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on 22 November 2013
Journey Into Cyprus by Colin Thubron is nothing less than essential reading for anyone with even the slightest interest in the island. Travel writing this may be, but the book does much more than merely traverse the landscape or pass by places of interest. Crucially, Journey Into Cyprus is not just a journey `through' Cyprus, since, by the end, the reader feels that the experience has provided more exposure than mere tourism, as if we ourselves have experienced these thoughts first hand.

Colin Thubron's journey was largely on foot. It wasn't unbroken, but it did traverse Cyprus from east to west and north to south. There are occasional trips by road, but overall the text itself communicates the slow pace of the author's progress via its attention to illuminating detail alongside observation and reflection. The text even seems to have periods of rest written in, so delightfully does it capture those moments when the author paused by the roadside to sit on a stone and muse, reflect or read, or was waylaid by local custom in a coffee shop.

Like all good travel writing, Journey Into Cyprus constantly communicates a sense of place. The landscape unfolds via succinct observations that paint the view. But, throughout, both the visitor's intrusion and the local's residence remain clear, their relative status unchallenged. These are foreigner's eyes, for sure, but they are opened at every turn by local invitation, information and hospitality.

But there is also history here. The name, Cyprus, itself derives from a word for copper, the metal whose mining formed the basis of the island's niche in the classical global economy. Colin Thubron's description of the copper mines - the relics and the still working - in the Troodos mountains are fascinating. If the island's name might have derived from economic activity, it is in the sphere of religion that Cyprus makes its biggest impression, and those religions are also here within these pages, described in detail, and referred to repeatedly since their significance is on-going.

For two thousand years Cyprus followed the cult of Aphrodite. She, like the island itself, was never satisfied with just one relationship. She regularly moved on to another, with the apparently inevitable offspring from each encounter living a life of its own either as a mortal or as a god. And so it has remained with the island itself, where a culture of ancient Greece everywhere rendered modern by the presence of the Greek language, but in a version that Cypriots seem to have made entirely their own. There was a long flirtation with Rome, which produced palaces and theatres, decorated with mosaics that still adorn the excavated sites on the Paphos shoreline. A long and on-going marriage to Byzantium spawned the continuing dominance of the Orthodox Church in the island's life. There are over five thousand churches and monasteries and they form an integral part of southern Cypriot culture and politics.

The Lusingnan period mat not be as well known, but it lasted more than three centuries and involved rule by French-speaking Knights of St John. They paused on their way home from the Holy Land after they had been kicked our after the Crusades. They ruled and taxed, but island culture and local tradition continued, almost in its own sphere and according to its own rules, in spite of their power. A short Venetian period saw the island exploited for the city state's commercial gain. Trade routes had to be secured. And then, in 1570, the Ottomans arrived and stayed for three hundred years, changing the nature of the debate by introducing their own religion and Turkish culture. A brief British period left Cyprus with a second language, English, which to this day allows Colin Thubron and others the illusion that communication and its associated illusion of participation are easy. And now, of course, there is partition, a Turkish north and a Greek south, the constant yap across the fence mediated by United Nations for nations not united.

All this and more is in Journey Into Cyprus by Colin Thubron. But alongside the wayside reflections and the appreciation of landscape, there is a real glimpse into a culture born of history but expressed in this time and place as the author's journey progresses. There are anecdotes, comical moments and occasional threats along the way. The only disappointment comes when, abruptly, the journey comes to its end as the author approaches the eastern extremity of the island's tapering peninsula in the north. But then, that's the beauty of travel. It has to be experienced for what it is and when it happens, because at its end it's the next trip that beckons. By writing it down, however, Colin Thubron allows all of us the luxury of experiencing everything for ourselves and then the possibility of repeating it.
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I read this during our recent holiday to Cyprus. It was written in 1972 before the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and therefore the Cyprus that Thubron walked through has in many respects disappeared with the division of the island. You are aware of times changing, old customs dying out. We weren't staying far from Kouklia in southern Cyprus and it was sad to read that it had been "an optimistic community, in which Greek and Turk still lived together" - sadly no more and it made it all the more poignant when we came across abandoned mosques: I doubt I would have noticed but for reading the book. There were more prosaic descriptions of changing times - for example "Women wearing short skirts chatted to grandmothers whose ankles had been a fiercely guarded mystery for more than half a century ...". It is odd to think that there is now luxury hotel full of British tourists close to where the first EOKA ambush against the British army took place.

