As my travel companion Ugnė wrote (in Lithuanian), Cyprus is rich in well-preserved and accessible ruins, particularly in Famagusta, which she calls the capital of antique ruins. As I wrote in my earlier blog post, people interact with objects in a very direct and laid-back way. Sterility of museums seems to be alien to the local culture. There are museums, of course, but even in them visitors can come closer and interact with objects more directly.
I continue blogging about my recent trip to Cyprus: all posts can be found using this tag. This post is inspired by my considerations as to where to put Cyprus on my travel map. It’s beyond geographical Europe, but South Cyprus is in the EU, so I categorized it as Europe. Still, traveling there made me think about the position of Cyprus in relation to its Middle Eastern neighbors.
I continue blogging about my recent trip to Cyprus. I generally enjoy looking at buildings, although several of my friends are by far more knowledgeable about architecture. In Mediterranean countries I like taking pictures of shutters – I think this is a detail that really makes a difference (I found them even on apartment blocks in Metz!). Sometimes I would wander around the old neighborhood of Neve Tzedek in Tel Aviv just to compare various buildings with shutters. I also saw lots of nice shutters in Malta. Another feature that is shared between Cyprus and Malta is widespread use of closed balconies.
One observation that we made in Cyprus was that almost every household has their own way of preparing tea. For coffee, while Turkish (hush hush, OK, Cyprus coffee) is ubiquitous in cafes and restaurants, instant coffee still rules people′s homes, and it′s actually served in cafes as well. Coffee and tea drinking rituals vary not only among cultures, but also among individuals. While many in Lithuania are used to blank machine-made or pour-over coffee, there are outstanding cafes cropping up in Kaunas and Vilnius (such as Green Cafe). Tea in Lithuania has much more developed traditions. Most restaurants and cafes offer a choice between a teabag and loose tea, and there is a variety of herbal teas (only three languages derive their word for ′tea′ from ′herbs′). In Hungary, they actually bring a powdered creamer with espresso. In Azerbaijan, Azercay is famous, but coffee culture is something they did not bother to import from neighboring Turkey. In Malaga, Spain, they have an elaborate distinction between a ′half,′ a ′shade,′ and a ′cloud.′ Searching for good coffee can be hopeless in England and many American cities, but English tea is always a good choice (an Italian, living in Cambridge for over 25 years, said that in the beginning it was a cultural shock to see a spoon so clearly visible through the coffee over there). Italy is famous for its coffee, but I found their espressos too tiny to enjoy. In Luxembourg I was surprised to find coffee just the way I like it. In Istanbul both coffee and tea were good. So, what to expect in Cyprus?
The trip to Cyprus was long and adventurous enough to prompt all kinds of thoughts. But before I start describing specific places visited, I am planning to write a few posts on general observations from both sides, the North and the South. One of the observations I made during the trip is about how people relate to where their stuff comes from. I thought this relationship was more direct and genuine than I’ve seen in most of my travels. In Cyprus one is rarely too far from the source of things.
What to do on Valentine′s day not to make it become cheesy? I found a great solution this year – I went to a local feminist gathering. But it′s also a good chance to remember that last year at this time I was somewhere far away, exploring one of the most special places on Earth – the Dead Sea. Update: in 2015, I went there again and took better photos.
I didn’t think twice when my friend, who now lives in Tuscany, offered me to visit her there. I only started to explore the Mediterranean region in 2009, when I went to live in Israel, so it was head-on and initially different experience. Later, when I visited Turkey, Egypt, Spain, South France and Portugal on shorter trips, I decided that it would have been a better strategy to start from short vacations – as most people do. To admire the healthy cuisine(s) of the region. To enjoy the sea and the sun without having to solve various cultural and integration problems.
Most things were really intuitive in Turkey, Spain, South France and Portugal. When something was very different, I saw it in a positive light. But Italy happened to be more surprising (socially) in many aspects than all these countries. I’ve already written a bit about my trip to Milan. My trip to Tuscany started after that.
Malta has long been my priority destination. It is logically a perfect place for vacations – it has the sea, plenty of sun, and an English-speaking population. The few days I spent there confirmed every expectation that I had. Malta is easy to navigate, because everyone from the age 10 to 100 speaks English, it is culturally interesting and has a lot to offer. The only drawback is that the beaches are rocky, but there is also one sand beach. The Maltese cuisine has clearly had a lot of Italian influence, but they fry their food more, compared to other Mediterranean cultures, and the local specialty is rabbit. The Maltese language is unique – I was told by a speaker of Libyan Arabic that it’s easy to understand by Libyan Arabic speakers, but it has many English and Italian words in it, which, I presume, makes Arabic more difficult to understand for Maltese speakers.
Milan was not on my travel wishlist, but this is one of the main gateways to Italy from Lithuania, since Ryanair and Wizzair fly there. Milan is known as the industrial and business capital of Italy. I have met many Italians who have worked there at some point in their lives – and usually did not quite enjoy it. Milan is known to be stressful and competitive, even merciless. Meanwhile, the Milanese are said to be complaining that they earn Italy’s GDP while everyone else is just chilling. My expat friend living in Italy also mentioned the extreme fashion-consciousness in Milan, where, in her experience, people really judge you if you are not fashionable enough. I couldn’t say I got to know Milan, busted or confirmed all these generalizations during the short time I spent there, but the real gateway to the city was my Couchsurfing host, who also commented on my friends’ memories and impressions from living here. Continue reading