About Cyprus
Considered to be the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Cyprus is an island country in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, lying south of Turkey, west of Lebanon and Syria, and north of Egypt (and whose history includes 250 years as a colony of Hellenistic Egypt’s Ptolemaic dynasty).  Situated at a crossroads between Asia, Africa and Europe, it has been settled or invaded by the Greeks and Romans, the Byzantines and Ottomans, the British and the Turks, and presently is divided into Turkish Northern Cyprus, and the southern Greek Republic of Cyprus.  A land of extraordinary natural beauty, Cyprus is also home to a strong monastic tradition, begun with the Greek clerics soon after the Byzantine era who retreated into the mountains and quietly and unobtrusively built simple churches and monasteries, often decorated with exquisitely painted frescoes and icons. Their legacy continues to this day, and reveals the contemplative and mystic heart of Eastern Orthodox spirituality.  Cyprus is also home to groups of contemporary esotericists as chronicled in the writings of author Kyriacos Markides.

Accommodations on Cyprus
We will have the opportunity to stay in several different towns during our time in Cyprus.  After our arrival at the Larnaca Airport on the 15th of June, we will have dinner and spend the evening in a traditional Cypriot village.

Our second night in Cyprus finds us in the Valley of the Roses in the Troödos Mountains.  Here, we will spend our time at the Mount Rodon Hotel in the town of Agros.

Finally, we will enjoy our last three evenings at the wonderful Aphrodite Beach Hotel in Polis, near the Akamas Peninsula and nature preserve.

Arrival in Cyprus
Our New York Open Center group will have dinner and spend the evening of the 14th of June in Alexandria, Egypt.  On the morning of the 15th, we will travel together by coach to Cairo International Airport for our one-way flight to Larnaca, Cyprus.

For anyone choosing to meet us in Cyprus, you will want to book your flight to arrive at Larnaca International Airport in the afternoon of Friday, the 15th of June 2012.  You will have the option of either waiting in the airport to meet the Open Center group coming from Cairo after their 6:30pm arrival, or of traveling independently by taxi to our hotel.

Travel Agents & Online Bookings
For those of us traveling independently to Cyprus, nearly all cross-Atlantic flights will have a stopover en route.  Some of the most affordable fares will connect with Cyprus Airways (www.cyprusair.com), or Greece’s Olympic Air (www.olympicair.com), which offers several daily flights between the two countries.  In addition, there are direct flights between London and Cyprus’ Larnaca Airport on British Airways (www.britishairways.com).

However, some of the best fares may be found online.  Useful websites include www.kayak.com, www.orbitz.com, www.expedia.com, www.travelocity.com, and www.cheaptickets.com.

Return from Cyprus
An Open Center coach will leave from the Aphrodite Beach Hotel after breakfast on the 20nd of June, taking participants first to Paphos Airport (roughly a 45 minute drive from Polis), and then to Larnaca Airport (approximately 2 ½ hours from Paphos), making it possible to book afternoon return flights home from either airport.

Telephones
The country code for Cyprus is 357.

The most affordable means of making international calls when in Cyprus is through the use of Skype (www.skype.com), which is either free when calling computer to computer, or available for a few U.S. cents-per-minute charge when dialing from computer to land line, or the reverse (SkypeIn or SkypeOut).

Calling Cards
Local and international calls can be made using card-phones, which are public phones that accept telecards.  These cards can be purchased in a variety of pre-paid denominations from post offices, kiosks, banks and other shops.

Mobile Phones
You will need to purchase a pre-paid Cyprus SIM card (or a global SIM card, if you plan on traveling anywhere in addition to Cyprus) for use within a purchased or rented international GSM cellular phone.  A Cyprus SIM card will provide you with a local Cyprus mobile phone number which begins with the “357” country code.  The following websites may be helpful in researching mobile phone options:

www.soeasy.cyta.com.cy
www.gosim.com
www.areeba.com.cy

Internet
Many cafés and restaurants, hotel and inn lobbies, and major airports, have Wifi (wireless internet access).  Inexpensive cybercafés are easily found throughout Cyprus especially in large cities.

