Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"Wo sich Alt und Neu berühren, da stehst du nun am Mittelpunkt der Zeit"

Greetings from my current location, Strasbourg, France! And Happy Halloween! I have found some time to blog, so I am going tell you about my adventures in Germany!

Spree River
We left Nicosia, Cyprus at 5:30am in order to catch our flights to Berlin. I was so excited to be returning to Germany since my last visit during Junior year of high school. I was looking forward to putting my long lost German skills to the test. As I boarded the plane to Berlin, I was pleasantly surprised that I was still able to understand the German spoken over the loudspeaker, eaves drop on conversations around me, and even read some of the news paper from the gentleman sitting across the aisle! Being able to translate elements of my surroundings made me really excited to arrive in Germany for the second time.

 When we landed in Berlin, stepping off the plane put a huge smile on my face. I was greeted by signs written in a language that I have missed over the past few years due to my decision to study Italian in college. Being able to read the German signs, nostalgia hit me hard for high school German class. I became eager to speak as much German as I could manage!

Brandenburg Gate
The first thing we did in Berlin was a 3 hour tour of the city by bus, and of course we stopped to see the Brandenburg Gate. It was a lot bigger than I imagined. We also stopped at Check Point Charlie and a few other places. At one point the tour guide asked me what I was studying in school, and I answered her in German. She was surprised that I spoke German and she said I was pretty good! Not bad since I haven’t studied it in nearly three years. We had a nice little conversation in German. I made some mistakes of course, but that’s to be expected.

For dinner that night, I became the navigator of the map since I could easily read the street names. It was fun to be the leader since I was the only one in our 7-person group who knew German. We found a lovely German restaurant and I got Applesaft (apple juice), Schnitzel, and Kartoffeln (potatoes). Sehr lecker! (Very tasty!)

Other foods I enjoyed while in Berlin:
German meatballs with beets and mashed potatoes
Ein Currywurst mit portion Pommes- I even taught Katie and Lauren how to order in German, and they did pretty well!
Me, Lauren, Katie, and Kyle enjoying Currywurst

The second day in Berlin was a busy day! We started by taking a stroll along the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall. I thought it was cool to see history turned into a giant art project, and it was fun to attempt to translate the German text. I wish I brought my dictionary with me to look up the words I didn’t know.

Small People :) 
I had a few favorite pieces along the wall, and since the back of the wall already had graffiti on it, we signed our names. One day I hope to return to Berlin to see if it’s still there. : )

Part of the Berlin Wall, East Side Gallery

Part of the Berlin Wall, East Side Gallery

Dancing to Freedom:  Part of the Berlin Wall, East Side Gallery
To navigate the city, we bought an all day pass for all public transportation. I’ve decided that Berlin wins the award for the cleanest, fastest, most reliable, and easiest to learn public transportation!

Fernsehturm and Berlin at night

We stopped by the Fernsehturm (TV tower), Rötes Rauthaus, Reichstag (government building), and Museuminsel (museum island), which features magnificent architecture!


Inside the Holocaust Memorial

If you ever go to Berlin, make sure to stop at the Holocaust memorial. It’s an area of concrete blocks of different sizes, and walking through it is like a maze. While inside you get the feeling of being trapped, lost, and not knowing what is up ahead. Basically it was a giant metaphor that makes you feel how those effected by the holocaust must’ve felt, and it’s a brilliant art piece.

Berlin Chocolate
Unter den Linden
One of my favorite things to do in Berlin was to stroll down a street called Unter den Linden. It leads right to the Brandenburg Gate, and the Linden trees are so pretty in the Fall. I also enjoyed my visit to Fassbender & Rausch Chocolatiers, the best chocolate in Berlin.

Towards the end of the day we went to the big department store in Berlin called the KaDeWe. It was huge and way too expensive, but it was definitely an experience!


To me, Berlin was a charming city with history, great food, and lots to explore! I enjoyed just walking around and navigating the transportation system. I used more German than I thought I would be able to, but luckily Berliners speak English very well, so if I couldn’t say something in German, English was always an option. At one point my roommate Anya said that I seemed so comfortable in Berlin and she thought I could fit right in. I’ve decided I could live in Berlin if I had to; I just have to work on my German some more.
Katie and Me playing in the leaves

On a side note: Berlin was cold! After coming from Cyprus where the weather was 90 degrees, switching to Jeans and jackets was strange. It was very nice to see the Fall colored leaves though cause I missed them so much while in Cyprus!


