We get up early at about eight, because someone is very keen on leaving. It is eight year ago, that Veerle has been on an airplane and now she can have a vacation. Great! Everybody notices she really wants to go, because she runs around like a chicken without a head (no offence). Yesterday we prepared e everything already and now we pack the last stuff. Timo arranges the suitcase and after diveplanman now also becomes casepackman. The hand luggage is done pretty fast too, we quickly clean up the house a bit, and then we still have a full day. We only leave at half past three this afternoon, so we still take it easy. We have a short walk with Cartouche and then itís about half past eleven when Patrik and Linda come an pick us up to have lunch at ĎDe Kuiperí in Vilvoorde and then to go to the airport. All right!
Within half an hour only we are in Vilvoorde and need to drive a circle just once to find a parking spot and then we can have a tasteful horse-steak, for which De Kuiper is famous. It is pretty busy, but everything is well organized and we only need to wait about twenty minutes for our lunch. We drink Duvel, red and white wine and just like the previous time we like it a lot. For people who donít know De Kuiper, it is located in Vilvoorde, the Visserstraat and really worth a detour. We enjoy our breakfast-lunch and fifteen minutes before one oíclock we get ready to leave for the airport. Veerle is the guide for Patrik to take a shortcut via the Woluwelaan to the airport and we are there after fifteen minutes only. And then the vacation can almost start, yes! Patrik and Linda drive back home to look after Cartouche this week: Thanks mum and Patrik. Veerle and Timo take the luggage and go for the check-in. it seems like theyíre waiting for us, because weíre the only people at the desk 12-B. We can just put the suitcase on the belt and check in: everything is immediately arranged.
We go out to smoke a cigarette and then enter again t go to gate B-09. We pass passport control, then customs control, and then go to the gate. We have more than twenty minutes left, so we can have a drink: Leffe blonde and a cola: someone needs to keep their mind to it. Close to the bar is a smoking area that we use of course and then we walk to the gate. The flight has no delay yet and we can board about ten minutes later. We go to the plane and see that itís not completely full: the tour operators will be happy with our investment. The flight takes three hours and forty minutes and Timo has ordered a meal during reservation. After an hour the food is served, not much, but enough so we wonít have to eat something else the rest of the day. We watch some TV, rest a bit and follow the GPS on the screens. We fly over Greece and the Cyclades and Dodecanese. From there we reach the Turkish coast and then fly in the direction of Beirut. Weíre a bit surprised that Cyprus is that close to the Middle East, but also that is the reason why Cyprus is Europe and Asia at the same time. Geographically it is part of Asia, but politically it belongs to Europe, because itís an EU member state since a couple of years (2004).
The airplane has no real delay and we arrive about on time. We get on a bus to go to the entrance of the airport building, a passport check that really is just a formality. Thatís normal, because weíre in the European Union. Our luggage arrives quickly on belt one and we soon find our way to the tour operators. They are waiting outside and we need to go to bus A40. There is a Cypriot (almost wrote Greek), who tries to arrange everything good, but he tries and has difficulty to do so. After some problems we get on the bus and leave pretty quickly. There are no people who have lost luggage or lost children, which is nice. Then we drive for about twenty minutes to the hotelPaphosGardens and the nice part is that this hotel is the first drop off point in the row. We check in, go to the room with the bellboy and give him an efcharisto poli. Unpack the suitcase, and this is now being done by the unpacklady on duty, Veerle: a man needs to delegate something from time to time. There is no mini-bar in our room and the hotel bar is crowded, so we start looking for a mini-bar to have a snack and a drink to end this first night on our balcony. We mostly buy drinks: retsina, white wine, water, Keo (beer from Cyprus) and a bit of chips: enough for tonight.
We then sit on our balcony and enjoy the nice temperature, although this does not play any role of importance does it Roel? We appreciate the warm breeze and drink some retsina and white wine. We smoke a few cigarettes and are happy everything looks OK at the moment. The vacation can now really start. We have been looking forward to it and will enjoy it big time. A bit before we think weíve had enough and time has come to go to bed. Tomorrow weíll start to explore the neighborhood here and weíll see where we end up. Sweat dreams. Onera glyka.
Monday June 13, 2011: Exploration of the city of Paphos
Yesterday we had a really tiring day and probably today will be the same: explore Paphos on foot. A whole day of walking. We start the day easy with a breakfast at the hotel. NOT! Yesterday they offered bed and breakfast, but that was originally not booked. This morning there was a note under the door that it was a mistake at the reception. So we need to look for breakfast ourselves, because we need to start the day with a full stomach. We prepare the bag to come through the day, then we donít need to return to the room. The bag is filled with water bottle, towel and some handy things like mobile phone and money. We walk down to the beach. We notice it is only fifty meters from the hotel. Yesterday we could have gone there and have chilled a bit. Today we first go to look for breakfast, but we pass along a periptero and we buy cards and stamps for our friends at home.
