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Cyprus

Cyprus

Cyprus is the birthplace of the notoriously frisky Aphrodite. The busy resorts of Paphos, Limassol and Larnaca are ideal bases — you’ll most likely want to be on the beach — but take off into the hills and you’re plunged almost immediately into rolling landscapes of vineyards, mountains, craggy gorges and sun-dappled cedar and pine forests. Old men play backgammon in sleepy wine-growing villages and mountaintop Orthodox monasteries reveal cool interiors dripping with gold.

🙂 Lovely beaches and copious sunshine (except of course when we were there! LOL), Litter free! Lovely people. Lowest crime rate in Europe. Great mezze!

🙁 Rift between Greek Cyprus and Turkish Cyprus. Crazy drivers who tailgate anyone with a red number plate (ie. hire car/ tourist!). Poor weather and cancelled boat trip.

Currency: Euro (Formerly the Cyprus Pound)

FOUR things that we did not know about Cyprus:

  1. The oldest wine in the world is made in Cyprus. On a visit to Cyprus, you must try the local wine Commandaria. It dates back to before 2000BC and was a favourite of King Richard the Lionheart. It’s a delicious sweet with a high alcohol content.
  2.  Mark Anthony once gave Cyprus as a gift to Cleopatra. If you want to impress a lady, what do you give her? Flowers, chocolates, or… an island? Due to its ideal location, this strategic spot was certainly a generous gift!
  3.  Nicosia is the only divided administrative capital in the world. With the northern part being under Turkish occupation, Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, is the only administratively divided capital in the world.
  4. The brandy sour is a mixed alcoholic cocktail considered the unofficial national cocktail of Cyprus.

Pau and I enjoyed a fantastic weekend in Cyprus to celebrate our 29th Wedding Anniversary. We still had BA Vouchers and I managed to find a gem of a small and very reasonably priced resort right on the beach about 15mins away from Paphos airport and next to the beautiful Coral Bay – only 80Eur per night with stunning sea sunset views in a large self catering apartment with huge pool, bar, parking and including breakfast with 24hour Reception. Vrachia Beach Hotel & Suites – Adults Only. Car hire with Avis was a breeze and it took minutes to collect our little Toyota Yarris cost Eur80 for three days and we even navigated 4×4 tracks on the west of the island! We paid for full excess which was an additional 50 and petrol deposit of 100. There is a petrol garage right next to drop off so you won’t lose your deposit. Bargain!

We landed quite late as our flight was delayed but the friendly Barman kindly stayed open just past 11pm so that we could have a nightcap on the balcony. They are quite considerate and don’t let you sit above the rooms downstairs after 11pm – we did find out why as when it rained they had to move chairs at 5.30am and the scraping above our heads was REALLY loud and woke us up!

We were up bright and early for breakfast at 08h00 the next morning and had planned a drive on the western side of the island. It was incredibly windy which made it a little chilly despite the sun being out. I had copied an itinerary operated by Jeep Safaris and we followed that but in our tiny car (with the distinctively red number plate used by car rentals)! We stayed warm and enjoyed the views!

The coastline is spectacular with azure blue seas.

Our first stop was at the Avakas Gorge. A scenic 5km circular walk through the gorge yields beautiful flora, billy goats calling and noisy frogs mating. The warning of rocks falling is a serious one – a rock 15cm in diameter landed at Paul’s feet – if it had hit his head it could have been fatal. A lady showed us a large bruised welt on her arm where a small stone had landed from above! We exited pretty quickly feeling quite concerned for the numerous people walking with young children and babies – it really does have the potential to be dangerous.

The frogs mating were really cool to watch and listen to!

Next stop was Turtle Bay. Both Green and Leatherback turtles nest here. I enjoyed a Brandy Sour – the unofficial national cocktail of Cyprus – The cocktail is made with Cypriot brandy – which is milder than Cognac or Armagnac – lemons (fresh or squash), Angostura bitters, soda water (or lemonade) and ice. Very nice … Cheers!

After our hydration stop we headed on the bizarre beachy 4×4 trail to Shark’s Cave – we assume it is named after a shark’s gaping mouth?

More stunning wildflowers and flora – this is a protected area which is frequented by quad bike tours.

We continued our drive through the lovely scenery. We noticed Easter Eggs everywhere – and were then told that it was Orthodox Easter which falls one month later than Christian Easter (and which meant that everything would be closed the next two days!!). Both Orthodox Easter and Easter Sunday are Christian festivals where believers celebrate the resurrection of Jesus – it’s the most important festival in the Christian Calendar. Orthodox churches in some countries including Greece, Cyprus and Romania base their Easter date on the Julian calendar. The Julian Calendar was designed by Roman emperor Julius Caesar in 45 BC – basing a year on the time it takes the Sun to go around the Earth. The Gregorian Calendar was created by Pope Gregory in 1582 to fix some of the glitches in the Julian Calendar as astronomy became more accurate. Great Britain changed to the Gregorian calendar in 1752.

