Pafos and Ancient Cyprus

Today I took the coach to Pafos, and to visit a few of the archaeological sites on the way. We had an extremely good tour guide, who knew a lot about the history of the island, and the politics of today. She also seemed genuinely interested in it herself – which really came through as she was telling us the stories.

Before leaving Limassol, I also learnt a few things about the different areas I had already visited; such as that run-down area which I went to earlier in the week, looking for people who didn’t speak English – that is the Turkish community who refused to leave Limassol when their government ordered it during the 1974 invasion in the North. Approximately 1/3rd of the Turkish people did so. We also drove nearby by to Agios Nikolaos ton Gaton. Where the nuns fed the cats that St Helena brought to the island! What I didn’t know, and that had seemed rather harsh on the cats that were brought here to kill poisonous snakes – the cats are immune to poisonous snake bites. Which is how they’ve come to be known as having 7 souls, around these parts ๐Ÿ™‚ Funny, I thought it was 9 lives. But there you go.

Along the road out of Limassol, and towards Pafos, our first stop was the Ancient City of Curium, where we saw the Greek-Roman theatre, and the house of Eustoilios. All the visible remains are from the Roman period, although the ancient kingdom of Kourion was also on the spot. The Greek-Roman theatre was something I’d really wanted to see. It was one of the photos that I looked at, and was one of the deciding factors in the “oh, I want to go there” scale. And it looked really nice, it’s on top of this cliff face that overlooks the sea and there’s a really impressive view below out and over the theatre. The theatre itself has been destroyed many times, due to earthquakes and the tsunami that came straight through Curium eventually destroying the magnificent city. Some 20,000 people used to live in the city (as far as they can tell) – which is really quite huge for such a small island, in 5 A.D. Including a couple that have been nicknamed Romeo and Juliet, as their remains were found in their bed wrapped closely together believed to have been killed as the tsunami swept through.

Back on the road, we passed through the the huge British military base on the south of the island, (Episkopi). We drove through the base for a huge amount of time actually, because it’s massive – and looks a lot more like an enormous holiday resort than a military base. The Limassol – Pafos road runs straight through the middle of it, but only vehicles are allowed to use it (no walkers), and none of the Cypriot public are allowed in the British controlled area. For this privilege, we Brits are supposed to be paying Cyprus a huge bag of money in rent every year. However, as tour lady pointed out. It’s never been paid. Instead, the British government say they’ve paid it elsewhere, in U.N. payments, and *cough cough* candy *cough mumble* and pocket money *cough* and stuff.

There are even Cyprus villages on the edge of this base, within the borders. People who we’ve (the Brits) so very kindly let stay there, as long as they don’t build hotels, or attract any more people to live there! It’s amazing we as a country have this kind of hold on any other countries, still. I’m sure the empire disbanded quite a while ago now. I’m surprised other world governments aren’t a lot more pissed off with us instead – but it must be our winning smiles and charming good looks that make them all bend over backwards for us ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway, birth of Cyprus, Aphrodite’s birthplace, and all of that stuff. That was our next stop ๐Ÿ™‚ A little cafรฉ that overlooks the birthplace, a set of 3 rocks that spread out into the sea. The rumour is, on a full moon at midnight, if you swim around the middle rock (Aphrodite’s) 3 times – you’ll become 20 years younger instantly. We even saw some people trying it – but …. well … it wasn’t midnight, and there wasn’t a full moon – sorry guys. So why the birthplace of Aphrodite? Sorry, I think my greek mythology is going to get a bit mixed up here, but I’ll do my best to remember. I’ve forgotten most of the names I’m afraid – I’ll do my best to look them up when I get back and maybe insert them here. So there’s the daddy god of all god’s. I don’t think that’s Zeus, he’s just the leader, head of the superhero’s. And there’s the mummy god. She’s pretty important too. They have loads of baby gods, and the youngest of them (he’s one of the evil ones in the Age of Mythology, Hades, or one of them), walks in on mummy and daddy god having sex. He’s a bit annoyed, so takes the harsh action of cutting off his dads testicles, and throwing them down to earth. Well, they land on earth, but daddy god’s a bit fertile, and impregnates Mother Earth, or nature. And then, presumeably 9 months go by, and voila (our tour guide said voila a LOT), Aphrodite emerges from this rock on the Cyprus coastline.