We follow the water and arrive at the busiest spot on the peer: there are plenty of booths looks like there is a fair or something. Weíre hungry, because itís already past nine, weíre already awake for an hour and stop at the first restaurant we see that is open and serves breakfast. We have a Nescafe and an English breakfast and two soft-boiled eggs. We share a few things and enjoy the sound of the sea, the food, the company and the feeling of vacation. That feels nice. After breakfast we walk next to the sea and head for the archeological site. We do this first with our stomachs still full: entrance fee is 3,40 Euro and it really is worth a visit. We hope it is. A couple of parts have been covered and they contain mosaics from the past, but they are very beautiful. We first check out the House of Aion and the villa of Theseus, but they are not the most impressive buildings on the site. A small row of columns provides the impression of a temple, but we need a lot of imagination to try to see the temple. The area where the excavations have been done wide, because we walk here in total three hours.
We see a few Cypriots doing some crazy stuff here: they are digging up ancient pieces in this heat. Yeah, it really is hot. The wind is blowing hot and slowly, but cools down the temperature from about eighty to thirty degrees. The clouds regularly come in front of the sun and that makes it nice. We drink water and that also does good. After weíve seen the diggers, we walk to the end of the site for the beautiful view on the city, a lighthouse and the complete site. Then we pass the most beautiful house of the site: the House of Dionysus. There are very beautiful mosaics in different colors and shapes. It is remarkable how they could depict goats, rabbits, a peacock and other animals with small mosaic stones. Well done.
The last part of the site consists of an agora and a small theater, really nice to see it, but nothing more. The theater is right in front of the lighthouse and that offers a good view. The agora is just a square that has been overgrown with grass and weed, but you need to imagine that in ancient times this was the center of business. The last sight is an ancient fortress. That is located close to the entrance and itís marvelous that we have a view on the harbor through the arches of the fortress. Weíve already taken many beautiful pictures and itís only the first couple of hours of day one of our vacation. Weíve been on the site for over three hours now and think itís time for a drink.
On a terrace in one of the busiest places in Paphos we have a frappť and a banana-milkshake. Refreshing in this warmth, or better heat, because there are no clouds anymore. Weíre not complaining of course, because we love the warmth, the sun, the sea and Ö the drinks. After this moment of rest we walk further to another fortress that is closed today, but might be open again tomorrow and then we explore the rest of the city: mainly we look for food for our breakfast tomorrow. We need to find breakfast-stuff and buy them in a supermarket that is open on this holiday; it is Whit Monday and also here this is a legal holiday. The main thing we buy is coffee, water, cola, also some stuff on our bread, but that then means we need to return to the hotel to put everything in the refrigerator. We walk straight back to the hotel, put everything in the fridge and then cool down ourselves in the swimming pool. We stay there forty minutes and then have enough, so we go back to the room, take a shower and head for dinner. Itís only a bit after five, but we didnít have lunch, so we start looking for something nice.
But first we check out the rest of the city to know where we can find good stuff. The long promenade from the hotel to the centre offers some restaurants, but we first need to check what else is on offer. In the centre is pretty busy due to the holiday: there is a very big crowd and that is not really for us. We start looking for a quieter area. We walk along the sea with the water on our right side and the hotels on our left side. You can imagine we were more focused on the left side. We look at the sea until the end of the beach: municipal beach. There we know we need to climb to return to the hotel, but we donít return yet. A couple of meters further we find a restaurant where it looks nice for dinner. Timo speaks Greek, but the waitress does not understand a thing. She romanian. What is she doing here when she does not speak Greek. Weíre sitting down and donít want to leave so order: wine, choriatiki, kalamaria and gemista.
The wine is nice, but the gemista is not as Timo is used to, nice though, but they serve one egg-plant and zucchini and a paprika and thatís different from what heís use in Greece. The taste is good so thatís the most important thing. Also the kalamaria are good, better than in Belgium, but what do you expect: here they are frozen, but at least frozen fresh. Time has come to about eight oíclock and we return to the hotel. We still need to recover from the travel yesterday, weíve walked a long distance and we feel that we will not stay outside for a long time. We have some wine and retsina and enjoy the evening.
Tuesday June 14, 2011: Dive day one and Tombs of the Kings
We get up at about seven thirty after a good night of rest, but we had already done some things yesterday, so we could use the sleep. Today they will pick us up at quarter to nine for our first day of diving. Veerle joins us for snorkeling and Timo is diving. But first we need to have something to eat: breakfast on our balcony. We have banana, cheese turkey filet and a bit salad and tomato and we also bought coffee. Breakfast does us well. It is really nice to have breakfast here with the sun in our face and then itís time to prepare everything and to go to the reception. There Alex comes and picks us up and drives to the dive centre. Timo had sent an e-mail to about five dive centers and only two had replied. From those two answers he preferred ABC Diving Cyprus, because he thought they would provide the best service based on the reply. After fifteen minutes we are at the dive base.
At first it is the usual paper management and gear management and they put everything in a bag, so we can leave on time. There is a small problem, because one of Timoís buddies is Russian and does not speak one single word of English. That is going to be a cool briefing later on. Not my problem though. Veerle also receives her gear for snorkeling and then we can leave in a mini-bus to the first divesite of the day: SaintGeorgesBay. The drive takes about half an hour and we arrive in a small bay with a beautiful harbor. On the top of the hill is a church, probably the Agios Georgios and we start the dive in the harbor. Veerle can snorkel at the beach and sheíll have fun. We prepare out gear and then we start to have fun: the Russian guy has seven dives, yes seven and it has been two years since he was diving. He did not even remember how to wear his lead belt. How difficult can it be? The instructor looks as if he fears this is going to be a special dive, but weíll see.
