Aphrodite – The Island of Love
For those Cyprus devotees who know and love the island this introduction may have little to offer other than as a reminder of just what the island is all about. For those not yet familiar with Cyprus, the best (and often used) adjectives that would top the list when writing copy such as this, would undoubtedly include ‘sun-kissed’,’sharply contrasting’,’unhurried’, ‘irresistible’, ‘fascinating’ and such like.
This is not to suggest that the island is perfect. Like any venue it has its ‘warts and all’ negative points but, on balance, we suggest that many thousands of visitors have been delighted for every one that has encountered any failings. The people themselves, at the root of Cyprus’s famous hospitality, are a fascinating blend of Roman, Byzantine, Greek and British influenced characteristics and traits.
The Cypriots, however, are proud of their individuality and warmth of character.
They will welcome strangers into their homes and lives much quicker than those from the countries which influenced Cyprus over the years. The heady mix of Mediterranean weather and cuisine, a low cost of living, and the ease with which one can communicate, makes Cyprus such a favorite among the West Europeans, particularly the British.
In many parts of Cyprus you will find a life style little changed from centuries ago, when the pace of life was slower and simple pleasures were gained from an equally simple life.
Wherever you travel in Cyprus you will not be far from blossoms, fruit and the sights and sounds of the Mediterranean.
Cyprus has made sure it caters for more sophisticated demands with widespread facilities for fishing, golf, cycling, sailing/yachting, swimming, nature treks, and water sports.
There can be few more pleasurable experiences than sitting in the open air on a balmy Cyprus night enjoying a full scale ‘meze’ in the company of Greek friends. Eat, drink and be merry, indeed.
Although Greek is the national language of Cyprus, English is spoken almost everywhere with the exception of some remote villages.
Just bathe in a certain spot when Aphrodite’s
rocks stand out of the sea and legend says you will live five years longer.
According to Homer Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love and beauty, was born from the soft sea foam near Paphos In Paphos itself, take a trip back through Christianity at the St. Paul Pillar and St.
Solomon Catacombs Enjoy the picturesque
harbour and castle.
Nicosia / Levkosia or Levkosa, like the Turkish people call the city, is still a divided city (since 1974) – there is a Turkish part, that belongs to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and a Greek part. The Greek part of Nicosia is the capital of Cyprus’ Republic and its largest city, which has a population of about 170.000. The atmosphere is modern and traditional, dynamic and calm at the same time. Its without any doubt the most interesting city on the island and very different from the tranquility of the rest of the islands towns and villages. Nicosia is the seat of government and home to all major business. What really characterizes the city is the borderline. It crosses streets, alleys and even houses and gardens. On many corners you will see small bunkers and guard posts, manned with armed soldiers.
Historically, Nicosia is divided into an old city within the ancient city walls and a new part. But nowadays the political border splits the old city in two. Many parts of the ancient city wall show you, where the city once ended. The inner streets are but narrow alleys; many of the houses are old and protected by law, but very often neglected. A big restoration plan for the old city, which started in 1981, will change the citys face. A small – and now very touristic – section has already undergone restoration: Laiki Yitonia, “neighbourhood of the people”, impresses us now with its narrow alleys, small shops and restaurants and it gives us an impression of what Nicosia looked like three centuries ago. The new city spreads southward, with only an occasional high rise in its center. The suburbs are wide residential quarters, with small cottages and private villas. The main business center is also located there – between the triangle of Stasinos, Makarios III and Evagora Streets.
Turkish Nicosia, here called Levkosa, is north of the dividing “Green Line”. There is only one border crossing in Nicosia, near the old Ledra Palace Hotel. Cypriots are not allowed to cross the borderline; only tourists can get a daily visa – without bigger complications. It is a somehow strange feeling, to be able to switch the areas more or less easily, whereas locals are not allowed to visit their old home villages on the opposite side for now more than 25 years. The difference between the Greek and the Turkish part is easy to recognize. While the Greek new city in the south is modern and lively, Levkosa is traditional in style and facilities. There are several gothic structures and sights, as Selimiye and the Bedesten Mosque or the Lapidary Museum. There is also a number of Ottoman style public buildings, such as the Arabahmet Mosque, the Büyük Han (Great Inn) or the Kumarcilar Han (Gamblers Inn). For more info see: Levkosa
Limassol (Lemessos) is situated in the south of the island and it is Cyprus´ main industrial and maritime area and also the second biggest town of the country. Its population is about 135.000 and rises during holiday times because of the tourism. Most of the tourists only pass by on their way to the more historic sites like Akrotiri or the Troodos mountains, but there is actually a lot to see in Limassol besides a busy industrial centre.
