Hello friends!! Here I’m again, for a very short trip to Cyprus, a week in which I managed to sneak between the Delta and Omicron… of this f*****g Covid.

The history of Cyprus is too long to be briefly summarized, having been conquered and influenced by all the great Mediterranean civilizations: Greeks, Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Romans, etc … but I want to briefly summarize the recent history that led to the division of the island in two parts.

After independence from the United Kingdom in 1960, strong tensions broke out between the Greeks and the Turkish minority (about 30%), mainly settled in the north. To limit the clashes, in 1964 the capital Nicosia was divided into two parts by a UN peacekeeping force, with a green pencil line (hence the name “Green line”) drawn on the map by an English general.
In the following years, however, a certain stabilization began to be reached, thanks to the presidency of Makarios who, although a Greek, was esteemed by the Turks, after an initial mistrust.
But in 1974 the colonels who came to power in Greece after a coup d’etat organized a coup also in Cyprus and removed Makarios (most likely instigated and financed by the United States which did not look favorably on him because of their usual paranoias… It seemed ugly not to meddle and mess up even in this small part of the globe!).
Since it was evident the intention of annexation with Greece shortly thereafter, and having been declared in the independence agreements that the annexation of Cyprus to Greece or Turkey was not allowed, Turkey felt entitled to intervene. After five days the Turkish army managed to land in the north and soon crushed the Greek army, advancing to the current borders.
The only good thing is that this humiliating military defeat against the Turks and the fear of a real war against Turkey had as consequence to bring down, after only a few days, the fascist regime of colonels that had been in power in Greece since 1967.
Once democracy was restored on the island, the Northern Turks never agreed to return to their previous status and proclaimed the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Turkey.

At the moment a solution is not in sight, but year after year the tensions are gradually diminishing. Since 2003 it is possible to pass between the two parts of the island through checkpoints and generation after generation the old grudges are gradually forgotten.


This time my travel companion is Alex, a dear friend in Malta, where we live. Like many Italian emigrants in Malta, we have both sold our souls to the devil, in fact, we work for online betting companies, but in my case I still have a clean conscience, being in the department that protects customers… but this is an argument that would go too far and anyway out of the topics of this blog.

At Paphos airport, we rented a Japanese automatic car with abstruse gear controls (prone to suck swearwords even to a quiet person like me) and we went to Nicosia, along the road that runs by the south sea. On the way, we stopped a few minutes on the “Aphrodite’s Rock” beach.


According to the legend recognized also outside Cyprus, it is here that, emerging from the foam of the waters, was born Aphrodite, the goddess of Love and Beauty.


Elderly people in Nicosia, on the Greek side.


Cyprus is full of clubs of all kinds. However, many were closed or completely empty due to the mix of Covid and low season. Here we are in a pub in the Greek part of Nicosia. It was very punk aesthetically… a pity that the prices were like Grand Hotel.


A military vehicle in Kyrenia, in the Northern Cyprus.
This photo, however, is misleading because in reality also the north is very quiet, it was perhaps a military parade. In fact, just before it, four F-16s had passed about 50 meters above our heads, with a frightening roar! Soon later we saw that it was an exhibition.
Kyrenia doesn’t differ much from cities in the south, apart from many flags of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus all around, and much lower prices. Unfortunately, little of the historical part remains, everything replaced by modern clubs, discos, casinos, and commercial chains.


The ceiling of the recent great Hala Sultan mosque in Haspolat, built with generous Turkish funds.


Back in the Greek part, in the mountains of Troodos, for one of the most pleasant experiences of the trip: the wine ​tasting in the cellars. The production of wine in Cyprus dates back to about 6000 years ago and according to some historians, it was the first place in the world to produce it.
During the tasting we were offered various types of wine, gradually increasing in gradation. Some were really good.
If the police had stopped us for the alcohol test, our driving license would have been suspended until 3485.


Hidden into the Troodos mountains there are Orthodox churches that are very humble on the outside but which hide splendid frescoes inside. In this case, it is the church of the Archangel Michael, in the village of Pedoulas. It was built and painted in 1474.


The archangel Michael.




A cobbled street with plants and flowers in Laneia, a scenic little town in the Troodos’ mountains.
Yes, once again Alex can be just glimpsed from behind, but don’t worry, you won’t miss anything extraordinary, I mean, he is not a George Clooney, to use a euphemism. :D


Food stall by the road.


Cyprus is full of cats. A joy for all lovers of this cute feline. At the moment, the first proved friendship in the world between man and cat was discovered here, in a tomb dating 9500 years ago in which a cat was found buried next to the deceased.
Later there were also specific reasons that brought the cats to the island. For example, the story of the “Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas of the Cats” tells of how, during its construction in the thirteenth century, ships full of cats were brought from Egypt and Palestine to fight the poisonous snakes in the area.
Now the snakes have been defeated and the cats have successfully completed their task. They can therefore stay all the time lazing around and eating food kindly offered by Cypriots and tourists


A “perfectly balanced” cat!