Electricity
Cyprus operates on 220 volts, 50 Hz, with both round-prong European-style plugs, as well as plugs having two parallel flat-pins with a grounding pin.  Any plugs that do not match these will require a plug adapter to fit into Cypriot outlets.

Laptops and digital cameras (appliances with their own power adaptors) can be plugged into either 110-120-volt or 220-240-volt sockets/points and will adapt to the voltage automatically, but still will require a plug adapter.

Information on your power adapter will indicate its voltage.  If it reads “INPUT: A.C. 100-240V”, then it can operate on either 110-120 or 220-240 voltage.  If instead you find something like “INPUT: 100-125V”, then it can’t run on Cyprus’ 220-240 volts and you’ll need to bring a transformer (also called a power or voltage converter), as well as that plug adapter.

Identification & Visas
A valid passport (with at least 6 months remaining before its expiration) is required to enter Cyprus.  Nationals of a number of countries, including the U.S.A. and Canada, are welcome to stay up to three months in the country without a visa, while EU citizens have no work nor stay restrictions upon them.  For any questions about visa requirements, contact your local Cypriot Embassy.

Immunizations & Health
No vaccinations are required to visit Cyprus.  Travel in the country is very safe as regards health, and public water is indeed potable. Nonetheless, to maintain your well-being while traveling, it is wise to remember to eat and drink (coffee, tea, alcohol) in moderation only (as the body adapts to a new environment), to wash hands often with soap and water, and to stay fully hydrated.

Safety
Statistically, travel in Cyprus is quite safe, and travelers run little risk of personal loss or harm.  However, it is still wise to be careful about pickpockets and petty thievery, especially in large cities, and to lock hotel rooms and keep personal belongings secure.

Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is strongly recommended in the event of unexpectedly having to cancel or change your travel plans either before or during our conference, losing your luggage, needing medical assistance, or if the program is affected by circumstances beyond our control.  You can purchase this online or from your own travel agent.  Travel insurance options are available at www.accessamerica.com, www.myinsurance.com, www.insuremytrip.com, and www.travelguard.com. You may also want to explore “Airline Ticket Protector” policies available through several agencies, www.orbitz.com and www.travelinsured.com among them.

Money
The local currency in Cyprus is the EURO.

ATMs are found in most towns and in most large villages throughout Cyprus. They provide the easiest access to cash, and tend to offer the best exchange rates.  You will need a bank card with a four-digit PIN number (check with your bank to confirm that your ATM card is equipped for international transactions).  Please remember to advise your bank that you will be making purchases abroad, since many banks will err on the side of caution and assume your ATM card has been stolen and might suspend your card temporarily.

It is important to note that many ATM keypads usually do not have alphabetical keys (ABC for 2, DEF for 3, etc). If you know your PIN in its alphabetical form only, be sure to translate this password into its numerical equivalent (in emergencies, the keypad of a pay phone or cell phone will function as a guide).

Credit cards are commonly accepted in most stores, restaurants, and supermarkets as well; however, it is strongly suggested that you have at least some euros in cash on hand before your arrival in the country.

Banks in Cyprus exchange all major currencies in either cash or traveler’s cheques.  Banks maintain somewhat short hours: 8:30am to 12:30pm on weekdays as well as 3:15pm to 4:45pm on Monday. Currency-exchange bureaus operate over more extended hours and are often open until late in the evening.

Most post offices are open from 7:30am to 2pm on weekdays and also 3-5:30pm on Wednesdays in the months between September and June; in July and August, offices tend to have slightly shorter hours.

Food & Drink
Cypriot cuisine is shaped by its Mediterranean landscape, and has evolved as a blend of Greek and Turkish and, to a degree, Lebanese influences.  Vegetables such as zucchini, okra, grape leaves, artichokes; pulses such as lentils and broad beans; spices such as oregano, cumin and fresh mint, all figure prominently.  Mezedes, a large and varied selection of small dishes, can feature local black and green olives, tashi (a Cypriot variety of tahini), skordalia (a potato and garlic dip), taramosalata (fish roe dip), and tzatzki (a cucumber and yogurt dip), all served with chunks of fresh bread and a bowl of mixed salad.  Predictably, seafood is a pronounced part of the cuisine, with grilled calamari, octopus and gilt-head bream commonly eaten.  Grilled meats include lamb or pork kebabs, typically served with pita or flatbread and salad. Greens are often dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and salt; pourgouri (bulghur, or cracked wheat) is steamed with tomato and onion, and mixed with vermicelli pasta.  Natural yogurt is a staple food, as is the traditional Cypriot halloumi, a semi-hard, white-brined cheese that is often served grilled.

