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Cyprus Calling – Vegan eats, party spots, sandy beaches, shopping and insider tips from the Whitecity Boys

Cyprus is an easy one – it’s close to Tel Aviv, flying there it’s relatively cheap, compared to Israel’s prices, and it’s always fun, giving a unique mixture of all what I love about Greece, and Turkey. Last year my boyfriend and I visited the island and after 3 days of beaching and shopping we flew back home, realising: probably there is so much more out there to discover…

That’s why we decided to go again – even though the deal I found was pretty convincing as well. When we understood how much we are desperate for a last minute getaway, we snooped around all the apps and sites, but the trips were too expensive, too short, or too long for our busy schedule. Finally I came across Ryanair’s new route from Tel Aviv to Paphos, and as a ticket costed 30 Euros, I know I’m on the right track. However the way back was not as fitting as the way out – so I got one way tickets, and waited for the right moment: this is how I came across Aegean Airlines’s tickets for a 100 Euros for the two of us. Lucky for us, the flight back was leaving from Larnaca, therefore we planned a week of non-stop traveling through all the main cities of Cyprus. How was it? Let’s hear it from the White City Boys…

Party in Paphos

Starting in Paphos, we landed around 11 PM – for me the trip seemed like a 5 minutes ride, with my newly found treasure, the Italian Vogue’s „Polaroid Issue” with breathtaking photos of The Only One Queen, Madonna – by legendary photographer Steven Klein. By the time I closed my mag, our airport shuttle was waiting for us to take us to our hotel, Princessa Vera. The simple, but recently renovated, clean and tidy hotel is the home of two swimming pools, surrounded by sun beds and sun umbrellas.

Up on arrival we packed out all our stuff, and headed to the so called „bar street”, which slightly reminded me on Benidorm: a bit tacky, yet oh-so-much-fun, with the right amount of ouzo. We ended up at Boogies Karaoke Bar – where else -, sipping up one chaser after the other, and as it should be, soon we did a sudden performance of Mamma Mia by Abba. We sucked big time – but hey, the point of karaoke is to get out of your comfort zone and kill the ego. We gave a visit to the city’s only gay bar, „Different”, but as it was empty as an Easter egg, we skipped the party for two.

I wish I could say we had a blast easting delish vegan food in Paphos, but to be very honest, we were so drunk, we didn’t bother looking for some fancy place. I got some incredible recommendations from a fellow vegan food blogger, running a Facebook blog, The Cyprus Vegan – yet when we got hungry all we wanted is to grab a plate of crispy chips and onion rings at one of the non-stop burger spots, shower it with ketchup, sweet chilli and mustard, and flush it down with Coke Zero. I know it’s not classy, but I find it extremely important to let people know: not all vegans are health nuts, many of us have a million other reasons to go vegan rather than staying healthy – animal rights, for instance.

More reasons to come back soon and try Boo-tea-licious, a legendary breakfast spot, and Lengo Tavern, a traditional greek eatery with a veggie mezze selection. After returning to the hotel we had a bit of an adventure: turns out, we had no hot water, so we made a big scene at the reception as one should, then fell into the bed, dropped dead. The breakfast was the usual Cyprian hotel meal: a weird combination of British breakfast faves as beans in tomato sauce, and Greek classics, like the thick cut cucumbers and tomatoes, ready to toss them into a salad, sprinkled with local olives.

Oh, by the way, post-breakfast we tried out the shower once again, and this time it was working as a charm, so we took a long, relaxing bath – in the tub, and out in the sun by the pool. The spa-la-la was followed by a shopping spree at „The King’s Avenue Mall”, a super modern and equipped centre where we went through all the essentials – such as Pull and Bear, Zara, Zara Home, and the rest of the fast fashion temples, just to find ourselves „cheating on clothes with home accessories”, as Carrie did in Sex and The City.

We climbed up to the old city, checked out the British colony style buildings of an almost forgotten era, and sat down at the main square for a pint of ice cold, bubbly KEO, our absolute favorite local beer. Just in time to catch the intercity bus to Nicosia – the destination of our next journey. Paphos was fun and all, but we are both very excited to experience the vibes of the joined Turkish and Greek capital of Cyprus, which is far less touristic, has an authentic flea market, and dozens of vegan friendly restaurants. Who knew that one day I’ll become a person who’s happy to swap the beach for culture – even if it’s for a (very) short while?