Because the city is relatively untouched by the streams of tourism, it has been able to maintain the traditions of Cypriote life: meze restaurants, wine and beer cellars, places to sit outside and just watch people passing by. Nevertheless, traditional old boutiques and dark inns, where the Cypriots drink the famous whisky sour drink are rapidly changing into modern shopping centres and restaurants
This port city of 50.000 is the site of the main international airport and the most modern of Cyprus towns. Larnaca offers limited sightseeing attractions: Most visitors arrive and then leave quickly. If you do find yourself in Larnaca spend time on the beaches or tour the Ayia Phaneromeni Church (icons) and the 9th-century Byzantine Church of St. Lazarus which is reputed to hold the remains of the saint. In the winter the nearby Great Salt Lake is home to thousands of pink flamingos.
Larnacas former name was Kition or Kittim (one of Noah’s descendants). The name Larnaca is derived from Greek word ‘larnax’ (coffin), which is probably a reminder of the many ancient coffins found on Kition’s grounds.
Kition was one of the towns settled by the Mycaeneans in the 13th century BC. Under Ottoman and British rule, Larnaca was the main trade centre of the island. At the beginning of our century it lost its rank, first to Famagusta (1918) and later to Limassol. Larnacas seaport today seldom sees large ships – but it still caters hundrets of private yachts. It has several industrial plants, as well as a large oil refinery. Larnaca is slowly rebuilding its overseas trade now, along with Famagusta in the Turkish zone.
With its only population of 27.000 inhabitants Paphos is the capital of Cyprus’ western region. Most of the inhabitants work as employees in various branches of tourism, because there is not much industry.
Paphos consists of two areas: the coastal resort area (Kato Paphos) and the town itself (Kito Paphos) which is slightly inland.
Paphos is very popular with tourists, and especially with German and Scandinavian tourists. Among its attractions are its ancient mosaic floors, its beautiful old harbour, its modern hotels and restaurants, situated along the seaside promenade.Other sights include an archaeological museum, the Byzantine castle of Paphos, the Tombs of the Kings, St. Paul’s Pillar and the Temple of Aphrodite (the goddess of love and beauty0.
The main shopping lane, which runs parallel to the beach promenade, is the ideal tourists’ marketplace.
Before the 1974 war, Kyrene (now called Girne) used to be one of Cyprus’ major tourist resorts. Girne is situated excellently, in the centre of the islands northern coastline and at the foot of the Kyrenia Range. Its former tourist hotels still remain, but most of them are deserted today.
Kyrenias first settlement date from at least 6000 years ago. Some historians think, that its beginnings go back to the 10th century BC, when it was one of the nine original kingdoms of Cyprus.
The city and its surrounding is an archaeological paradise. Kyrenes great attraction lies in its Venetian castle which now hosts the Ship Wreck Museum and its enchanting harbour. In the vicinity of the ancient town you will find castles and monasteries, situated in the beautifully scenic area of the seacoast.
Turkish Nicosia, here called Levkosa, is north of the dividing “Green Line”. There is only one border crossing in Nicosia, near the old Ledra Palace Hotel. Cypriots, Greeks and Turks are not allowed to cross the borderline; only tourists can get a daily visa (see northern cyprus/getting there) – normally without bigger complications. It is a somehow strange feeling, to be able to switch the areas more or less easily, whereas locals are not allowed to visit their old home villages on the opposite side for now more than 25 years.
The difference between the Greek and the Turkish part is easy to recognize. While the Greek new city in the south is modern and lively, Levkosa is traditional in style and facilities. There are several gothic structures and sights, as Selimiye Mosque or the Lapidary Museum. There is also a number of Ottoman style public buildings, such as the Arabahmet Mosque, the Büyük Han (Great Inn) or the Kumarcilar Han (Gamblers Inn).
