Tag Archives: Cyprus

On This Day – Independence Days

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

This time it didn’t work and after only twenty minutes 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.

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?

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EOKA (Ethnikí Orgánosis Kypríon Agonistón or roughly translated National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters) and the outdated colonial rule of the British.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 the Cyprus relies heavily on three things – Russian gangsters and money launderers, wealthy Chinese émigrés escaping the communist regime in Beijing and British visitors with more money than sense to support its economy. Specifically here in 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 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 the circumstances of their deaths and contained their clothes and other personal items – sometimes blood stained for effect.

There are no memorials here (or elsewhere in Cyprus) to the British soldiers who died.

Regardless of the rights and wrongs I found this little museum rather interesting and was glad to come across it because two days earlier I had avoided the Independence museum in Nicosia on the advice of the guide book which said that it was especially anti-British and we might not be all that welcome.

Cyprus celebrates Independence Day on 1st October 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. England hasn’t been successfully invaded since 1066 and whilst we were glad to previously see the backs of the Romans and the Vikings the Norman Invasion has never really been seen as occupation or subjugation but instead something to be proud of.

France doesn’t have an independence day but it does have 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. Similarly Australia whose National Day is 26th January and celebrates not the departure of colonialists but the arrival of the first British Fleet in Sydney Cove in 1788.

Latvia has two Independence Days both from the same oppressor, November 18th (1918) from the Russian Empire and May 4th (1990) from the Soviet Union.

Another interesting fact is that of the one hundred and sixty Worldwide Independence Days fifty-seven (35% of the total) celebrate independence from the British. Whoops! France is second with twenty-eight and Spain third with twenty-one.

Let’s hope for all of us that the Brexit Nationalist dimwits don’t start cheering January 1st as UK Independence Day because I for one won’t be joining in to celebrate a day of National self harm.

On This Day – Crossing The Green Line in Cyprus

This is quite recent, the last time I travelled to Europe before the pandemic locked us down. In February 2020 I qualified for my State Pension and I spent the first month’s payment on a trip to Cyprus. On the 28th February I visited the capital city of Nicosia.

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. Why they can’t have one or two convenient pick up points is a mystery to me but I suppose being picked up at the hotel is a selling point.

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.

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…

Belfast and that is what I call a wall…

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 not the capital city, 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 or at least until getting their passport renewed. I don’t think this is the case anymore but I was relieved when they didn’t stamp the passport because later today I rather wanted to return to Paphos without too much fuss and bother.

Kim at the border crossing…

Stepping over the border there was an immediate change of culture which was impossible to miss. It was like moving into a different time zone. From modern 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, keeping apart the red of Arsenal from the blue of Chelsea.

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. The postcard at the top should have given me a clue – no recognition of Southern Cyprus at all.

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.


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 Independence Day on 1st October 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).

Cyprus, The Tombs of The Kings at Paphos

Greece Coffee Time Cafe Taverna

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.

Flag of Greece

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.

Cyprus Flag

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.

Paphos 02

Cyprus, Preparation and Arrival

Cyprus Postcard Map

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.

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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.

Paphos 04

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.

Aphrodite 01

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.

Paphos 01