On our way to Prague, Czech Republic, we stopped in Dresden for a bit. We only had 2.5 hours to explore a little and eat lunch, but I’m glad we stopped there. Dresden was beautiful and fun to walk around. There were so many churches in such a small area that using a steeple as a landmark hardly helped! We made it back to the bus just in time since we walked quite far away from the main square.

Bretzel with Kyle!
I enjoyed a Bretzel, a Bratwurst, and an Apfelshorle (sparkling apple juice) for lunch.

Never Again
On our way to Strasbourg, France, we stopped in Dachau to visit the Concentration Camp. This was my first visit to a Concentration Camp, and I think it’s something that everyone should do at least once in their life. Walking through the gate that read “Arbeit macht frei” (work makes you free) was when it hit me what I was about to see. I won’t go into detail because really the experience is being there. We had audio guides that walked us through the Concentration Camp, and the way Dachau is preserved/reconstructed, you get a strong sense of what it was like to be there. I found myself loosing track of time as I was absorbed in the horrors of what occurred there. I only realized it was time to be back on the bus when I heard the noon church bells chiming in the wind. Hearing the bells brought me back to reality, but I walked back to the bus in silence as I processed what I had just experienced. This experience is why I chose today’s post title to be from "Wende der Zeit" by Bosse, and it translates to: “Where the old and new touch, there you stand at the middle of time.”
Dachau Memorial

My return to Germany was a success!  I got to see 3 new cities and revisit some of my favorite German foods. I was able to use my German more often than I expected, and I was happy that I hadn’t forgotten as much as I thought! My visit to Dachau’s Concentration Camp was certainly something that I will never forget, and my time in Berlin makes me want to return someday. Only time will tell when I get to visit Germany again, but I look forward to whenever that time will be!

Stay tuned for more posts and more countries! Thanks for reading!

Till next time,
Courtney <3

Sunday, October 21, 2012

"You Must Know Life to See Decay"

Hello again, readers! Thanks for keeping up with my posts. Tomorrow morning I will be leaving at 5:30am to travel to Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France! My journey will last from October 22nd -November 7th, and I can’t wait to travel to so many places! I’m not sure if I’ll have time to blog while I’m traveling, so my next update might be when I return. Stay tuned!

Also, I’d like to make a shout out: HAPPY 50th BIRTHDAY, MOM! Sorry I can’t be there to celebrate. Love you!

Now I’d like to tell you about yesterday. I took charge of planning a trip to Famagusta and Salamis, which are ancient cities in Northern Cyprus. I’ve always wanted to visit Famagusta after researching it in 7th grade, so I was happy to plan the trip!

Kyle, Kristi, Lauren, Danielle, Me, and Katie on the bus to Famagusta!
We left our comfortable home, Nicosia, and headed into Northern Cyprus via the Ledra St. crossing. Since Kyle and I figured out where the bus stop to Famagusta was the day before, we knew exactly where we were headed. Plans changed, as they often do, when a bus pulled up next to us and said it would take us to Famagusta. His price was higher than the bus we knew of, so we were about to walk away until he changed his price and we hopped on. An hour later we arrived in Famagusta, which is called Gazi-Mağusa in Turkish.

Kristi and Me outside the walls
It was so exciting to see the walls surrounding the old part of the city built by the French Lusignans and strengthened by the Venetians. 


Danielle, Me, Kyle, Kristi, Katie, and Lauren hanging out on the Salamis ruins
Gymnasium ruins at Salamis
From there we took a taxi to Salamis, an ancient city about 20 minutes from Famagusta. It was amazing to explore the ancient ruins! The ruins stretched across over 2 miles of land, and although we saw a large portion of them, we didn’t get to see everything. I wish we had more time at Salamis because we only had an hour. Our taxi driver agreed to take us to Salamis, wait an hour, and then drive us back to Famagusta at a decent rate, and since our Republic of Cyprus cell phones don’t work in the North, having transportation waiting to take us back to Famagusta after exploring the ruins for an hour was a good solution to the problem.   

