Enosis and Taksim

Imagine if, 40 years ago, Canada had invaded the northern half of Vermont and was holding the Green Mountain State in its iron grip with its unsurpassed military might.  There would be hard feelings, naturally, and there would likely be a constitutional amendment banning maple syrup in the US.

At the level of individual cities, however, it would be huge for, say, Rutland, a smallish, unromantic little city in southern Vermont, if Burlington were occupied territory.  Say our cruel Canadian overlords gave the residents of Burlington a couple of weeks to clear out, leaving their heavier Pottery Barn furniture and medical marijuana gardens behind.  They would become very polite refugees, forced to make fancy coffee drinks in other cities.  Suddenly, Rutland would see a massive construction boom, primarily in bed-and-breakfasts, as well as a huge increase in population.

Limassol is basically the Rutland of Cyprus.  After Turkey took over the northern third of the island, non-Turkish Cypriots living in that region largely moved out and relocated in other cities.  Limassol grew dramatically.

I alluded to this history in a previous post, but it’s a sufficiently big deal that it would be a poor discussion of Limassol that didn’t explain “enosis” and “taksim” – the two biggest competing political philosophies in Cyprus since at least the 1950s.

As I said before, this kind of thing goes back centuries.  In this case, you have to at least have a sense of Greek resistance to rule by the Ottoman Empire.  In Greece, armed resistance began in the 15th century.  The fight for independence went bonkers in the 19th century, and Cyprus got swept up in it at that point.  The huge event to come out of this happened in Nicosia, not Limassol, but that’s kind of a good thing, because it was an atrocity, not a bake-off or other pleasant memory.  The Ottomans didn’t like that Cypriots were supporting Greek independence, so they executed several local leaders, including prominent church leader Archbishop Kyrianos.  This was immortalized in a poem by one of Cyprus’ greatest poets, Vasilis Michaelides, entitled The 9th of July 1821 because, appropriately enough, that’s when it happened.  Wikipedia says that Michaelides died a penniless alcoholic in Limassol in 1917.  Also of interest: Archbishop Kyrianos also gets his own street in Limassol, and it’s, like, one up and two over from Richard & Berengaria’s.

While things went badly in Cyprus, Greece won its independence from the Ottomans.  With an independent Greek state out there, lots of nearby places with Greek majorities felt this stirring of “enosis”: unity with the Greek state.  Cyprus was no exception.  While it got stuck under Ottoman and, later, British rule, this dream of enosis was a major political force that morphed into armed resistance.

Though most of Cyprus’ population has traditionally been ethnically Greek, centuries of Turkish rule will leave you with some Turks.  From the Turkish perspective, it made more sense to try and split the island into ethnic regions – an idea known as taksim, “division.”  And that’s what they did in 1974, but of course, they didn’t do it through the kind of rational, consensus-based approach you’d like – they used military force and upset a lot of apple carts.  

What I find odd is that these extremes were the driving forces in Cypriot politics – not competing visions for “A United and Powerful Cyprus that Dominates the Eastern Mediterranean.”  But, again, it’s not like these ethnic grudges just materialized out of nowhere a couple of weeks before Presley played “Hound Dog” on the Ed Sullivan show – these things have deep roots.  And one small demonstration of the persistence of memory is that the city hall in Limassol is on Archbishop Kyrianos Street.

Kanpur, India

Population: 2.7 million

Current weather: 77°F, October 9

Currently on TV: Yeh Hain Mohabbatein (“This is Love”, 1:30 AM local time on the Star Plus network) – this Indian soap opera follows the lives of a Tamil dentist and a Punjabi guy who fall in love but find that things get complicated.

Movie theaters in Kanpur: at least 10

Getting some good stuff on Kanpur proved difficult for the amount of time I had available. One of Kanpur’s nicknames is “the Manchester of the East”, but that really doesn’t help me.  That’s like saying it’s “the Columbus, Ohio of India” – I just think of a big, bland city.

Kanpur is described all over Wikipedia as “an industrial city ” in northern India, about 430 miles from Kathmandu, Nepal.  It’s in Uttar Pradesh, a name I’ve always loved, and supposedly the most heavily populated “country subdivison” in the world.

I’m learning as I go along that “industrial city” is just what people call a city when they can’t think of anything nice to say about it.  Arts, culture, innovative cuisine – they’re probably in there somewhere, but you have to know where to look.  I myself live in what you’d call an industrial city: there aren’t major tourist attractions, there isn’t a cutting-edge arts scene, but there are things for tourists to do, and there are artists doing interesting things.  Just on a reduced scale.

