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Chilling in Cyrpus

November 22, 2010

The day after Egypt, we arrived in Cyprus. Cyprus is an island in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea, and the first European country on our trip! Unfortunately it was also one of the shortest. Our arrival time was slightly delayed, meaning we arrived at around 12. Departure boarding limit was set for 7pm, but with my new time (thanks Singapore) it was 6.

I had originally planned to have a fairly chill day around Limassol, the city near where we docked, but was invited to go visit the historic city of Paphos, so decided to go along for that instead.

The five of us in our group for the day hit up the taxis by the port. As it was a Sunday, most things in Cyprus were simply not happening. By law, most shops and everything else are closed, and public transport is not easily found. We decided on the slightly more expensive, but more reliable, taxi, which came packaged with a fat and friendly man by name of George. It was also slightly more cramped than the buses, as it was only intended to carry four passengers, but this is where having small Japanese girls in your group comes in handy.

Driving along the roads to Paphos reminded me a lot of back home in New Zealand. The same wide, gently winding road coasted along mildly undulating hills for miles, sometimes passing through small towns scattered along the side, shops all closed except for the occasional dairy (convenience store). The scenery was also vaguely similar, except for some very important differences. Where New Zealand scenery could best be described as green, and Egypt was characterised by the colour brown, Cyprus was dominated by the colour white. The ground was dry and rocky, and white stretched from down at the shore, up and over the hills, spotted with dark green as olive and orange trees abounded. Down on the coast, the ground met with a brilliantly clear green-blue sea, and up in the sky the hilltops also met with a wide-open, cloudless blue. The sun was constantly low in the sky, giving the entire day a warm sunset feel.

We told George that we had come from Egypt, and his response, “Ah, Egypt! I went once, never again!” provided a good laugh for us all, and showed the difference in mood between the two places. George, and as far as I could tell, most people around (not that I interacted with that many in the few hours I was there), were very relaxed and happy. George was quite excited to show us many of the tourist attractions around this part of the island, but was more than happy to let us choose the pace and contended himself with giving us detailed explanations about everything that we passed.

We arrived in Pathos, and were taken to the tourist area. I don’t normally like to visit these kind of places when I travel, but seeing as most other areas we passed were closed and deserted, it didn’t seem like such a bad idea. The harbour of Pathos was warm and sunny, with water gently lapping up against the path as we strolled down to the restaurants surrounding the Castle against the ocean.

Lunch was delicious, and huge, consisting of grilled fish, moussaka, specially cooked lamb and pitas, along with hummus and a huge Greek salad. We couldn’t finish it all, and had to ask for the rest to be taken back in a doggy bag, which the staff happily gave us and which, now that I think about it, I never saw again. I wonder who ate that.

After lunch, we had a quick look around the souvenir shops which were happily priced considerably higher than anywhere else we had travelled to up until this point, then after a cursory look at the castle (which to be fair, just didn’t seem that exciting), we continued up to the Mosaics.

We had already exceeded the time we had told George we would be away for, and we worried about him thinking we had deserted him. He hadn’t asked for any payment up front, and if we were to take another taxi at this point, the poor guy would receive nothing for his work so far, so I went and told him we would be a short while longer. However, the Mosaics ended up being a lot larger than we had expected.

The Mosaics are an area of ruins at the end of the island of Cyprus, old buildings in the Greek style which have maintained for the large part their mosaic floors. Designs filled large areas in front of us (we could not walk on them, but looked down from raised walkways), depicting all kinds of ancient Greek figures and other everyday objects such as vases and peacocks. It was all very Greek feeling, and something which I have been looking forward to seeing in real life for years now. We wandered around the ruins for a while, but due to the pressing time we really needed to get moving before seeing the whole thing. I consoled myself with the fact that there would be plenty of that to see once we got to Greece in one more day.

After Pathos, George drove us down to Petra tou Romiou, while lamenting the fact that the time now meant that we would be unable to visit many of the places he wanted to show us. Petra tou Romiou is famously known as the beach where Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of Love, was born from the ocean. The Greek geek in me was pretty excited to see this place.

We arrived shortly before sunset, and had a stroll around on the beach. It was a fairly rocky beach, with big boulders sitting just off the shore, and the shore itself covered in small, smooth stones of varying colours and types. Troy decided to have a swim, but since I hadn’t brought a towel or any change of clothes, and it was getting colder, I settled for a paddle up to my knees in the Ocean from which the Goddess of Love was born. Maybe this will bless me?

The shore itself and the sandy dirt banks leading up from it were covered in heart-shaped made from the rocks off the beach being set by young lovers. By creating a heart (and maybe a name inside) on the beach of Love, they could receive a blessing from the gods. I had no heart to make, but I did manage to find myself a nice heart-shaped stone to take with me (although I know full well that taking anything more than photographs is a tourism sin) as a charm.

After the sunset, which would have been beautiful if not obscured by clouds, things started to get a bit chilly, so it was time to head back to George and then back to Limassol. On the drive back, the full moon rose over the hills of Cyprus to make a beautiful view for us to gaze at as we headed back to the boat, happy in a day rushed, but very well spent.

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