We keep drinking excellent Cypriot wine. Here we are in Limassol, a big and ancient city on the south coast. Here too, however, as in all the Cypriot cities I have visited, very little remains of the past.


After the fourth day Alex returned to Malta (there was a compromise with his girlfriend, Ciapparina, who at first did not want to send him, but in the end allowed a maximum of 4 days) and in the remaining three days I visited some suggestive archaeological sites.
These are the ruins of the archaeological area of Neo-Paphos, founded in the 4th century BC. At the time it was the “new” city in the area. In fact, the city-state of Paphos is so ancient that is even mentioned in the Odyssey.


The site is also famous for the extraordinary mosaics on the floors of some Roman villas from the early centuries AD. Unfortunately though, perhaps because it was low season, they were covered to be preserved, except this one and another which depicted the birth of Achilles.
This mosaic depicts the mythical fight between Theseus and the Minotaur within the labyrinth of Crete. In the upper left there is Ariadne, in the upper right an impersonated Crete and in the lower left the labyrinth itself impersonated.


A little north of the archaeological area of Paphos there is a necropolis called “Tombs of the Kings”, dating back to the 4th century BC. There are no kings buried, it was actually used by the local aristocracy.
This tomb has a colonnaded atrium with niches around.


A cargo vessel that ran aground in 2011 in Peyia, 10k north of Paphos.


Another very ancient city is Kourion, near Limassol. This theater was actually almost completely rebuilt on the site of the original one. Kourion was an important city-state of Mycenaean colonizers who settled here in the 13th century BC.


Also in Kourion there are mosaics on the floors of the villas from the Roman period. This is inside the so-called “House of the gladiators” due to two mosaics depicting gladiators. It was probably a gymnasium.


And once again the rainbow comes out on the road to greet me… a positive way to see the fact that it’s always raining!


Well, I was already planning another trip but the whole world is turning Covid-red again. Ok, patience. As someone wrote on Facebook: “Live each variant of your life as if it were last”

Albania, North Macedonia, and Kosovo

Hello frieeeeends!! I’m finally back after two years. No, Covid didn’t take your favorite blogger away, but every time I started planning a trip I found myself overwhelmed by so many restrictions and bureaucratic mess that I always gave up until now.
And maybe you are right in saying that the pandemic will be remembered by posterity especially for having stopped, temporarily, Dekaro Diario! Ok, this is a little moment of self-exaltation, perhaps due to the joy of writing after so long.
So, let’s stop nonsense. I’ll tell you about this short trip, a little less than two weeks, to Albania, North Macedonia, and Kosovo

Map of the visited places:

Me and Riccardo, now a regular guest of Dekaro Diario, arrived in Durres by ferry from Bari. We rented a car and went down to Butrint. From there we went up towards Lake Orhid and entered North Macedonia. Then up to Pristina in Kosovo and from there back to the south, returning in Albania until Tirana.


On the road again! The rainbow greets us for this new journey.

Albania has made extraordinary progress since the collapse of the isolationist communist dictatorship, in 1991, and year after year it is opening more to tourism, thanks also to new infrastructures, especially the roads.
Today it is a country with great energy and a very hospitable young population with great optimism towards the future. But, of course, not all that glitters is gold. Systematic corruption, unemployment, severe inequalities, organized crime, financial mafia, and all the other disasters that accompany capitalist liberalism are the new challenges that the country now faces.


Rainbow over the mountains.


Riccardo and some Albanian guys.


Berat, the first city visited. It was founded in the 6th century BC. by the Illyrians, from whom the Albanians descend. It is nicknamed the “city of a thousand windows” because of these white Ottoman houses that climb the hill towards the castle.


Tension and concentration in this chess endgame in a Berat’s park.

Across the Osum River is Gorica, the Catholic neighborhood of Berat.


The coastline, going south. During that journey, we also visited the ruins of Apollonia, an ancient city of Illyria and later an important Roman city, and Valona, a large tourist city.


To the far south are the splendid ruins of Butrint, a Greek and later Roman city located on a peninsula.


The crystalline waters, blue and green, of “Blue Eye”, formed from a spring that flows from under the river. The colors remind me the painting ‘Ophelia’.


Ottoman-style houses in the center of Gjirokastra.


Traditional dance in the streets of Gjirokastra.


Cat waiting hopefully on the pier in Ohrid, a charming Macedonian town on the same name Lake Ohrid.
North Macedonia (please remember to specify ‘North’ otherwise the Greeks get very upset) was formed as a province within Yugoslavia after the First World War. During the breakup of Yugoslavia, it was the only country to have achieved independence without suffering even a day of the war.
Macedonia as a historical region includes also part of Greece (which, as I said, is very touchy about it), Bulgaria, and small parts of Albania, Kosovo, and Serbia.


