Cypriot alphabet – an island from α to ω – part 1

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AΑ, α as Ἀσία (Asia)Republic of Cyprus is a member of European Union and therefore it is often associated with Europe. Politically we of course classify the island as Europe but from geographical point of view the island is a part of Asia. Related to Europe part covers only the fragment of the island, the other part of the teritory belongs to Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. On the south of the island we will find two British Overseas Territories – Akrotiri and Dhekelia, and within their borders three zones administered by the Republic of Cyprus. So to understand the territorial division of Cyprus is not easy. You also need to know that both Cypriot republics are separated from each other by so called Green Line, no man’s land controlled by United Nations army.


BB β as Βόρεια Κύπρος (Northern Cyprus) – it covers north – eastern part of the island and is recognised only by Turkey and Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. Northern Cyprus, in fact Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, is a formation established on the territory of Cyprus in 1983 populated mostly by Turkish nation. Although it is not world recognised country, United Nations are actively involved in protecting its borders. To separate the parts of the conflict it is necessary to maintain by UN forces the buffer zone separating nations and religions from each others. Today, although pasport controll is conducted the movement of people between the two parts of the island is free. Northern Cyprus has its own flague, anthem, government and uses Turkish Lira as their currency. Crossing the boarder we leave euro zone and enter the area of Turkish currency. Tourists of course are free to use both currencies. The capital city is shared by both republics therefore the city of Nicosia is didvided by Green Zone as the rest of the island.


Cγ as γάτα (cat) – if you don’t like cats don’t even think about going to Cyprus. Close encounter with one of them is more than sure. Sooner or later you will find one furry creature rubbing against your leg. Island is inhabited by thousands of them, you will meet them everywhere, in stores, hotels, outside, stretching on sidewalks, hiding in all city corners. Cats were probably brought to the island in the 4th century in order to deal with the growing number of snakes. St. Helena, mother of Constantine the Great came up with this idea and so the plague of snakes was replaced by the plague of cats. It’s only one of the theories. The others direct their suspicions towards the connections of Cyprus with the culture of ancient Egipt and the worship of Bastet goddess. Goddess of love, happiness and music, symbol of fertility was portrayed as a woman with the head of a cat. In general in the culture of Egipt cats played significant role. But the presence of cats on the island and positive attitude of Cypriots towards them reach probably much earlier. Excavations carried out on the island revealed evidence of cat domestication by Cypriots 9500 years ago! History of common living for 9500 years has strengthen the relation of islanders and cats. Until today cats have a very special position in Cyprus.

Cyprus CyprusCyprus


Δ δ as δεξιά πλευρά – right-hand side – it’s the right-hand side where you should look for a steering wheel in Cypriot cars. Drivers, be careful and approach the cars from the right-hand side! Knowing that you can expect that you will be driving on the left-hand side of the street. That’s right – Cyprus has left-hand traffic. It’s totaly crazy for people coming from the countries with right-hand traffic. But it’s not that bad, after some time one can get used to driving on the oposite side of the street. Only gear shifting with left hand reminds long-forgotten driving course when it required looking at gear shift. Accross the world only 75 territories use left-hand traffic, while opposite rule is used by 161 countires. Left-hand side is probably original way of moving on roads. The reason for this solution is that 90% of human population is right-handed. That allows them, moving on left-hand side, freely reach for their weapon and conduct the fight with approaching enemy using their right hand. Version for pacifists – it allows people to joyfully greet approaching friend with their right hand. Left-hand traffic is a remain of British rules of the Island. It lasted untill 1960 but the traffic order remained untill today. Left-hand traffic is used in both: Republic of Cyprus and Turhish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Cyprus Cyprus Cyprus


Ε ε as Ελαιόλαδο – olive oil – it’s fat obtained by pressing whole olives, fruits of olive tree. We divide olives in two groups: those picked when they are not ripe are green, those picked when they started to ripe are purple-red and those fully ripe are black or dark purple. Olive tree is typical for whole Mediterranean Sea area and of course for Cyprus. Production of olive oil on the island begun at least 2000 years before Christ but the real explosion of this activity is dated for the 30s of 20th century. The Cypriots love olive oil as this is one of the healthiest fats. It is used naturally in their cuisine but also for cosmetics manufacturing and religious ceremonies. What is interesting, it requires at least 5 kilograms to produce one liter of olive. Olive trees are mostly grown near Nicosia and cover an area of 12.000 hectares which is almost 10% of whole island. Such sizes of crops allow to produce 12.000 tones of olive annualy. On Cyprus we can find many turist attractions refering to oil. There is an interesting museum – oil factory Oleastro Olive Park, located in between Paphos a Limassol, 15 minutes by car from the main road. It presents the history of olive tree   cultivation, different methods of processing  the fruits and role of oil in Cypriot culture. When you want to visit them in the off-peak season its necessary to give them a call because they might close early. What is more you can see a reconstructed oil press from 7 – 9 century. It’s on the archeological sites north of Limassol. The same type of press was used for pressing grapes to produce wine.



