Category Archives: Greece

An Alternative World Showcase at EPCOT

In my last post I took you to Disney and World Showcase at EPCOT.  There are eleven countries showcased at the theme park and some time ago I wondered why it was those particular eleven and speculated on an alternative selection.

Read the Full Story…

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

 

Thursday Doors, Syros in the Greek Islands

Syros 08

As we walked we passed one hundred year old villas and mansions in various states of disrepair that are too expensive to renovate because restrictive planning laws insist on exact restoration due to their historical and cultural importance.  Instead it is cheaper to build new properties so these neglected fine buildings steadily decay and collapse.  One day they will be gone and that will be a real shame.

As the day continued to get hotter, shutters were thrown back like butterfly wings basking in the sunshine, washing hung steaming from open windows and every doorstep had a sleeping cat for decoration.

Read the Full Story…

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

 

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

 

Cyprus, The Archaeological Site at Paphos

Paphos Mosaics 01

On the last day the weather was fine, we had put the coach trip mistake to the Troodos Mountains behind us and we took a final walk from our hotel to Paphos along the sea front, a very pleasant stroll of just over three miles.

My plan, but not Kim’s was to visit the UNESCO archaeological site.  We walked around the perimeter fence which was broken down in places and some people were avoiding the entrance fee by climbing through.  Even free entry could not persuade Kim to make the visit so we walked on past the castle and through the harbour area with its persistent waiters inviting us to sit down and eat and then to the seafront café that we had taken a liking to.

As we sat in the Spring sunshine we debated an option to rip up our return airline tickets and stay in Cyprus a while longer but came to the conclusion that this would be rather reckless so we abandoned the idea.

Paphos 14

We went our separate ways now, Kim took the bus back to the hotel to go the spa and I went to the archaeological site which was declared a UNESCO heritage site in 1980.

The World Heritage list has been around for over sixty years as a consequence of events in 1954 when the government of Egypt announced that it was to build the Aswan Dam, a project that proposed to flood a valley containing priceless treasures of ancient civilizations.  Despite opposition from Egypt and neighbouring Sudan, UNESCO launched a worldwide safeguarding campaign, over fifty countries contributed and the Abu Simbel and Philae temples were taken apart, moved to a higher location, and put back together piece by piece.  At last the World was collectively protecting its treasures.

The site was good value at €2.50 (seniors rate) and I spent over two hours going over about a two thousand five hundred year old city  which turns out to be the most important Greeko/Roman archaeological site in Cyprus.

Paphos Postcard

After the Greeks came the Romans and they adapted the city to their own style and and here I walked around the remains of the Forum, the Temples, the Amphitheatre and sections of the old city wall and inside these the public baths and the once grand villas of the city patricians.  It wasn’t on the scale of Pompeii or Herculaneum of course but as only an estimated 20% of the site has been excavated then who knows what treasures lay buried under the parched dusty fields.

The site was only discovered in 1962 so having lay undisturbed for hundreds of years a lot of treasures that might have been lost to looters is still there, especially the very fine mosaic floors which in turn are being restored and moved to a vast indoor exhibition hall.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

After the Romans left the city was used by the Egyptians, Arab caliphates, the French Lusignan dynasty and then in the Middle Ages it began to be dismantled and used as a quarry and a convenient source of building materials for new towns and villages along the coastline.

We often think that development is all about continuous progress but that is quite wrong.

This is something that has always perplexed me. The Romans built a great city with roads and aqueducts, fresh water and sewage and waste disposal systems, grand villas decorated with mosaics and statues and then medieval man came along during the dark ages and tore them down – not to build something better but to construct something significantly inferior.

I would like to have overheard the town planning debates and the rationale applied to do this. “We don’t need stone roads”, they’d probably say “a muddy track will do just as well.” “We don’t need all these fancy sewers, we’ll dig a hole in the garden!” “We can’t really see the point of all these aqueducts and fresh water filtration systems, we’ll just drink the dirty river water!”  “And finally we don’t need all of these fine villas with air conditioning and shady gardens, we’ll take them down and use the stone to make the foundations for some mud huts!”

I spent a couple of hours at the site and could have stayed much longer but it was late afternoon by now so I left and took the three mile walk along the coastal path back to the hotel.

For our last evening we dined at the cheap kebab restaurant and were entertained by a British ex-pat explaining how good life was and his Russian companion who had clearly overdone the vodka.  We had walked nearly twelve miles today.

