The following day we went on another coach trip. Were we mad? I am a believer that the mind cancels out unpleasant events, like bad dreams for example and despite the fact that we had endured a nightmare coach ride to Nicosia only three days previously with blank memories we set off again, this time to the Troodos Mountains.
This time it didn’t work and after only twenty minutes I remembered why I had said that I would never do this again as we went through the same tedious routine of picking people up from all over the holiday resort of Paphos.
After an hour or so we arrived at our first stop – the village of Omodos which turned out to be one of those tourist trap villages where all coaches make a stop-over and the local people pester the life out of you to buy souvenirs that you really do not want or need. We successfully ignored them all and made our way the centre of the village and the Timios Stavros monastery that we had come to see.
The monastery itself was mildly interesting, mostly icons and incense as you can probably imagine but it was other exhibits on the site which made it really worth going to see. First of all a room of precious Byzantine icons several hundred of years old; I am not especially interested in Byzantine icons I have to confess but what fascinated me was the fact that they were just decorating the walls without any protection or security and looking quite vulnerable. I suspect that there was most likely some CCTV somewhere in the room or maybe they are just not especially valuable. Who knows?
Even more interesting was a discreet little museum tucked into a corner room that wasn’t especially well signposted.
It was about the struggle for Cyprus independence which was a bad tempered little spat that took place between 1955 and 1959 between Greek Cypriot freedom fighters in an underground organisation called EOKA (Ethnikí Orgánosis Kypríon Agonistón or roughly translated National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters) and the outdated colonial rule of the British.
Discreet because although Cypriots celebrate independence and consider the terrorist fighters to be resistance heroes I suspect that they don’t really want to offend the hundreds of thousands of British visitors to the country because the reality is that the Cyprus relies heavily on three things – Russian gangsters and money launderers, wealthy Chinese émigrés escaping the communist regime in Beijing and British visitors with more money than sense to support its economy. Specifically here in the tourist shops in Omodos.
I try to be objective in matters like this but the bottom line is that EOKA were terrorists, much like the IRA in Northern Ireland and the Mau Mau in Kenya and they killed three times as many British soldiers as British soldiers killed Greek Cypriots. They employed guerilla warfare tactics including sabotage, civil disobedience, civic disruption, cowardly assassinations, ambush and unjustified attacks against police stations, military installations and the homes of army officers and senior officials including civilians and families of army personnel.
The museum consisted of display cases honouring each of the freedom fighter heroes who died in the struggle and who came from nearby. Each case set out details of their lives and the circumstances of their deaths and contained their clothes and other personal items – sometimes blood stained for effect.
There are no memorials here (or elsewhere in Cyprus) to the British soldiers who died.
Regardless of the rights and wrongs I found this little museum rather interesting and was glad to come across it because two days earlier I had avoided the Independence museum in Nicosia on the advice of the guide book which said that it was especially anti-British and we might not be all that welcome.
Cyprus celebrates Independence Day on 1st October each year. Worldwide there are one hundred and sixty countries that celebrate an Independence Day. This sort of thing is quite difficult for us British to understand, we don’t have an Independence Day to celebrate. England hasn’t been successfully invaded since 1066 and whilst we were glad to previously see the backs of the Romans and the Vikings the Norman Invasion has never really been seen as occupation or subjugation but instead something to be proud of.
France doesn’t have an independence day but it does have the 14th July (Bastille Day) to celebrate the end of the Divine Right of Kings. Germany has a Unity Day on 3rd October to celebrate reunification in 1990 and Spain has a National Day on 12th October which celebrates Christopher Columbus reaching the New World and the subjugation of an entire continent, a sort of Independence Day in reverse. Similarly Australia whose National Day is 26th January and celebrates not the departure of colonialists but the arrival of the first British Fleet in Sydney Cove in 1788.
Latvia has two Independence Days both from the same oppressor, November 18th (1918) from the Russian Empire and May 4th (1990) from the Soviet Union.
Another interesting fact is that of the one hundred and sixty Worldwide Independence Days fifty-seven (35% of the total) celebrate independence from the British. Whoops! France is second with twenty-eight and Spain third with twenty-one.
Let’s hope for all of us that the Brexit Nationalist dimwits don’t start cheering January 1st as UK Independence Day because I for one won’t be joining in to celebrate a day of National self harm.
1. Winged Victory, in possession of the French and claimed by Greece
2. Rosetta Stone, in possession of the British and claimed by Egypt
3. Samsat Stele, in possession of the British and claimed by the Turkey
4. Bust of Nefertiti, in possession of the Germans and claimed by the Egypt
5. Venus de Milo, in possession of the French and claimed by Greece
One final piece of trivia; the Samsat Stele is claimed by Turkey, the hole in the middle of it is because sometime in the past someone made alterations to use it as a vine press. No wonder the British Museum thinks they should continue to look after it!