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Report written by Oskar Speck relating to his journey

Date: 1930s
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Nancy Jean Steele Bequest
Object Copyright: © Australian National Maritime Museum
Object Name: Report
Object No: ANMS0533[003]

User Terms

    • With the Cypriots Cyprus, the easternmost island in the Mediterranean, has belonged to the British since 1878 [year hand written]. Apart from Nicosia, the capital, there are three other cities of importance. These are: Limassol, Larnaca and Famagusta. Of these three, Larnaca has the advantage of being the place where the most ferries land. From there the stream of tourists, if indeed it can be called that, pours into the interior of the country. The wealthiest travellers, who are mostly Egyptians and Arabs, prefer to spend their holidays near the Troodos mountains and during the summer months Troodos itself is a veritable gathering place of the rich and the elegant. But no other place on Cyprus is better suited to close inspection than Larnaca; the hustle and bustle of people arriving and departing, the many sailing boats and sailing cutters arriving here from all parts of the orient, their crews consisting of the most diverse races and speaking so many different languages. All this makes Larnaca a colourful and interesting port, even if it isn't very large. Beyond the city the landscape is desolate, taking on shades of green only after rain. But it rarely rains on Cyprus as the island lies in an arid climatic zone. However, it is cool and pleasant in the mountains and mild in the coastal towns as a result of the constant sea breezes. Anyone interested in monuments is well catered for and the museum in Nicosia has accumulated many ancient treasures. There is plenty to marvel at when wandering through the narrow streets of Larnaca. In one spot you find the cobblers, who in addition to their normal fashion items, also produce the heavy, high boots worn by the country folk and which are all still hand-made. Then there are the workshops run by the coppersmiths, the potters, and all the other craftsmen. All the workshops are open and everything is produced directly on the street. Opposite them are rows of tailors and fabric shops, where the bails of fabric are piled high. In another street there are the food shops. Large chunks of smoked meat hang out in the open, black and unappetising; also an array of cheeses, with thousands of flies buzzing around them. Tons of salted fish, olives, peppers, tomatoes, etc. Then the displays of the many colourful birds, some of them still alive, others already plucked and suspended from ribbons or floating in glass bowls. Between these are the fruit stalls selling the most beautiful fruit, the confectioners, the bread stalls and the numerous hot food stands, where small chunks of meat are cooked on coal fires. Between all the shops and stalls the [paper torn and one line illegible] chickens, ... then the fishermen with colourful fish hanging from lengths of twine, and the omnipresent octopus. Everybody is advertising their goods in Greek or in Turkish. The harbour at Larnaca, with its long pier, seems friendly and clean. Just today, another one of Lloyd Triestino's elegant Mediterranean cruisers docked here. Motor boats dash backwards and forwards, carrying passengers to the customs station. At the customs station there is the usual pushing and shoving and shouting and claims that particular suitcases do not contain any taxable goods whatsoever. The customs officials, conforming to the pattern set by the British, are workmanlike and polite. However, apart from certain travellers, there are no Englishmen here other than those occupying the highest government posts. All the other officials are Greeks and Turks. Coming out of the customs building, you hear people shouting in all different languages. Silk scarves, knitted goods, postcards, all sorts of fruit, and a thousand different unbelievable objects are all being offered to travellers with the obligatory degree of insistence. Anyone buying anything without haggling first can easily pay five to ten times its true value. Taxi drivers, porters and tour guides crowd around, each of them keen to extract as much money out of the traveller's pocket as possible. Trips that any local would pay 2 shillings for suddenly cost a multiple of the normal price. An older Italian woman is standing there, helpless, with her suitcases, surrounded by chauffeurs and porters, madly talking and gesticulating at her. She would have been warned about drivers charging excessive prices if they can take advantage of someone. But of what use is that to her when she doesn't understand the language and constantly mixes up "nineteen" and "ninety". "Not a half pound, only ninety piastre" is all she repeats energetically. Of course the trip only costs 2 shillings, [paper torn]. She was probably told to give a tip of IX [hole in the paper] piastre. But now, knowing that she can't understand the language, the drivers have conspired to ask the exorbitant price of 90 piastre. Eventually a clever driver manages to trick her. He claims that he only expects to be paid ninety piastre and ninety piastre equals half a pound. The lady can't fault this logic and she climbs into the vehicle with an expression on her face saying: "I won't be cheated by you". The others continue to haggle and shout, the street vendors jump on the vehicle as it is moving off and as the car gathers speed, the goods keep dropping in price. Most of the travellers go to the capital and from there to the various places in the mountains. As the sun starts to set, the palm-tree lined Corso livens up. In this respect Larnaca has an advantage, since no other city on Cyprus can boast such a beautiful promenade. Those out for a stroll are accompanied by the rumbling of the ocean and the palm trees, tables and chairs set up outside the coffee shops lend the Corso an air quite different from the rest of Larnaca's rather ugly streets. At dusk, anyone wanting to show off either themselves or their wardrobe will be out and about. There is an extraordinary diversity of races here and conversations are conducted in many different