We start snorkeling from the harbor to the end of the pier and then we need to go down and dive on the outside of the dam. Everything OK, so the dive can commence. There are high waves and because this is a shallow site we can feel it. The trick is to swim only when the surge takes you forward and not constantly. Otherwise you use too much air for nothing. The dive takes about forty minutes and does not really offer a great deal of things. We swim under a small arch and over a field of sea grass and enjoy the waving of the grass by the rolling of the sea. After twenty minutes the Russian guy has reached hundred bar Ė we all had ten-liter tanks Ė while Timo has forty bar more. Thatís more or less normal, because everybody had to learn it, but this is a bit over the top. Another buddy is a German guy and heís about the same level as all of us, so nothing can be said about him.
The only thing we spot that is worth mentioning is an octopus, a couple of damselfish, and a few tubeworms, in general theyíre beautiful but thatís about all we see. On our way back the instructor goes to the surface with the Russian guy and we continue the dive. All in all itís nice to be diving here, but there is not a lot to see and the instructor was speeding like hell. The speed was so high that the Russian guy, Sergey was having cramps in his legs and he needed help. Timo is happy with the dive and Veerle was happy with her snorkeling adventure.
We put everything back in the trailer and head for the second diving spot. We thought so, because once we get there the sea is not as willing as we would have hoped for: the waves are too high, so no second dive today, maybe two more on Saturday, because tomorrow itís not possible. The instructor Glenn drops us of at the Hotel Alexander The Great and we walk five minutes to our hotel. There we wash the salt of our brown bodies and then we decide to go for a long walk. The plan is to go to the Tombs of the Kings: a Unesco World Heritage Site. But first lunch: we have a chef salad, a toast ham and cheese and a little bit of tzatziki and a beer and a cola. Weíre not really hungry yet, but it tastes well and we eat it all. Weíre seated in a beautiful scenery too: a view on the bay of Paphos.
After lunch we visit the fortress and enjoy the beautiful view on the harbor. It actually is a tourist trap, but we donít mind and pay the 1,70 Euro for the great view on the city. Very nice. Veerle has an ice cream and eats it on our way. We take the beach road that is only open to pedestrians and cyclists and arrive at a shit hotel via FarosBeach: Elysium Hotel. It is prohibited to non-residents to enter the property, so we return to the main road while we had a view on the tombs. We pass KFC to the main road and then look for the entrance of Tombs of the Kings. We still have a couple of hours to visit this site and decide to do that, because we did not come here for nothing. At the hottest moment of the day we walked for about six kilometers, but we had water with us, so no worries.
We pay the 1,70 Euro without a problem and stay here for an hour and a half. The tombs are the graves of the middle class and not as the names states of kings. At each of the eight graves there are steps down and they end in the tomb chambers. Be careful. The tombs are small chambers cut from the porous stones and nothing more. The archeological artifacts have been removed by grave robbers a long time already. Of all eight there are only two that are a bit more special: one with a colonnade and that is remarkable, especially knowing that it was built ten meters under the ground and it is beautiful how the light shines into the graves and also the architecture looks good. In another tomb there is a cube, serving as central grave and then we had the most important things. It all is beautiful, but once youíve seen one or two youíve seen them all/ two special sightings on this site are a falcon and a lizard. They can find their way easily amongst the rocks and the beautiful architecture. This is yet another proof that nature can find its way and can adapt to the invasion of men.
After one hour and a half weíve seen it all and want to have a fresh drink, so we walk to the other side of the road and have a coke on the terrace. We rest a bit and have some sugar: yes, this is what we needed. A short break and we then head back to the harbor. We want to have dinner there. We talk about one thing and another and arrive at estiatorio Pelikan. Then Veerle decides she wants fish and orders one of one kilogram two hundred grams: a red snapper. Good, but not cheap. We have a good ďkiloĒ of wine with it and weíre having fun. The waiters are really surprised that Timo speaks Greek, but that will serve us well. The red snapper is very very good, the company is great and the day ends as good (or even better) than it started. Veerle enjoys the fish and Timo joins her. A red snapper is pretty big, but it tastes unbelievablyÖ
But then the (un)expected, we receive the bill and have one lousy Euro short. That is what you get when you leave the bill to the women. Iím not complaining, Iím having a good time. Veerle wants to withdraw some money, but the waiter falls for her and cuts the bill with two Euro, so he ensures he gets a tip of one Euro. Well spotted. A perfect closing of a very good day. The walk back to the hotel is fast: we arrive there in less than half an hour and we enjoy a glass of wine and a cigarette, look at the pictures of today, write the report and go to bed at about ten thirty.
Wednesday June 15, 2011: Troodos, Kykkos and other monasteries
Just before the alarm at half past seven we wake up. Timo is the first one, but immediately after him, Veerle also gets up. We wake up with a blue sky without clouds and not a single sip of wind. It will become a very hot day without shadow and clouds, but weíll see about that later on. We have breakfast on our balcony with bread, cheese, turkey filet and the salami we bought before. Veerle wants something else now, so she buys choco-paste and marmalade. That is not for Timo, so she enjoys it on her own. We prepare a quick lunch to eat in the mountains or on our way and can leave at nine thirty. First we need to hire a car, because it would be excessively far on foot.