We had enjoyed Cyprus and once again contemplated stopping longer but by next morning were ready to go home.  We actually got to stay a few hours longer in Cyprus than we had anticipated however because a fault with the Easyjet plane led to a five hour delay.

The compensation came in handy!

Cyprus Postcard

Cyprus, A Tedious Day in The Troodos Mountains

Cyprus Postcard Map

The tour bus left the village of Omodos just as another coach tour pulled into the vacant parking spot, this is obviously a slick operation which keeps the souvenir shops busy and the tour operators getting their percentage.

It carried on now climbing into the Troodos mountain range, up and up and up through a succession of tight hairpin bends and narrow roads which I have to say quickly became tedious.  There were frequent stops to admire the repetitious scenery but after four hours or so I was completely bored and regretting the decision to sign up for the trip.

The Forest went on and on for mile after mile, a forest it seems to me is much like a desert or the Antarctic and becomes boring after a while.  Actually very quickly.  The tour promised a visit to Mount Olympus but apparently (or conveniently) the road was closed because of snow so the bus just relentlessly carried on.  Our next stop was the burial chamber and tomb of Cyprus independence hero Archbishop Makarios but without any real explanation that was closed as well.

So we drove instead straight to the monastery of Kykkos which was supposed to be the highlight of the tour.  It was alright but not especially spectacular – just a regular Greek Orthodox Church as far as I could make out.

Kykkos Postcard

I had travelled today in shorts which I had suspected early on might be a mistake and now I understood why.  Another man had also travelled in shorts.  Suddenly the tour guide said that we couldn’t enter the church because we were inappropriately trousered.  This seemed absurd as women were wandering around in dresses and skirts that displayed far more leg than I was showing off.

The other man, who’s shorts were similar to mine in terms of length, was shooed off but suddenly I was reprieved and allowed to stay.  I think this was because he was over six foot tall with big long legs but I am a lot shorter than that and having little legs my short trousers were longer than his and therefore considered suitable.

An interesting visit if you really force yourself to be interested but not really worth the long tortuous drive through the mountains to get there.

The Monastery is most famous for an icon, one of three icons attributed to Agios Loukas the Evangelist  (the Apostle Saint Luke). The icon – covered in silver gilt – is in a shrine made of tortoiseshell and mother-of-pearl that stands at the front of the church.  It is considered so important that it is an icon that has served as a basic template for many other paintings depicting the Madonna in eastern Orthodoxy that most people will be familiar with.

According to legend it is apparently dangerous to look at the icon and its top half remains hidden behind a protective covering as it is said that whoever looks at it will be blinded. Well, Cor Blimey! –  interestingly Cor Blimey is an English slang expression which translates as God Blind Me.

The icon is rarely uncovered, although this does happen when considered absolutely necessary.  And here’s a thing.  In recent years there had been a drought affecting Cyprus in response to which the monks of Kykkos Monastery took the icon to Mount Olympus and whilst looking away from the uncovered icon (a very sensible precaution) read a special plea for rain.

The winter of 2019/20 was subsequently the wettest on record in Cyprus and the reservoirs are now full and Cypriots are complaining about how wet it is.

Cor Blimey, sometimes you have to be careful for what you wish for!

Maybe there is something in it but there again the Winter of 2019/20 has been the wettest on record in the UK even without the intervention of the icon.

These are some pictures of copies of the icon.  Do not make eye contact whatever you do…

There isn’t a lot to do at the Monastery site but we had two hours in which to do it.  There were souvenir shops selling crap and a small restaurant also selling crap so we found a seat in the sun and had a moussaka, which happily turned out not to be as crap as it looked and a beer which is happily never crap and waited for the joyous moment that we would be transported back to Paphos.

This took another laborious two hours including a stop at the village where Archbishop Makarios was born where the museum was closed and then a third monastery where the café was closed and most likely had been for the past six months.  Turned out that today was a bank holiday so lots of places were closed all over the country.  No one warned us about that when we booked the tickets.

I was so glad to get back to the hotel and enjoy the last few minutes of sunshine on the balcony with a glass of wine.  It had been a wasted day really and I vowed never to go on a coach trip ever again, I can think of much better ways of wasting a day.  I am not even going to renew my free bus pass now this year!

After sitting for several hours on the coach we only managed six and a half miles walking today.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

Cyprus, The Village of Omodos and the Struggles

Monastery 001

The following day we went on another coach trip.  Were we mad?  I am a believer that the mind cancels out bad things and despite the fact that we had endured a nightmare coach ride to Nicosia only three days previously we set off again, this time to the Troodos Mountains.

