The approach to the harbour town was probably the most spectacular of all the islands that we have visited flanked on both sides by colourful neoclassical houses in a riot of complimentary pastel shades, contrasting wooden shutters, decorative iron balconies and red tiled roofs.
Category Archives: Greek Taverna
Welcome to my latest theme. Monday Washing Lines.
I am in the Greek Islands again this week on the island of Milos. I include this picture because of the attention to detail in the peg work…
It is almost a perfect 10 but if you look more closely what lets it down slightly is the unequal distribution of colours – eight red and six green. Seven of each would have been perfection. This has led to a simple error because the red-green red-green red-green sequence is not carried through along the whole length of the washing line. A real pity that.
It is a Challenge. Do feel free to join in…
After we had approved of and settled in to our room we sat for a while on the sunny balcony before going out, walking from the hotel along the seafront and then back to the busy road to look for restaurant opportunities for later.
Kim as an uncanny knack of good restaurant selection and today was no exception. She found a promising looking Greek Taverna with blue and white chairs and tables and pristine check table cloths, also blue and white and declared it the place to eat later. I always leave restaurant selection to Kim.
Cyprus is not Greece, it used to aspire to being part of Greece, but not any longer, both Greece and Cyprus are members of the European Union and for Cyprus this is the next best thing to political union. Cyprus is more prosperous than Greece so is not going to step into an economic crisis over issues of nationality. Even so, most places fly the blue and white flag of Greece in preference to the official flag of Cyprus.
The Greek flag is called “Galanolefci” which simply means “blue and white”. Originally it was blue with a white diagonal cross. The cross is now situated in the upper left corner, and symbolizes the Christian faith. Blue is the colour of the sea, and Greece being a seafarers country it could hardly have any other colour. Blue is also a lucky colour, which will ward off evil according to superstition. White is the colour of freedom, and that is something the Greeks hold very dear after years of enslavement under the Turkish Ottoman Empire. The nine stripes each symbolize a syllable in the Greek motto of freedom: E-LEY-THE-RI-A-I-THA-NA-TOS, which translates into the bold statement – Freedom or Death.
Cyprus is one of only two countries in the World (and the first) which has the map of the country on its flag, the other by the way is Kosovo.
We ate in the Greek restaurant later, Kim had beef stifado and I had Greek chicken with orzo and we drank some house wine from a chipped jug and it was very, very good!
The next morning we ate breakfast in the hotel dining room which was just short of OK!
Mid morning and we took the walk to Paphos seafront and stopped on the way at the archaeological site ‘The Tombs of the Kings’, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A very impressive place as it turned out with unrestricted access to all of the site and the ancient burial chambers and tombs.
Nothing in them of course because anything of value has long since been removed and robbed. The main culprit of this was an Italian/American consul to Cyprus (1865-1877) called Luigi Palma di Cesnola who carried out unauthorised excavations which resulted in the discovery of a large number of antiquities which he stole and tried to ship back to New York. The ship he commissioned to transport an estimated thirty-five thousand stolen items was sunk in a storm and the plunder remains lost.
In Cyprus he is considered to be a villain and his actions are still considered to tantamount to looting.
Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…
I mention this because several years ago I visited the Acropolis Museum in Athens which is a contentious site because of the missing Parthenon (Elgin) marbles.
The blood-curdling descriptions of Lord Elgin as a looter and a robbing pirate seemed especially designed to stimulate a reaction from visitors from the USA who were encouraged to gasp in awe that an Englishmen could have done such terrible things. One man said that he would promptly write to the British Prime Minister to demand their return. If I had known about the American looter at the time I would have tapped him on the shoulder and told him the thieving story of Luigi Palma di Cesnola.
I liked the Tombs of the Kings almost as much as Pompeii and Herculaneum in Italy, except for a few information boards there is no attempt at restoration or interpretation and I think it is better for that. Interesting also that although there are no restrictions or security guards there is no damage or graffiti.
We left the site and continued our walk towards the harbour of Paphos where we had to run the gauntlet of restaurant sharks trying to lure prey towards their waterside tables.
At the end of the harbour was a small castle, the entrance charge was €2.50 which seemed like a lot for such a small castle but I can never resist a castle so paid up and made the five minute visit to the top. To put things into perspective it had been the same charge at the Tombs of the Kings and we had spent almost two hours there and could have stayed longer.
