Cyprus

Cyprus, Greek Kípros, Turkish Kıbrıs, an island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea renowned since ancient times for its mineral wealth, superb wines and produce, and natural beauty.
A “golden-green leaf thrown into the Sea” and a land of “wild weather and volcanoes,” in the words of the Greek Cypriot poet Leonidas Malenis, Cyprus comprises tall mountains, fertile valleys, and wide beaches. Settled for more than 10 millennia, Cyprus stands at a cultural, linguistic, and historic crossroads between Europe and Asia. Its chief cities—the capital of Nicosia, Limassol, Famagusta, and Paphos—have absorbed the influences of generations of conquerors, pilgrims, and travelers and have an air that is both cosmopolitan and provincial. Today Cyprus is a popular tourist destination for visitors from Europe, favoured by honeymooners (as befits the legendary home of Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of love), bird-watchers drawn by the island’s diversity of migratory species, and other vacationers.

In 1960 Cyprus became independent of Britain (it had been a crown colony since 1925) as the Republic of Cyprus. The long-standing conflict between the Greek Cypriot majority and the Turkish Cypriot minority and an invasion of the island by Turkish troops in 1974 produced an actual—although internationally unrecognized—partition of the island and led to the establishment in 1975 of a de facto Turkish Cypriot state in the northern third of the country. The Turkish Cypriot state made a unilateral declaration of independence in 1983 and adopted the name Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Its independence was recognized only by Turkey.

Cyprus lies about 40 miles (65 km) south of Turkey, 60 miles (100 km) west of Syria, and 480 miles (770 km) southeast of mainland Greece. Its maximum length, from Cape Arnauti in the west to Cape Apostolos Andreas at the end of the northeastern peninsula, is 140 miles (225 km); the maximum north-south extent is 60 miles (100 km). It is the third largest Mediterranean island, after Sicily and Sardinia.

The rugged island of Cyprus resembles a saucepan, with the handle extending northeastward from the main part. The general pattern of its roughly 400-mile (640-km) coastline is indented and rocky, with long, sandy beaches. The Kyrenia Mountains—the western portion of which is also known as the Pentadaktylos for its five-fingered peak—extend for 100 miles (160 km) parallel to and just inland from the northern coast. It is the southernmost range of the great Alpine-Himalayan chain in the eastern Mediterranean; like much of that extensive mountain belt, it is formed largely of deformed masses of Mesozoic limestone.

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