One of the most photogenic places on the trip: the Orthodox Church of Saint John at Kaneo overlooking Lake Ohrid.


It was built in the 13th century.


Orthodox monk walks thoughtfully in a world of futility.


“Warrior on a Horse” statue in the main Skopje square.
But is it not by any chance Alexander the Great!? Don’t say it!!… you would unleash the fury of the Greeks who have imposed this statue to be called “Warrior on a horse”, without mentioning him. They look like kindergarten children, it’s mine… no it’s mine…
Even the name “North Macedonia” instead of simply Macedonia has been imposed by Greece after an international campaign of political and economic boycott carried out with surprising stubbornness.

About the statue, a free tour guide told us that it cost a disproportionate amount, around 10 million euros and that there is a real mania to build statues everywhere in Skopje, probably, apart from chauvinism, a way to steal public funds.
The new buildings in the center of Skopje are mostly white, with colonnades and statues around, usually quite kitsch. A trend that I had already noticed in the new buildings of the capitals of the Central Asia countries, even if to less extent.


The most beautiful area of Skopje is the old bazaar, one of the few areas to have survived the terrible earthquake of 1963 which destroyed almost completely the city.


A street of the bazaar.


The “Newborn” monument in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. This monument was inaugurated on the day of Kosovo’s self-proclamation of independence, February 17, 2008. Still today, many countries don’t recognize the Republic of Kosovo, beginning with Serbia which considers it as its own province.
It has a very young population and there is optimism for the future but even here, perhaps even more than in Albania, all that glitters is certainly not gold. Suffice it to say that last year the president Hashim Thaci, one of the main political figures of the last twenty years, had to resign on the obvious accusations of war crimes, international drug trafficking, torture, killings on commission, and even organ trafficking of Serbian prisoners. So, you can imagine where are flowing the international investments into this land which is, in the end, one of the last conquests of the Western countries’ wars.
Pristina is a very modern city, full of cafes, shops, and clubs, even if seems one of those places made with the mould of globalization, with the exact same chains of shops and restaurants.


Prizren, the second largest city of Kosovo and historical capital. On the left you can see the Sinan Pasha Mosque, on the right the Old bridge.
Its demographic composition, with continuous repopulation and escapes between the Albanian and Serbian ethnic groups, reflects the troubled history of the centuries-old tensions between these populations in Kosovo, with continuous atrocities and attempts at ethnic cleansing from both sides. A shameful campaign of ethnic cleansing by the Serbs was one of the main causes of the outbreak of the Kosovo war in 1998. During the war almost all Albanians were forced to flee this city. After the war, it was the Serbs who suffered violence and reprisals and were forced to flee. At the moment only about twenty Serbs live in Prizren and only 5% of the population of the whole of Kosovo is Serbian, the rest almost all Albanian.


Girls crossing the main square of Prizren.


Back in Albania, we took a journey of about 3 hours on a ferry from Fierze to Koman (in the map above it’s the stretch between points ‘A’ and ‘B’). It’s a spectacular route inside a dam surrounded by overhanging rocks.
Unfortunately, the sky that day was cloudy and did not enhance the colors.


Panorama near Koman.


An elegant street in Shkoder. It had several dominations. The Venetian one probably influenced the style of some parts of the city.


Museum built inside the Kruje castle in honour of Skanderbeg, who from here defended Albania from countless invasions by the Ottomans. Only after his death from malaria, the Ottomans managed to conquer Albania in 1478, remaining until independence in 1912.
He is considered one of the greatest commanders in history and his statues are ubiquitous in Albania and Kosovo.


A building in the center of Tirana. The whole downtown area is full of lively clubs, cafes, bars, and restaurants. A very pleasant place.


The disquieting tunnel that leads to Bunk’art, a formerly secret underground bunker, built in the seventies and now converted into a place for art exhibitions and a museum of the recent history of Albania, with particular attention to the abuses of the dictatorship. Some rooms, as for example those reserved for important politicians of the time, have been left as they were.
At the end of this tunnel, there is a hill under which was dug the several floors bunker.
The dictator Enver Hoxha had developed a kind of paranoia and believed that the invasion of Albania was imminent. Bunkers are scattered throughout Albania, most of them very small, which can still be seen today.


I made a video that makes better understood the place, also because part of the atmosphere is created by the music and sounds inside the rooms.


This was the room reserved for Prime Minister Mehmet Shehu.


An exhibition.


Well, it was a great pleasure to meet you again, and let’s hope we don’t need to wait two more years now! Actually, I reveal you that I’m already planning a short trip very soon… as fast as possible, before the arrival of the next variant! I’ll let you know soon! :-)