Next stop: Nicosia

We arrived to Nicosia with no expectations whatsoever. But getting off the intercity bus we found ourselves in a lively, colourful city full of friendly locals – and much less annoying tourists. Our guesthouse, The Sandstone was just a stones throw away from the station, in the middle of Nicosia’s busiest, most exciting street: a place where every single building looks like it has a story to tell, filled with fun bars, restaurants lining up international delicacies, and – lucky for us – fast fashion stores (Zara, Pull and Bear, Bershka), home accessories shops (we are addicted to Tiger), and so much more. A piece of good advice: upon your arrival get yourself a local sim card, because in this city getting around without a map is sort of a challenge.

Yiannis, our host was everything a traveller could wish for: not only he showed us in to one of the most beautiful, comfortable, and stylish room we ever stayed at throughout our journey, but he also gave us tips on the best vegan friendly restaurants. The Sandstone was the best compensation we could get for our disappointing experience at the Princessa Vera Hotel, which by now was only a bad dream. The building is an old town house with romantic vibe and cozy balcony overlooking the ever busy street. The fridge was packed with vegan treats, soy, coconut milk, and even a bottle of chilled white wine – we instantly felt like kings, and was ready to explore the town.

Our first walk was memorable indeed: originally we were planning to find a cool bar to have a drink or two, but suddenly we found ourselves at some weird check point, and asked a uniform wearing guy where the hell are we. „This is the border” – he replied. „Ah, so it’s the Turkish side over there?” – I asked, and his answer nearly shocked me. „It’s the occupied territory.” I traveled to Turkey about 8 times in my life – I adore the culture, the food, the music, and especially the „hamam” culture: Turkish baths always fascinated me since I saw Ferzan Özpetek’s incredible movie „Steam – The Turkish Bath”. Not knowing where we are heading, we crossed the border, regardless from the fact that Yiannis warned us: if we ever feel like visiting, we should never go after the dark falls.

Nimi is an Israeli citizen, and as the relationship between Turkey and Israel is more than fuzzy these days, many Israelis think it’s better to stay away from the conflict. But my Nimi is not the kind of Israeli who would deny an adventure of a lifetime – we passed the „green line”, and found ourselves in a strangely familiar place: just like Old Jaffa, the ancient town of Tel Aviv. At this point and have to admit: we were dressed to impress: Nimi was wearing a shiny silver-blue shirt, and we both put special attention to wear “The Perfect Make-Up” that night. Yet literally no person was raising an eyebra. We were welcomed as we are, we felt safe, we felt home.

„I feel like Samatha in Abu Dhabi” – Nimi said waking by a store selling fake Gucci purses, and he didn’t even finish his sentence, we bumped into an ancient, beautiful, authentic building, looking like a mosque. But getting closer we realised: it was actually the city’s oldest hamam, a steam bath still open for the public. „You wanna get in?” – I asked knowing, probably he’ll say „no way”, but surprisingly stars of excitement started to shine in his eyes, and he said: „Let’s check it out.” Inside it felt like the most incredible place in the world, straight from the stories of the Arabian nights.

The entry fee to The Büyük Hamam was only 10 Euros each, and this included the soap and hand glover for the famous spa treatment – except there was no one there to do the massage for us. „You guys can do the treatment for each other” – said our Turkish host, and in a minute we opened the door of heaven, finding ourselves just the two of us, in a magical, enchanting room, with heated marble floor, and warm streams running from the wall, pempering all our senses. We spent there over two hours, enjoying the solitude, the silence, and… each other. I must say, it was one of the most sensual experiences of my life.

Still feeling like the censored characters from Disney’s Aladdin we headed to a Lebanese restaurant, Fanous – recommended by our host at The Sandstone. Let me just say this: living in Israel we ate Middle Eastern food, yet what we experienced here was out of this world. Olive oil infused spinatch, fried mushrooms, hummus Beirut-style, „fatoush” salad, muhamarra (inspired by Carrie Bradshaw’s and Aiden’s secret date in Abu Dhabi), and some “The Most Scrumptious Falafel Balls” we ever had, flushed down with full bodied, flavourful, yet light and easy to drink Lebanese red wine. Falling into a food coma we fell asleep early, only to get up as early as we can, to have coffee on the balcony of The Sandstone, later on going out for a bit of shopping spree. Needless to say, soon enough we found ourself saying „Hello from the other side” once again…

One of the most memorable experiences was to find an easygoing, „hipster”-like bar, and café, Hoi Polloi on the Turkish side, run by an awesome girl, Nihal, who we had a deep, meaningful conversation with, after she fixed us two cocktails – I highly recommend the one called „Evita”, with home made purple basil syrup. „I am Turkish, and I used to live on the Greek side for a while – people often gave me hell, it was very challenging, but all in all a great adventure.” – she said. It reminded me on Palestine’s and Israel’s sensitive situation: people suffering from the mistakes of pervious generations, wanting peace so bad, yet bumping into walls – literally.

