Genesis of a research trip
A few years ago we did a research trip to Northern Cyprus as part of the Eurasian Adventure Tour on behalf of our new venture Pioneer Media. The long and short of Pioneer Media is like a film locations version of YPT – “filming in places your mother would rather you stayed away”. That kinda thing.
We’d joined the trip in Kiev before going the whole route to Serbia, which was where we were to depart the group to do our own things. The overall trip was interesting and extremely productive. Productive in the sense that in 2019 we helped film the remake of Castle Freak in Albania. Productive in other ways to, such as the other places we saw and indeed the people we met.
Not wanting to fly through Russia in order to get back to China we’d opted to fly to Cyprus – Israel – Dubai – Malaysia – Vietnam. A slightly more interesting route and even cheaper.
It turns out flights from Belgrade to Nicosia are extremely cheap and under 50 Euro. We arrived in November not sure of our exact plans, or what to expect.
Cyprus in November isn’t exactly hot, but compared to the depths of Ukraine, it did make a very pleasant November surprise. We even managed to wear only t-shirts with a light jacket and of course sunglasses.
The Green Zone, the DMZ of Cyprus
We gave Nicosia a cursory look before heading over towards the DMZ. Obviously we are YPT, so we quite like a bit of a demilitarized zone! To call the place weird would be doing it very much an injustice, it’s literally a wall built in between a city that has troops from either side stationed around it. Rather than war, their main job seems to be stopping tourists taking photos, even that they are not that good at.
The Cypriot dividing line is very interesting, but it really isn’t Korea. Maybe I’ve been spoilt, but it didn’t feel that menacing to me.
Visiting Northern Cyprus
Crossing the border is a relatively easy affair. Then, you are pretty much in another country. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) is a partially recognized state as only one country recognizes it. You guessed it – The Republic of Turkey. The TRNC in this case is the illegal version of the two sides of Cyprus, but in actual fact the story is much more nuanced and it is hard to pick one definitive “good guy”.
The Film Commission of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus duly met us on arrival and our trip begun! The film commission actually consisted of two guys, who were both British. We then transferred to our hotel. The hotel was full of British tourists (amongst others) as well as a casino. The TRNC is no Abkhazia style pariah state – stuff goes on and people freely visit.
Our guides for the trip duly took us around the island to look at the many ancient ruins. I have not seen tourist attractions this empty since visiting places like Persepolis in Iran. We were primarily looking for opportunities for filming in Cyprus. At this point, my interest for the potential for tourism to Northern Cyprus was piqued.
Following the tourist and filming sites, we headed for drinks in the swanky part of town followed by a late night kebab. Being British, there was no way I was not having a kebab at some point. We then bade farewell to our hosts on what had been an epic, if not too short, trip.
We immediately made partners on filming in Northern Cyprus, but initially sat on the idea for developing tourism in Northern Cyprus. Although when we say “developing tourism”, we mean in the YPT fashion. Currently tens of thousands of people visit the southern side of Cyprus on package holidays, with a number of Brits even being expats here. We always felt that there was an opportunity for adventure tourism in Northern Cyprus.
Coronavirus has changed things a lot, not much of it for the better, but it has at least spurned us on to finally get our epic Northern Cyprus tour ready for the masses!