Putting right Greek Cypriot ignorance about the North

Yesterday, I found myself in the very strange position of verbally defending the TRNC. It was refreshing for me to find that even after all the terrible things that have happened to so many of us, I couldn’t just sit by and listen to the obvious misconception being related to me.

I get a little ahead of myself, so I will start at the beginning. Chris and I had been shopping in the South, something we unashamedly do on a frequent basis, simply because it is a day out, the choice there is great and often it’s the only place to get what it is we want. As we often do when not pushed for time we came back over the Astromeritis/Bostanci crossing. It is a lovely journey on both sides and you pass close to two branches of Lidl.

Just before the border we stop at a restaurant in the South for coffee and sometimes a bite to eat. It is a very pleasant restaurant, the staff are most welcoming, even though we pull up in an obviously Northern registered car. By now we are on first name terms and the locals all acknowledge us.

Yesterday was particularly interesting and certainly warm enough to sit outside. We had ringside seats. A small coach of tourists, who we later found out were staying in Limassol, were already seated outside and enjoying the sunshine. It soon became obvious that there was a problem with their coach. I think the ‘give away’ might well have been the oil on the ground underneath the coach and a bucket being used to catch the residue from some under part, presumably where the oil lives; don’t I just annoy you when I get technical.

The tour party were for the most part German, but the black couple on the table next to ours, when I asked, told me they were from Africa. I didn’t enquire where in Africa, because when I put the question to them, I had actually meant where they were staying in Cyprus.

The tour guide was Russian who spoke to the party in English, which was useful because I could then listen and found out they were on their way to a wine tasting in Troodos. They were a friendly bunch and the wine they were drinking seemed to make them friendlier. It seemed that their coach was going nowhere and a mechanic was sent for.

During this time the tour guide engaged us in conversation. She naturally asked where we lived and she was astounded to learn we lived in the North. She asked, “did you have to leave someone in your house whilst you came here?” We laughed and asked why. She seemed, in common with a lot of people living in the South, to believe that if you left your home empty, you would be robbed. She also had the mistaken idea that everything in the North was cheap and that it was a very unsafe place to live. We of course asked her if she had ever visited the North, and as you can guess, she had not. We explained that it was a very safe place to live, that it did have property problems but not on the same scale as the South’s property problems. She was also very anti-Turkish and we soon disabused of the ridiculous notion that all Turks would rob you and murder you in your beds. She even believed that we lived in the North but regularly socialised in the South. We fell about laughing and explained that we only stop on the way home and that we do the majority of our socialising in the North, because that is our home. I think she left our table a little wiser than when she came to it.

The mechanic arrived, the problem was fixed and we waved them on their way.

I wonder when the Government will appoint me as Honorary Ambassador to the South?

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