Mark in the Paphos Archeological Park

Our last stop in Cyprus was Paphos down in the southwest corner of the island. Just last year it was named a European Capital of Culture, though I can’t say I actually understand why. We enjoyed our stop – nice hotel, nice beach, good food, some good ruins, Mark found a little store where I could replace my dead iPad – but Capital of Culture? There were a lot of pubs and clubs but that isn’t normally what I would expect from a Capital of Culture.

At any rate, it was a good stop. Our hotel, Almyra, was right on the coast and while it didn’t have a beach per se, the pool was nice, the sun beds had good views, and the food at the Greek restaurant was fantastic. Along with cats everywhere and a nice Indian restaurant for dinner, what more do you need?

Yeah, there were a lot of cats in Paphos

Like so many places in this region Paphos has some interesting history. It was in Paphos, for instance that one Saul of Tarsus passed through and (allegedly) converted the Roman proconsul to Christianity. And it was here that Saul was first identified as Paul in the New Testament book Acts of the Apostles. How’s that for history?

The major tourist attraction in town – besides just the sea and harbor and all that – and the reason Paphos is a UNESCO World Heritage Site is the Paphos Archeological Park. Over the last several decades they have unearthed four major Roman villas, each with substantial mosaic floors that were buried for many hundreds of years. To be honest those mosaics were really the only part we found interesting in the old ruins, but they were worth, you know, 45 minutes of your life.

Just one part of a mosaic floor in one of the old Roman villas. This one depicts the duel between Theseus and the Minotaur on the island of Crete (our next stop). It is surrounded by decorative zones that represent the Minotaur’s Labyrinth.

And thus ends our two-week, five-stop tour of Cyprus. Between the sea, the beaches, the history, the cats, and the food, it was definitely worth the time. And great value, too. Oh, and one last strange thing to note. It seemed as though all the taxis on the island, perhaps every one that we used as we moved from place to place, were Mercedes Benzes. And not old, crappy cars; they were comfy luxury cars. I don’t understand the economics of that but it sure made our drives around the island pleasant.

Now we’re off to Crete to spend time with friends.

Mark at Karishma’s Curry House, a great Indian restaurant that we stumbled on while looking for something else

Sunset in Paphos

The pool and sea from a lovely terrace outside our room

Mark and a cat at the seaside Greek restaurant in our hotel. We ate lunch here five times – every day – and never tired of it. The cat was cute, of course, but when the food came she wasn’t quite so cute.

Here I am, too, at our great lunch spot

Did I mention cats?

Another of the impressive mosaic floors in the Archeological Park

Celebrating our last night in Cyprus

And cats

Cats. One of the redeeming features of our stop in Limassol.

Notice how this blog entry started off with a cat? Usually it’s a picture that somehow illustrates what was especially beautiful or interesting or magical about the place. But in this case we are hard pressed to find something better than a cute cat.

It’s not that there was anything WRONG with Limassol per se; there just wasn’t much memorable about our short stop here.

The long stretches of beach around Limassol are a major tourist draw, attracting loads of package tourists for long weekends from chilly places in northern Europe. We do love the beach, as you know, and we can always be happy at a nice resort on a nice stretch of sand, even if there is not much else to do in the area.

The sort of blah oversized hotel overlooking the sort of blah beach at the beloved Four Seasons hotel in Limassol

When I researched places to stay I was impressed by the stellar reviews of a hotel called Four Seasons (notably not related to the very upscale Canadian chain Four Seasons). Countless reviewers called it the best hotel in Cyprus, some even the best hotel in the world. So we booked the place, even though it was a bit on the pricey side for us. No place better to splurge than at a great beach locale.

But the destination, the hotel, the beach all just screamed out, “Mediocrity!” We did have quite good food here (as elsewhere in Cyprus), but the town lacked the buzz of Nicosia or Kyrenia. The beach at the hotel? It wasn’t BAD, but it wasn’t anything special. We couldn’t bring ourselves to take pictures because nothing inspired you to do so. The water wasn’t beautiful Mediterranean blue. The sand was darker brown than usual. The landscape wasn’t interesting. All just meh.

And the fancy hotel itself? It was OK. I can’t really put my finger on anything wrong. Many features were even quite nice. But I can’t fathom where all those lavish reviews came from. It just didn’t live up to the reviews or the price tag. And oddly, the vast majority of the other guests were Russian. How did everybody in Russia know to come to this blah hotel?

Oh well, we had a decent time anyway. Good food and lots of cats. And I got to use my Russian a little. We just don’t have many exciting pictures to offer.

Sitting down to a feast at a friendly Greek meze restaurant. The food in Limassol did not disappoint.

An exceptional beef carpaccio with delicious fresh vegetable shavings

This guy was cute until immediately after I snapped the photo, when I reached down to pet him and he slashed my thumb and made it bleed

Looking down at the village from a long hike up the mountains

From Northern Cyprus we made our way inland to the Troodos mountains in the western part of the island. Here we spent a couple days in the charming village of Kalapanayiotis. It’s got a lot of what you’d expect from a hillside Cypriot village: crooked cobbled streets, old Orthodox churches, tiled rooftops, and lots of winding stairs.

A major draw here, compared with other villages in these mountains, was a unique hotel called Casale Panayiotis Traditional Village Hotel & Spa. The hotel is made up up beautifully renovated houses scattered throughout the central part of the village. We had to go up and down the stone staircases and across the cobbled lanes to get from our apartment to the breakfast spot or the reception desk or the swimming pool. It did feel a tiny bit like living in a village.

Beautiful Byzantine frescoes in the Agios Ioannis Lambadistis Monastery right in our village

These mountains are also known for lovely Byzantine churches that were built here in the 11th to 15th centuries. After French Catholics settled in Cyprus and began to run the show, many Orthodox believers and their artists and builders fled up into the mountains where they built these churches and maintained their traditional culture out of reach. The interior walls are painted top to bottom in almost comic-strip fashion with frescoes depicting the lives of Jesus, prophets, and saints, all remarkably preserved for the better part of a millenium.

We didn’t do much more here than hiking in the mountains surrounding this town. We were surprised by just how many types of fruit we saw growing along the pathways: grapes, blackberries, figs, pomegranates, peaches, persimmons. We just kept seeing more and more, as if they were just growing randomly in the wild. Fruit everywhere, often rotting on the ground below the trees.

Not a lot more to report from this quiet spot, except that there were lots of cats here. Lots of cats and lots of fruit. Nothing wrong with that. From here we’ll head to the southern coast of Cyprus to get some beach time. And maybe more cat time.

Getting some exercise and seeing lots of fruit

Crossing a sulfur spring-fed stream


And a pomegranate

This is something I’ve never knowingly seen growing before: sumac. That’s the spice that gives a distinctive look (little red specks) and flavor to Lebanese salads like fattoush.

More frescoes in the monastery

And another friendly local cat