And that’s your idiots guide to Greek Mythology. As I say, I might look this one up when I get back. And rewrite this. So I can see exactly what I (if not all), I got wrong ๐Ÿ™‚

It is a gorgeous area though. Ali, you would have loved it. I wish we could have spent more time there, and maybe gone down onto the beach closer to the rocks. Maybe next time ๐Ÿ™‚

Leaving my crap mythology behind for a little while – we drove onto the village of Yeroskipou, where we stopped at the Church of St. Paraskevi. This village is really famous for its Cyprus Delights (remember I mentioned them earlier?). In fact, they’re in the Guinness Book of Records for producing the worlds largest Cyprus delight (they’re called Loukoumi) weighing in at a staggering 1.5 tonnes. The boxes I have are only 300g apiece. Remember I thought 7 boxes would be excessive? Well that’s a lot of loukoumi. Say that 10 times in a row.

Back to the church, it’s really old, you’ll see pictures – totally not what you’d expect a church to look like. Again painted completely inside with frescos in a similar way that the Kykkos monestary was. This time, I found out why – though it should have smacked me on the head like it did afterwards, and it probably already did for the rest of you. They’re all painted with scenes from the bible, because everyone’s too poor to own their own bible, or learn to read in most cases. Much the same way that most of churches in England have fantastic stained glass windows. Well the paintings let everyone know the story of Jesus Christ, regardless of if you can afford the Leather bound Bible Set in 12 parts, for only 24.99 a month, or not.

Arriving in Pafos, we first went in for a guided tour of the Roman Mosaics, in a massive archaeological site right next to the harbour. It was a lot like the area near the Colloseum in Rome, but with quite a few less standing structures. However, aside from Rome these are apparantly the best set of Roman Mosaics in the world. They would say that, wouldn’t they?

It was good to have a knowledgable guide for this, as otherwise there would been a lot of “oh, look at the pretty picture, looks like they missed a bit”, but the stories behind the mosaic’s and the mythology surrounding them made them that much more impressive. I know I’m going on a bit, so I’ll skip over most of them. I think the story of Aphrodite has already proven I’m rubbish at these anyway ๐Ÿ™‚

One mosaic, the story that inspired Shakespeare to write Romeo and Juliet. And there was me thinking he’d come up with it, all this time! Not even Shakespeare in Love revealed the trut (did it?). So, the story is a lot more simplified in this version. Guy and Girl arrange to meet in a cave. The guy goes in and finds his girl sleeping, and a tiger, with blood all around his mouth (it’s been hunting, duh), and thinks the tiger’s killed his love. Not sure how to react to this, he kills himself with his own sword. Then the girl wakes up, and finds *her* love dead, so she takes his sword and kills herself too. The End.

You can call me Will ๐Ÿ™‚

At the end of the tour, we had a couple of hours free time to explore Pafos, get some lunch and basically do whatever we wanted. So I walked around the Roman ruins for a while, and found a cool looking lighthouse (I say found, it was on top of a hill – not the most difficult game of hide and seek I’ve ever played), and then went to look around the Pafos harbour. It is a really nice city, very clean and new looking. Even moreso than the tourist area of Limassol – but it is also kind of small. I had originally wanted to go to Pafos as my base – but now I’m very glad I was forced into the more central Limassol – as there’s still a lot to do and see, and the rest of the island is far more accessible.

After Pafos, we still have no subway. Another Pizza express, KFC, Burger King, and McDonald’s though. Oh, and a Debenhams. I say that counts because it has a cafรฉ in it ๐Ÿ™‚ I think there must be a Debenhams in every country in Europe. It’s like Britain’s new flag. “I claim this land in the name of the Queen, and the country of Great Britain. Now go, and have coffee and scones at our new cafรฉ on the mezzanine floor!”


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