We walk to the end of the street en on the corner there is Sofocleous car rentals: an elderly lady asks if we are interested in renting a car and yes, thatís the idea, otherwise we would not enter a car rental office, not even in Cyprus. They offer a car for twenty-two Euro pet day, but once weíre inside this becomes hundred Euros for three days. The twenty-two did not contain the insurance and island taxes. That was as expected huh? We immediately decide to take the car and then something else comes up: the tank is half-empty and therefore we need to ay another twenty-five Euro, they try to rip you off everywhere, but our time will come. Veerle can choose the car and she wants a Suzuki Jimny with soft-top. That is raceble, but weíre not allowed off-road, bad luck.
It is only ten oíclock when we can leave with the car, not bad. We drive on the left side, because this once was a British colony and there are many British people still, but we manage easily. We soon find our way to Lemessos (Limassol) via the B6. We donít take the highway, because we want to quietly enjoy the views and the surroundings. In Mandria we take the road north to Troodos: that is a nice place for a walk or a hike. After twenty minutes of driving we take our first stop at a water reservoir and itís a beautiful view with the water against the side of the mountains, but we donít stay here a long time. The road leads us towards Pano Platres. We stop from time to time to enjoy the views and the landscape. It is quite dry, the small bushes and flowers grow on the slopes, and itís very beautiful. The grey colors of the mountains, the light green and grey of the bushes and the yellow of the flowers, very nice.
At Pano Platres we stop to withdraw some money and quickly check whether we can do a walk here, but you need to pay for your parking due to the tourism and Timo does not like that. We continue through the mountains towards Troodos. There is a large free perking and a visitor center. Before we do the walk we drink some sugar-containing drinks (coke and sprite) and then walk the small route of the botanical track. You can hardly call it a route, because this is just a small path of only three hundred meters, but itís fun: they have installed signs of the types of trees, stone and plants that grow here: nothing much through. Then we look for the starting spot of the route three: Persephone Trail. That needs to bring us on a trail to the top of the mountain Makria Kontarka. We walk down the road until the spot where we think the trail should start, but we need to return to the parking. No indications, nothing. We decide to look for other places for a hike. Itís already twelve, so itís too late to still start a track of twelve kilometers; we would be back too late.
We return towards Pano Platres and there is a small road to the Trooditissa Monastery and we take that to see the monastery. In Troodos mountains there are many churches and monasteries and we need to visit some at least. We easily find our way, but when we arrive we see a sign: Ďplace of worshipí and that they canít receive any tourists. Damn, no luck. Weíve been driving the whole day and have not really vdone a thing, so we think itís time for a visit. We find a byzantine church, the Agios Nikolaos Tis Stegis ďOf the RoofĒ. We took the road to Pedoulas to see the church Archangellos, did not find it, so came to Agios Nikolaos. This style is completely different from the Greek-orthodox churches: the building perfectly fits into the surroundings and it looks like a normal house, except the inside. We canít take any pictures inside, but we can visit. Beautiful paintings on the walls and ceiling with many icons also and loads of gold as normal. The building itself is constructed with rocks from the mountains and has a double roof. Timo and Veerle think it looks like the candy house of Hansel and Gretel. And that in Cyprus. If you look at the pictures, you might think weíre wrong or right.
Then we take the road back to Pedoulas for about ten kilometers. We stop there to visit the Timios Stavros, but first some weather information: it has started to rain and the road to Pedoulas takes us through the clouds that are gliding over the mountains. Sometimes the visibility is ten meters and at other times you would say the weather is still the same. Itís getting a bit chilly, but weíre at an altitude of 1500 meters and in the shade, so that is not really remarkable. At the highest peak it was still seventeen degrees; in Belgium we would be happy with that. In Cyprus this is cold. After we checked out the church at Pedoulas Ė a white building with red arches, red roof and a beautiful interior Ė we leave the town. Timo was wearing shorts, so he did not enter, but Veerle takes a look inside: splendor inside like every church, although this one is really nice.
We follow direction Lefkosia (Nicosia) through the village of Pedoulas and Timo is making friends with the locals. A Cypriote is crossing the road, Timo uses the horn to warn him and the guy is so frightened that he jumps one meter high. His partner at the other side of the road canít stop laughing, amazing. When we think about the sight we also laugh, really a funny sight. We then continue on the E908 and drive past Gerakies towards Kykkos. There is a monastery that should be worth a visit. The mountain roads take us without any problems to the monastery and we can visit it immediately. The building has been restored recently, but especially the inside is very nice. It is a great closure of the day. The entrance of the monastery is already quite impressive: at every side of the entrance we see life-sized mosaics of saints and apostles and others. Then we enter a huge inner court and there are not only one, but also two courts. At both sides of each one the hallways are beautifully decorated. We also see here the mosaics of scenes from the Bible. We see for example the Burning Bush and the crucifixion of Christ and plenty more. In addition, the arch-ceilings are decorated, but in this case with paintings, that are magnificent too.
