I often asked myself, like most people in Cyprus I think, why we drive on the left side of the road here? Legend has it, this left hand driving rule came from none other than the Knight Crusaders could more easily grab their swords with their right hand, so they rode on the left? Okay, it makes little sense to me too, but read on.
The Island of Cyprus has not one, but two British military bases. One, located in Dekeleia, and the other in Akrotiri-Episkopi, have their origins rooted with a legendary English king, Richard The Lionheart. This king of England foresaw the strategic importance of Cyprus as a base for supplying the forces taking part in the Third Crusade, thus the necessity for conquering the Island. Realizing how difficult it would be to maintain control of such a strategic bit of gold, Richard sold the Island to the Knights Templar, yes the same ones prominent in Grail lore. Centuries pass, but riding on the left is still a fashion and a rule here.
Now, let’s go beyond the English period and check out another bit of a secret about Cyprus, I bet you never knew of. That of the so called Venetian Walls. When the Ottomans conquered the Island of Rhodes in 1522, the Venetians were alerted to the danger of losing their precious Cyprus Isle. Hence, they built fortified walls around Lefkosia ( Nicosia), and also strengthened the existing walls of nearby Amochostos ( Famagusta) , on whose sea side stood the Tower of Othello, best known from the Shakespeare tragedy of the same.
Of Othello’s Tower, it is very interesting to note that Shakespeare painted Othello as a Moor, but this is far from the truth. You see, the great author actually knew little of the world outside England, and only portrayed characters romantically – with a rather narrow view of reality. You see, Othello was actually a Venetian governor on Cyprus at the time, hence the tower with his name. No doubt some traveler revealed a limited view of the place, from which Shakespeare drew his own story.
Mysteries, beauty, so many legends, and a deep history …this Island, on which I am blessed to live, gives you everything you need…and sometimes a lot more. I leave you with some pictures I took for this article. Be well until my next outing.