The Troodos mountains are located in the center of the Greek part of the islands. They are covering most of the central mass of Cyprus and their green slopes, dotted with tiny villages, the forest paths, the cool weather and, last but not least, the ancient monasteries, attract many people to leave the beach areas of Cyprus and to discover this beuatyful and still wild landscape. The locals are very proud of their cultural heritage: some of the monasteries date back to the Byzantine period. People here are very hospitable and friendly. All in all is a very beautiful region, with great hiking and walking opportunities. The main highlight is the Kykkos monastery, that dates back to the 11-th century.
Before 1974, Famagusta (for the Turks Gazi Maguza), was the best known name in Cyprus, thanks to its deep-water harbour, its well-sheltered marina and the hotels lining the beach. Since then Famagusta is part of Turkish Cyprus and the town has slowly fallen into ruin. It stopped growing, its hotels fell into disrepair and tourists stopped coming. Only the major sites have kept most of their appeal.
Famagusta has a very rich history, maybe the richest in all of Cyprus. It began as a small fishermen’s harbour, but during the de Lusignan period it became the island’s main port-of-call, with hundrets of ships anchoring there on their way to Europe or to the Holy Land.
The northern part of Cyprus, the “Republic of Northern Cyprus”, how the Turks call the area, takes about 38% of the whole island. This part of Cyprus is only open to tourists and Turkish cypriots – Greek cypriots are not allowed to enter. The situation today is practically the same as it was in 1975 after the coup (to read more see cyprus/history ). Each side, the northern and the western part, has its own President, Parliament and Cabinet. There are no ties between the two areas.
In northern Cyprus not much has changed since the war in 1974. The Turkish Cypriots may have gained independence, yet they thus became cut off from the western world. But if you like the turkish way of life (like we do), a visit there will be quite an interesting experience with more than only one fascinating site. The most famous cities and sights in Northern Cyprus are Kyrenia (Girne), the St. Nicholas Cathedral in Famagusta, Levkosa itself, Bellapais Abbey and the archaeological site of Salamis.
Kyrenia is situated in Northern Cyprus.Whilst being one of the poorest areas I have ever travelled to, it was also one of the most beautifull.There is a beautifull view of the sea aswell as being able to see the mountains in their full glory.
For accomodation I would recommend Sammy’s hotel. This is a small family run hotel, that not only is spotlessly clean, but has a personal touch and a warm atmosphere. The staff will go out of their way to provide you with services such as a drive to the nearest beach etc.
A time of year I would recommend to visit Kyrenia in,would definitely be October, November, December, January, February, March, April as any other month of the year is horrendously hot.
Salamis, four miles north of Famagusta is one of the most important and magnificent archaeological sites on the island. The mythological father of Salamis is Tefkros, an hero of the Troian War, banned by his father, King of Salamis, who blamed him for the suicide of his brother Ajax. Tefkros landed, at what used to be known as the Akalar Beach, with a handful of faithful followers. As soon as he settled down, he built a temple to Zeus (Yuppiter), whose ruins can be seen today in the southern section of the market. Tefkros gave this new town the name of his childhood home, Salamis.
The town had an inner and an outer wall. Fragment of the inner wall can be seen at the entrance to the site. An earthquake in the 4th century destroyed most of the buildings. The ruins of the Roman Amphitheatre were later used to build the Turkish Baths. The Amphitheatre, with its spacious stage, can still be clearly identified. Along the stage you can see the trench used to collect blood from the victims consecrated to Dyonisus before each ritual. Only the first eight of the fifty rows of seats balong to the otiginal Roman structure; the rest are later additions.
The site of Alasia, one of Cyprus’ most ancient settlements, is in the vicinity of Salamis, southeast of St. Barnabas. Alasia was an affluent settlement during the Bronze Age. Its name is mentioned in several egyptian papyri. Archaeologists found gold and ivory ornaments, amphoras and Mycaenean earthenware in several tombs.
Pano (Upper) and Kato (Lower) Lefkara are lovely spots in the hills between Larnaca and Limassol. The small and narrow village is famous for its lace. Nearly everywhere you will find it on sale together with the usual silver and copper objects. The lace is very expensive, but the delicate and exquisite craftsmanship is certainly worth the expense.
According to the legend, Leonardo da Vinci visited the village in 1481, and purchased a lace cloth for the main altar of the Milan Doumo. The Lefkaritika style was probably imported here in ancient times from Assyria. Much later, the Venetians brought it home, and set up their own lace industry on the island of Burano. In 1889 a local lace school was opened, and Lefkara lace regained much of its ancient renown.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons.