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.
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…