Ancient Theatre
Navigating the ruins was probably my favorite part of the day. I got to see the gymnasium columns, roman baths, ancient theatre, fish market, and some other things I have yet to identify because the map was in Turkish. Haha. Exploring something so old makes you appreciate history and the importance of preserving what is left of the past.
posing at the Theatre :)
Photo ops were hard to resist! haha

Salamis ruins
Being ancient statues

Shadow art at Salamis

Yeah, we took the coolest pictures at Salamis. haha :)

Lala Mustafa Pasha mosque
When the hour was up, we headed back to discover what Famagusta had to offer. Within the walls we traveled through the city and visited Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque that used to be St. Nicholas’ Church, St. George of the Latins, the Sea Gate, the ruins of St. Francis’ Church, and Othello’s Castle. My favorite was Othello’s Castle. The reason it’s called Othello’s Castle is because Shakespeare mentions a fortress/port in Cyprus in ‘Othello’ and it is believed to be this one in Famagusta!

Othello's Castle
Tower of Othello's Castle

Sign on Varosha fence
Abandoned, broken house within Varosha
Next we headed to the Ghost Town of Varosha, which is the abandoned, fenced in area of Famagusta previously owned by Greeks. It is now guarded by the Turkish military. This area has been empty since 1974 when the Greeks fled due to the Turkish invasion, and the Turkish military has left it that way as a bargaining tool for future negotiations. Peering beyond the fence, it was sad to see the grand hotels that used to be the most popular tourist places in Cyprus but are now beyond repair after being bombed and left to the elements since 1974. There are also several cranes in the skyline, halted mid-construction of new hotels. As I learned on this website, there is even a car dealership in the Ghost Town that still houses brand-new models from 1974! Everything beyond the fence is frozen in time and left exactly as it was in 1974, which leaves an eerie feeling in your heart and makes you feel the struggle between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. My visit to the Ghost town is what inspired today's post title to be from "After the Storm" by Mumford and Sons

Bombed hotel with Ghost Town (Tower of Terror, much?)
We continued to walk around the outskirts of the fence, which brought us to Palm Beach. The hotels along the coast were in the fenced in area, and it was strange to swim in the Sea with the deteriorating city as a backdrop. Nevertheless, the beach was lovely and it was a great way to relax after such a busy day. One of the hotels along the beach reminded me of the Tower of Terror because the elevator shaft was bombed and open to the world.
Palm Beach

St. George of the Latins ruins
Knowing we wanted to catch the 5pm bus back to Nicosia, we left the beach and headed to the station. When we got there the owner was very rude and demonstrated that the next bus was coming at 6pm by waving a clock in our faces. Previously we were told that a bus was coming at 5pm, so we were annoyed that we left the beach early only to have to wait another hour for the bus to come!

Eventually we made it back to Nicosia and crossed the buffer zone into the South. When we arrived in the South, a group of peaceful protestors were parading down Ledra St chanting about anti-fascism.

Palm Beach
It was an exhausting day traveling through ancient ruins, traversing the city of Famagusta, peering into the Ghost Town, swimming at Palm Beach, riding buses, and observing protestors. The more time I spend in Cyprus, and the more I travel around the island on both sides, my understanding of the Cyprus Problem increases and I am left wondering if a solution will ever be found. Being exposed to the Ghost Town in the North and the protestors in the South makes me realize that the issue continues to span generations of Greek and Turkish Cypriots, but hopefully their issues can be resolved one day and maybe the Ghost Town will flourish once again. Only time will tell, of course, but for now I am thankful that Cyprus is in a ‘peaceful agreement state’ that allows free passage between the North and South so I am able to experience the island from the Turkish and Greek perspectives.

As I mentioned previously, I wanted to visit Famagusta since I had to research it in 7th grade. As part of the cross-curriculum research project, we had to write a poem about a city in our chosen country as if it would be printed in a travel brochure. I would like to share that poem with you even though it is not very good and some of it is inaccurate, as I have learned by traveling there.

Fantastic Famagusta
The Sea Gate
By Courtney Haines (2004)

Come to Famagusta, one and all!
Walk up to and touch the mighty wall.
Go to the beaches and surf the waves,
Or have an adventure in one of the caves.
You can visit the many historical towers.
Maybe stop and smell the flowers.
Take your time and stay up late.
Visit sites like The Sea Gate.
Time will fly, so make it last,
But don’t rush through things way too fast.
Eat a good dinner at the Lime Light;
You’ll be in heaven with your first bite.
In Famagusta there’s adventure galore,
And not even that, there’s so much more!


