Friday, June 6, 2014

Life in Cyprus

Since the big news is already out, I can share it in here as well. In couple of months we are moving back to the Netherlands. It has been 7 years on the road: 3 in USA, 2 in Russia and 2 in Cyprus. During that time we also considered time in Canada, Belgium, Singapore. Those were intense, fun, happening 7 years in which life changed with acquiring children, learning to speak a new language (Russian), started running and ran 4 marathons, got back into paragliding, travelled the world (55 countries and counting), climbed one of the seven summits and last but not least, found a place to call home - Cyprus.
Although the Netherlands is officially a home base, unofficially, by choice, Cyprus became the destination to come back to and to eventually settle for retirement when the times comes.

Every time I land in Cyprus I have this undeniable feeling of coming home.
It has been nearly two years now and simply put, I Love this place.

I mentioned before why I like it but there are some new thoughts to share

  • Cyprus is the most relaxed place I have ever been to. Favorite Cypriot expression is "slowly, slowly", used to describe any sort of activity, including how to approach an intense gym class. In summer most offices and stores close at 3 PM each Wednesday and remain closed the rest of the day. Over the whole year most businesses practice 2 hours "siesta" in the middle of the days, which leaves the work-life balance in a very desirable place. 
  • In general Cypriots seem obsessed with moderation, expect when it comes to food. As a general rule Cypriots don't drink much, don't work out much, don't travel much. Food is another story. A typical thing to have is a meze, selection of small dishes ranging from starters like olives and dips, over to several main courses and ending with a range of deserts. Good luck with that diet of yours;) I didn't gain any weight here, but I work out daily and am still just as far from that six pack as before. 
  • Most Cypriot men seems obsessed with watching football and supporting one of the local teams, which are, to my knowledge, barely known outside of Cyprus. 
  • Cypriots are, generally speaking, on the conservative side. Strong religious affiliation, family oriented, conservative values-driven. Yet the society is tolerant and acceptant and as a rule confrontation is to be avoided. Unless that Mediterranean hot blood starts boiling that is. Just an example: a couple splits up in not-so-friendly terms. The lady goes on and places an add in the newspaper on behalf of the guy, about looking for some gay fun... Who does that?? 
  • Cyprus is a safe place, especially comparing to any big continental city. At barely over a million people population, it's not hard to understand. I used to live by myself with two kids in a small village at a very dark road with very few neighbors and I never really felt very concerned about it. I had a flat tire once on a remote country road and in a matter of seconds two drivers stopped to help me put the reserve. 
  • For a small island as it is, the amount of expats is very high and social life is fairly happening. I was very lucky to have discovered InterNations which is a great place to start when new in town.   There is a month get-together one in Nicosia and one Limassol and I met a lot of great people, the young professional type. I also met people via sports, namely paragliding, skydiving, trekking, the gym and also a few moms via the Larnaca Parents Network which is also a great resource for finding things to do with children. 
  • Weather in Cyprus is Fantastic. July and August are very Hot. Besides the humidity makes you very easily tired. I had to quit running because even at 8 am it's already 28 C. January and February are a bit rainy and "cold", about 15 C. But even then you often have bright sunny and warm days. All in all, at least 8 months a year weather is nearly perfect, warm, sunny, light winds and not terrible humidity.
  • In the summer most people including myself spend a lot of time at the beach. Beaches in Cyprus are really good (if you are willing to drive to Ayia Napa and Protoaras area, 45 min) or acceptable (if you stick to Larnaca and Limassol). Since I live about 10 min drive from the Larnaca's famous Makenzie beach I spend a lot of time there and don't complain. 
  • The proximity to nature and opportunity for outdoor activities is in abundance. Only 2 min walk from home is an 8 km nature trail going around the Larnaca Salt Lake and fantastic for running or cycling. 20 min drive away there is the Savrovouni mountain which is great for a quick, yet fairly intense trekking and fantastic views from the monastery which is located on the top. For more serious trekking Troodos  mountains  offer several trails with various degree of difficulties and once again, fantastic views along the way. In the Northwest part of the island, Akamas peninsula is where you can take probably my favorite, Adonis trail and experience the complete tranquility of looking at empty rugged coast line throughout. Besides, there is obviously the sea, and all water sports: sailing, diving, windsurfing, snorkeling, kitesurfing etc. I am here already couple of years and feel I have not yet explored even a small part of all the outdoor activities. But trying skydiving and obviously continue with paragliding already sold it for me. 