After twenty minutes or so I remembered why I had said that I would never do this again as we went through the same tedious routine of picking people up from all over the holiday resort of Paphos.

Just as my head was about to explode we finally we left the city and headed for the mountains first of all through surprisingly green and fertile fields, potatoes, peppers, grapes vines, almonds and olives.  I was expecting a barren landscape similar to  that of Malta for example but it turns out the Troodos Mountains provide abundant water and mountain streams and rivers deliver adequate water to the valleys below to support arable farming on a very large scale.  I was surprised by that.  I learn something new every day.

Troodos 01

After an hour or so we arrived at our first stop – the village of Omodos which turned out to be one of those tourist trap villages where all coaches make a stop-over and the local people pester the life out of you to buy souvenirs that you really do not want or need.  We successfully ignored them all and made our way the centre of the village and the Timios Stavros monastery that we had come to see.

The monastery itself was mildly interesting, mostly icons and incense as you can probably imagine but it was other exhibits on the site which made it really worth going to see.  First of all a room of precious Byzantine icons several hundred of years old;  I am not especially interested in Byzantine icons I have to confess but what fascinated me was the fact that they were just decorating the walls without any protection or security and looking quite vulnerable.  I suspect that there was most likely some CCTV somewhere in the room or maybe they are just not especially valuable.  Who knows?

Omodos Icon 01

Even more interesting was a discreet little museum tucked into a corner room that wasn’t especially well signposted.  It was about the struggle for Cyprus independence which was a bad tempered little spat that took place between 1955 and 1959 between Greek Cypriot freedom fighters in an underground organisation called EOKA (Ethnikí Orgánosis Kypríon Agonistón or roughly translated National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters) and the colonial rule of the British.

Discreet because although Cypriots celebrate independence and consider the terrorist fighters to be resistance heroes I suspect that they don’t really want to offend the hundreds of thousands of British visitors to the country because the reality is that Cyprus relies heavily on British tourism to support its economy and specifically here the tourist shops in Omodos.

I try to be objective in matters like this but the bottom line is that EOKA were terrorists, much like the IRA in Northern Ireland and the Mau Mau in Kenya, and they killed three times as many British soldiers as British soldiers killed Greek Cypriots.  They employed guerilla warfare tactics including sabotage, civil disobedience, civic disruption, cowardly assassinations, ambush and unjustified attacks against police stations, military installations and the homes of army officers and senior officials including civilians and families of army personnel.

the-struggle-museum-in

The museum consisted of display cases honouring each of the freedom fighter heroes who died in the struggle and who came from nearby.  Each case set out details of their lives and deaths and contained their clothes and other personal items.  Regardless of the rights and wrongs I found it to be an interesting little museum.

There are no memorials here to the British soldiers who died.

Cyprus celebrates Indepence Day on 1st April each year.  Worldwide there are one hundred and sixty countries that celebrate an Independence Day.  This sort of thing is quite difficult for us British to understand, we don’t have an Independence Day to celebrate.  Uniquely (I think) we celebrate a day in history when we were conquered and lost our independence and that says something about the British character, that day was the The Battle of Hastings in 1066.

France has a sort of independence day on the 14th July (Bastille Day) to celebrate the end of the Divine Right of Kings. Germany has a Unity Day on 3rd October to celebrate reunification in 1990 and Spain has a National Day on 12th October which celebrates Christopher Columbus reaching the New World and the subjugation of an entire continent, a sort of Independence Day in reverse!

Another interesting fact is that of the one hundred and sixty Worldwide Independence Days fifty-five celebrate independence from the British.  Whoops!

We stopped for a while for a drink in the sunny main square of Omodos and then ran the gauntlet of the souvenir shops for a second time and made our way back to the coach for the next leg of the tour.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

 

Thursday Doors, The Village of Omodos in Cyprus

Omodos is a village in the Troodos Mountains in Cyprus and it has a fine collection of doors…

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

 

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Cyprus, A Stormy Day in Paphos

Paphos 05

On Saturday morning we woke to blue sky and sunshine but the weather forecast was pessimistic, promising storms and winds by lunchtime.  The weather seemed so good that we thought surely they had got it wrong so after breakfast we set off for the three mile walk to the harbour.

We stopped on the way for a haircut for me that I thought was unnecessary but Kim insisted.  It was a bit untidy I confess but it now seems that I will never be allowed to grow that pony tail!