Ζ ζ as Ζιβανία – Zivania – if you think that having already tried Italian grappa, Croatian rakija and Georgian chacha the field of grape destillates you have uder controll, you are wrong. Among others there is one type that you have to try. This is Cypriot Zivania. This liquore is slightly different from the others – it is produced using only two local kind of grapes: Xynisteri and Marvo. This liquor has relatively high alcohol percentage (around 45%), has slightly sweet aroma and no color. It’s history reaches 15th century. In general it is produced by Cypriots for their own purposes not only to drink it but also to use it as a kind of treatment and a warm-up. Apart from basic version there is also red Zivania with herbs and cinnamon produced by Kykkos winery in two versions sweet and dry and the one seasoned in oak barrels. On the pictures below traditional equipment used for Zivania production and two most popular types of this liquor.

Cyprus, Zivania Cyprus, ZivaniaCyprus, Zivania


Η η as Η Γέννηση της Αφροδίτης – The Birth of Venus – southern coast of the island, azure water,  foaming around huge rock growing right from the shore, spring sun flooding the bay with light, cool refreshing breeze – perfect. In such conditions the godess of love and beauty Venus was introduced to the world. Correctly – Aphrodite, cause Greek mithology is more appropiate here. According to the legend, the most beautiful of all godess’, just appeared here from the sea foam. Another story tells that she came out of water in this place, because cut testicles of Father Sky – Uranos were thrown to the sea right here. Anyway Cyprus became the place of eternal worship of Aphrodite’s beauty. Eternal, because even today Cypriots worship her name, using it to name hotels, restaurants and other tourist attractions, what provides them with steady supply of tourists attracted by the legend. Until today Aphrodite is a popular name often given to little girls.

Cyprus, AphroditeCyprus, AphroditeCyprus, Aphrodite


Θ θ ϴ ϑ jak Θρησκεία – religion – majoiry of the population of the Republic of Cyprus is are the followers of Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus. Over 90% of Cypriots practice orthodox religion and the history of christianity on the Island dates back to 4th century.  Since East-West Schism, when cyprus gave up their contacts with Latin Church, the island had gone through French, Venetian, Turkish and British rules. Only after gaining independence by the island Orthodox church could freely breathe on the Island. Arcbishop Makarios III was even elected the first president of an independent Republic of Cyprus. One of the most important orthodox churches you need to visit being in Cyprus is the Church of St. Lazarus in Larnaca with the patron’s thomb underground. Important places for the Cypriot religion are monasteries, 12 of which are located in different places accross the island. The mostly known one, probably due to the production of traditional alcohols, seems to be the Kykkos Monastery in the eastern part of the country.
Second most popular religion in Cyprus is Islam, based in the northern part of the island. Find out more about Islam below.

Cyprus, Church of St. Lazarus in LarnacaCyprus, Cyprus, Church of St. Lazarus in LarnacaCyprus, Ayia Napa Cathedral in Limassol


Ι ι as Ισλάμ – Islam – crossing the border of Northern Cyprus we are entering totaly different world – area of Turkish culture and Islamic religion. Islam first appeared on the island in 15th century but most of today’s Muslims are Turkish settlers who came to the island after Turkish invasion in 1974. Therefore the majority of them are Sunni. On the north side of the island we can see intersting effects of cultures and religions mixing throughout centuries. Famagusta’s most famous medieval building used to be St. Nicolas Cathedral and since 16th century it has been Mustafa Lala Pasha Mosque. This strange structure, at first sight looking like ruined gothic cathedral, is in fact a mosque with characteristic for this type of building minaret. All Christian frescoes and stained glass windows have been destroyed, walls have been painted white and since then building successfully serves Musilm community. Besides Northern Cyprus Muslims also have their shrines  in the Republic of Cyprus. One of the most important is, fabulously located at the Limassol Salt Lake, Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque. The mosque is of special significance for all Muslims, since it probably is the burial place of Umm Haram wet nurse of the Prophet Muhammad.