Away from the harbour we selected a small bar for a drink and then in the early afternoon strolled back to the hotel and wasted what was left of the afternoon sitting in the sunshine on the balcony of our room. Later we returned to the same restaurant for evening meal. We had walked twelve and a half miles today.
I was tired of the long dreary English Winter, especially this Winter with almost two months of continuous wind and rain I was in need of sunshine so cheap flights to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus at only £45 return were just too good to turn down.
I had been to Cyprus before in 1998 but that was a family holiday spent at the hotel swimming pool and on the beach at the Olympic Napa Hotel close to the noisy resort of Ayia Napa and I rather foolishly neglected to see anything much of the country on that occasion so this time I thought that I would put that right.
Ayia Napa has a reputation as a sleazy sort of holiday destination so as this time we were to be staying on the opposite side of the island I had no plans to return there on this occasion. In a 2017 survey it was in the top ten of European destinations that are spoiled by boozy Brits. The others (in no particular order) were Kavos in Corfu; Red Sea resorts in Bulgaria; Magaluf, Barcelona and Benidorm in Spain; Malia in Crete, Riga in Latvia and Hvar in Croatia. Such surveys make me ashamed to be British.
In preparation for travel I carried out my usual research and used my favourite benchmarks to try and understand the country that I was visiting.
I started as usual with the Human Development Index which ranks countries by level of ‘human development’ and the statistic is composed amongst other criteria from data on life expectancy, education and per-capita gross national income. Cyprus is ranked thirty-first, out of one hundred and eighty-nine, one place ahead of Greece and which is regarded as quite high.
Next I look at the Europe Happiness Index and it is rated at only twenty-second out of thirty which is not so good. Finland is the happiest and Albania (no real surprise) the least jolly.
The Country has three UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the entire Paphos region which is where we would be staying.
Cyprus is famous for its Mediterranean beaches which stretch for roughly four-hundred miles and along this coastline are sixty-five Blue Flag Beaches which means an award winning beach every six miles or so.
My next measure is always the Eurovision Song Contest and Cyprus has participated in the annual contest thirty-six times since its debut in the 1981. So far it has failed to produce a winning entry and the best performance was to finish second in 2018.
Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea after Sardinia and Sicily and together with Malta one of only two independent European countries. Both were previously ruled by Great Britain and as a consequence drive on the left hand side of the road and have a UK electrical system which means no need for European adaptors. This would later be an inconvenience but I will come to that.
Every Greek Island has its own special Deity and Cypus has Aphrodite who it is claimed was born in the sea close to Paphos. In Greek mythology Aphrodite was the Goddess of Love and Beauty. She was married to Hephaestus but was frequently unfaithful to him.
In truth she was a bit of a slapper – in the Odyssey, she is caught in the act of adultery with Ares, the god of war. In the First Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, she seduces the mortal shepherd Anchises. Aphrodite was also the surrogate mother and lover of the mortal shepherd Adonis and along with Athena and Hera, she was one of the three goddesses whose feud resulted in the beginning of the Trojan War. She was also the patron goddess of prostitutes.
In 2019 I visited Berlin in Germany twice. Berlin was once a divided city and I saw the remains of the wall. Cyprus and its capital Nicosia remains a divided city, the last divided city in Europe (for the time being because history teaches us nothing). After visiting Berlin I was interested to visit Nicosia and if possible cross the Green Line between Cyprus Greece and Cyprus Turkey. I will come to that later.
We arrived in Cyprus early in the afternoon and a complimentary taxi transfer whisked us the ten miles or so to the Capital Coast hotel, just a short drive north out of the city. A 1980’s hotel in need of some refresh and attention but we didn’t complain because we were given an upgrade room to a sea view (I had only booked a cheaper garden view) so we unpacked, settled down, sat on the balcony in the sunshine and opened a bottle of Cyprus beer and popped the cork of a bottle of a local wine.
This was light years away from the wind and rain and late winter gloom of the east of England.
In my opening Corfu post I mentioned that I had prepared for the visit by reading Gerald Durrell’s ‘My Family and Other Animals’ which forms a sort of Corfiot trilogy alongside brother Laurence’s ‘Prospero’s Cell’ and Henry Miller’s ‘The Colossus of Marousi’ all written about many of the same places, and often the same people, but from very different perspectives.
”…the little bay lies in a trance, drugged with its own extraordinary perfection – a conspiracy of light, air, blue sea and cypresses” – Lawrence Durrell
I have been to the Greek Island of Corfu several times, I have stayed at the village of Kalami (above) several times but this didn’t stop me going again and we travelled on this occasion with our good friends Mike and Margaret.