Along the way we stopped at the Catacombs of Agia Solomoni, a gloomy and overrated underground tomb and sanctuary with catacombs with supposedly magic water.  I hoped the magic water would keep the rain away so I made a wish.  We didn’t stop long but passed by to the twelfth century church of Agia Kyriaki which turned out to be well worth the visit.  Among the excavations are some Roman columns, one of which is called Saint Paul’s pillar.  It seems that Saint Paul visited the island to preach Christianity but the Roman Governor took exception to this and had him flogged.  Poor old Saint Paul seemed to spend a lot of his life being flogged it seems.

Paphos 04

A lot of the walk into Paphos was completely dull and uninteresting along a strip of charmless grey car hire offices, car parks, travel companies, estate agents, every so often an Irish Pub and a modern but  unfortunate McDonald’s restaurant.  There is always a McDonald’s restaurant.  But closer to the harbour and the older sections there was a more interesting mix of history and styles.

Paphos 11

As we walked we strayed away from the main streets into backstreet areas where some people hang to the old ways like stubborn barnacles clinging to a rock.  Houses from the past which take up space that modern developers would love to get their hands on but people will obviously not give them up easily.  Mostly old people of course and I imagine that once they have gone their families will happily sell up and cash in.

I had to include a door of course…

IMG_0080

Our plan was to walk to the sea front and stop for refreshment in a place that we had found and liked but we didn’t get all the way to the harbour because as it turned out,  despite my reluctance to believe them, the weather forecasters knew better than us after all so at about the half way point and with angry grey clouds building ominously above us we did the sensible thing and turned around.

Paphos 06

Back at the hotel I sat in the last of the midday sun and with head down reading a book failed to notice the approaching storm.  Suddenly the shrapnel rain hit the balcony like the unexpected Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and I had to make a dash to the room.  That was it then for the remainder of the afternoon.  Two hours stuck in a bedroom watching afternoon TV and every now and again optimistically peering out of the window into the murky gloom as storm clouds swept in relentlessly from the west.

Luckily there was a small shop in the hotel and we had some wine to share.

After a couple of hours the storm passed, Kim went to the hotel spa for a massage and because I am not keen on body massages administered by a stranger I went instead for a walk along the coastal path in an invigorating force seven gale. The gale force wind gave me all of the massage that I needed!

Later we debated dining options.  There were more storms so should we risk the walk to the nearby restaurants about a mile away or settle for the hotel dining room.  Kim wanted to take the risk but I was a lot more cautious and advised against it.  We chose the latter option which turned out to be a bad mistake, my mistake of course, a poor menu and tables of seriously unruly Israeli families close by.  I was obliged to agree that we should have taken the storm risk, like I said before I sensibly leave restaurant choices to Kim.

Despite the bad weather we had surprisingly managed to walk just over ten miles today.

Storm Ship

Cyprus, Crossing The Green Line in Nicosia

Cyprus-Map-with-Postcards

One of the places that I was determined to visit in Cyprus was the capital Nicosia.  I thought I might hire a car and drive there but I changed my mind when I saw daily coach trips advertised as a much cheaper option.  With an eye for a bargain I signed up for the tour.

What a mistake that turned out to be.  One of the first to be picked up we spent a tedious hour driving around Paphos collecting up everyone else.

Eventually however we hit the highway and were on our way.  The coach had an informative guide who entertained us with a commentary about the history of Cyprus which came to the story of the Turkish invasion and the current partition of the island into Greek South and Turkish North.

north_cyprus_2017_1

This was an interpretation from a firmly Greek Cypriot point of view in which the Turks were always the bad guys and villains but every story has two sides to it so I researched it later.  This is my neutral interpretation…

  1. During the thousand year Byzantine Period beginning in 330AD the Greeks moved to Cyprus
  2. Ottoman Empire and the Turks take control of Cyprus and suppress the Greeks in 1571
  3. 1832 and the unification of Greece and Cyprus aspires to Unity
  4. 1887 Russo-Turkish War, Turkey loses and Britain acquires Cyprus
  5. 1914 Turkey joins the WW1 on side of Germany and Britain annexes Cyprus
  6. 1955 Greek Cypriots want Britain out and a union with Greece. This is the last thing that Turkish Cypriots want
  7. 1955-59 a terrorist war in support of Union and the Turks support Britain
  8. 1959 An independent Cyprus. No union with Greece but Cyprus is one country
  9. 1974 a failed Greek backed coup d’état with objective of Union with Greece
  10. Turkey invades Cyprus and the country is partitioned and divided and remains so today. Northern Cyprus recognised by only Turkey. All of Cyprus (north and south is in the European Union as one country (very confusing). Creek Cyprus no longer aspires to Union with Greece. Diplomatic talks continue to resolve the division issue.

