We woke up as late as we could after our late night with the turtles. I’d come to regret our irregular eating hours later, but in an effort to counteract my weight gain we skipped breakfast and drove to Morphou (Güzelyurt). We chose the first restaurant we saw and ordered a rather typical Adana kebap and tavuk şiş. It was typically excellent, and better than in Turkey, if I may say, with the inclusion of excellent, fresh mezze.
The town of Güzelyurt is very small, with the two main sites adjacent to each other. We bought a ticket at the Archaeological Museum which QQ wished to see, then were quickly ushered over to the monastery by the docent, who unlocked the doors and let everyone in who wasn’t holding a ticket in that time honored tradition of waiting for paying foreigners to see the local sights. The monastery itself was very dulled by time and dirt, as if everything had a brown sheen overlaid on top. I drew an icon of St. George to the delight of the docent while QQ waited outside – inside the monastery there was no breezy respite from the hot, still air. The docent spoke with me for a while despite my obviously low level of understanding, so I showed him my drawing of the exterior when we returned to the air conditioned museum afterwards. This prompted him to ask me to draw his colleague, who sat still while I quickly scribbled him on a page of printer paper that they fetched for me to draw upon. All three museum employees were extremely friendly, welcoming, and gracious throughout. It made me yearn for a trip to Turkey.
We left the Turkish domain and returned South through the Troodos mountains back to the Republic proper. It was strangely relieving to fill up at the petrol station and conduct the interaction in Greek (though the man filling our petrol was South Asian – that common feature in post-British states of a preponderance of South Asian service workers). With the length of the drive and the stops I wished to make, we didn’t quite have time to visit many of the painted Byzantine churches. We stopped at two which were mere meters away from each other, and lucked out in our choice. These churches (like most) are usually closed but we happened to arrive in the middle of a pre-arranged tour for a group from Spain. When I responded to their spoken musings about my drawings in Spanish, they were rather delighted. As they left, the local volunteer said “I don’t know what language to use, but I have to lock up this church and open the other one – I can open this one again for you afterwards.” in excellent English, so I re-parked the car and followed the group up to the other church, staying through the Spanish tour and the arrival and departure of an English one.
The churches themselves boasted fascinating history which belied much of the varied history of the island. Purposely unremarkable from the exterior to avoid notice by conquerors of other faiths, their painted interiors revealed personal histories of nobles straddling Catholicism and Orthodoxy, with visual elements from both faiths evident in the depictions of the saints, the inclusion of specific symbols, and the visual style itself. I thoroughly confused the volunteer by asking the guides in Greek about some specific moments of imagery. I felt like I was visiting a humbler version of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, and I thought immediately of how my hypothetical future course in Art History would improve with this depth of knowledge. Funny how I hold on to that consistently through my time at TGS. Who knows if I’ll ever teach it again.
Quite pleased with this stop, we continued on through the mountains for a while before stopping for the crumbling ruins of the old St. Nicholas Church – the last vestige of the inundated original village of Alassa before its forceful relocation due to the construction of the Kouris Dam and resultant reservoir. With another couple pulling in briefly for instagram boyfriend duties, I felt challenged and took my fair share of glamour shots of an uncooperative QQ.