Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My Epos From Cyprus

I've been on a package holiday! It still turned out fairly well. I'm particularly satisfied with my timing. Just as this issue of a major Norwegian daily, in which I'm depicted as a rather lazy worker, came out, I sat down on a plane to Larnaca, Cyprus. A week later I returned, and by now this article should be forgotten by everyone.

(The article is in Norwegian. I gave an interview where I tried to explain that I prefer to "retire" every second month now instead of just retiring completely when I reach the age when that is a normal thing to do. The reason is that I think I have more options for what to do with that time now than when I'm 70.)

It's not a misleading article, mind you. The only error in it is that by now I'm a lot more tanned than on the photo in the newspaper, so there's no reason to complain.

I don't complain about Cyprus either. It's easy to spend a week there having a look at a strange, little country.

The most peculiar thing about it is obviously that the island is a bit of a war zone. The northern third of the island is occupied by Turkey, and in many areas there are enough checkpoints and soldiers around that you never forget it.

As a tourist the "war" is not a problem, but it's strange when you walk up the main pedestrian mall of the capital. Suddenly a man in uniform comes up to you, demands to see your passport and asks "I hope you are aware of the fact that Turkey is occupying parts of our island?". Then he lets you continue your walk. A hundred metres or so further up the street, beyond some barbed wire and skeletons of houses full of land mines, you arrive at a fairly normal-looking Turkish border control post, where you hand in your passport and fill out a form. With all formalities completed, there are now no signs or conversations in Greek around anymore.

Apart from that, it was impossible to be in Cyprus and not think that I was in Greece. Wherever I turned there were old churches, blue and white vistas, olive trees, old women with white hair and black clothes, mathematical symbols and new and old ruins.

I ended up walking lots and lots of kilometres on this trip as well. With a GPS in hand I managed to find more than twenty hidden treasures on the island, without disturbing too many snakes and spiders with my feeling around in dark holes in nature. It was a sweaty activity, fortunately mainly because it was so hot every day.

Among the pleasant surprises I enjoyed, I can mention that I did not end up in the city of Sin (Agia Napa), there was a salt lake with flamingos near my hotel in Larnaca, there was a pool on the roof and I wasn't at all burned by the sun.

Still, would I recommend anyone going there?

Nah. Not really. But maybe I'll serve up some more photos from there eventually. We'll see. First I'll be working in July, both for my employer and with my own photos from India this spring.

Bye for now!


Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Petra Dish For You

Hey! I'm almost up to date with my photos! At least I'm done with the pile from Jordan, so go ahead and have a look if you like.

The trip to Jordan turned out to be almost just Petra. I went in February, which turned out to be an especially good month to visit Jordan for people that enjoy making snowmen. My original plan was to have a look at some dunes and scorpions as well, but a blizzard closed all the roads I had wanted to travel on. So instead I spent a good deal of time in Petra, which was great, and some fairly bleak days in Aqaba, the grey "beach" town just east of the mine field that is also known as the border to Israel.

It took only about 10 hours to get from my kitchen to the gates of Petra. The flight is 5-6 hours long, and then there's a two hour taxi ride to the rocky delights. Mind you, the hours on the plane may turn out to feel a lot longer. Especially if you, like me, end up sharing a plane with ninety middle-aged, female, over-perfumed, slightly drunk cosmetics distributors on a company trip. I was fine, but next time I'll bring a jock strap or something.

Even though Saudi-Arabia is just next door, you can hardly say that Jordan is a Mekka for anything at all, and certainly not for tourism. Both when I arrived and when I left, the only planes I saw at Aqaba International Airport were the SAS planes I traveled with. Tourists to Jordan seemed mainly to consist of busloads of people coming in on express visits from beach hot-spots in Egypt. It's a long ride, so all they had time for when they arrived in the late morning was to have a quick look around at a couple of temples, before they had to leave and go back. I'm glad I had more time to see Petra properly.

I wasn't so happy, however, about the Jordanian hotel breakfasts. Lacking tourists and an understanding of what and how one should eat, and I suspect having too many people employed to do the dishes, the morning meal typically entered the table distributed across 15-20 tiny plates, all full of vaguely alien objects that may or may not have been for human consumption. Fortunately, there was always some cereal to rescue me. Mind you, the milk I was offered to pour onto the cereal was as a rule kept boiling hot. Oh dear.

Never mind. I had not come to Jordan to enjoy the food, but to explore the mountains that contain the treasure of Petra. Any further details regarding this can be found in the gallery I have just published. The short of it is that I liked it very much, and I recommend that you use at least 2-3 days exploring and experiencing Petra.

In other news, my travel sickness bag collection has opened at a museum in Hå in Norway. I was invited to attend the opening, which was a nice gesture. Except the opening was on June 12, and I received my invitation on June 15. I'm sure it was meant well. #8D)

At roughly the same time, the results from the voting for the Wikipedia/Wikimedia photo of the Year was completed. I did not win! But my iguana photo made it to a split tenth place, and this pleases me a lot. Thank you, Charlie, I could not have done it without you!

Now I'm stuck in the rain in Norway, considering whether I should escape somewhere for a week or so, or whether I should just stay home and do something useful. I'm tempted by both options. Does this mean I'm getting old?!