Our main trip of the summer was to be to Cyprus. For those that don’t know, Cyprus is an island country in the Eastern Mediterranean, south of Turkey, north of Egypt and to the west of Israel. The history has been traced back way before Christ, ad has been occupied by most of the ancient powers, the Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians and Ottomans. In 1878 it was placed under British administration and annexed in 1914. In the 1950’s, Turkish Cypriots sought to create a Turkish State in the North, while mainly Greek Cypriots in the south were considering union with Greece. In 1960 Cyprus became independent. In 1963 violence between the North and South broke out, with United Nations forces sent in to try and keep the peace. In 1967, I was born in Akrotiri, in the South of the country! In 1974 the Greek Cypriots staged a coup to make Cyprus part of Greece, and a Turkish invasion immediately followed in the north. In 1983 a separate Turkish Cypriot state was declared with Turkey alone recognising the new state. This remains an ongoing political situation, with a UN buffer zone between the occupied north, and the republic controlled south. Under international law, the occupation is considered illegal – but like many Middle Eastern issues – it is not going to be an easy one to solve!
So – how about a history lesson to start a report? I don’t do that very often! Anyway, this was a chance to take Shanhong to see the country of my birth – staying in the south, and basing ourselves in Paphos, a beautiful mix of ancient history and modern tourism in the West of the island – a European Capital of Culture for 2017. We went ‘all-inclusive’ so stayed in a lovely hotel with great rooms and facilities, and almost unbelievable food, as the following gallery will show!
We visited two of the main cultural sites of Paphos. Firstly, Paphos Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for the excavation (so far) of four large and elaborate Roman Villas, all with superb preserved mosaic floors. Located next to Paphos harbour, we also visited the Byzantine Fort.
Another day saw us visiting ‘The tombs of the Kings’, just north of the harbour. The underground tombs, many of which date to the 4th Century BC, are carved out of solid rock, and are thought to have been the burial sites of Paphitic aristocrats and high officials.
Of course, Paphos is now a thriving tourist resort, so we also enjoyed walking around the modern parts of the city, and along the sea-front, stopping for a cold drink or ice-cream in the beautiful sunshine!
So there you have our first Cyprus report – more to come!Trevor, Shanhong & Teddy xx
I have already mentioned that I was born in Cyprus, and it was places from my early childhood that I wanted Shanhong to see; hence, we booked a full day trip to Kourion and Kolossi. Even the journey there was special as we passed both Aphrodite’s Rock (the legend which has given Cyprus its Chinese name) and Happy Valley, a recreational ground where we would go and kick a ball around!
Aphrodite’s rock, or Petra tou Romiou is a sea-stack located off the main road from Paphos. According to legend, this rock is the site of the birth of the goddess Aphrodite, who appeared from the white foam in the water. A local myth is that anyone swimming around the rock will be blessed with eternal beauty.
Our first ‘proper’ stop for the day was at Kourion. Whilst occupation of this area has been traced to 5000 BC, the Kingdom of Kourion was established around 1000BC and reached the climax of its influence in the Roman period. In the later 4th Century, Kourion was hit by five strong earthquakes within a period of eighty years and suffered near total destruction. The majority of the remains that have been excavated can be traced to the Roman and Byzantine periods and consist of the main theatre, the sanctuary of Apollo Hylates (including baths) and a number of residences. The theatre in particular is very well preserved, has great acoustics and is still used today as a venue for the International Festival of Ancient Greek Drama.
Our next stop was Kolossi Castle, a former Crusader stronghold which held strategic importance in the middle ages, as it contained facilities for the production of sugar, one of Cyprus’ main exports of the time. The present castle was built in 1454 by the Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem.
After Kolossi, it was a short drive to some of the pretty villages, including Omodos, where we stopped for lunch, a visit to the church, and a walk around the village.
So – there you have it – a great day out!All the best, Trevor, Shanhong & Teddy xxx
Another day trip promised an opportunity to see ‘traditional’ Cyprus, and so we booked! After being picked up at the hotel, our first stop was the village of Yeroskipou where we saw traditional pottery being thrown, as well as the famous loukomia being made (Cypriot ‘Turkish Delight’). We also visited the five-domed church of St Paraskevi, built in the 9th Century on the site of the ancient temple of Aphrodite.
From here, we drove to the village of Letymbou, where we visited a traditional style house and enjoyed a home-make breakfast of village bread sprinkled in olive oil with fresh halloumi cheese. Delicious!!
Nicely filled, we got back on the bus, and headed to the Saint Neophytos monastery and the ‘Enkleistra’, an enclosure which was carved out of the mountain in the 12th Century by the hermit Neophytos. The main church of the monastery was built around 200 years after the death of Neophytos and is dedicated to the virgin Mary.
Our final stop was a local winery, where we not only got to see the production process, but, naturally also got to sample the final products! Cyprus has a significant wine industry, dating back 6000 years, and is best known for its Commandaria sweet wine (first made at Kolossi Castle!). Most wine production remains based on a few varieties of local grape such as Mavro and Xynisteri, although international varieties are also cultivated. Unfortunately, although happy to have a taster, I really am not a fan of wine – give me a good Spanish Sangria any day!
Hopefully you enjoyed this little trip with us! It was nice to get out into the little villages - and the fresh halloumi with the oil-sprinkled bread is a top memory of the Cyprus trip…. I’ve always enjoyed Cypriot cheese!
Take care! Trevor, Shanhong & Teddy xx
The Troodos mountains were originally mined for Copper, which explains the orange/brown colour of the island on its national flag. They later became a centre for Byzantine art as churches and monasteries were built into the mountains. In the modern day, the peak of Mount Olympus at 1952m, houses an RAF/NSA security listening post, as well as a ski resort. We booked a jeep tour to enjoy the scenic ‘off road’ route!
The journey took us past some of the main water reservoirs/dams, and past a small waterfall where we were able to enjoy an ice-cream! We also stopped for coffee and I found a beautiful cemetery.
The main point of interest for this trip was, however, Kykkos Monastery, one of the wealthiest and best-known monasteries in Cyprus, containing the icon of the Virgin Mary. The icon is never looked at, and its top half remains hidden behind a protective covering as it is said that anyone who looks at will be blinded. The last person to have actually seen it was Pope Gerasimos in 1669 ! The monastery is known also for the intricate murals along all the balconies, and they really are in perfect condition.
This is the final report from Cyprus. We had a lovely time, balancing excursions such as this one with time spend lying by the pool, reading books, and generally enjoying a relaxing holiday. I’m not sure we’ll ever return to Cyprus, but I was so happy to give Shanhong a taste of my very early years!
Take Care! Trevor, Shanhong & Teddy xx