I decided to write a new poem to reflect the actual Famagusta I discovered from my visit.
Faded Famagusta
By Courtney Haines (2012)

So grand an image I used to be,
Where tourists flocked here to the sea.
Born to resist with walls so strong;
Beyond those walls, something went wrong. 
Despite towers and ruins to explore;
My spirit changed in 1974.
Depends who you ask, the South or the North,
To discover how the issue came forth.
The subsequent struggle made my beaches grow dim,
But luckily now, some tourists will swim.
Frozen in time is a city so still;
The desolate scene gives my bones a chill.
I hope one day that city will shine,
And the divided country will have no Green Line.

 I know I’m not a poet by any means, but I wanted to share those with you. As always, thanks for reading, and look forward to posts about traveling through Central Europe!

Till next time!
-Courtney <3

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"I Like the Salt Water Sting"

 Hello again readers! In this post you’re going to read about my favorite weekend in Cyprus so far, so it might be long, but there’s so much to say!! My motto for the weekend: Experience everything.

Awesome Adventures in Agia Napa

Hala Sultan Tekke
We left Nicosia on Friday, October 12th for a promised good time in Agia Napa, which is Cyprus’ best beach town. Some even say it’s the best beach town in Europe! On our way we stopped at Hala Sultan Tekke, a famous mosque on the salt lakes of Larnaca. The salt lakes were shiny and pretty cool to see, but the most interesting thing about the mosque for me was the beautiful carpets neatly arranged on the floor. They made me want to buy a Turkish carpet from Northern Cyprus, but I don’t think I’ll have room for that in my suitcase! Haha. 

St. Lazarus Church

Then we visited St. Lazarus Church, which is dedicated to the Lazarus that Jesus resurrected. Lazarus moved to Cyprus and became the first bishop of Kition, which is why his tomb was in this church. His skull is actually placed in an altar where people can pray to him and bless items by rubbing them over his skull. 

The altar with Lazarus' skull
Panas Village Resort

After lunch and some shopping, we were back on the bus and headed to our Agia Napa resort! The set up reminded me of a Disney resort as the buildings were separate and laid out in square sections much like the Disney Movie Resort. There were lovely flowers lining trellis filled pathways to our rooms! I wasn’t impressed with the rooms themselves though.
Kristi, Kyle, and Me swimming at Nissi Beach
For our first adventure in Agia Napa we went to Nissi Beach, where the sand was white, and the water was clear and less salty than at Larnaca Beach. I might be so bold to say this was the best beach I have ever been to! It’s up there with Castaway Cay, that’s for sure! I enjoyed lots of swimming, and then joined the group at the top of the rocky cliff.  I watched as my peers jumped from the cliff to the water below, making sure to jump to the clear spot to avoid the rocks. Assessing the risks of the situation, I decided that I would regret not jumping, so I watched more people do it safely so I knew exactly where to jump. My Nissi Beach experience is what inspired today's post title to be from "In the Sea" by Ingrid Michaelson.

Me cliff jumping at Nissi Beach!
When it was my turn to jump, I climbed up the ledge (which was a lot like climbing a rockwall at the gym, only without a harness) and I stood at the edge looking down. Now, I’m not afraid of heights, and I wasn’t scared to jump, but part of me felt nervous about allowing gravity to deliver me to the Mediterranean Sea. I convinced myself that it would be just like a diving board, and I got the courage to jump as far out as I could to the clear spot in the water below! What an adrenaline rush! I only jumped once because of the actual possibility of getting hurt. Out of the 30 of us who jumped, only one person received a cut on the shin worth worrying about. (I should mention she’s ok!)
Sunset at Nissi Beach

That night we ate at a Mexican restaurant called Tequila, and I got yummy tacos and a virgin pina colada!

At the Mexican Restaurant

Saturday, October 13th, I was eager to start the day! After free breakfast provided by the hotel, my friend Lauren suggested we make lunches out of the breakfast food so we wouldn’t have to pay for lunch later. The good thing about Europeans putting ham, cheese, and bread out for breakfast means you can make a perfect sandwich. Take advantage of free food!