languages. But it is the inhabitants of Larnaca themselves who define the image. More or less well-dressed young girls amble up and down, and amongst them some gentlemen, groups of young fellows, arm in arm, dressed in light summer clothes. And then amid all these people dressed in European style, the colour of the oriental costumes. Groups of Arabs in their long silk gowns and their strange headwear, but also Turks, Armenians, Syrians, Indians and Negroes. And then there are the Greek farmers, visiting Larnaca for pleasure or business reasons, accompanied by their wives, and all of them in their traditional national costumes. Any stranger can take a seat under the palm trees, have the obligatory and fabulously cheap Greek Ouzo or Cognac, and watch the ebb and flow of the crowd. Armenians and Turks walk peacefully side by side here, a sight you might not see elsewhere. And Arab and Turkish women, partly veiled and all in those shapeless robes, reminiscent of nuns' habits and hiding any female form. They prefer fabrics of a single colour in brown, blue, pink or black, a stark contrast to the Greek women, some of whom dress in the very latest fashions. Some of these Cypriot ladies have exaggerated this European touch to a ridiculous extent, and a certain number of these exquisite beauties would be regarded as parodies if they were to appear on the streets of any large European city. The beret is turned into a cheek cover, worn on the extreme right or left, and has evolved to become anything but a head cover. Naturally, there is a lot of face powder and make-up as well, frequently outdoing any European paint jobs. Extremely modern on the outside, but on the same level as their great-grandmother on the inside. The strong moral conventions of the Cypriots, which make it virtually impossible for a woman to ever marry if she has been touched once, are fully evident here. It isn't hard [paper torn] to elicit a confession from married Cypriots that sexual matters are resolved before marriage and amongst the same sex. Thousands of flirtatious exchanges will take place on the Corso with those beautiful, well-built Greek girls, but it will certainly never go beyond the exchange of glances. The risk of being seen in male company, and thus providing fodder for the thriving rumour mongers, is simply too great. The young Greek girls, therefore, spend most of the day indoors and only come out for a walk with their friends when the lights go on at the Corso. Around 8 o'clock the crowds disperse and everyone goes to dinner. The locals return to their homes, strangers to their hotels or to one of the numerous Greek or Turkish restaurants. A Turkish restaurant has the definite advantage of being clean, with the Turks being very fond of cleanliness in general, much more so than the Greeks. Around 9 o'clock everyone congregates again in front of the only two cinemas in town. The cinema owners operate with a very grateful and not very discerning public. Richard Tauber also has lots of fans here and even though the movies he stars in are really old, it is not uncommon for the audience to break into loud and sustained applause. The cinemas are all outdoors, with the indoor facilities used only during the less pleasant seasons. After the movie everyone goes to bed and the town is deserted. There are no cabarets or night clubs here and even though the locals do like dancing, it wouldn't be acceptable for a boy and a girl to be dancing together in one of the public coffee houses. They are probably afraid that the temptation would be too great and when you do hear an old gramophone record playing in one of those dirty and uncomfortable coffee houses, then the boys are dancing to the music by themselves. They say that in the winter months there are some social gatherings organised by the various clubs, but naturally only invited guests are received there and there would be no shortage of chaperoning for the young Cypriot girls. Of course, like in all other large towns on Cyprus, there is a British Club in Larnaca, but the patrons there are mainly Greeks. Opposite the British Club is the German Consulate. As far as the German Consulate is concerned, they don't seem used to seeing any Germans, because any German who finds their way there causes a great deal of consternation. On gaining admission to the office there, one gets the impression that everything in the place has remained as it was in the good old times. Nothing at all points to the fact that there have been changes in Germany since the beginning of the twentieth century. There is a large picture of the former German Emperor hanging above the door and nobody seems to be aware that we have had a President of the Republic for many years now and have recently acquired Hitler as chancellor. Apart from the secretary, who comes from Trieste, nobody speaks German there. On Sundays and public holidays the German Consulate also creates a stir, for while all the other consulates raise their flags, the German colours are nowhere to be found. The German Consulate building also sports the Austrian as well as the Swedish coat of arms. The only thing that seems to count here is to land as many big titles as possible and the title "German Consul" probably sounds good, even on Cyprus. [Reverse page, in handwriting:] The Crosses of Cyprus At last I'll be able to start my trip to Cyprus. I am fed up with the harassment delivered by the chief ofpolice at Anamur. Only today someone searched through all my things; it must have been about the l(fh time. I'm sure I won't get my film negatives back that they took away from me 3 weeks ago and it '11 be best if I leave Turkey and inhospitable Anamur. My folding boat, badly damaged in the sandstorm, is still not really capable of withstanding the channel crossing between Turkey and Cyprus (a distance of about 45 British nautical miles), but there are no materials to fix the boat properly to be found here. I set out at 11 in the evening and the sky is clear and full of stars. And in the distance the light from the lighthouse at Cape [Name illegible] is blinking. According to my nautical map I should be able to see this light for a distance of 15 British nautical miles and by then it