Returning to Larnaca in Cyprus after over a decade away was always going to bring to the surface fond memories of this divided island. It had been our old playground for 3 years and we had such a great experience there. I couldn’t wait.
The prospect of reliving long lost sunny days brought with it the anticipation of beach B-B-Q’s, living it up on the cheap, skinny dipping with strangers and catching up with old friends.
Without any arm twisting, it seemed an ideal reason for a returning ex-pat. All with the added bonus of familiarity of the area thrown in for good measure.

Cyprus – The plan

In 2001 during a 3 year career break, myself and partner lived the dream, sold our house in the UK and headed for pastures new. Not quite on a whim and a prayer, and not on the odd snippet of expat advice gathered from a string of past holidays.
No, this was planned, and we even shipped our Vitara Jeep over there for £500. We also had the good fortune of my Cypriot friends Father-in-law already based on the island to point us on the right path. Having a head start on most and help when required was a bonus.

We started by renting a penthouse apartment in Pyla for a year at £1800. It was was a steal, and with 2 balconies both of which could hold over 50 sun beds with sea & mountain views thrown in for good measure, seemed a great deal. With an abundance of local taverna’s a stones throw from our doorstep and being only Two minutes from the beach across the Dhekalia Road, the location was perfect.

Cyprus – easy living

Being only Ten minutes outside Larnaca town and all it’s facilities of modern living and banking, would be the ideal setting.  We could eat out and wine and dine for £5, and not blow our budget for taking 3 years out of the rat race. Living was easy, and with the Cyprus pound equivalent to a British pound at one-for one, it seemed life wouldn’t get any better than this. Gas and electricity came in at £10 pounds a month, and rates and water £7 pounds per quarter. This also included refuse collection and the postman. Happy days.

We upgraded the second year to a detached 2 bedroom house with gardens and air-con throughout. This was near to Oroklini, a small village on the coast. This cost £2000 a year, another steal and just up the road from our initial base. We sold our Jeep as we couldn’t keep it on the island unless we paid taxes. This worked out to an astronomical sum so took the cash which was equivalent to the price back home. We enjoyed days out that lasted 36 hours, skinny dipping in a lagoon and all the trappings this gem threw at us.

Cyprus-The return

“Fifteen Euro’s” he barked, as we jumped out of his Taxi, a battered and worn Mercedes. It had seen better days as he retrieved our bags from the trunk. We had arrived at Larnaka airport on a cheap flight and jumped into a Taxi from the stand outside.
“How much” I inquisitively replied knowing I was being taken for a ride. For a 10 minute transfer from Larnaca Airport to McKenzie Beach  had previously cost Three Cyprus pounds, an expensive one at that.
“Fifteen Euro’s, what’s the problem friend” he again barked.

Even with the obligatory few sentences of Greek thrown in to charm this peasant he wasn’t going to budge. Even with the intervention of our guest house owner coming out to greet us, it would have been a Mexican stand-off. We paid him Ten Euro and the gas guzzling Mercedes drove off cursing. In hindsight, I thought of his next victim who wouldn’t get off so lightly.

With this our first experience of the new “Euro Cyprus”, things had changed, and unfortunately for the worse. In the Pre Euro days, Cypriots had a care free attitude and enjoyed life. Their restaurants were plentiful and usually busy at £3-£5 per head, even throughout the off season months.

What was once a haven for retired ex-pats living on £600 a month pensions  is now a distant memory. Those who enjoyed all the trappings of island life have flown the nest for a new affordable paradise somewhere else.

In its place are derelict 5 star Hotels, stripped bare of their once elegant marble décor. It looks like a ghost town. What was once a thriving piece of paradise has been all but abandoned. There has also been an influx of other new Europeans and Foreign investment. Once in the Euro, money has been thrown at this island as an off-shore hedge fund in over priced property. I mention no names.

Cyprus – the end ?

Sadly It’s not the place we remembered so fondly. With the problems that Greece are going through I can’t see it changing in the near future. They say this will effect up to 3 generations of Greeks. You can see why they want to go back to their old currency the drachma.

If I’m lucky I’ll still have some tucked away somewhere from my Greek Island exploits throughout the 80’s.

 

Happy travels on your Global Gallivants

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