Arriving back to the Greek side we headed to a hyped vegan hot spot, Inga’s Veggie Heaven, where we ate delicious beetroot burgers and curried veggies – Inga was one of my angels helping me out with vegan eats prior our travel, and it was such a joy meeting her in person, a woman full of life and positive energies, with great talent for vegan cooking. After dish delish meal we were ready for another KIO, our favourite Cypriot beer, and soon enough the next stop of our journey was upon us: we headed back to the beach, to discover another city. Our last stop, and „old friend”, Larnaca.

Landing in Larnaca

„Landing” in Larnaca made us feel like we are arriving home: we visited the city last year, and although we had a ball, we felt like it’s sort of a „touristic” holiday resort, with not much authenticity. How wrong we were! The night we arrived we checked in to Zodiac, a freshly renovated apart hotel overlooking the city beach, and sat outside on the balcony to finish that mouthwatering Lebanese wine we got in Nicosia… and another bottle of white, we got as a gift at heavenly Sandstone guesthouse.

We got freshened up, pimped up our outfits, and went out: prior the travel I shot a mail to Secrets Freedom Club, a gay venue operating a party line called Loose Wo:Man. By the description of the event it was suppose to be on until 2 AM, yet when we arrived a bit before midnight, we found nothing but an empty hall. Luckily we were loose (and drunk) enough to hop around the pole, at least for a selfie – no music, no crowd, just the two of us, and a laughing bar man.

We did all those things one does when in Larnaca: sipped our Starbucks, hit the beach, did Speedo-shopping (check out those cheap-looking bikini stores around the beach, they actually are very cheap, and have some really cool stuff, hidden under all the junk), and got new piercings – Nimi had his nipple pearced, I got a new bling on my upper ear.

Got to gibe it to him, he was the brave one – he is not a big fan of even the possibility of seeing blood, but the shot was fast and he behaved like a big boy. I’m not gonna lie, I love it – but I refuse to say I pushed him, as his dad says, he has a mind of his own, and I love him for that. Our „beach day’s” highlight was Mackenzie, a less touristic, far more interesting part of the seaside. Authentic tavernas, cool beach bars, and chilled vibes – sort of Mykonosy in a less obvious way.

I have to admit that Larnaca is not vegan heaven, yet there’s always something to get – if everything else falls, there’s still Mc Donald’s and their veggie burger with chips, or Burger King for onion rings and garden salad. I’m not saying these are my standards, I’m saying a boy has got to eat (and drink: thanks for the fab cocktails, Old Market Street). To make up for the junk food, we decided to spend our last night at a hyped Lebanese place, Maqam Al Sultan, where for 30 Euros each we ate a vegan mezze selection, lining up fluffy hummus, fried cauliflower, eggplant in different forms and shapes, tabouleh and green salad, and… I simply cannot recall all the 16 dishes they served for us, each of them absolute perfection.

We left Cyprus feeling energised, filled up with excitement: as the flight tickets from Tel Aviv are so reasonably priced, we can just decide to take a mini-break any time – and we have so much more to discover on this beautiful, diverse, and mysterious Island, offering so much more than what most tourists take out of it. Like Kyrenia, a jewel-box like beach city, we are dying to visit. Until then, follow us on our Insta blogs, @whitecityboy and  @nimrodagan, and one in Budapest or Tel Aviv, try our vegan delicacies at our food truck or home restaurant. Personal walks and tailor made trips with the Whitecity Boys: steiner.kristof@gmail.com

Upcoming events: Cooking With Kristóf – Shabbat cooking course in London, Pub Food Goes Vegan – Dinner at The Windmill In The City Gastro Pub, London, Westminster Chai– TEDX style talks, including a session by me, “Vegan Is The New Kosher”, European Road Trip In The Kitchen – Vegan cooking class in Budapest, Open up, take responsibility, try vegan – lecture in Budapest, Israel 69– Celebrating Israel’s Birthday in Budapest with vegan workshops, Gourmet Festival 2017, Budapest, Madrid World Pride– more info coming soon… 

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