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May 16, 2007

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                 Cyprus (part 1)

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Yahsu from Cyprus! We left off last week in London and this week we hop on a Cyprus Airways flight to Larnaca. If you're interested in learning about this historically rich country that's only 100 miles west of the Syrian coast, then pack your bags! We're off to Europe's southernmost country! If you're in a hurry, there's a 2-minute Johnny Jet video at the end of this week's story.

I'm not a big fan of taking morning flights just after traveling east. From L.A., London is an eight-hour-ahead time change and when I checked into London's Egerton House Hotel for the night, the staff handed me a note which essentially read, "Don't forget to switch your clocks ahead before you go to sleep". Their daylight savings time had kicked in a few weeks after ours. Ugh! This was the second time that "spring forward" had crept up on me in the span of a few weeks. Normally, I wouldn't care, but both followed long, eastbound flights. I wanted to cry from sheer exhaustion. I didn't sleep much on the flight over and I knew that getting up at 6am was going to be that much tougher. The following morning, I arrived at Heathrow's Terminal 1 at 7:30am for my 9:30am flight. The line at Cyprus Airways was ridiculously long (they only had two agents working but later increased it to four). When I saw this, all I wanted to do was cut to the front of the line, grab a blanket and pillow and curl up by the desk until it was my turn to check in. It would've been perfect – I could've just lifted my arm and handed the agent my passport and bag. I should've done it; the line took 45 minutes though it felt like three hours! The good news is that I was able to get an aisle seat. Unfortunately, Cyprus Airways doesn't pre–assign seats. Don't you hate that? I even called their reservations agent in Cyprus to try and get one secured but still I was denied. Cyprus Airways has two flights a day to Larnaca (LCA) out of Heathrow and British Airways has one non-stop flight. Cyprus Airways uses British Midland Airlines (BMI) agents for their check-in (must be cheaper to outsource it) but they weren't too friendly; I suspect that like me, they were all tired from the time change.

Security at Heathrow has the same strict rules as the United States except that I didn't need to take my shoes off here. I was surprised; the last time I was in a London airport it was when all heck had broken loose. It was last August when the plot to blow up planes using liquid had been uncovered. I practically got strip searched and had to check everything, including my laptop and camera. Fortunately, that's not the case anymore. Once you're through security, Heathrow offers plenty of duty-free shopping and restaurants. That helped pass the time because my flight was delayed two hours. Ugh! I could've slept in! FYI: Bottled water is cheaper here than it is in major airports in the U.S. Two good-sized bottles of water went for £1.60 ($3.20). But Internet access was just as expensive at £5 ($10) for an hour.

Cyprus Airways was operating a wide-body A330 (two aisles) on this 2,039-mile route; a four-hour and 25-minute flight. The flight attendants were fashionably dressed, good-looking but not that happy. I didn't see many smiles. Maybe they too, were tired from the hour time change (kidding!). Each seat had a built-in entertainment system, which was nice, but the screens were small and old, making them difficult to watch. The food was not good but I was so hungry it didn't matter. Besides, I was excited to be traveling to a part of the world I have never been to before.

To be honest, I didn't know much about Cyprus before I went. But I quickly learned that the 3,372 square-mile, island nation is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea (after Sicily and Sardinia). Cyprus (here's a map) is also Europe's southernmost country and just a few hours by ferry (or a short flight) from Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt. Cyprus is not a part of Greece. It's actually 600 miles south of Greece's mainland. Cyprus used to be a Greek colony and for most of its history, it's been occupied by one nation or another. The last were the British. Cyprus gained its independence from England in 1960, but it's still a part of the Commonwealth. The country's official name is the Republic of Cyprus. The official language is Greek, though almost everyone speaks English and many speak Turkish as well. Most interestingly, the island is now divided. Two thirds of the island (the south side) is Greek Cypriot and the northern part is referred to as the so-called "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" (NOTE: It's not recognized by any country except Turkey.) The Turks, Cyprus' geographically closest neighbor but biggest enemy, invaded the northern third (about 37%) of the island in 1974. The Greeks and Turks have been fighting for thousands of years and this takeover didn't help matters. I couldn't possibly go into all the details. First, it would take 500 pages and secondly, I'm no expert on all the facts. This is a very sensitive issue and the Greek Cypriots are understandably extremely emotional about this subject. All I know is that the Greeks and Turks were living on the island together since the beginning of time and have been fighting for most of it (85% of the population prior to the invasion were Greek Cypriots and about 12% Turkish Cypriots). The only thing I can compare it to is the Black and Hispanic gangs in east L.A. – as CNN recently documented, if one member crosses over to the other's neighborhood, they are likely to get a cap in their ass. The same took place in Cyprus. Instead of having the Cypriots and Turks live in hostility throughout the island, the British devised a plan in the 1950s to divide the island so that everyone could live in peace. That plan was never acted upon and in 1974, the Turks made a surprise, bloody invasion using part of the English recommended strategic borders. The good news is that in the past three years, the Greek Cypriots and the Turks are beginning to get along much better and although this trip will focus on the Greek Cypriot side, I will try and cross the border ...

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Copyright 2007 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pictures From

The Trip


Cyprus Airways Line


Cyprus Airways A330


London to Larnaca


Food On Cyprus Air


Landing In Cyprus


Close To Egypt


ATM Machine


Tour Guide


Stylish Bus Driver


Potato Truck


Drive To Hotel


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