I first visited Corfu thirty-five years previously and spent a couple of days driving around the island and secretively I had a plan to do so again this time and see what changes there have been over the years.
From the picturesque Kalami Bay we headed first to the north of the island to the fishing village of Kassiopi where we stopped for breakfast by the waterside. We were following in the footsteps of visitors more famous. I am not just talking about the Durrell’s of Corfu because according to legend, the Ancient Greek hero Odysseus stopped here for a while, the Roman Emperor Tiberius built a villa nearby and the King of England Richard the Lionheart dropped in on his way home from the Third Crusade shortly before he was captured and held to ransom.
In 1984 I had stopped for lunch in Kassiopi and by using the castle as a point of reference I am almost certain that I found the very taverna. More shops and bars of course but the harbour was the same and the Byzantine castle still stood standing proud above the village.
After a Greek breakfast we walked along a cliff top path with good views across the sea to nearby smoky Albania. Below us boats were gently swaying in the whispering breeze and gently resting on a multi coloured sea which was butter milk cream over the wave polished stones, vivid blue over the caramel sand and imperial purple over the swaying weed.
I liked Kassiopi in 1984 and I liked it again today.
A postcard from 1984…
And a picture from 2019…
From Kassiopi we drove west now along the north coast of the island until we arrived at the village of Roda. Before the tourist boom I am told that this was a sleepy little place with a cluster of showily brilliant cottages surrounding a tranquil village square but it is quite different today as British pubs and bars compete for business and tattooed holidaymakers decorate the rather untidy beach.
I couldn’t remember Roda especially well and I am not that surprised because to be brutal there is not much to recommend it unless you want an all day English breakfast or a pint of Guinness in the Irish Bar so we didn’t stay too long but continued our drive to Sidari.
A postcard of Roda from 1984…
Sidari is famous for its erosion sculptured red sandstone cliffs and I remembered these well enough but even so these looked rather different today from the picture in the postcard below and I couldn’t find this arch anywhere so can only assume that over the intervening years it has been swept away by the sea.
In 1984 Sidari was a quiet, almost remote place, with a dusty main street with only a handful of tavernas and shops off the main road but today it is one of the liveliest places on the island and a favourite with youngsters.
A postcard from 1984…
We walked along a beach adorned with white umbrellas like upturned scallop shells each sheltering a pale creature from another land in the north who had come here in search of the sun but now retreating from its remorseless intensity. Someone should have told them to check the weather forecast before renting a sunbed today because rain was on the way.
All along the beach there are tavernas and bars all looking for customers and the good thing about competition is that this drives the prices down so we picked one out and had a very good value beer and a gyros and finished eating just as we felt the first spots of rain.
The drive back in the downpour was something of a challenge on a difficult potholed road surface but thankfully I wasn’t in the driving seat and Mike skilfully negotiated the conditions and got us back safely just as the rain was easing and blue skies were starting to reappear.
As the rain cleared the view from the balcony was magnificent, the green sweeping hills, the sea in its multi coloured splendour and the bleached beach, a crescent of sparkling shingle. We watched as the day visitors packed their belongings and left as darkness descended, the raucous chant of the cicadas was replaced by the spooky whistles of the Scops Owls and the twinkling lights of the sea front tavernas began to illuminate the edge of the beach inviting diners to drop by like candles attracting moths.
We selected a taverna and chose several plates of Greek traditional dishes and sat by the water’s edge next to the sea, lit up now by a copper moon, a bottomless ink black and silent but for the sound of the occasional wave caressing the polished pebbles.
As I looked across to the White House I imagined Lawrence Durrell sitting on his balcony and enjoying exactly the same view while searching for literary inspiration and discovering himself.
Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…
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 leather walking shoes with knotted laces and we had inadequate sandals with synthetic soles so we ignored the advice and stuck to the road instead.
We walked through arches and buttresses, past turrets and balconies and occasionally here and there a little oasis of green amongst the dusty streets and then interesting narrow roads and every one with a surprise around each crooked turn.
In the late afternoon we walked to the top of the town and climbed to the top of the restored clock tower next to Sulliman’s Mosque for some good views of the town and the harbour. There was an entrance charge of €5 but that turned out to be good value because the price included a drink in the roof top bar terrace where we sat and enjoyed the views.