Cyprus, Hala Sultan TekkeCyprus, Lala Mustafa PashaCyprus, Yenicami Mosque, Nicosia


Κ κ – κουμανδαρία – Commandaria – probably the oldest type of wine in the world that has been produced until today. The name Commandaria was mentioned already in 12th century. This dessert wine has been produced  in the island between azure blue Mediterrenian Sea and the peaks of Troodos Mountains. Cultivation, drying in the sun and the fermentation of grapes used in its production takes place in one of 14 villages in the region called of course Commadaria. Two varieties of grapes used for its production are indigenous Cyprus grapes: Xynisteri and Mavro. The same ones are used to make Zivania. Commadaria is golden brown thick sweet wine, sometimes has the arome of coffee and chocolate, surely fruits and sometimes having slight freshness. Cypriots serve it at the end of the meal in temperature of 12-14 degrees Celcuis to bring out its full aroma. It is produced by main wine industries but it’s advisable to try some of the smaller wineries. It’s a must when you visit the island.

Cyprus CommandariaCyprus CommandariaCyprus Commandaria


Λ λ as Λάρνακα – Larnaca. Our first steps after landing at nearby airport we directed to Larnaca. This is a city located in the south of the island, although small, it’s third largest on Cyprus. Finally we could take off Ola’s long sleeves necessary in Poland. Weather was perfect. Larnaca is typical tourist place, where sunburned turists spend their time eaither on the beach or in some coastal restaurants. Larnaca hosts must think that tourists need to have things they like on hand, so at every step we find McDonald’s, KFC or Starbucks between restaurants trying to keep local atmosphere. But bored with sunbathing turists will find in town also something interesting to see. The most important is of course the Church of St. Lazarus and Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque but we have mentiond them already before. Besides them you need to cover the whole seaside promenade starting from the monument of Zeno of Kition. This Greek stoic was born in Larnaca, which was previously called Kition. You have to pass some market stalls selling all you can imagine, get to the stone winged lion brought to Larnaca by Venetians and finish your walk at the medieval Larnaca Castle. Local beaches are very well kept but if you look for some other type of activities than sunbathing, plan to spend no more than half a day in Larnaca because Cyprus offers a lot more.

Cyprus, LarnacaCyprus, LarnacaCyprus, Larnaca


Μ μ as μεζέδες  – meze – going to Cyprus we already knew that we have to try meze, we cannot leave the island until we try it. But what it really is? Will Ola like it? She surely will, as she does most of „adult” food. But will that be something appropriate for her? We will have to see. Walking the streets of Cypriot towns we kept on seeing banners with „best meze”, „fish meze”, „meat meze”. We tried to avoid those touristic places and find something really authentic, off the main route. There we finally found what meze really was. Generally speaking meze is something like Spanish tapas, a choice of small dishes. We chose fish meze and found on our table successively: the set of different sauces or dips, a salad, and a whole range of fish and other seafood. As you can guess seeing our pictures Ola wasn’t given to try any of those as deep fried food doesn’t seem to be good for such little stomach. Meze is characteristic for the eastern coast of Mediterranean Sea appearing in different variations in different countries. In some areas it is served before the main course but in Cyprus it is rather served as a meal itself. The choice of goodies allowes successfully fill the stomach. Some local drink, like Zivania, is strongly recommended to the meal.

Cyprus, MezeCyprus, MezeCyprus, Meze
Comments (6)
  1. Kinga Thursday April 9th, 2015 at 08:48 AM

    Very interesting idea to write post that way – I like it! And I love cats, good food and beautiful places so I think I have to go to Cyprus! :)

  2. Mucha w sieci Thursday April 9th, 2015 at 09:41 AM

    Czytałam na którymś forum, że bezpośredni lot do części tureckiej traktowany jest jako nielegalne przekroczenie granicy. Prawda to? Wpis był z roku 2012 i nie wiem w jakim stopniu jest to aktualne.

    • Magdalena Kuźma Friday April 10th, 2015 at 08:52 AM

      Raczej nie jest to w żaden sposób nielegalne. Przylecieć można na pewno tylko z Turcji lub z międzylądowaniem w Turcji. Na lotnisku trzeba poddać się kontroli paszportowej i koniec. Potem można zostać w CP lub wybrać się do południowego. Problem prawdopodobnie byłby, gdybyśmy chcieli zabrać do południowego auto wypożyczone w północnym.

  3. Asia | Byłem tu. Tony Halik. Thursday April 9th, 2015 at 10:40 AM

    Great idea to present Cyprus and its culture. I love Cypriot and Greek alphabet as I had lots of physics during my studies and those letters are very familiar to me. Thanks to that, beeing in Cyprus I could more or less read the inscriptions on the banners or road signs. :)
    btw, I liked Cyprus very much. I will visit your blog for more information with pleasure.

  4. Lukasz (Choose travel) Friday April 10th, 2015 at 10:05 PM

    Wow, swietny design, zdjecia i pomysl na post, gratulacje! Postawilbym tylko na wiecej historii i postaci z Cypru, zeby nieco bardziej ozywic :) Sorry za brak polskich znakow, ale pisze z Ukrainy i nie mam polskiej klawiatury 😉

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