Cyprus at a glance

I arrived in Larnaca airport, Cyprus on the 14th of September. This was my first visit to Cyprus and I was looking forward to exploring the country. As I stepped out of the airport's doors, I quickly realized I had not been quite prepared for the weather. I knew it was going to be hot, but I wasn't expecting 38 degrees in the middle of September. I made my way to the shuttle bus which connects the airport to the capital of Cyprus, Nicosia (referred to by locals as Lefkosia). The trip was half an hour long and was filled with picturesque views. As I have not been that far south before, it was interesting to see how different the landscape is. Upon our arrival in Nicosia, I had the chance to discover the characteristic architecture found on the island. It is completely different from back home and it is well suited for the climate. Almost every building was painted in light colors and most had solar panels on top of their roofs. Cyprus is by far the sunniest place I have been to in my entire life.

My visit to Cyprus marked the beginning of my research career as a PhD in the EU project HPC-LEAP. High performance computing is ubiquitous in cutting edge research and is at the heart of the project. The interdisciplinary nature of the problems tackled in HPC-LEAP, brought together a body of experts from variety of disciplines. I was delighted to be selected for the project and I was looking forward to meeting everyone involved.

The kick-off meeting took place at the Cyprus Institute, a modern and stylish research complex with a beautiful view over the city. I made my way to the venue straight from the airport. I was surprised how easy it was to navigate in Nicosia, English is spoken by the majority of people on the island with ease. I arrived just on time for the start of the programme and was thrilled to meet everyone. After a brief exchange with few of my future colleagues we were invited to attend a talk by Professor Constantia Alexandrou providing an overview of the HPC-LEAP project. Later that day, the official start of the programme was given by the minister of education in Cyprus. This fact alone highlighted the importance of the project for the general public and its expected impact on science and education.
On the next day, I had the chance to meet one of my future supervisors, Professor Constantia Alexandrou. We had a difficult task ahead of us - preparing a plan for my PhD. The nature of the programme is such that each student has to travel on regular basis to different locations in Europe for workshops, secondments or conferences. It was important to devise a plan which provided balance between time spent in each PhD awarding institution and time spent on other activities. After the plan was finalized, the long day of discussions came to an end with an appetizing dinner in an elegant restaurant in the center of Nicosia.

The last day of the conference was more relaxed. In the afternoon we were invited to a tour around the old center of Nicosia. I was delighted to explore the complex history of Cyprus and to learn more about the architecture, culture and people’s way of life. There are two main languages spoken on the island, Greek and Turkish. Naturally, there are two main religions Orthodox Christianity and Islam. Followers of the former are predominantly found in the southern part of Cyprus and followers of the latter in the northern. Due to a complicated political conflict, the island is divided in two parts with a border crossing the center of Nicosia. During our tour we visited both sides, we entered a mosque, an Orthodox church and a splendid old house of a wealthy Cypriot merchant (used nowadays by the University of Cyprus). Our visit to the church brought back memories of my home country, Bulgaria. Although considering myself agnostic, I was brought up in a country where the main religion is Orthodox Christianity. I was familiar with the architecture and the customs characteristic of that faith. This however was not an ordinary church, although relatively small in size, it contained icons of tremendous value with beautiful ornamentation depicting scenes from the Bible. Our visit to the mosque was equally captivating. Having been in mosques only handful of times, it was interesting to observe how different the architecture was compared to Christian temples. Before entering a mosque one has to take off his/her shoes. There was a splendid carpet covering the whole floor, starting from the entrance, reaching over to every corner of the temple. The atmosphere inside was majestic, the tranquility and quietude of the place were palpable.

At our time of departure from the mosque, the sun had already started setting. The view was magnificent and provided an appropriate end to three wonderful days in Cyprus. My studies are going to bring me back to the island for a longer period time. I am thrilled to have the chance to explore Cyprus at more than just a glance.