Kyrenia Mountains. Orientation is now becoming more difficult. If you just had to carelessly follow the only existing lane by the sea, the path divides again and again, countless branches and paths between crippled pines and bushes lead into nowhere. “Adonis-Trial” is carved into an unexpected hiking marker. Right next to it, I want to go to Aphrodite Bay. In mythology, side by side, the beautiful here are separated by a whole mountain ridge. Damn. The 1: 200,000 map does not help, there are no hiking maps for Cyprus. So I feel my way to the east, following an inner compass course, along wonderful gravel paths. Sometimes it works for miles without any problems, sometimes insurmountable steep slopes or dead ends slow down the propulsion every few meters. At some point, another sign rescues me to the village of Polis, where the Aphrodites bathing area is more than clearly signposted. After all, the Hellenic beauty has become a symbol of Cyprus similar to that of Mrs. Rauscher and her abbelwoi for Frankfurter Klappergass. I drive around a few bus tour groups and flee a safe distance on a hiking trail that meanders high above the water on the steep Akamas west side. Below the turquoise-green sea spreads out between red-gray rocks that form the bay behind the bay. Breathtaking. It is understandable that Aphrodite, with her sense of beauty, took her bath here of all places. By the way, Adonis secretly observed it topless – whereupon countless legends began. At the moment, only a few white-skinned English women are swimming down by the water. Well, the myths of everyday life. East of Polis, the tourist center of the Akamas region, I follow long, dark pebble beaches to the northeast. Soon the first foothills of the Tróodos Mountains build up, the coast becomes steeper. The road winds its way up into the mountains, the houses stand more and more isolated, many are deserted. Then suddenly the blue and white barrier is there: behind it the enclave Kokkina, the first harbinger of the northern republic. A couple of soldiers who are passing the time with a soccer match look over attentively. I’m not allowed in anyway, tourists can only cross the border for a few hours in the capital Nicosia. This is where »turkish occupied area« begins, as a sign in the mountains announces a little later. Next to it is a hand-painted silhouette of the island, the upper part of the country red, the lower part painted yellow, dramatically accentuated by the red color of the Turkish north that has run down. Here is the sore spot of Cyprus. When the British colonial rulers gave the island to independence in 1960, the young republic defined Greek and Turkish Cypriots as two ethnic groups. While these inhabited the entire island in peaceful coexistence, the affair between Nicosia, Athens and Ankara turned into a simmering power struggle, which began in 1974 with the Cyprus crisis and the invasion of Turkish troops and finally in 1975 with the division of the island into a Greek and a Turkish republic culminated. As almost always in the world, the partition was followed by expulsion. The Greeks were driven to the south, the Cypriot Turks were deported to the north. Tens of thousands of people lost their homes in the process. All over the island you can find abandoned houses with registration numbers painted on them, gradually collapsing ruins full of junk and cat filth, in which sometimes old washing machines and kitchen cupboards tell of the hasty departure of the residents 24 years ago. Next to the bumpy road that bypasses the enclave through the mountains are the shell-riddled outer walls of a few homesteads. Everything else was probably dismantled by the residents of a small barracks settlement nearby. An ancient truck is falling under a tree, already sunk in the ground up to the driver’s cab. A little further on, the “Welcome” signs in the small village of Mosliere greet me. Touching efforts to get one or the other traveler to stop. But nobody can come by here anymore. As once at the Schlesisches Tor in Berlin, the border cut off all economic and traffic connections. What used to be achievable from Nicosia in just over an hour now has to be bought at the cost of an arduous detour through the Tróodos Mountains that takes almost a day’s journey. In the border town of Kato Pyrgos, a few orphaned hotels still bear witness to the fact that people once hoped for better times here. Old Chevi pick-ups roll down the village street, the drivers in decommissioned army jackets, coffee is available for half the normal rate. I am finally on the B-side of the island. At the exit of Kato Pyrgos, a soldier refuses to continue on the deserted road to the east. I turn south, hoping to find the connection path through the Tróodos Mountains, which is thinly marked on the map. There are hardly any signposts, anyone who is on their way here knows where to go. But an old sign, barely legible because of the rust, is still there, pointing the way to Kampos, a central station near the Kykko monastery. From there the southern exit from the forest should also be able to be found. Because they should actually be marked, these 2000 kilometers of forest roads that the British laid out in the 19th century during their beneficial and extensive reforestation work on the island, which was almost completely cleared by the Ottomans. And truly. Even after the first few kilometers on the wide, easy-to-drive paths, the conditions for off-roaders are almost paradisiacal: As if the Swabian Alb Association had organized it, all important junctions are marked with signposts and even kilometers. Unbelievable. The piste leads for a good 40 kilometers in a lively mountain-and-valley railway through the extensive, fragrant pine forests, offering views of the green ranges of hills again and again in clear spots. Occasionally a car comes sneaking up on it, but most of the time I sweep the soft, red forest floor alone. In Kykkos it gets a bit complicated for a short time, I get on an unmarked path that rises out of the forest like an old South Tyrolean military road and climbs dizzyingly along a rugged rock face. The vegetation is becoming more sparse, pines and wildflowers claw bravely into cracks in the stone and the thin crust of the earth. As great as the path is – the lack of marking irritates me, and a look at the map makes it clear which maze I could expose myself to here. The fuel is enough for a maximum of 80 kilometers – too little for experiments. Out of necessity I return to the next accessible asphalt road at Kykkos. But then there is actually another small arrow pointing into a forest path: “Agios Nikolaos 21 km”. And that’s exactly where I want to go. Soon the lane follows a small stream, darkened like a jungle by a thick canopy of leaves. This seems to be the island’s wet room, the