How to Get Away from It - All! the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus

Article excerpt

To readers of newspapers and listeners to TV and radio bulletins, 1991 was hardly a year full of comfort and joy. It occurred to me by the end fo the year that a full dose of Yuleryy foolery and New Year glad memories would be insupportable. My Xmas present to kind friends would be my temporary absense. One needed to forget, not remember; to disburden, not embrace anything new; to substitute for frolicsome celebrations a stern course of self-abatement. Where on earth could one find a place where nothing reminds one of anything? Where instead of gathering new impressions one is free to shed old ones? Where one's mental and emotional burdens could be lightened? Where one could enjoy for a spell the positive aspects of Coleridge's |I see, not feel...'?

Out of the blue, the problem was solved. A travel brochure offered a fortnight swamping Xmas and New Year, in the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus. There, if anwhere, one could even forget oneself. The Turkish language, although written in our own script, is to a Western reader much like picking up a set of unlucky Scrabble-tiles. As for |the world forgetting, by the world forgot,' the world has nothing to forget, since (with the sole exception for Turkey itself) it does not officially recognized the existence of this little republic--which is why all visitors must first fly to mainland Turkey which alone ves clearance for flights to the TRNC airport of Ercan. Even before arrivingn Never-never-land, visitors from the West endure the illogical experience of flying back, so to say, over their own sky-tracks.

In this officially non-existent slice of Turkeyy, al schoolday notions of Ottoman arrogance melt away. Markedl un-terrible teenage Young Turk conscripts are Boy Scouts who wave cheerilly at rare busloads of foreign visitors, their young brows unlined by any trace of consecutive thought. Self-absorbed modesty, honesty, endless patience reign hand in hand here, with an elaborate inefficiency which is itself disarmingg. All these splendid anomalies we could discover within minutes after being bumpily but skilfully driven to our package-deal hotel.

The pre-1974 pre-TRNC Deniz Kizi Hotel is perched over the roadside hamlet of Alsancak, a few miles west of Kyrenia--itself re-named Girne by the Turks. Nature--plus, presumably, the original Greek Cypriot proprietors--had done it proud. It commands superb views over one of the most sensational coastlines of Europe, with its own private beach hidden under stupendous mountains to which cling such ageless adherences and indentations as Saint Hilarion's Castle, the Tombb of Saint Barnabas, Othello's Tower, and tiny villages dotted among the crags and pine forests of the Five Fingers range, from which one can catch glimpses of the south-coast sea across the whole eastern tip of the island.

But if the hotel itself suggested an earlier Greek effort of Swissification, its present staff whether male or female, young or old, would glide noiselessly and quite slowly to and fro, quietly replacing with a gleaming new ashtray one which had held two matchsticks, or emerging from a distant kitchen first with a cup and saucer, then a pot of hot coffee, and after a third glide into a back again from the far-off invisiblle source, a small jug of cream to finish the rite. This was the kind of |elaborate inefficiency' whch during two weeks in Never-never-land replaced all one's usual expectations of the ostentatiously professional (and repeatedlyy tippable) business of |lookingg after the tourists'. Looking straight ahead of themselves on these dignified missions, they just happened to be passing the right place at the right time. Carry a tray to cut down by some miles a day those endless one-thing-at-a-time silent journeys? It had never occurred to them. Invisible blinkers guided them on their wholly personal effortless movements. It was not public |politeness'. Not moving their calm handsome heads an inch to right or left, they seemed to be exclusively intent upon their own routine affairs. …