Travel

A Partitioned Island

I recently spent an enjoyable 10 days In Cyprus. It reminded me of Ireland – a small island with a border dividing the north from the south, with a British military presence and two tribes separated by religion and flag – except that the Cypriot climate is a little warmer.

Bellapais Abbey

Bellapais Abbey


Paphos Archaeological Park

Paphos Archaeological Park

The Troodos Mountains - for some reason I received a text on my phone here saying "Weclome to Turkey", even though we were still on the Greek side of the island

The Troodos Mountains – for some reason I received a text on my phone here saying “Welcome to Turkey”, even though we were still on the Greek side of the island


Tomb of the Kings, an ancient burial site in Paphos - with KFC sign in background

Tomb of the Kings, an ancient burial site in Paphos – with KFC sign in background


Memorial to Gergios Grivas military leader of EOKA who fought against British rule in Cyprus in the 1950s

Memorial to Gergios Grivas military leader of EOKA who fought against British rule in Cyprus in the 1950s


Starred agama (Stellagama stellio), the largest lizard on Cyprus

Starred agama (Stellagama stellio), the largest lizard on Cyprus

Ancient Roman Mosaic, Paphos

Ancient Roman Mosaic, Paphos


Mosque at Paphos - recently restored, but now no longer used for worship sine the partition of Cyprus and polarisation of its two communities

Mosque at Paphos – recently restored, but now no longer used for worship since the partition of Cyprus and polarisation of its two communities


"Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" flag painted on hillside

“Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” flag painted on hillside

Statue of Archbishop Makarios III, first president of the Republic of Cyprus, (1960–1974 and 1974–1977)

Statue of Archbishop Makarios III, first president of the Republic of Cyprus, (1960–1974 and 1974–1977)


Icon at Kykkos Monastery, Troodos Mountains

Icon at Kykkos Monastery, Troodo Mountains

The ruins of Bellapais Abbey, Northern Cyprus with Turkish and Turkish Cypriot flags visible through the arch

The ruins of Bellapais Abbey, Northern Cyprus with Turkish and Turkish Cypriot flags visible through the arch


A Cypriot hedgehog

A Cypriot hedgehog

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Another shameless plug…

ICC Press Release 002

In Complete Circles: The Memoirs & Travels of an Ageing Schoolboy…

Available now from Amazon for £4.95 or $10.50 or €8.24 (in Italy), €8.12 (in France), €8.56 in Germany, €7.90 (in Spain).

Previews available.

“In Complete Circles” book published

I’m relieved to finally announce at long last that my book In Complete Circles:  The Memoirs & Travels of an Ageing Schoolboy has finally been published after almost two years of graft.  Copies can be ordered from Amazon – which also lets you have  a look inside.  More extracts can be found on this blog.

ICC cover 001ICC cover 002
 
“A comic and at times irreverent memoir of school life and adolescence in a Northern Irish town during the 1980s and early 1990s with accompanying rants on the absurdities of modern life, nostalgic reminiscences on the news events and popular culture of the era and the subsequent fulfillment of youthful ambitions through travelling, sometimes verging on the surreal. This book is part memoir, part travelogue. The chapters alternate between episodes from the author’s school days and subsequent travel writings (incorporating the Baltic states, Australia, New Zealand, Romania, Spain and Morocco) from several years later – but always with a connecting theme linking the two eras. Examples include a schoolboy fascination with horror films linking a visit to Transylvania, daily reports of the Balkan war during the author’s schooldays in the early ’90s linking a tour of the region 15 years later –and a childhood addiction to tangerines with dreams of trekking through the Sahara on camelback leading to a trip to Morocco.”

Thanks to all who provided me with the valuable support and encouragement during the writing of the book!

Does Didier Drogba have shares in Ryanair?

I landed at Belfast George Best airport on an icy Christmas eve afternoon, having just flown in from Stanstead.  It was then that I noticed that the grounded Ryanair plane opposite the one I had just got off had laminated on its side an orange, white and green flag – ie that of the West African former French colony Ivory Coast – or to give it its proper French name Cote d’Ivoire

Unfortunately I don’t have a picture.  I didn’t have a camera handy, but even if I had the chances are I would have been arrested on suspected terrorism/espionage charges as a potential spy for Easyjet.  However the flag in question is illustrated below.  As Ryanair just do short haul flights within Europe only, the Ivory Coast is somewhat outside its jurisdiction.

