Notes from Lapta, Cyprus – Guidance? by Ken Dunn

We’ve all used tourist maps and guidebooks and most of them are reasonably comprehensive but when in the TRNC that can be a little different. Years ago you couldn’t find a map which was either accurate or detailed in any way. As for finding guidebooks, well, there was hardly anything. Before I ever came over I couldn’t find anything about the TRNC. All of it extolled the wonders of the south, or ‘concrete land’ as I prefer to call it.

So, back then, finding your way around was a minor challenge practically every day. Any directions I received from the Ancient Brits, who’d been here for decades, were invariably vague to say the least. It’s a funny thing but when anyone knows the geography, road system, particular places, restaurants et al, there is always an unspoken assumption where you are presumed to have a basic knowledge and only need a few ‘clues’ to get to where you need to be. Wrong!

I can’t count the number of times I’ve found myself totally and utterly lost having been given ‘loose’ directions. That’s where that wonderful aid to direction can always be relied on. The sun! It can give you your relative position, north, south, east or west but the problem still remains as to which road to take. Years ago the road system was not helpful, twisting and turning all over the place whether out in the countryside or in the labyrinthine, spaghetti like village byways.

I remember on an attempt to find Salamis by car we must have taken a wrong turn and ended up…somewhere. We drove on hoping for a sign, any sign, which could give us a slight hint as to where we were but there was nothing for miles. Our salvation came from a farmer. He was bumping along the road in front of us on his ancient tractor so I pulled over, overtook him and waved him down. He looked at me suspiciously as I walked up to him and asked for directions. With a wide grin, a cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth he obliged. ‘Ah, Salamiz! Yezz, go here,’ he said pointing forward, ‘Five kilometres, turn right, to big road, then left. Ztraight there! Have nize day!’ He was spot on!

Now, turning that around, in the middle of the UK what success would a Turk have had, with no English, if he’d asked a farmer for directions? Would that farmer have had any Turkish to reply? I doubt it.

Back to maps. The only one I found, quite some time ago now, that was only partially of any use was of German origin. But as it had everything in German and Greek it wasn’t quite what I wanted. It was also difficult to use. Folded several times, opening it up produced a massive sheet of paper. Not exactly convenient when inside the car.

But then a few years ago, ‘freebee’ tourist guides appeared at Ercan and hotels all over the place. Pocket size, devoted exclusively to all things TRNC, with almost two hundred and fifty pages of rubbish! Less than a third of these pages give any information and that is so brief and summarised to be of not much use. The introduction states that there are many ‘touristic bits’. What the hell does that mean?

Other little gems refer to ‘an island on the move’. Is this a warning about earthquakes? There is, apparently a, ‘much more active beach culture.’ That doesn’t sound too good. It gives the impression of something rather nasty ‘sludgy’ stuff creeping out of the water to entrap any poor soul sunbathing. One of the weirder statements, highly accurate in fact states, ‘not all sights or activities are so easily found.’ Absolutely right!

In amongst all this are hundreds of advertisements for cookers, estate agents, office furniture, builders, paint, estate agents, olive oil, builders, restaurants, estate agents, hotels, estate agents….. Just the kind of information you need while sitting with a drink looking out across the Med. One in particular drew my attention. It was for a bank stating, ‘Akfinans Bank – Always with You when You need Us – Now and Forever Your Bank.’ Nice one.

With luck, there’ll be a guidebook, one of these days, which will give more extensive information without the endless pages of advertisements and with maps that are actually useful. I defy anyone to be able to actually read the minute print on some of these maps without using a jeweller’s eyepiece or an electron microscope.

On that same theme we have a particular problem when friends have been invited to our place in Lapta. If they are not familiar with the routes, there are two, giving instructions was both a nightmare for us and more particularly for them. On several occasions they either didn’t appear, having lost themselves completely in the warren of roads of the village, never to be seen again or, if they did turn up, they’d be slightly flustered and apologetic sometimes being up to two hours late!

Only recently have I been able to solve that. Using ‘Google Earth’ I zoomed onto Lapta, printed that and traced the roads up to our place. I then scanned that and printed out several copies. So now, I usually have a couple of copies in my back pocket to hand over to anyone. It seems to be working in that we haven’t lost anyone since then. That’s what I call practical guidance!

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