We walk through the hallways, take the stairs to the next floor and then arrive on a second court. Also here there are galleries with beautifully decorated walls and ceilings. This is almost indescribable. We think that we would loose our way, but donít, because weíre not so pious. The church within the monastery is also great: all gold with chandeliers, many icons and a huge iconostasis, but that canít be visited, because the entrance is locked. Wow! Timo notices a small detail on one of the mosaics: the head of an eagle with a snake in the beak. And for such a small piece of mosaic they have used about fifteen different colors, unbelievable. We stay here for a bit over an hour and then start returning to Paphos. We follow the indications first to Panagia through the CedarValley: also a beautiful piece of nature, but we only drive on without stopping and we enjoy the nature and the peace and quietness: except for the jeep in front of us that slows down in every curve with noisy brakes. At Panagia we have the choice to Paphos: to the right 33 kilometers or to the left 37 kilometers. We take the long road to Paphos, because the jeep turns to the other side. And just twenty kilometers before we saw a sign that Paphos was fifty kilometers and ten kilometers further, it was forty-nine. That is special but not unexpected.
The last trip to Paphos goes smoothly, because itís a large road with steep descents of twelve or ten percent, but Timo has a firm grip on the wheel and half an hour later we arrive in Kato Paphos. We easily find the way to our hotel Paphos gardens. We park the jeep, swim in the pool to get refreshed and then look for something to eat. We walk to restaurant Pelikan and have kalamaria psito, chtapodi psito and red snapper. According to the waiter we had grouper yesterday and today red snapper, but we doubt it, because the taste is the same and also the teeth in the head look the same. Who knows what we have been eating. We drink a Ďkiloí white wine and afterwards walk back to the hotel. We relax on our balcony, because one of us had too much to drink. Then we go to bed and dream. Itís already past eleven, so it was time to go to bed. It has been a long day.
Thursday June 16, 2011: Theme of the day: Aphrodite
The day starts early and good. At seven in the morning there is not a single cloud in the sky, the wind has stopped completely and the sun is shining already. The weather is ideal tor ace the island of Cyprus. We leave after breakfast at about nine and drive to Polis. This is at the northwestern coast about sixty kilometers from Paphos; itís not a long drive, but it takes us about one hour. We pass many vineyards and banana tree plantations and around Pegeia we head into the mountains. Timo can easily keep a high speed, because two cars in front of him seem to know the way. We take a few breaks to look at the views and to rest and in total it takes us an hour. We donít drive to Polis city itself, but first to the ĎBaths of Aphroditeí. Actually there is nothing much to see here, although the nice little pool is beautiful and also the water that comes down is cool. There is nothing more to it, so we donít stay here too long: at the bath of the goddess of love.
We see a sign ĎAdonis Natural Trailí. Adonis was the lover of Aphrodite. Another goddess Artemis was in love with Adonis and tried to kill him. After a few attempts that worked and Adonis died in the arms of Aphrodite: how romantic. He died in the ĎBaths of Adonisí, still an attraction for women that canít get pregnant. The story goes that after a visit you would look more beautiful and younger and even can get children, even if youíre not fertile. The kids-part is not for us. We choose the path of Adonis, but have o idea at all how far this is or how long it will take us. We have a large bottle of water and that should be enough. We start at the coast and need to climb very steep immediately, but it also brings beautiful views on the coast and the small islands in front of us. We need to stop regularly and have a drink because the climb is high. Sometimes itís very steep too.
After twenty minutes we arrive at the top Ė that is what we think, because the path continues and is even steeper than the first part. The earth is red here and behind us, we see the plain of Polis. We are now on the small peninsula of Akamas and itís very beautiful here. The small pine trees provide shelter from the sun and the wind blows hard; both of that bring enough coolness. During the whole route we just see three people, which is really cool. Not cool as in cool temperatures, because those are hot. We need to drink enough and rest from occasionally. The red path leads us to the mountaintop and the actual highest point of the walk, about 370 meters altitude from sea level, so not too bad after all. Once we reached the top the path only goes slowly upwards or down in a pleasant way. The first two climbs were no paths, but more rocks with green and red arrows to point us in the right direction.
After a bit more than half an hour we arrive at a sign of two and a half kilometers and there is the junction between the Aphrodite and Adonis trail. We keep on following the Adonis trail. Correction: Veerle follows her Adonis. At this crossing there is a large Cyprus-oak and it is just a massive tree. We see now that the small trees have disappeared and gave way to larger pine forest. The scent in the forest is marvelous, much better than any eau de toilette, because this is pure nature. In a distance we hear the sound of bells. We already saw one large goat during our second climb, but that was just one animal: here we see over fifty. From this point onwards we walk down and weíve already done a bit over four kilometers. We see that on signs, otherwise we would not know. We take some rest and Timo takes the brochure we took from the car rental office and itís quite funny actually. Apparently the trails here are in the brochure and without knowing it; we actually carried the trail description with us all the time. We now know itís only three and a half kilometers. We climb a bit, but not that much anymore. We drink here and see that a small creek is starting. Until now we did not see a single place of water, but here it flows abundantly. There are even tadpoles in a small pool here, which is amazing.