The flag of the Ivory Coast

The only famous Ivoirien who springs to mind is the foul-mouthed, referee-abusing Chelsea centre forward Didier Drogba.  A man who’s not short of a shilling or two.   Is it possible that he’s done some kind of a deal with Ryanair – or does he have shares in the company?

Over-optimistic Irish soccer supporters who had already booked their tickets to South Africa for the World Cup needn’t worry.  All they have to do is turn their flags around and support Ivory Coast.  And Thierry Henry doesn’t play for them.

Didier Drogba abusing the referee: Does he have shares in Ryanair?

No Tyne like the present

The Millennium Bridge across the Tyne on the pound coin

The Millennium Bridge across the Tyne on the pound coin

I made my first trip to the legendary city of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (or to give it its preferred modern moniker Newcastle-Gateshead, reflecting both the north and south bank of the river)  last week for a conference on records management – and didn’t regret it.  My limited knowledge of the north-east of England had been drawn largely from the popular stereotypes as depicted in Viz comic, The Likely Lads and Auf Wiedershen Pet.  Much of this depicts a rather grim, violent place, but I discovered a thriving modern city proud of its industrial past, steeped in history and looking forward to the future.  The city’s renaissance of the last few years is reflected by the recent developments on the south bank of the Tyne (ie the part known as Gateshead) such as the Sage theatre (which as one conference speaker pointed out resembles a giant silver slug), the former Baltic Flour Mill, now an art gallery and the luxury riverside flats which have sprung up.

800px-the_sage_gateshead

newcastle_upon_tyne_bridges

And there’ also of course the marvel of post-modern engineering design, the Millennium Bridge, a curved bridge which lights up at night, regularly changing colour.  It was only on receiving change at a corner shop which yielded a pound coin, on the reverse side of which was the bridge itself that I finally realised that this image had been in and out of my pocket for all these years.

And one popular stereotype is in fact true – they do go out in t-shirts in freezing cold, wet weather.

A Fang-tastic time in Transylvania…

Autumnal woodland in the Carpathian Mountains

Autumnal woodland in the Carpathian Mountains...but all those long bus journeys were a bloody pain in the neck. Cue eerie, deathly silence punctuated by the swoosh of tumble weeds in the whistling wind and the distant clanging of a funeral bell…then the shouts of "get off!" just before the bottles start to fly...I’ll get my coat.

When in Rome…except this is Romania.  A statue of Romulus and Remus with friendly wolf in Sighiosoara, one of many such monuments dotted across the country, where Romanians pay tribute to their Latin heritage.wolf1
Vlad "The Impaler" Tepes, the sadistic Transylvanian aristocrat who was the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula

Vlad

Right: Statue of Vlad “The Impaler” Tepes, the sadistic Wallachian aristocrat who provided the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

 

Below: Romanian fishmongers are brutally honest about the quality of their merchandise.  Yes, “crap” really is the Romanian for carp
carp

Below: Amazing transformations will take place when you swim in this pool…

paradisul

Below: Communist era apartment blocks in Clujcluj1

Below: the medieval old town square in Brasov, a legacy of the Saxon occupation of Transylvania – or Siebenburgen (Seven Towns) to give it its German name

Brasov
Brasov

Below: Memorial to the struggle against communism (1944-89)in Brasovmemorial

cluj21 Above: Orthodox cathedral, Cluj

Below: the cross at Bran Castle

crossbranBelow: The legacy of Ceaucescu – one of many abandoned factories scattered throughout the Romanian countrysidefactory

catAbove: Since finding a cat that looks like Hitler in Sarajevo in 2006, it’s been my ambition to trawl Eastern Europe for other felines resembling European dictators.  Admittedly the above specimen from the Carpathian mountains looks nothing like Ceacescu, Stalin or Tito, but I like the picture nevertheless

Going East/Vampires and stuff

I won’t be blogging for another week or so, as I’m off to Romania on a jolly romp to see what’s going on down Transylvania way.  Not that I blog that much anyway, so you probably won’t notice the difference. 

Anyway, the garlic, crucifixes and wooden stakes are all packed and ready to go.

Been practising the language a bit.  Not that difficult really – you can almost get by speaking Italian with a slavic accent.

O sticlă de vin roşu de casă va rog.

Noroc!

La revedere for the moment!