louis rapoport 88.
(photo credit: )
It was hot when we got off the small plane outside Nicosia. The olive trees and dusty landscape on the ride to Nicosia reminded me of the one we had just left behind in Jerusalem.
It turned out that Louie and I were the only tourists staying at the hotel - in all of Cyprus, it seemed. Turkey had invaded Cyprus several months earlier, dividing the island, including Nicosia, into Turkish and Greek enclaves, each one closed off to the other.
We had arranged while in Israel to meet Myriam, a Romanian-born Israeli now married to a Greek Cypriot living in Nicosia, who, for a small fee, took care of the bureaucracy involved in making couples like us, who couldn't or wouldn't get married in Israel, legal. Plump and sweaty in a cotton sundress, she was friendly, the kind of warm, chatty person one does or doesn't like immediately. She told us to pick a date, but warned that we'd have to wait three or four days for her to secure the license.
How lucky I felt to be marrying this man who wanted June 16 because it was James Joyce's Bloomsday!
LOUIE AND I explored plain-looking Nicosia over the next few days. He bought a white shirt with thin red stripes for the big day. Although Louie's press card gave us entry to areas occupied by the Turkish army outside Nicosia, inside the city we were confined to the Greek sector. The Old City where the Turkish Cypriots lived was off-limits.
Late one night, Myriam and her husband took us to an outdoor restaurant-cafÃ©; noisy families were sitting at sidewalk tables, drinking and eating the one available dish - small chunks of slowly cooked lamb served in ceramic bowls directly from the outside clay oven.
JUNE 16 was a sparkling, sunny morning. Myriam picked us up at the hotel and we drove to the District Office for the civil ceremony - Louie wearing his new shirt and jeans, and me in an off-white sleeveless dress I had bought in Tel Aviv.
Myriam and a local man were our witnesses. The judge sat unsmiling behind his polished wood desk. The only light in the room came through the slanted slats of the window shutters; the only sound, except for our voices answering a number of short questions, was the whirring of a useless ceiling fan.
After about five minutes, Louie and I were husband and wife. We kissed Myriam good-bye, had a light champagne lunch and then set out from Nicosia in a rented car.
We drove slowly up a narrow, winding road - or cliff's edge it seemed to me at the time, cluttered with fallen rocks - to a village in the Troodos Mountains. Fortunately, no car tried to pass us from the opposite direction.
We were the only foreigners there. We walked along the village promenade, strolled along shady streets past cafes and small shops, and bought a locally made tablecloth for home and a black blouse for me that had little pink and green embroidered flowers.
Whatever happened to that blouse?
WE SPENT a day in the port city of Limassol, the only ones on the beach. We traveled to Turkish-occupied Bellapais, a beautiful village, white stucco and purple bougainvillea everywhere. We stared at the house where Lawrence Durrell wrote Bitter Lemons almost 20 years before our visit.
Then to Kyrenia, the port town from which our future Greek-speaking neighbor was forced to flee. An ex-pat British woman was still running her large beachfront restaurant; there was a clear view of the sea through huge open windows and all the tables were set, waiting but empty of customers except for Louie and me and a few bored Turkish soldiers picking their teeth.
Back in Nicosia, Louie made an appointment to interview the influential leader of the Socialist Party, a man backed by the Arab states and the Russians.
He thought Louie had said over the phone that he wrote for the Village Voice, a leftish New York City paper, but laughed when we showed up and agreed to speak to the Israeli journalist from The Jerusalem Post and his new wife. I meant to ask Louie about that phone call.
Louie also interviewed one of the instigators of a failed plot to unite Cyprus with Greece. He told us, "Call me Samson."
Samson invited us to the locked compound where he, his friendly blonde British girlfriend and his tough-looking bodyguards stayed when he came to Nicosia. A long table had been prepared outside for lunch. During the meal, to emphasize a point I've since forgotten, Samson lifted up his shirt to show me scars running down his chest to his belly from torture by the British in the 1950s. Throughout lunch, I kept moving my legs to avoid his searching ones from touching mine underneath the table.
It was a short trip, a wonderful one. We flew back to Israel married, tan and happy.
Louis Rapport was a senior editor at The Jerusalem Post and the author of six books.