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Monday, June 7, 2010

Cyprus: Island of love or heart torn apart?

Aphrodite... The Goddess of Venus... The Goddess of Love. When you come to the Greek side of Cyprus you cannot escape hearing all about her and seeing her statues and pictures around every street and corner of the Island.

The legend goes that the Goddess of Love fell from the skies and formed in the foam of the seas of Cyprus.

It is said that she has a magic girdle that had the power to inspire love and beauty to anyone who wore it. She also had many lovers, but of these one of the most famous was her affair with Ares, the God of War. The passion from which their relationship was created is symbolic of the destructive attraction between men and women; love and war. It was this polarity that made their love so strong.

Aphrodite and Ares had a son named Eros, or better known as cupid. He was the most beautiful child but sometimes when he would get drunk he would make the worse pairs fall in love. He was known to be a trouble maker, especially in his child form.

The Cypriots today still believe in all the love and magic of Aphrodite. In fact it is believed that if you go to the beach where Aphrodite formed, and swim around her rock three times at midnight you will find your true love.

                                           Aphrodite's Rock in Paphos, Cyprus

So the question I have is how can Cyprus, the Island of Love... also be known as the last divided country in Europe and contain the last divided city in the world. Sharing seems like it should be a virtue of love! And sharing is definitely not an action I would associate with Cyprus.

Greeks had been the majority of the Island, and Greek love, passion, and culture was shared by all islanders  until 1974 when the Turks invaded. The Cyprus tried to fight and send them back to Turkey, but the population of an army on a island does not remotely compare the the Turkish army.

So instead... to solve the problem, the two sides literally drew a line. The Green Line. This line separates the Northern Turkish side and the Southern Greek side and runs right through the capital city, Nicosia.

A march in the Capital City from the Greek side to the Turkish side encouraging peace!

As a peacekeeper, the United Nations claimed the 100 yard middle territory and kept it as a safe zone, or as it is called today.. the dead zone.

While walking through downtown Nicosia the other day, we stumbled upon a dead end. All we could see at this dead end was a very old, very large fence... and above the fence hung a rather intimidating sign that said "Absolutely no pictures". Realizing that we were not suppose to be around that area or take pictures of it, we walked closer. That's when we were told that this was the dividing line. After realizing this we noticed a Turkish solider monitoring the border. Still curious, we looked past the soldier and through the cracks and holes in the fence. What we saw shocked me.

I felt as if I was looking into a game of Call of Duty on pause. A ghost town. Dust everywhere, buildings crumbling, not a person to be seen. When I looked closely at the building I saw wounds, bullet holes, some reaching up to 6 inches in diameter, covered the sides of the buildings. A chill came over me as I realized that those bullet holes were meant for someone at one point.

The most bizarre part of this ghost town is it is only 100 yards wide and follows the dividing line all the way through out the island. The uniqueness of this situation I could not quite wrap my head around. So I decided to relate this situation to something I am very familiar with, and came up with this...

The dead zone is an unfortunate brown and dusty filling to the equally delicious Greek and Turk layers in the Cyprus Oreo.

I understand the Greek's point that if they shared the whole island with Turkey, they would quickly be outnumbered and their Greek culture would be enveloped by the Turk culture. But if only the two sides could get along, this could create one very blended cookie!!! A new flavor everyone will love!

I guess after 36 years, neither side is willing to have their cookie blended.

Maybe the drunken Eros is playing a trick on the island. Making both Greeks and Turks fall in love with Cyprus, and laughing at the fight. If this is true, Eros just needs to sober up and fix the mess! He just needs tons of bread and a cold shower to hurry the process.

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