  • I love the intense amount of history the island has. This is not Ibiza or the Canaries. Not that they don't have history, but in Cyprus it goes to what I was brought up with, the Ancient Greek mythology. After all it's the birth place of Aphrodite, my favorite of the goddesses. It's absolutely fantastic experience to do paragliding above the ruins of ancient Kourion where B.C people were watching ancient greek sports and later on gladiators lived or died. Or to end up that same Adonis trail right at the Aphrodite's baths, a surreal little waterfall with a natural pool, dream-like beautiful. 
  • But just as I said this is not Ibiza, well, if you are looking for a nightlife, especially in summer, there is no need to look far. It's a tourist destination after all and beach parties are everywhere and  they are just as fun and happening as anywhere in Europe. 
  • I Love to shop food in Cyprus. Since I really like to cook, food-shopping is generally speaking great recreational activity for me, but in Cyprus I enjoy it far more. All the produce is fresh, tastes fantastic and you can feel how the route from the root to your plate has been a very short one. And not to mention, it's very inexpensive. I could tell that despite the difficulties of living apart and acting pretty much like a single mom, I am looking and feeling healthier, happier and overall in great spirits just due to mainly two things, lack of urbanized stress (traffic, pollution, overpopulation etc) and eating well. Well, that, and the sun of course. But most of all, it just feels great to feed your kids with fruit and veg that are just as good as when you were a child and the local farmers don't even understand the term "organic" because it's all organic. 
  • and now that I mention it, one of the biggest advantages of life in Cyprus which I didn't realize until only recently is the lack of traffic jams. It just feels so great to be able to go to the bank, the hairdresser, do your groceries shopping, drop all at home and make it to the dentist appointment all in 2 hours. Cyprus is the opposite of overpopulated and I am loving every minute of it. For a person that used to love the big cities, this is a huge revelation for me. In fact I don't like That many people that much. Not that I would miss on an opportunity to live in a metropolis again. Of course not, but I will never want to spend retirement age in a city like New York on Honk Kong or even Amsterdam. 
  • and about the dentist. One of the things I love the most here is how interconnected everyone and everything is. For instance, my doctor is the brother in law of a good friend of mine who was also our Real estate agent. The dentist is also her dentist and we got our first rental car from the company of a guy who plays football with my husband every weekend. And so on. At first I thought I would never like that as it seems to me a bit too claustrophobic, but in reality it's absolutely fantastic to be able to thrust a person even before you met them. 
  • real estate prices are another great plus for Cyprus. it's amazing what you can rent or buy here for the same amount you will only get a one car garage in Amsterdam. And rumor is, prices will go down even more. 
  • diversity, another of my favorite things about the island. The population is mostly local people, yet there are the so called British-cypriots, raised in the UK, but decided to move back. Next biggest group is British expats because of the colonial past as well as the fact that pretty much everyone speaks English. Then there are the Russians and Ukrainians and then smaller group of other Eastern Europeans including very many Bulgarians funny enough. The Dutch community is pretty small, yet big enough so that there is a Dutch school. And the domestic help is primarily from the Philippines, fallowed closely by Sri Lanka. And of course there is a whole little Turkey in the occupied side. Overall, great diversity and overall pretty nice blend of tolerance and inclusiveness. 
  • opportunity to hire help is yet another great positive side. Cyprus is still one of those places where you can hire help to live with you and work full time and it will not break the bank. I personally prefer to hire help only when I need it, but the Philipino ladies that come to babysit, clean, iron etc and both very good, reliable, friendly and not terribly expensive. 
Have I sold it yet?? :) Just kidding. But as you can understand I feel very attached to Cyprus. So attached that I feel this is home.
The notion of home was something unclear for me only few months back as wrote here. But now, I am set. We are leaving shortly, but we will be back over and over again. I never thought I will be living in one place only anyway. And it's not that I am most committed to move in Cyprus and stay here for ever. Not yet. But it's a great feeling to know that there is a place in the world where sun always shines and the mountains are always green and the Mediterranean looks magnificent from every spot along the way. Home.