Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Cyprus: Crossing borders with Cocktails

Incredible food at Dionysus Mansion
How can you get as close to the Middle East as possible, but still be in Europe? If you’re not counting Israel (Eurovision does!) then it’s Cyprus. Honestly, until I arrived, I actually didn’t realize how close I was to the death and destruction happening just a few hundred miles away (in Syria). But this lovely beach-island-town has most of the comforts of Europe – at least those appreciated by other Mediterranean parts – plus incredible food expected from the Med – although with quite a conflicted LGBT community.
Mosaics of Ancient Korion near Limassol
Cyprus not a place a great deal of young people flock to – or remain – but it definitely has tons of potential, especially with the beautiful beaches and fabulous Mediterranean food. It was a great destination for ILGA’sEuropean Conference I attended last October. For now, it’s a tourist destination for many Russians – and also a good spot for money laundering (guess which new Cabinet member was also Vice-President of the Bank of Cyprus?)

Of course, many ancient sites, including mosaics, line the island - the major one near a city is Ancient Kourion on the west side of Limassol. But nothing is as spectacular as the seafood is good! The ILGA conference marked the first time an LGBT event was held at the Presidential Palace - which has a large public space outside for celebrations and I enjoyed making a new friend with one of the members of the traditional dance group... :) 

Traditional dancers at the Presidential Palace
Gay Cyprus is difficult – but of course I made attempts with locals. I got disappointed when a Grindr guy offered to drive me to the beach, but then backed out when his friend wanted to go (he didn’t want to have to explain how we met). These guys are shy – worried about their image (typical in any small place) and of course many still very closeted. Yet gay bars exist and of course, you’ll have even more luck perhaps with Grindr (if you can get anyone to commit).

Nicosia – the divided capital - does not have a dedicated gay bar, except in the Turkish-controlled North. Gay bar Lorenzo’s is part of a strong if small community! However back down in Europe, Ithaki bar goes gay on Friday nights. What’s great is that you can cross the international border with a beer or a cocktail in hand - this is the last divided city in the world! With the amount of new boys in town, due to the Conference, it was difficult to make out the locals – but it was cool to see the bar was a mixed, diverse crowd.
New friends from around Europe...

Prices in Cyprus – like other Med & Middle East destinations - depend on your circumstances. I paid 10 Euro for a taxi through a neighborhood (at 2am – and the driver was drunk), then 11 for a (terrifying) mini-van across the country – 6 for a taxi 4 blocks down Larnaca beach (he asked for 7 at first!) and 5 for a taxi across the Capital city (when my hotel called). Just remember, try to keep them a little honest (and be sure the meter is working) – otherwise tourist prices can only go higher!

Ayia Napa - Kermia "Beach"
As far as Beaches, one of the best is Limnara Beach in Ayia Napa where there’s also a “nude” gay beach along the trail – but honestly, it probably has to be a busy time to find anyone but some older gentlemen cruising. The rocky shores are beautiful – but a little difficult to traverse without proper footwear. I made a friend who helped me take some good glam shots – and showed me the best vista for sunset.

Cyprus isn’t big – but it’s more than just another beautiful island of the Med – it’s got a complicated history. But the food and the beaches provide great uncomplicated reasons to stop by – you’ll be certain to make fast friends!

Sunset near Ayia Napa