Unlike most US cities, Kanpur really trades on its role as a massacre site.  This is the kind of thing that’s often downplayed in the states – if we’ve got the site of an infamous and horrific mass killing we will, in many cases, try to paper over it.  Not in Kanpur.

Kanpur’s Massacre Ghat

Listed on the tourism board’s site for this city is “Massacre Ghat.”  Here, in June 1857, 300 British men, women and children were killed as part of the first war for Indian independence.  A “ghat” is a flight of steps leading into a river, often with a religious significance attached – in this case, the river is the Sacred Ganges.  So this ghat (which was not originally named “Massacre”)  is commemorated today with a tasteful white temple – not a garish red one.



Blessed are the Cheesemakers

Circling back around to Limassol for a minute: I really want to do more than just write about other cities and cultures – wherever possible, I want to get some cultural flavor.  In the case of Cyprus, one of its tastiest exports is a cheese called halloumi.  I was able to pick some up at Thanos Imports, one of Syracuse, New York’s culinary gems.

Thanos Imports has been bringing the world’s best meats & cheeses to Upstate New York for almost 100 years

Halloumi is a lot like mozzarella – white and very slightly sweet.  But it’s much sturdier than mozzarella and it’s pleasantly salty.  I used my indoor grill to grill some up and was amazed that it took as long as it did to soften.

I also tried some raw and didn’t enjoy it as much.  Freshly grilled, it was very nice and surprisingly squeaky when chewed.  It was a bit like eating sweet, salty rubber – but that suggests an unpleasant flavor, which is wrong.  It’s quite delicious.



After grilling

Apparently, halloumi is one of the few things that Greeks & Turks on Cyprus actually agree on, although Turks refer to it as “hellim.”  They’ve been united in their efforts to get the European Union to grant them “Protected Designation of Origin” status, so that halloumi made elsewhere (say, Great Britain) would have to be given a different name.

Cotabato, Philippines

Population, 2015: 299,000map1

Population, 1990: 127,000

Current temperature: 86°F (Sept. 12)

McDonald’s?  Yes!  Corner of Quezon Ave and Makakua Street

If you flip back two weeks, you’ll learn all about Cyprus – an island with a rift in it between Turks and Greeks.  This week’s city, Cotabato, is remarkable for a similar reason: it is on Mindanao, the big island at the southern end of the Philippine archipelago, and much of that island is in what’s called the “Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” the ARMM.

While the Cypriot Turks are a minority, and last week’s Kazan-based Tatars are about half of the population, the vast majority (around 80%) of Cotabato’s population is Muslim.  One bizarre thing that I have yet to see explained satisfactorily is why Cotabato, the administrative center of  the ARMM, is not actually part of the ARMM.  Cotabato is part of the Soccsksargen Region (which is itelf an oddball acronym-word jumble meant to combine “South Cotabato”, “North Cotabato”,  Sultan Kudarat”, “Saranggani”, and “General Santos”).




Kazan, Russia

Kazan, Russian Federation.kazan_tourism

Population: 1,153,366.    Weather Now: Temperatures hit a record-setting  95F° on 9/6/16.     Kazan is a city of 1.1 million people, making it the eighth largest city in the Russian Federation.  The city sits on the Volga River about 620 miles upstream of Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad), scene of one of the bloodiest battles in human history.  

The red flag is on Kazan, Russia, just to the east of … everything in Europe

Kazan is roughly the size of Dallas, Texas, and viewed on a map it is similarly in the middle of nowhere.  Just as most Americans don’t think of Dallas as a vacation hotspot (unless you’re singularly obsessed with the Dallas Cowboys), Kazan is primarily a workhorse in the Russian economy.  In fact, if the slightly-too-on-the nose Russian Helicopters website is to be believed, Kazan is home to a helicopter factory.  And not every city can say that.

Kazan’s location, on the Volga River right in the middle of Tatarstan, means that it has been a hub of trade and activity for hundreds of years.  Oh, and did I say Tatarstan?  Yes I did.  Because of potatoes?  Nope.  Because of the Turkic peoples known as the Tatars who live in this area.  

