My wife and I are no longer keen on visiting Portugal this summer: too many common foreigners have moved there since we spent a month in Tavira 5 years ago, especially Americans. The Portuguese are surrendering their country to strangers. Odinary Portuguese can no longer afford to live in Lisbon or any of the main cities of their own country. The good parts are totally infested with birkenstockers, Brits, Americans, Brazilians, Angolans, Israelis, Frenchies, and dodgy Arabs. Moreover, Portugal is apparently just as corrupt as everywhere else — Angolan-related ministerial shenanigans come to mind, as does the Golden Visa program, the drug trafficking, the housing crisis.
Sicily? RIP, Godfather.
So where, pray tell, does that leave us in our increasingly futile search for a non-cattle-car, non-ripoff, shoulder-season vacay, around the Mediterranean, ideally somewhere where English is widely spoken?
For a variety of reasons, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has suddenly reared its tragic little speary head.
I think this place is it.
First off, it is super affordable. Not that easy to get to, as it is essentially a pariah state (which I find extremely attractive), but you can fly to Istandul, spend a few days taking in the magnificent sights there (Blue Mosque, here I come), then fly direct to Ercan International Airport, and transfer by taxi or private car service to Girne (Kyrenia).
Lawrence Durrell lived around there. The pervasive influence of Islam and proximate Greece and Turkey, as well as the former occupation by Imperial Britain, makes this island a rather attractive destination to me personally, with the food reminding me of what I used to eat when I was boy and stayed with me Mum in the salamlek of my Turko-Circasssian great grandmother’s villa in Alexandria. I am, after all, part Turkish.
One noticeable and surprising thing about TRNC is the ubiquitous presence of African students, or young black people who pose as students. The reason is not difficult to unveil. It involves deception and false hope, If not a decision predicted on willing naivety, then a practical one, based on the least worst choice about the future, where Europe, always Europe, an imagined Paradise to so many, is dangled before them: Europe is where they can start a new life, they think. Europe is where they will finally be safe, they pray. Europe is where they can look forward to a bright future, they are assured. The irony of former colonies turning to their recent imperial masters for salvation is not lost. But Africa is burning, so one must act, or die.
It’s not all depressing; there are many pluses, though what I personally find alluring isn’t likely to appeal to everyone who visits.
Gorgeous scenery (despite a casual relationship to responsible garbage-disposable by the locals), eco tourism day trips, being attractively off-the-beaten track compared to a place like Sicily, English spoken everywhere, louche casino owners, night clubs doubling as brothels, Mafia-style dueling gang rub-outs in broad daylight, money laundering by the salaciously corrupt Gulfies and Ruskies and Beirutis and Allah-knows who else, tales of the pirate gun-running days of yore, adventurous snorkeling, availability of local suds and brandy, tourist security due to a heavy military presence, no top level domain or ITU code, and of course my beautiful beautiful Mediterranean to swim in daily, the cradle of my childhood, its restorative beaches waiting for me in old age, my sea, the white sea, el bahr el abyad, my eternal muse.
I feel could write endlessly about places like sheltered Varosha, a ghost of past grandeur and style. Kyrenia seems like a reasonably-priced hideaway along the Medi, for that part of the year when the island isn’t a furnace, while nearby Iskele offers hands-off, passive investment condos on the beach at an extremely reasonable entry price — if one is into that sort of thing, which I’m not.
Is TRNC the answer?
Possibly an answer, one of many, as there is no reason to settle anywhere.
The notion of spending some months traveling alone up and down the eastern part of the Mediterranean, from Cyprus, through to Siciy and Sardinia, then ferrying down to La Marsa in Tunsia, appeals to no end.