We found the book useful also in fleshing out our guide books at various sites of antiquity. Thubron has a wide knowledge of the history of the area, and the myths and legends of the Levant which enhanced our understanding of the places we visited.
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on 23 April 2016
This is not a book from which to gain an understanding of Cyprus. It is overwritten, with a false tone, that too often plays to the gallery. A typical example is the description of the archaeological sites in Paphos,which give little sense of the place, but spends two pages describing the author slithering along an ancient drain and looking up the skirt of an elderly English tourist, who gasps when she peers down and sees his eye through the drain cover. That illustrates another problem, that so many of his descriptions of people or incidents are caricatures: the philosophising gnarled old farmer: the drunken peasants at a wedding feast; the silent old widows with slack mouths and watery eyes; the English tourist. It was possibly his first book so its weaknesses can be forgiven, but be aware if you want an introduction to Cyprus.
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on 18 August 2016
I have got this version, and I love it. Mr Thubron is a meticulous and detailed writer. Very readable! If one is interested in how Cyprus used to be before 1974, this is the perfect book to read. It is a walk right across Cyprus, and on his travels, Mr Thubron meets people, eats Cypriot meals, talks to people, and takes in the atmosphere of this beautiful island.

He also takes time to admire the scenery, research the history, and generally falls in to the slow Cypriot village attitude of life. One gets a impression of a sense of being poor, but happy and contented! Certainly there were no real hints of the invasion that was to split Cyprus into two!

Unfortunately, because of the political situation in Cyprus now, the walk Mr Thubron did across the island, is sadly no longer possible! This is one of the reasons why this book is such a gem! Buy it, and you will see what I mean!
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on 8 August 2014
A description of a journey through Cyprus describing the places and the history from b.c. to 1973 as he goes. You see why Cyprus has been ruled over by several countries over the years, it's not just Greeks and Turks, and for a non-religious overview it can't be beaten. I read it whilst on holiday in Cyprus and it really brought the place alive. He's got an excellent turn of phrase (which I often quoted to my wife) and he quotes the Cypriot people he met very well without being in any way condescending. He really misses the undivided island and the hope that it will become so again really shows through.
I look forward to reading his other travel writing if I have the good fortune to visit the countries he writes about in the future.
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VINE VOICEon 4 March 2015
Colin Thubron has taken me on many interesting and enlightening journeys. This, alas, is not one of them. Too much history, too little travel, too few encounters. Too many descriptions of icons and murals the reader will never see.

The journey into the wilderness simply revealed that there was nothing of interest to be found. It felt like an invitation for the reader to admire the author's hardiness.

There are many Thubron books much better than this.
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on 15 January 2009
If you're new to Cyprus, or to the travel writings of Colin Thubron: this is the place to start. Walking, notebook in his rucksack (no film crew, no cameras or microphones) for 600 miles through Cyprus, north/south, east/west, Thubron provides a highly readable yet well-researched introduction to the country, its variegated human history from paleolithic to modern times. But most of all, in the style that became the trademark of his later travel books, he gives us the people. Orthodox monks, taciturn peasant farmers and their voluble wives, schoolmasters (including the unforgettable Chambi, proud of his Arcadian ancestry), brides and wedding fiddlers, Greek soliders, Turkish soldiers - they emerge not as picturesque stereotypes but as real people, living out their lives in an often-harsh landscape.

The trip was undertaken in 1972 - in retrospect, a halcyon time, after the bitter EOKA war of the mid-1950s and a mere two years before the attempted assassination of Makarios and the Turkish invasion that was to leave Cyprus a divided country. Thubron wandered all over the island, moving from Greek villages to Turkish villages, remarking on the Turkish quarters in some predominantly Greek towns. Now all this has changed, as has the underlying tone of basic acceptance between the two ethnic communities. We can read Thubron's book as an account of a Cyprus that no longer exists - but, even more importantly, it supplies the broader perspective needed to understand this much-invaded, much-suffering island state.
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on 4 November 2013
A real gem of a book. One cannot help admiring the way he tested his classical knowledge and his ability to take the reader with him as he travels on foot, mostly, and meets local people with who he has the ability to communicate at a significant level. Thubron is a master of observation and a refreshing writer way beyond the casual travel writer. His use of language is so masterful he deserves to occupy a high position among gifted language writers. Anyone with interest in literature should read this book
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on 9 November 2015
All in all an interesting read. I find the author`s style quite alluring. There is a blend of the historical, the anecdotal and also the mystical - bound together by means of an imaginative, some say a poetic use of language. This is my second book by the author and I am going for a third now. I get the sense that there is much to be learned by reading him. I do sometimes find that there are parts that require more than one pass in order to grasp the content but I think this is probably more a reflection on the reader!
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on 6 August 2017
Extremely interesting but the map did not show up well on my kindle; I had to have a Cyprus guide book to be able to follow.
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