Royal Wedding

I realized after my previous post that I failed to clarify an important point: Limassol is not the capital of Cyprus.  A city called Nicosia, further north, is the capital.  But Limassol is an economic powerhouse in Cyprus, since it’s the hub for the prosperous shipping industry.

Limassol’s really big claim to historical fame, at least for the English-speaking world, is that it’s where King Richard the Lionheart married his wife, Berengaria of Navarre, in the lusty month of May, 1191.  Now, if you’ve seen the classic 1968 film The Lion in Winter, you know two things about Richard (played by Sir Anthony Hopkins): his family makes the Medicis look like the Brady Bunch and he had a man crush on King Philip II of France (played by Timothy Dalton).

Image result for timothy dalton anthony hopkins lion in winter
In this historic photograph, King Philip can be clearly seen making overtures toward Prince Richard

I (sort of) understand the difference between drama and real life, but it was thought for many years that Richard and Philip may have been more than good friends.  As this site makes plain, the speculation has been out there, but it may be groundless.  Be that as it may, no less a marriage counselor than the Pope had to advise King Richard to be a good husband to Berengaria, who apparently didn’t do much to turn the royal crank, so to speak.  Richard spent the vast majority of his time as king fighting in the Crusades.

Richard the Lionheart CC
King Richard I


Berengaria of Navarre Confessions of a CiDevant The Crusader39s Bride The Life
Berengaria, Queen of England and Cyprus

My guess (based on my 30 seconds of study) is that Richard was basically a hothead with a knack for violence.  To a hammer, as they say, every problem looks like a nail.  Berengaria and Richard’s sister Joan were shipwrecked off the coast of Cyprus en route to meet up with Richard.  The governor of Cyprus saw an opportunity for some ransom cash and this ultimately lead to Richard arresting the governor and taking over the island.  This, in turn, lead to the island being bought and exploited by the Knights Templar.

Image result for limassol castle
Limassol Castle

Today, visitors to Limassol can visit the site where the marriage of Richard and Berengaria is supposed to have taken place – Limassol Castle.  In fact, as if to help clueless tourists get there more easily, the street along the castle’s eastern side is called “Richard I & Berengaria of Navarre”, which seems like a tricky thing to explain to the pizza delivery guy.

Screenshot 2016-08-31 at 11.43.53 PM






Lemesos, Cyprus

My first randomly selected city is Lemesos, a.k.a Limassol, city of roughly 170,000 on the southern coast of Cyprus.  It’s a mid-sized, mediterranean port city with a mix of ancient sites, beaches and annual celebrations.  One of these is the pre-Lenten Carnival, apparently one of Europe’s dozen or so that are well-known.  And if this woman is to be believed, Limassol has the “fun” carnival, contrasted with Venice’s stuffy “too pretty to touch” affair.  

limassol carnival
Carnival in Lemesos


I will try not to say this in every paragraph of every blog entry, but I was completely clueless about Cyprus prior to cracking open the Wikipedia entry on Limassol.  My impression was of a placid little island off the coast of Greece.  In fact I couldn’t have told you the difference between Corsica and Cyprus (which one is actually off the coast of Greece?  NEITHER!  Go fig.)  

Cyprus sits in the Eastern Mediterranean, just a few olive pit spits away from Turkey


Turns out Cyprus is really close to Turkey, not Greece.  Like, if Turkey was an imperial star destroyer and Cyprus was a little rebel starship, it would be within tractor beam range of Turkey.  On the map, Cyprus kinda’ actually looks like it’s getting sucked into Turkey’s underbelly.  And this is more than just an incredibly witty, although outdated, simile.  Most of Cyprus’ population is ethnically Greek, but there’s a large (roughly 20 percent) Turkish minority.  The island was a British possession until 1960 when it became an independent republic.  

Turkish military forces attempted an invasion in the early 1960s and made a partially successful play for control of the island in the early 1970s.  The result was a divided island: a big chunk of the northern part of the island is known as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.  The catch is it’s only known as that to one country: Turkey.  No other country recognizes it as an entity, in spite of the fact that it has its own website.  This is also surprising in that it would be a piece of cake to kiss up to strategically valuable Turkey by acknowledging its little off-shore mini-colony.

The lack of international recognition casts the shadow of “uncool land grab” over the Turkish presence in Cyprus.  However, that’s gonna depend on your perspective.  This guy represents what I can only assume to be the view of many Turkish Cypriots: Greece was looking to take over Cyprus in the early 1960s, following the end of British rule, and Turks were oppressed by the government.  An invasion by Turkey’s military was necessary to save lives.  This guy counters that this is bologna and it’s all Turkey’s fault.  

