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.
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 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 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…