Facts

  1. More Turks than Greeks were killed in the troubles
  2. More British troops than Freedom Fighters were killed in the troubles
  3. The UK Government paid out millions of pounds in compensation to Greek Cypriots who fought a guerilla war against Britain
  4. No compensation has been paid by Cyprus to the families of murdered British soldiers

As I said there are always two sides to a story and in this case there are three but the lesson for anyone who wants to make a claim for anything is that if you are going to sue anyone sue the British Government because we are real pushovers!

I wanted to see Nicosia because only recently I had visited a previously divided city – Berlin.  It is said that Nicosia is the only remaining divided city in Europe but I am not certain that this is true because I recalled visiting Belfast in Northern Ireland which has a massive wall dividing Catholics and Protestants, Unionists and Nationalists and the gates are closed every night to keep people apart.

Berlin…

Berlin Wall 04

Belfast and that is what I call a wall…

Northern Ireland Belfast Peace Line

We arrived in Nicosia about mid morning and I was immediately disappointed.  I am not sure what I was expecting but this wasn’t it.  It is a grubby sort of place, grey, boxy and falling apart and in need of a lot of attention, an awful lot of attention.  Anything worth seeing is neglected and deteriorating.  A bit like Coventry.  In 2017 Paphos was awarded European Capital of Culture status and I wondered why, ten minutes into Nicosia and I understood exactly why.

We made straight away for the border where we needed passports to cross to the Turkish side.  Not so long ago it was said that if anyone visited Northern Cyprus and had their passport stamped then they would not be allowed to visit the South or anywhere in Greece ever again.  I don’t think this is the case anymore but I was relieved when they didn’t stamp the passport because later today I wanted to return to Paphos.

Kim at the border crossing…

Nicosia border

Stepping over the border there was an immediate change of culture which was impossible to miss.  From Europe we passed into Asia with minarets, souks and bazaars, a constant call to Muslim prayers and a completely different atmosphere.  The border is called the Green Line and this is because green is a neutral colour, not the blue of Greece or the red of Turkey.  That is how sensitive people are about the partition issue.  I understood straight away why the Cyprus problem is so difficult to resolve.

The Green Line is rather like the London Underground District (Green) Line that separates north London from the South, the red of Arsenal from the blue of Chelsea.

London District Line

An example.  The city map that we had been given in the south had no street details for North Nicosia.  We got hopelessly lost and I showed the map to some local people who claimed complete ignorance about their city geography and refused to help.  I think it may have been because the Greek Cypriot map referred to it as an area under Turkish occupation.  Not very smart of me to show it to them and expect any sort of assistance because they are a bit touchy about their status.

We groped our way back to the border and stopped for lunch before crossing.  It seemed to me that most people in northern Nicosia were not especially happy people.

Back in the south we had two dreary hours to wait for the coach. We walked the walls, found the rather impressive Liberty Monument and the less than impressive City Cathedral and came to the Museum about the struggles which warned that it wasn’t really for British people who might be offended by the content so we walked on; strange really because after dodgy Russian investment the Cyprus economy relies heavily on British tourism.  Rather unnecessary in my opinion, it could have been worse they could have had the Russians!

We weren’t disappointed to meet the coach for the return trip to Paphos. We dined at a cheap kebab taverna later.  We had walked eleven and a half miles.

Kim joins the line of Cypriots released from seventy years of British oppression.  It isn’t often that I get defensive but I really don’t think so, without the British Cyprus might still be part of the Ottoman Empire or worse still, the Third Reich!

Nicosia Liberty Monument

Thursday Doors, Nicosia in Cyprus

Nicosia Door 005

Nicosia turned out to be rather a disappointment, a city of crumbling grey concrete, abandoned cars and fly tips.  I didn’t care for the place a great deal.  Here is a rather sad collection of neglected doors…

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Thursday Doors, Amorgos in the Greek Islands

Amorgos 09

After walking around the village we set off back to Aegiali and came across a group of walkers who enthusiastically showed us a short cut but it was down a tricky path and they had stout walking shoes with leather non-slip soles and knotted laces and we had inadequate synthetic sandals with dodgy Velcro so we ignored the advice and stuck to the road instead.

Read the Full Story…

Click on an Image to scroll through the Gallery…

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).