I am sooooo not going to try to figure out who punched first – I can’t do it with my kids, and I sure as heck-fire don’t know enough about Mediterranean history to try and mediate a 40-year-old dispute that probably has roots going back centuries.  But I think it’s fair to say that Turkish possession of two of Cyprus’s major port and tourism cities, Famagusta and Kyrenia, has altered Lemesos’ position in Cyprus considerably.  Famagusta has a highly marketable history as an ancient Silk Road port, Kyrenia is a known tourism destination, and they both look extremely cool when you pull up Google images of them.  Lemesos, on the other hand, is one of the largest shipping centers in the Mediterranean.  Asking it to become a resort destination is like asking your dentist to sing show tunes while he drills out a cavity.  It can be done, but it’s not always going to be done gracefully.   


There are a lot of cities in the world.  Like, thousands.  As an American, my perspective on world cities is very much limited to the postcard images of global capitals.  London has Big Ben.  Paris has the Eiffel Tower and the Seine and whatnot.  Rome has people in togas, fighting lions and Russell Crowe.   But I get tired of these two-dimensional ideas of cities.  If postcardsyou visit San Francisco, the cable car ride is not really the most interesting part.  The most interesting part will be some aspect of the city that you hadn’t heard of before – like finding bison in Golden Gate Park – or overcoming a challenge, like trying to parallel park on a hill that’s straight out of an MC Escher painting.

This blog is going to be both discovery and challenge.  Every week I’m going to pick a city at random from a large database of cities and I’ll have one week to learn whatever I can about it, without actually going there.  I recognize that this is going to get postcard glossy in some cases.  But if Anu Garg can give the world a word every day, I can try to explore a city  a week from the comfort of my hovel!!

Jupiter’s Most Expensive Cities

With the Juno Space Probe poised to give us more information than we’ve ever had before on Jupiter, and also carrying a plastic toy brand further into space than I would have thought probable, I am reminded that so much of life is about the confines of our own perspective.

Dark grey and black static with coloured vertical rays of sunlight over part of the image. A small pale blue point of light is barely visible.
I know I left my car keys in here somewhere

It was, according to Carl Sagan, Carl Sagan’s idea to have the Voyager 1 satellite snap a picture of Earth from the edge of the Solar System, thus taking all of everything that humanity ever considered “big” – from the vastness of the sky to the ocean’s bottomless abyss, to the mind-boggling heights of Everest – taking it all and re-classifying it as “microscopic speck.”

Personally, I find this liberating.  All of my neuroses really shrivel up from a distance of 6 billion kilometers.  Do the circumstances of my day-to-day reality change?  No.  The wolf at the door is not deterred by my map of the solar system.  But knowing where you stand can change you and your attitude.

Carl Sagan’s takeaway was optimistic.  He said:

There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

There are echoes here of a much older idea – of the power of locating yourself in history and getting a sense of where you really are.

You have the power to strip away many superfluous troubles located wholly in your judgement, and to possess a large room for yourself embracing in thought the whole cosmos, to consider everlasting time, to think of the rapid change in the parts of each thing, of how short it is from birth until dissolution, and how the void before birth and that after dissolution are equally infinite. -Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations

One wonders where in Sagan’s tiny blue dot there would be square footage for Marcus Aurelius’ “large room,” but you get the idea: knowing that all of human history is really very, very small and that your whole lifespan is a microbe in a sea of infinity is a bit like knowing that the boss who screams at you only reads comic books, or is two weeks away from being sacked for embezzlement.  All our pecking orders, all our hierarchies and power trips and torture chambers – they seem important and eternal.  God knows, if I were being tortured, I would take small comfort in the fact that it could only go on for 30 or 40 more years.  But even  Orwell’s “boot stamping on a human face forever” has got a lifespan.  Even that is small.

Similarly, the problems in my town suggest a persistent downward slide, until I look at the next town over, and the town  over from that one.  They all look like they’re about to go under.  And when you look back 100 years, they all looked like they were going under then, even though they were actually on the upswing.  We need a frame of reference to make sense of the world, but it makes a big difference what gets included in that frame.  Today it’s Jupiter – tomorrow it might be Mars.  For me to get a grip on my own context, I am driven to look at what’s going on with cities in other places.