Then everything goes faster, good paths: there is one part that goes down rather steep, but we conquer this easily. When we reach the six-kilometer sign we already see the sea, so we know itís not too far: of course not, still one and a half kilometer. We again see birds and other animals (swallow, lizard, gecko,Ö) and arrive at the road we took to get to the parking. Fifteen more minutes and weíre there. The Suzuki Jimny is still on the parking and we enjoy ourselves on the terrace of the restaurant: two cokes, a Cyprus salad, which is the same as a Greek salad and a toast with ham and cheese. We could use this in the meantime. Weíre ready to rock Ďn roll again. Eventually we only spent two hours and a half for a seven point five kilometer walk. Our BMI will be OK when we get back home.
After lunch we stop at the small beautiful bay down the stairs at the restaurant and cool down in the salt seawater. Veerle swims way out to the rock, but Timo has done enough of exercise today and rests in the sun after a short swim. No longer than half an hour we stay here and then take the car back to Paphos. Now we take a different road and drive to Polis to take the B7 to Paphos. It is almost four in the afternoon and we decide to drive further and to see some more things of Aphrodite.
Our first stop is Petra Tou Romiou, Aphroditeís birthplace. Itís a great location polluted by Russians who come and swim here and totally ruin the nice atmosphere of this place. We decide to ruin it along with them and we also dive into the water. The water here is much colder than close to Polis, but it certainly cools you down. The rock formations are beautiful, despite the Russians and other touror-ists. A large rock is on the beach and right in front there is a smaller one and itís a great sight with the azure-blue water. We had just dried up from the swim before, but now have wet clothes again. Our last Aphrodite-visit of the day is the sanctuary. When we arrive there after a small detour of two kilometers we see itís already closed for half an hour: maybe we can come back tomorrow. Weíll see.
Back in the car and then in one single ride back to the hotel and there a swim in the pool. There we notice we both have gained some color today: we donít look like tourists anymore, almost like real Cypriots. Especially how Timo was driving the car this afternoon: at the left side of the road and with great speed: almost a local. We take a shower, write the report of the day and drink a nice white wine, but also need to go for dinner. The wine on our balcony is nice, although it comes from a bric-packing, but you donít taste that. A nice dry white Cypriot wine is always good. We then go to a close by Stella-cafť; yes, even here they have Belgian beer. We donít want a beer, but fancy a cocktail, so we have one at Evis bar. The music is not bad, a mixture of stuff, but rather good. Then we decide not to walk too far anymore and have dinner at Za Za restaurant. The restaurant is at the corner of our hotel and looks nice and cozy. We choose a nice bottle of white wine and eat souvlaki and lamb kleftiko. And again we like it a lot. We have a finishing coffee and Timo has a VSOP Keo. Everything looks very nice and is nice too. This restaurant is a bit chique, but not too expensive after all.
Friday June 17, 2011: The south coast of Cyprus: from Paphos to Lemessos
The bread we bought is finished, the cheese is also gone, but there still is coffee: before we leave we have a cup of coffee and at eight we already leave to Kouklia. That is the village where the Sanctuary of Aphrodite is located that we could not visit yesterday. It is a real genuine Cypriot village, small and very little touristas. We park the car at the sanctuary and walk through the village. There is a small square where five roads join and on the corners there are two kafeneios. In one cafť there are only old Greek guys and the other also serves breakfast. Itís not actual breakfast but we can have things like a sandwich. A Greek taxi-driver advises us to eat here and this will be it, since weíre somewhat hungry already. We order a Nescafe and a sandwich with bacon and haloumi. Haloumi is a cheese typical of Cyprus made of goat- or sheep-milk and really good. We feel at home between the Cypriots. It is noisy as Cypriots always talk loud and all at the same time, but that makes it even better: we can taste the local atmosphere: nice. The older guys come in, drink their coffee with some water and then leave. Others stay seated here for hours and are part of the cafť already, also nice.
After our breakfast we check out the church closer and it looks nice. And then we visit the sanctuary of Aphrodite. The entrance is expensive (3.40 Euro) and there is really nothing to see. We do know that there is a concert tonight of Dalaras, a famous Greek singer. Itís a pity that Mama Linda is not here, because she would certainly go and see the concert: at the sanctuary with an orchestra; that would be special. The sanctuary is not worth a lot: it was not even mentioned in the guide of Lonely Planet. That on itself is striking, but when we enter, we start to realize why it was not mentioned. Not a single thing to see. In a separate building, theyíve indicated a museum with few artifacts: some old fragments of glass, mosaics, but nothing worth mentioning. We walk to the house of Leda. That is also located here on the sanctuary, but the only thing that is left is a small mosaic and not even as beautiful as the ones we saw in Paphos. The temple of Aphrodite is practically invisible: you canít even imagine how it must have looked like. We donít stay here any longer, but leave to the next place. The village is nice, but you can disregard the sanctuary.
Our next stop, just after the Rock of Aphrodite is a nice place for a visit: the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates. Here at least you can see that everything was great and big and that there has been a temple. There is not really a lot left from the temple, but the pillars and a wall have been restored beautifully. Steps lead up to the pillars and they look high above the land and look great. We have already seen the baths by then and that is nice. Small chambers with rocks that were used in the past to heat the water of the baths: they had that many years ago also a good impression of what luxury was. We donít see many mosaics here, but everything is well protected from the sun and the heat: theyíve put roofs over the mosaics and also for us that is pleasant. The sun is burning and we look for shadow to cool down. We stay here about an hour and then head for Lemessos and pass a stadium. We only stop there for one minute, because it is only a large plain of sand in a circle of rocks. Itís just a stadium, so did not expect more.