path is slippery, ivy and lichen entwine over dark mossy tree trunks, huge puddles of water spread out. A little gas push, and the box drifts wonderfully out of the curves, bouncing gently over the soft ground. The sun is already pretty low when the crumbly asphalt surface welcomes me again above the sparkling Aspokremmos reservoir. I should actually go back to the hotel. But I have another idea, the last light might just be enough. On the coastal road I turn east without further ado, I hardly have an eye for the huge white cliff that plunges hundreds of meters into the sea next to the busy connecting road, brilliant actually, but I’m looking for something else. There it is, almost hidden between rocks and undergrowth. The entrance is already closed, I climbed over the fence without further ado, scrambled up a small debris – and it lies in front of me: a small amphitheater, maybe just 50 meters in diameter, about 20 rows of seats made of light granite stone, the ancient theater of Kourion. I sink down on one of the benches in a daze. Deep down, behind the stage, the sea spreads shimmering to the horizon, above that the gradually darkening sky of the Aegean Sea. A performance in this small semicircle, high up, floating somewhere between heaven and earth, will be pure madness. The next day I have to go to Nicosia. Of course I don’t really have to, but anyone who knows Berlin has to go to this city. Here, too, after the end of the war in 1975, the rulers unceremoniously drew the border right through. The huge crescent moon shines over the northern part of the city, provocatively placed in the northern mountains by the Turks. Between British colonial style houses and old machine guns, I slowly feel my way into the center of the city. As the streets become quieter, more and more junk cars are replacing machine guns and the rolling grilles in the shops look like they haven’t been opened in years, I know I’m here. Still, the barrier of sandbags and barbed wire guarded by soldiers hits me like a shock. It is too lively and intense to be understood as a political measure that is more than 20 years old. It looks violent, harsh, and unforgiving. As if the war only ended yesterday, and not a quarter of a century. Behind the barrier lies a war scenario of half-destroyed houses that still have bullet holes in the walls and stacks of tires for cover on roofs and balconies that break down. Torn out doors, shattered shop windows – a couple of roaming cats and a UN jeep are the only things alive. It is the UN buffer zone that keeps the still warring parties at bay. Behind it, Turkish flags and minarets can be seen against the sky. I wander a little through the deserted alleys in front of the barrier, noticing that it lives quietly in some places. Behind an old factory door the machines of a sewing shop are buzzing, next door the glue fumes from the shoe factory “Amore” waft from a half-open door, a few streets away one of the destroyed shops is being renovated. One begins to come to terms. At some point I come across a busy shopping street again, Cher is booming “Strong enough” out of a window, a couple of young blue helmet soldiers are sitting in a bar with a kebab and the fabric shop opposite has camouflage-colored cotton rolls on sale. A few more steps and I’m at the Checkpoint Charley cafe, a little booth with three tables in front of it and the barbed wire behind it. As if stunned, I take a seat, think of Berlin, the small theater over the sea and the slopes I experienced with this ingenious 350cc, try to establish the connection. It will be difficult.
The third-largest Mediterranean island allows bikers to enjoy almost all types of vacation. Ancient culture, diverse landscapes and routes as well as dreamy beaches leave nothing to be desired.
Arrival and accommodation: A sea voyage by ferry from Piraeus is possible, but it will probably only interest enthusiastic island hoppers. Because the trip via Crete and Rhodes costs two full days and nights and from around 250 Marks for one person with a motorcycle. From northern Italy to Piraeus, around xx marks and xx hours have to be taken into account. The four-hour flight trip is less exciting, but saves about a week’s vacation and costs around 600 marks. Particularly noteworthy are the package deals of the travel agencies, which in the off-season already entice with 850 marks for flight, accommodation and half-board for a week and are probably unbeatable in terms of value for money. In contrast to Greece, there are fewer cheap private rooms or campsites (seven) on site than hotels and holiday apartments. More details at the Cypriot Tourist Office (see “Information”) or at the travel agency. Travel time: Due to its location between Asia and Africa in the extreme eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus has mild winters and extremely hot summers. Due to the mountainous topography, the temperature differences between the coast and the almost 2000 meter high mountain peaks in Tróodos are up to 15 degrees Celsius. Spring and autumn offer the best compromise, when it is still pleasantly warm in lower elevations but free of snow (!) In the mountains. Rental motorcycles: Good vehicles can be found in all tourist centers on the island. All vehicle types are available, but most of the options and a lot of driving fun are offered by the all-round enduros Suzuki DR 350 and 650, which are now very popular as rental bikes in the Mediterranean area. Robust enough to take a lot, light, reliable and with many qualities on and off the Road. The only restriction: the seat, which is quite hard on long tours, and the 350-series tank with a range of around 170 kilometers, which is not exactly lush. Basically, the condition of the rental motorcycles seemed acceptable everywhere, the prices are humane: around 60 marks per day including fully comprehensive insurance and free kilometers are expected for a 350 cc, 70 marks for a 650 cc, scooters and 125 cc are available from 25 and 35 marks respectively. From one week there is a discount. We have had good experiences at CY-Breeze Rentals in Pafos, 16B, Tombs of the Kings Road, phone 06/243810 (breakdown service, accommodating claims handling, good machines). Information: Tourist Office Cyprus, Kaiserstrabe 50, 60329 Frankfurt / Main, Telephone 069/251919, Fax 250288. Literature: The Apa Guide “Cyprus” offers good background information for 44 Marks Michael Muller Verlag (north and south volumes for 32.80 marks each). The best map, which also shows many slopes on a scale of 1: 200,000, comes from Mairs: either as an alliance leisure map with registered sights for 9.80 marks or under the general card logo for 12.80 marks. Time required: four days Distance traveled: around 800 kilometers
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