We stopped for lunch in Latchi where we enjoyed Mezze and calamari and a lovely Cypriot rose. We had to move from the Beach as Paul was being eaten alive by sand flies!

From Latchi we headed to the Bath of Aphrodite. Underneath an old fig tree, shaded from the warm Cyprus sun, is a small natural grotto. Water flows down a wall of rock and forms a pool amongst the moss. It is here that legend says Aphrodite would come to bathe. According to Greek mythology, she met her lover Adonis at the pool when he stopped for a drink while hunting. Aphrodite’s birthplace is pictured in the sea below: “According to the myth of Aphrodite’s birth – Venus Rising from the Froth of the Sea – the beautiful Goddess of Love emerged naked from seawater around Cyprus.” 

Our next stop was due to be the Blue Lagoon… we stopped at a view points – the water was crystal clear. Then the road became impassable for a small car like ours so we reluctantly turned back.

This is what we should have seen … stunning….next time! We would actually have been fine but due to rough seas our boat trip was cancelled.

It was our 29th wedding anniversary and Paul had booked The Lodge on line – a South African restaurant – but on arrival they did not have our reservation …luckily we had driven as it was nowhere near the Old Town and other places to eat. We did a frantic Google search and found Honey – great service and the best oysters we have had anywhere…lovely!

It was a lovely evening and we headed back and enjoyed a nightcap provided by our friendly barman. The next morning we were up at 09h00 – unfortunately everything was closed as it was Easter Sunday on the Orthodox calendar… so we took a drive to Limassol and a quick stroll around the Marina and had a coffee with a very affectionate cat!

Next we decided to take a drive to Nicosia and visit the unique division between Greek and Turkish Cyprus. Approaching Nicosia we could see te Turkish flad in the mountains. Crossing the border in Cyprus is a fascinating exercise every visitor to Cyprus should experience. We parked near to the Buffer Zone where they charged 3EUR for 5hours.

In Nicosia, Greek and Turkish societies share a walled city divided by the infamous Green Line. There have been many divided places throughout history but Nicosia remains the only divided capital in the world. Established after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, the Green Line, a no man’s land, dividing north and south, cuts a line through the historic centre. An old city enclosed by walls erected by the Venetians in the 16th century. The buffer zone, a strip of no more than 30 meters,  is inhabited only by the UN peacekeeping force. Access to this intermediate territory is strictly prohibited.

Since 2003, as a peace measure to aid unification talks, some checkpoints have opened to allow for free movement of Greek and Turkish Cypriots as well as visitors to the island. To date, five checkpoints have been opened across the island. Two of these are in the city of Nicosia enabling a quick visit, via passport control to “the other side”. Crossing the border in Cyprus, from south to north is a fascinating exercise, especially in Nicosia. While the landscape and architecture do not vary all that much, there is an instant awareness of being in a vastly different culture.

Greek vs Turkish!

Take a walk along the Green Line and stop at various points for a drink, like at Berlin Wall No2 on Fanerwmenis Str. They apparently do great souvlaki, and the very casual and popular eating place abuts the demilitarised zone…sadly due to Easter it was closed but the lovely place next door allowed us to use their toilets and gave us some delicious sausage which was being prepped for a family event.

The Ledra Street border crossing is a pedestrian-only crossing in the centre of the city. There are immigration points to be cleared on both sides of the Green Line so that you will require your passport or ID card for EU citizens. passed seamlessly through both the Greek and then the Cypriot passport control – they do not stamp your passport but just let you through.

Inside Turkey, there were all the ‘real fakes’ and we settled down ro some delicious Turkish food.

What an adventure… and then back to the Greek side when the rain came!

We left Nicosia and did the drive to Mount Olympus stopping at vistas along the way. It is amazing to think that there are 4 ski runs here in the Med! The pine trees are quite unusual in that they are all flat on top!

We got to the summit of Mount Olympus and were taking photos when a very well spoken English soldier asked politely us to move on!

More stunning views as we headed back to Paphos through the mountains. We were really depressed because we passed so many vineyards on the way but we could not do any wine tasting as everything was closed for Easter! Next time…

There were signs everywhere indicating the dangers of rockfalls – and plenty of evidence on the roads to suggest that this is a common coccurence!

WE got back and enjoyed a sunset drink on the balcony.

Paul had booked a Tappenyaki in Coral Bay – appropriate as we enjoyed this when we got married in Hawaii! It was very quiet but our Chef was outstanding! The food was great and we really enjoyed the evening!

After dinner we stopped at the – they play live music and it is a stunning place right next to the ocean with a great vibe.

The next morning we slept in. We had a lazy day around the pool…popped over to Paphos Marina for lunch and then back for more pool relaxation. The perfect last day and at least we had sunshine!

We had a quik shower and headed to the airport where we dropped the car off after refueling.

A lovely long weekend. Cyprus was surprisingly modern. Being shoulder season meant that everything was quiet (maybe too quiet!) and it did not help that it was Orthodox Easter with so many places being closed. But very relaxing and great food.

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