should be morning and I hope that I shall be able to see the coast of Cyprus by then. After about two hours the lights of a cruise ship coming from the Gulf of [name illegible] appear at my right, approaching frighteningly fast. Ifor my part have no light on board and since there is virtually no wind, I shall light a sheet of paper if they come too close. So I'm looking for matches and a sheet of paper, but in the excitement that's gripping me I can't find what I am looking for. The cruise ship has come very close already and since it appears to be heading exactly in my direction, I give up the search for the matches which I won't find anyway in my state of excitement. The only thing I can do is to wait until I can make out if I'll be [illegible] by the cruiser from the front or the back. I can already hear people running and then this massive black wall pushes through the water a mere 50 meters behind me. Nobody on the brightly lit cruiser will have any idea that just at that moment deep down below them a person in a boat not even 80 cm wide is breathing a huge sigh of relief. Now that the danger has passed, the matches reappear and I light one in order to have a look at the compass. Towards morning a light wind springs up tempting me to set sail. Sailing and paddling at the same time, I speed along through the slightly ruffled, deep blue waves. Unfortunately it doesn't last and a little after sunrise the wind dies down altogether. A long way away in the distance I can see the coast of Cyprus and I notice that I have drifted off course a lot further that I had calculated in the strong current. This will make my passage longer and I will have to add about 5 — 10 miles to the 45. The sun seems to be in a particular hurry today and the heat has already become unpleasant. Two hours after sunrise it is already so frightfully hot that the intervals in which I put the paddles down get shorter and shorter. The whole day passes like that and when the sun is to the south I am still about 10 miles away from Cyprus. A little wind has sprung up and I approach the coast at a pretty pace. There is a beautiful sunset that evening and while I can hardly see enough of the beautiful colours in the sky, a vision suddenly appears to me which Ifind strangely exciting. There is a spot on the western horizon where the colour changes from purple to orange and I notice two glowing crosses there. A large one glowing brightly and a short distance away and parallel to it, a small dark one. Of course they must be stars, appearing to my naked eye as crosses. I search the rest of the sky to see if any other stars have appeared, but there are none, only those two strangely glowing crosses in the sky. The wind has increased and threatens to develop into a storm. The ocean is covered in white foamy crests and the first waves wash over the boat. In view of the two crosses, the strangest thoughts come to me. Are they meant for me? Does it mean the end? The large one for me, the small one for my little [paper torn, whole line illegible]...water entering the boat, ... snuggling up to me. I am travelling quite fast and approaching the coast quickly, but it will be an hour at least before I am on shore. The sea gets icreasingly wild and I have to take the paddle in hand to keep my balance with the waves crashing down. The orange colour of the sunset fades slowly and darkness sets in. Stars have started to appear in the sky now and my two crosses, shinning so brightly only a short while ago, seem to fading slowly. I also notice a few small lights appearing on the coast: there is probably a village over there. Only an hour ago I was dead tired and about to fall asleep at any moment, but now I feel totally awake. I am fighting desperately against the wind and the water is flooding over me constantly. I am obessed by one thought: over there, where the lights keep getting larger, there is a land, there is sleep, there is [illegible]. I can already see the coast in the darkness, ... longer than half an hour ... [paper torn] .. The extra blanket ... [illegible] isn't totally waterproof and I notice the water level in the boat is rising. I have to keep thinkling about the two crosses and I fight my way away with furious determination. Finally I hear the roar of the breakers above the noise of the wind and now the trick is to approach the shore carefully. But a huge disappointment is in store for me; instead of the sandy shore I had hoped for, there are nothing but cliffs with rock ledges, a number reaching far out into the water. I've been sitting in my small boat for 23 hours, dead tired and exhausted with everything soaked through [paper torn]..., no possibility to land. I [illegible] that I am about 3-4 miles away from Cape Ko ..[illegible] and if I can't find a place to land I'll have to go all the way around the Cape today. But the storm doesn 't allow for lengthy periods of thought. Little Mehmed, the name I gave my young dog, yowls and whimpers; he is definitely not feeling well at all inside the boat any more, since there is no dry spot left anywhere in here, even for him. Luckily, I was able to take down the sail in one piece. ... difficult and dangerous... [paper torn] along the shore. During a short [paper torn]... adjusting the blanket, ...[paper torn] is turning the boat backwards and suddenly I see a huge cross, embedded in the rock and brightly lit and a short distance away a smaller, darker one. The whole thing seems most uncanny: the noise of the waves crashing, the whistling of the wind and yet this quiet, almost unnatural brightly shining cross. Apparently it is only a house, which is built very close to the shore on a rock. I am at the point of moving on, since despite my best efforts I can't seem to be able to locate a place to land, when I suddenly realise that those two crosses, even though they are different in their effect, still bear a close resemblance to my two [paper torn]. And now, on top of all that, while I [paper torn]... the small cross wanders ..[paper torn]. I am not superstitious, but this quietly shining cross with the ..[illegible] small cross appears to me like a mute but insistent warning.
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