Aryani is a yogurt-based drink made of whey; triantafylon, a syrup made from the extract of the Cyprus (Damascus) rose, is diluted with either water or milk, and enjoyed as a refreshing sweet cordial, especially in the summer months.

Tipping
In restaurants, a 10% service charge is sometimes added to the bill; if not, then a tip of a similar percentage is expected. Taxi drivers and hotel porters always appreciate a small tip. Bargaining is not normally part of a shopping experience in Cyprus.

Customs & Etiquette
Age is respected in Cypriot culture, and in social situations it is the eldest person in a group who is introduced, and served, first.  Upon greeting, it is customary to shake hands and maintain eye contact, and to say goodbye to each person individually upon leaving.  It is also respectful to wait to be invited before using someone’s first name.

Dress
While clothing can be conservative in some areas of the country, you will usually find casual dress in most cities and tourist beach towns, with topless bathing acceptable on most Cypriot beaches.

Climate
As a Mediterranean island, Cyprus enjoys ample sunshine throughout the year.  June brings quite warm temperatures and cloudless skies, but with refreshing breezes at the sea and cooler air in the Troödos Mountains.

Time
Cyprus is in the Eastern European time zone, which is +2 hours GMT (and +3 hours GMT during summer’s Daylight Savings Time) or +7 hours from New York and Eastern Standard Time (+8 hours during Daylight Savings), and 10 hours ahead of Los Angeles.

Suggested Items to Pack (participants are strongly encouraged to pack lightly)
Passport
Photocopies of passport, credit cards
ATM card with 4-digit PIN number for international use (or Traveler’s Cheques)
Euros (for personal expenses and optional bar tabs)
International phone card (can also be purchased in Cyprus)
Greek phrasebook
Reading materials
Journal and pens
Camera and batteries
Electric converters and adapters, if needed
Travel alarm clock
Comfortable, sturdy, walking shoes
Cool cotton clothing
Light jacket/sweater
Bathing suit and beach towel
Sunscreen and broad-brimmed sun hat
Any prescription or over-the-counter medication (in its original, clearly labeled, containers)
Travel insurance
Conservative dress for monastery visits (long pants and sleeves; skirts for women)

Language
Most Cypriots speak Greek, although Cyprus’ former position as an English protectorate (and favorite travel destination of present-day Brits) has many people speaking at least some English, especially in tourist areas. However, even the most humble attempts at speaking some basic Greek will enrich your travels and deepen your experience of the country and its people.

Useful Phrases

ENGLISH PRONUNCIATION OF GREEK
Hello / Goodbye (polite plural) YAH-sahs
Hello / Goodbye (familiar) YAH-soo
Good morning! kah-lee-MEH-ra
Good evening! kah-lee-SPEH-ra
Good night! kah-lee-NEE-htah
Please / You’re welcome pah-rah-kah-LO
Thank you (very much) ef-kah-ree-STO (po-LEE)
Yes / no NEH / OH-hee
Sorry / Excuse me sigh-NO-mee
My name is… meh LEH-neh …
Mr. / Sir KEE-ree-os
Ms. / Madam kee-REE-ah
Do you speak English? mee-LAH-teh ang-lee-KAH?
I want… THEH-lo
I would like… THAH EE-the-lah …
… this … ahf-TO
Where is…? poo EE-neh …?
How much does it cost? PO-so KAH-nee?
The bill, please oh lo-ghah-ree-yah-SMOS, pah-rah-kah-LO
Help! vo-EE-thee-ah!
Toilet twa-LE-ta / loo-TRO
Water ne-RO
One EH-nah
Two DTHEE-o
Three TREE-ah