Thursday, October 08, 2009

Cyprus - sun, sea and blue sky

To find a relevant conference in Cyprus was quite a surprise. And it was quite at the right time with the right focus as well. However, even after the paper was accepted, a lot of issues cropped up, some arbit, some crazy, that continually questioned the trip.

£! Paper: On all my previous paper uploads, spread over 4-5 yrs?, I was very cautious and made sure it was perfect and satisfied all the formatting, protocols et al. This time, had to be an exception. The organisers complained to me about the camera-ready version (the version that is actually published in the conference proceedings) not fitting in with the requirements. I had forgotten to include the keywords and my bibliography style was all wrong! Okay, okay, I admit it was a easily rectifiable issue.

£! Hotel: Okay, next step to going to a conference would be registration (which was easily accomplished, thankfully) and accommodation. As there was no online form provided by at the conf. website, I first called up the hotel. They asked me to send a mail with the details. So I did. No response. More than a week passed! I mailed again. No response! I got tired and called them. The person complained that their servers had some problem but assured that my room will be reserved for me all right (since he recognised that I had called earlier as well). But another week or so passes and I still get no confirmation. The conference dates were inching closer and I started worrying that no places might be left at that hotel. So, I called again and this time the right person picked up, the one who is responsible for room bookings and she got it done in a few minutes .. whew!

£! Flight: Found the most suitable flight and gave the info (a clear printout) to the group secretary to make the booking for me. He got it done via a travel agent, as is the norm. All fine except that my name on the ticket had a typo. So, I had to pray that the security at Heathrow and again those in Cyprus do not notice the discrepancy in the names on the passport and on the ticket/boarding-pass.

£! Visa: I luckily had Schengen visa until beyond the conference dates, so I felt relieved that for once, I won't have to run around consulates. But, I did make a fatal assumption- that Cyprus was part of the Schengen. I did remember seeing it in countries list of Schengen and assumed that was it. Just 3-4 days before the flying date, Su aka Pseudeone questions me about the visa and I assure him that I have everything under control. Then, just to be sure I check only to recoil in horror! Though, Cyprus signed the Schengen agreement it apparently did not implement it yet! Which meant, that a separate Cypriot visa is required to enter Cyprus!! I was flabbergasted. Then I did more research and found a few websites including some consulates of Cyprus that stated in confusing jargon that residents of UK countries holding a valid Schengen visa and having visited other countries using it, are allowed to enter Cyprus. But then, did I qualify? Will I be allowed?

Cyprus looked quite familiar. In many ways, it was similar to India. Ofcourse, they too were under British occupation for a long time and have a similar sunny climate. All this meant, that everyone knew how to speak English (not necessarily perfect but easily understandable English). Every sign/notice/hoarding displayed the matter in atleast two languages- greek and english. The structure of the buildings were as modern and as ventilated as those in India. In fact, if you were just given a snapshot of some buildings without including any people, you can be easily fooled into believing that it belonged to some Indian town! Yes, it was quite in contrast to the rest of Europe that I had been to. Generally buildings seemed to be modern construction with open plans letting in lots of air, containing balconies and terraces and such kind. Next to the roads would be dry open sand and rocks and not wet mud covered with grass or concrete like in western Europe.

Cyprus is a popular tourist destination. But you would mainly find British and Russian tourists only. Infact, apparently lots of Russians have moved there and settled permanently after the breakup of the Soviet Union. As I was told, these Russians accumulated money during the communist era and brought it all with them to Cyprus when they left after the end of the Union. Thus, all the hotel menus list the dishes in three languages- Greek, English and Russian ;)

Another similarity with India would be the unending political problem of the division of Cyprus, invasion by Turkey and all that. Rings a familiar bell? :P

It is a very expensive country. Yeah, it is much more expensive than even UK. And very touristy as well. Oh, and there are a huge number of Bangladeshi and Pakistani immigrants who work in these touristy hotels. It was quite surprising but then when you think about it, not so much. English is the language spoken and hence they are employed, and hence they migrate for a better lifestyle :P.

Now, we can get down to specifics of my trip :P. The conference was in this 4-star beach resort and thats where I stayed for 4 of the 5 days. It was very posh. The poshest hotel I have stayed in until now, ever! It had its own private beach, 3-4 restaurants, a couple of more bars and so on. And all that extravaganza made sense as we realised that many tourists seemed to just stay in the hotel for the whole week and so. They would just lie by the beach, swim for a bit, lie a bit more, use the swimming pool, and lie around more, while using the dining facilities around. They never ventured out to do the other touristy activities like sight-seeing :P. Ofcourse, most of the tourists were basically old retired rich people. And then, there were a few other kind of tourists. British couples, along with their families and friends, who came all the way to Cyprus, to this particular resort to get married by the sea, on the pier. Everyday, a wedding took place there! Insane!

For the first 3 days, when the conference was being held, I couldn't do much other than enjoying my room or by the beach in the evenings. On the last day however, a friend (from the conference) and I hiked for 2 hours along the beach to reach an archaeological excavation of what is supposedly the oldest city/port of the country called Amathaus. Oh btw, We were in Limassol- the second largest city of Cyprus, after the capital.

The second last day, I was picked up from the hotel by the family of my friend aka ex-housemate, who is originally from this city [lucky me ;)] to be taken to their place. That's where I spent the weekend. My friend wasn't there obviously (she being in the UK and all) but her parents were excellent hosts and showed me around the city, the castles, the ancient town nearby and all that. That evening, another friend (cousin of my ex-housemate) came by to take me to her house and also show around a bit more of the city.

The last day, I left early to go to Larnaca, another city, the one which contains the airport and went around a bit, enjoying the marina and all before flying back to Heathrow.

So, is Cyprus worth visiting? Definitely yes, if you want a relaxing break by the sea side. The intense blue sea is serene, the waves are gentle, the air is refreshing and the food is good. Most of all, it is completely hassle-free. Except for public transport which is practically non-existent. Everyone there owns a car apparently, so rent one if you want to go around a lot :P.


skp said...

1. You are misguiding people with incomplete information on ex-housemate ...

2. Not a single acknowledgment for all those latex compilations you outsourced to the guy sitting in India


captcha word : reboin

thread said...

need more info on 'housemate'

mythalez said...

@skp, isn't this the wrong post to seek ack? :P

@paccha, why.. eh why? :P