The last archeological site of the day is Kourion. We have read about it and need to stop there. Weíre here now anyway. We can drive by car on the site to the information center and there the exploration of the site starts. Close to the center is the House of Eustolios. Again this excavation is protected from the sun by a huge roof and this guy Eustolios must have been an important person, because the house is well decorated with mosaics and itís a big house with a beautiful view on the bay of Episkopi. Right next to the house there is a well-restored theatre and even itís a small one, itís beautiful. After our short visit to the house and the theatre we start the walk to the other side of the site. First we rest a bit to recover from the heat and then we think we can defy the heat again. The remains of an ancient early-Christian basilica are the first thing we see here. A couple of pillars stand straight and on a few places we see sand covering a green cloth. We think this also serves for the protection of the mosaics.
Then we walk the largest distance to the end: the House of Achilles: a couple of magnificent mosaics again. There is a third house on the site and thatís the House of the Gladiator. Again we see the mosaics under a roof and the most remarkable is the mosaic of a gladiator: and of course thatís also where the name comes from. The public baths are the next in line and we see that they have stacked the rocks on each other to conduct the heat, just like the other baths weíve seen. Something special here is a hexagonal bath: a bath with six corners, but you clearly see that the most part is not old, but restored with twentieth century concrete. The agora is the last thing we need to see here with a couple of beautiful pillars that rule the agora completely. That is really worth to check out.
From here we travel to Lemessos and the idea is to do some sightseeing in the city and then return to Paphos. We quickly find our way to Lemessos and this is a very busy town. In the small streets in the centre it is difficult to find your way and there we loose the control over our whereabouts. Weíre unsure where to go, so we just follow the small streets of Lemessos. Itís busy traffic and it smells: we canít imagine you can fall in love with the city. Next to that there are road and building work all over the place and there are constantly traffic jams. We wonít stay here a long time. And then itís trouble in paradise: a Cypriot parks on the left side of the road and at the moment when Timo passes by he opens his door without looking first. Damn, the side of the door and the fender are damaged, shit man. The guy is pretty friendly and calls the rental office to arrange everything and Timo also speaks to the lady to be sure that nothing particular needs to be arranged. She only needs to know the license plate number and they will take care of it amongst each other. Weíll see.
This is only a confirmation that Lemessos it not the place to be for us. Just an FYI: Lemessos is also known as Limassol. We leave here and drive all the way back to Paphos. We try to stop at a monastery, but itís not open in the afternoon. No visit for us today. The drive back to Paphos is fast and we have over one quarter of a gas tank, so we need to empty it. Around this area there are road works everywhere and also just outside Lemessos theyíre working. We follow the signs to Kolossi, because thatís the only sign we see. There is an old castle and we want to visit this too. First we drink a fresh orange juice in the shadow and we can use the vitamin C. The castle itself is nothing special, but we have a great view on the surroundings. This is still urbanized here, but pretty. Between the houses and villas we see vineyards that provide green ribbons between the buildings. Then we drive back to Paphos and then tank still needs to become empty.
We drive further to Pegeia and through some small villages and the mountains to Agios Georgios where we did our first dive and then a bit further to Lara Beach. That is a protected zone for sea turtles. We stay here shortly, but have no luck that we see the turtle heads above the surface. The day is already a long one and weíve been driving over 600 kilometers over the past three days, so we return to the rental car office. The gas is quickly sinking and we had hoped to return it empty and that works out pretty fine. We have a drink and then go to the hotel for a swim in the pool and cool down. It really is great to wash all the archeological dust off our heated bodies. This is great! On our balcony we have some white wine and retsina and then go to the restaurant. We walk to our favorite restaurant here, the Pelican and drink kilo aspro krasi and have keftedes and moussaka. Again, like previous times itís very good. They were not acting normally this evening, because we had to wait for about an hour for our bill and had to ask for it three times. Weíre tired of the long ride of today and go back to the hotel early, chill on our balcony and then head into our bed. Tomorrow diving, yes!
Saturday June 18, 2011: Two dives with ABC Dive
We have been able to rest very well here, so also last night was not a problem: we had to adapt to the hard mattresses, but no big problem. The bread is finished, the salami not just yet, but we donít want just salami as breakfast. Veerle gets up first to have a look for breakfast and it works out at the second attempt. The mini-market down the street is not open yet, but a bit further around the corner she finds something for breakfast. We have two donuts: one with chocolate and one with normal sugar. That tastes not bad at all with a cup of coffee and a cigarette afterwards. She brings croissants for lunch between the dives, so we prepare those too. A bit of marmalade in-between and that will do good later on. We quickly take a shower and Alex of ABC Dive picks us up at the reception. We are there just on time when he arrives there.
