Sun, sea, sand… and steam: Rediscovering Cyprus’ lost railways

Cyprus Railways Museum sheds light on the Mediterranean island’s little-known former rail network

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Cyprus is known for lots of things; gorgeous beaches, meze or even that it was the first place in the world to domesticate cats (nearly 6,000 years before the Egyptians, no less).

However, rail travel is certainly something rarely associated with the Mediterranean island. Yet, between 1905 and 1951 the narrow gauge (2ft 6in or 762mm) Cyprus Government Railway (CGR) carried more than seven million passengers and in excess of three million tons of goods across the country.

Locomotive No. 1
Locomotive No. 1

Today, there is little evidence to suggest that this railway existed at all, but thanks to the opening of a new museum in the Republic of Cyprus and a personal preservation project in Northern Cyprus, during a recent visit to the island, I was able to discover how this former railway was crucial to the development of the country in the first half of the 20th century.

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Top 10 Toulouse

Get ready for take-off on an eclectic city break in France’s aviation powerhouse

While ‘la Ville Rose’ (the Pink City) may not enjoy the same international status as Paris or evoke the glamour of the French Riviera, Toulouse actually gives both a run for their money in the bucket load. Plus, when we spotted flights from London Stansted on Ryanair for less than a meal out, it seemed rude not to give France’s fourth-largest city a whirl.

Toulouse really does have something for everyone, which made narrowing down a ‘top 10’ list really difficult. However, after careful deliberation, below are my favourite places, attractions and places to eat and drink in Toulouse.

1. Place du Capitole

Instantly recognisable from its pink brickwork, the grandiose Place du Capitole makes for an obvious location to start exploring Toulouse. With its eight rosy marble columns, the square is dominated by the Capitole, named after the 12th century administration of the city and remains as the home of its local government.  From just one glimpse of its impressive 135 metre-long neoclassical façade, it is easy to see how Toulouse became the official capital of France’s Languedoc region in the 16th century and has maintained that status under today’s newly-formed Occitanie super region.

Capitole, Place du Capitole
Capitole, Place du Capitole

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The ‘gayest’ city in the world?

Skopje’s classical makeover may be both controversial and kitsch, but we couldn’t get enough of it!

Imagine if Mariah Carey decided to rebuild Ancient Rome… Thankfully, one doesn’t have to conjure up depictions of glitzy statues and wedding-cake style buildings, as such a place exists and it is called Skopje.

From faux neoclassical façades to willow trees plonked in the middle of the river, every nook and cranny of the city centre is an Instagramable dream.

For us gay travellers, it was Warrior on a Horse that did it.

Warrior on a Horse
Warrior on a Horse

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We’re Going on a Bear Hunt in Pristina

Unmissable attraction and wildlife sanctuary for all of Kosovo’s privately kept brown bears

“We’re lost, aren’t we?”

“Err… no…” I replied nervously to my boyfriend.

Clearly, we were lost, but I’d brought us out here and I didn’t want him to think I didn’t know what I was doing, so I frogmarched us deeper in to the Kosovan countryside.

Delfina petrol station
Delfina petrol station

The bus had dropped us off hastily in front of an abandoned petrol station that appeared to have not served a car in the best part of a decade. Passing peeling yellow paint and creaky metal, I noticed a vague sign pointing to our intended destination – Bear Sanctuary Prishtina.

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The Hardest Karaoke Song in the World

It’s a bit of an Icelandic mouthful, but that’s fine by me

I love a bit of karaoke. My go-to song is Shirley Bassey’s ‘Big Spender’, but anything by the Spice Girls or Roxette will do. Clearly, I’m no singer, but I like to think I can give a good performance.  If truth be told, I think most people are happy to grab the microphone for a sing-a-long after a tipple or two.

Regardless, it was music to my ears (see what I did there) when I heard that Inspired By Iceland have combined two of my favourite things – travel and karaoke – to create what is being billed as ‘The Hardest Karaoke Song in the World’ (I also love a challenge).

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Odessan odyssey

From the world’s largest labyrinth to the world’s the world’s first monument to Darth Vader, Odessa makes for an unusual yet captivating city break.

I know the phrase ‘Paris of the…’ gets bandied around all too often, but Odessa may well be worthy of that statement. It’s like the best bits of Paris, Milan and Istanbul have all been mixed in a Slavic hotpot. Plus, just like Barcelona, it boasts stunning beaches mere minutes from the city centre.

Odessa might not seem like the obvious city break destination, but there is plenty to see and do for a short trip, with countless eateries to suit all taste buds and green spaces that are simply captivating.

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