QUENTIN POULSEN I spent the first week of August in Gazimağusa in northern Cyprus, swimming with turtles at the beach and forcing the locals to speak Turkish with me.
In Cyprus almost everybody speaks English, of course, as the island was under British rule for a long time.
I decided to only speak Turkish on this holiday, however, and the only way this was possible was to tell people I was Danish and did not understand English. A few people seemed angry, but most were then happy to speak Turkish with me.
Gazimağusa looked like the towns I have visited on Greek islands such as Samos and Khios. The architecture and scenery were very similar.
There were still old signs in Greek in some places. Cars drove on the left, as they do in my country, although many cars had left-hand steering, which must have made it difficult to drive.
There were not too many tourists there. It was a quiet town, and even on the lovely beaches there were no crowds. There was just the right amount of people to give it atmosphere.
Northern Cyprus is not an easy place for tourists to get around. There are no buses from the airport, for example. My friends who have been there told me a taxi could be more expensive than the plane!
So I hitchhiked to Lefkoşa and immediately got a ride with a man named Hakan, his wife and their 2-week-old son. Hakan was very friendly and took me all the way to the Lefkoşa bus station, where I was able to get a mini-bus to Gazimağusa 10 minutes later for just YTL 5.
It took me three or four hours to find a cheap hotel there. I walked around with my luggage all morning in the hot sun before I found a place in the old city. It was only YTL 10 a night with shared rooms and a hot shower.
Of course, it was very hot in northern Cyprus. Though there was always a little wind and wearing shorts and a T-shirt I was not uncomfortable.
I spent the afternoons at a beach almost enclosed by small rocky islands. The water was very warm and many turtles could be seen eating the plants on the seabed.
In the evenings I went to a restaurant in front of the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque, the old St.Nicholas Cathedral, which is also called the Ayasofia Mosque of Gazimağusa.
I did not do any sightseeing, however, and neither did I cross into Greek Cyprus. The holiday was for mental relaxation and physical exercise and to practice my Turkish.
*** Quentin Poulsen is a former journalist from New Zealand who has been teaching English and traveling for nine years.