Visiting Cyprus is a little like ordering mezes, or appetizers, at one of the island's cafes. With mezes, you get several small, tasty servings of the island's traditional foods. And with a visit to Cyprus, you get a tantalizing taste of what both Greece and Turkey have to offer: sunny Mediterranean beaches, charming villages, ruins of ancient civilizations and distinctive local cultures.
You also get a taste of the divisions between the two countries. The island of Cyprus remains divided by a bitter territorial dispute between its ethnic Greeks and its ethnic Turks, encouraged by their respective ancestral states. If you spend some time getting to know Cypriots, it won't be long before you learn of the injustices they or their families have suffered as a result of the conflicts between the two communities. Although there have been no open hostilities for more than two decades, the division of Cyprus continues to be a pressing issue that the United Nations is trying very hard to resolve, particularly now that Greek Cyprus is a member of the European Union—something which Turkey wants very much for itself.
While tensions between the two groups ebb and flow, visitors receive only the warmest of welcomes from both sides. Chances are, when you sit down at a table in a neighborhood taverna, you'll be joined by the establishment's owner. We've found time and again that philoxenia—friendship toward a guest—is the rule everywhere on the island.
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