My companion for the day : )
 My choice of transportation for the day was my little yellow bike, which I rented from the hotel for 8 euro (about $10.50). Lauren, Jess, and I set off for our destination: Cape Greco (Kavo Greko in Greek). We weren’t sure how long the ride was cause we had mixed estimates, but we decided to go for it. My guidebook said 7km (4.4 miles) but it ended up being 14 miles round trip.  At times we had to bike on the left side of the street since they drive on the left, and that felt really strange. 

Found this coastline while biking
We discovered a trail along the beautiful blue coastline, and a dirt, winding road up to the Kavo View Point. After locking up our bikes, we hiked to the top, and the view was amazing! You could see the peculiarity of Cyprus’ landscape: crystal blue water, white rocky formations, dry land of dirt and dust and some green growth in random places. (Definitely different from the views I’m used to from the Appalachians in PA!)

Kavo View Point
Back on our bikes, we headed for Cape Greco. Our timing was perfect because we managed to meet up with our friends who had taken the bus! The Sea caves at Cape Greco were a magnificent sight, and only a picture can show you what I mean.
Sea Caves at Kavo Greko
I couldn’t wait to join my friends in the water, so it didn’t take long for me to prepare for the jump. The cliff was more than twice the size of the ledge from the previous day, but I could see clearly into the water, and there were no dangerous rocks within the jumping area. So, I jumped from the cliff with no hesitation, and it was awesome! I even decided to climb up the rock to jump a second time. After thinking: Who knows when I’ll ever get the chance to do that again?...I jumped a third time. Haha! For some reason I was nervous for the third jump, but I think it’s cause more people were watching.

.....during cliff jumping.......

....after! : )

Kyle, me, Jessica, and Kristi cave exploring
We swam in the cove and ventured into one of the Sea Caves to do some exploring. When we entered the cave I couldn’t help but sing “Part of Your World” from the Little Mermaid; I was so happy when my fellow GLS friends joined in! Singing and swimming together is an excellent bonding exercise.
When it was time to bike back to Agia Napa, Lauren noticed she had a flat tire. Luckily the United Nations guys there were leaving soon and could give her a ride back to Agia Napa. Jess said she’d go with her. I, however, wanted to ride my bike back even if I had to do it alone. I knew the way, I had my phone, and I felt comfortable biking along the bike path. So I ventured solo, and it was the best bike ride ever!

Dune Buggy!
Later that day Preston offered me a ride in his dune buggy! It was fast, low to the ground, wild, and dirty cause the dirt splashed up when he took it off road. It was definitely a ride I will never forget!

Riding in the Dune Buggy
Danielle, Jessica and I went out for an enjoyable Chinese dinner at Ji-lu’s were I got yummy spring rolls, vegetable fried rice, and a fried banana split! (My camera battery died otherwise there would be pictures.) It was an exhausting day, for myself and my camera!

Relaxing at Kavo Greko

The Lonely Tree we discovered while biking
Sunday, October 14th marked my one month of studying abroad! It’s hard to believe that time is going by so quickly! For our last few hours in Agia Napa, we all decided to relax at the hotel pool. I even participated in water aerobics for the first time, which is a great workout!

Sunset in Agia Napa
At one point I noticed two young girls playing volleyball in the shallow end, and they were speaking German. Danielle and I wanted to join them, so I used my High School German to talk to them. I was able to successfully ask the girls if we could play with them, what their names were, how old they were, where they were from, and why they were in Cyprus. Loli was 7 and Laura was 9. They were friends and both in Cyprus for Fall vacation. Neither of them spoke English, but they are learning it in school. They could say their numbers in English, but I counted with them in German so we bonded quite well. It was nice to use my German skills again and see how much I actually remembered. I always liked talking to kids in German because my vocabulary works with theirs and they speak slower. Basically it was wunderbar! Some of my other friends wanted to join in too, so I introduced them auf Deutsch and we played grösser gegen kürzer (tall ones against short ones) as the girls put it. This made me laugh to be considered tall for the first time in my life!

Shortly after, it was time to get on the bus and travel back to Nicosia. I had a great time in Agia Napa and I would definitely recommend it to anyone! I kept my mind open to new experiences and that's why I had such an amazing time! I must admit that my muscles were sore for a fews days from all the swimming, biking, hiking, climbing, cliff jumping, dune buggying, and beaching, but every moment was worth it! 

I hope you enjoyed following my adventures in Agia Napa!

Till next time!
-Courtney <3