Turkish Odyssey Part Five

There are, sadly, two sides to Cyprus. There is on the one hand the beautiful island paradise side, and there is on the other hand, the ugly political side. Greeks and Turks have long been at loggerheads with one another over islands, and perhaps no island is the focus of that more than Cyprus. Once the Brits let go of the island, all kinds of bad things began to happen in the 1960s and later. I will not pause to recount the sordid details of battles, and killings and etc. but I will simply say that two thirds of the island is in the hands of the Greeks, and the northern one third in the hands of the Turks. We flew the 40 minute flight into the northern side of the island into Ercan airport, and visited the city Paul first visited on the island…. namely Salamis. This post and the next are about Salamis.

One of the first things one notices is that on the north side of the island you basically see derelict old churches from the French and Italian periods of occupation, whereas in the south you basically see living Greek Orthodox congregations and churches. A big difference. On both sides of the island there are lots of wonderful plants and flowers that will not grow well in my backyard in Lexington Kentucky. For example, my personal favorite— the bouganvilla…


Or the beautiful anemone….

So much natural beauty and so much human ugliness characterize this island’s life for a long period of time. In Paul’s day, it seems to have been a more quiet and unified place.

The Famaugusta Salamis catherdal dates back to the French period, and so not surprisingly it seems to be modeled on the cathedral in Rheims…. even as a ruin, it is remarkably beautiful.

Notice two things about the picture above— the gigantic sycamore tree on the left of the picture, and the minaret added to the cathedral also on the left edge of the picture.

The inside of the Cathedral, alas, had been retro-fitted into a mosque, as is the way of Islam to show it’s religious superiority.

But I would rather show you this patriarch of sycamores a little more closely, as Zaccheus would have been proud to climb this tree. Note that the tree was probably planted the same time the cathedral was built, because it is just as old!

It is interesting to me that in secular western histories of the religious battles of the western world there is a lot of ranting and raving about the Crusades, but hardly anywhere near as much ink is spilt on the Arab invasions, and religious take-overs and in some cases, ruination of churches, by Islamic zealots. Fair is fair, the whole sordid story should be made clear. Christians were certainly not the only, or even the main persons with religiously motivated blood on their hands, to this very day.
I’m just saying…..

  • http://www.proto-protestantism.blogspot.com John Dukes

    It’s true. The Muslim crimes have been downplayed and yet in recent years there have been a host of new books and authors celebrating the Middle Ages and certainly the impulse behind the Crusades. In many cases their works are revisionist and I think more theological motivated than concerned with historical accuracy.

    Sacralism, of which the Christian version is Constantinian is a sad and often very evil impulse. The fault-zone stretching from the Eastern Europe through the Balkans and down to the edges of the Middle East is dripping with it and all its animosities. Sadly for the Greeks, Armenians, Syriacs etc… it’s become almost an existential part of who they are. For the Muslims, especially in the wake of post-Ottoman Western Imperialism, it can be equally fervent.

    The ironic part is culturally, I’m talking in terms of the day to day living, sitting in the coffee shop and everything else…they’re not that different! The Turks and Greeks, the Israelis and Palestinians have more in common with each other than they do someone from America.

    Enjoyed the pictures and comments.

  • Brian B.

    We have Bougainvillea in Florida. They are pretty, but with thorns, they are a pain to maintain.

  • Josiah

    Following from your point of one-sided history, I haven’t had an opportunity to read the following but I highly respect the people who’ve said that its well worth the effort…http://www.amazon.com/Decline-Eastern-Christianity-Under-Islam/dp/1611471362/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1367615338&sr=8-2&keywords=bat+ye%27or

    I’m surprised that hollywood haven’t brought such material to the public consciousness in the usual way – allegorically through science fiction.