He brings us to the dive center and there everything is wall arranged for us: all is ready in the trailer behind the van. The bus is almost full with Glenn, the instructor from previous dive, a Russian instructor, us two, another couple, presumably Russians too and two others who come along for I donít know what. We drive through Paphos to pick up another diver: Thorsten, who also joined us the other dive. We need to wait for him a bit, because he was not yet ready when we arrive at his hotel. Than we take a short ride of about fifteen minutes to another hotel. Is this the divesite? That is something special, never seen this before. We get a briefing from the Russian instructor: very brief briefing: here you enter, you make a circle there and get back out. That is going to be interesting. What will that dive be. When Glenn is gathering everybodyís gear, he also briefs the DSD (Discover Scuba Diving), because thatís why the other two were here. We donít wait for the two DSD-people and prepare our kits en can start. This dive site is a small bay with a sheltered part in the front of the bay and there we enter the water. When we walk up there we get our (better) briefing from Glenn, but that is not a lot anyway. Weíll see.
Our first task is to reach the sea over the rocks snorkeling and then the dive can start. We wait for the waves to be good and then we head very fast over the rocks and ensure you donít get hurt smashing against the stone. Veerle has joined us too, not for diving, but for snorkeling and sheíll follow us. Hopefully she sees a bit more than we diving the first time. Everyone is still OK after the first part although it is a challenge. Without any problems we can start the dive. There is not a lot of marine life here, because weíre not very deep. We like the swim-through though that Glenn finds for us. When you swim under it you can see at the left side a smaller hole where the light pours through. That provides a great sight. The number of fish is a bit bigger than during the first dive and we see some damselfish, a few wrasses, but here between the rocks there is not really much to see.And then suddenly Timo spots a small scorpionfish. That makes the dive a bit nicer. Glenn points our attention to a piece of rock that looks like an anchor and in the end itís not a bad dive. Not too deep, because we donít go deeper than eleven meters. Veerle follows us all the time and sheís happy she now also sees some fish. Glenn and Timo check the surface to see if sheís all right and that is the case, so everything is perfect. When we have been diving for about forty minutes Glenn spots a huge mollusk, Timo thinks it is a sea hare, but heíll need to verify this at home. A bit later we see the rope again from the start of the dive, so we know itís almost done. The last part is again a bit more difficult, because in some places you see nothing: the bubbles of the waves take away any visibility, so you need the rope to know where youíre heading. We work it all out, although Timo was swept on a rock and is pretty helpless. Everyone is safe on the side: Veerle is still intact, Timo has a small scratch and we look back to a nice dive, snorkel.
Now we need to stay at the surface for a while. Alex picks up the divers of the DSD and we drive to the next dive site: Amphitheatre. The trip takes about twenty minutes, but that is not a problem, then the interval is a bit longer. When we arrive there we see that there are a couple of waves, but certainly not as high as the first time we came here on Tuesday. We can dive there today, yes. Unfortunately Glenn advises Veerle not to go in the water, but she will keep her busy during the hour weíre here. We prepare everything again and one hour and thirty minutes after we came out of the water weíre ready to do our dive. A similar short briefing and then we go. We follow the rocks and after five minutes we arrive on the spot that deserves that name of the site: amphitheatre. The rocks are worn out and they look like seat in a Roman amphitheatre. It is very impressive. There are even two different levels, the first at five meters and the second at about eight meters depth.
We get some time here to look at the walls and we can enjoy the view of the theatre. It really is a nice site. There is nothing special as to animal life. The only thing Timo sees are damselfish, a lonely hermit crab and a beautiful blenny. Timo canít take a picture of it, because the battery of his camera has dropped low. A bad timing, because the blenny was still and the theater really is nice. Hell yeah, shit happens: he still has not learnt from previous times. After half an hour we leave the theatre and dive round and round and round. Actually Glenn is looking for a place that should look like a nest with eggs, but he canít seem to find it. So we return to the theatre and look at it again. After fifty-six minutes we get out of the water and the dive is over. Timo has done his best on air: diving so long with a ten-liter tank that is only filled to hundred and ninety bar is not bad. The two dives for the day are done and we go back to Paphos.
Veerle and Timo walk back to the hotel and stop on the way for a quick bite: a cheeseburger: we like it again. We donít need the coolness of the swimming pool because we were snorkeling and diving, but we enjoy the fresh water and the sun. It still is hot and weíre going to miss that the day after tomorrow. The chlorine needs to be washed from our bodies, we have a short siesta and then we have a last supper at the Pelican. We have lamb chops and barbouni (red mullet) with half a liter of wine and then a coffee: a Nescafe and a Greek coffee with Metaxa. That was long time ago. As a goodbye we receive a bottle of red house wine that is a nice gesture from the guys.
Glenn had invited us this afternoon to come and have a drink in a bar where he regularly comes. A Brit who invites us to a bad; that will be something. And yeah, when we arrive there, we see a karaoke and a party. Also the name of the bar says it all: Charlieís Bar. Wrong! We try to get a drink, but even after half an hour it has not worked out. In the meantime Glenn arrived too with his neighbor and he arranges everything faster than we can get it done. A bit later also Thorsten and his wife arrive and we have a drink and a chat about plenty of things, but mainly diving; itís quite a nice evening on a wrong location. At about one in the night Thorsten and his wife leave, but we stay and have another drink. After that three Finnish ladies arrive and then the Casanova within Glenn comes to the surface, but he has bad luck, because there is only one straight girl and she has a boyfriend. The other two are already married for three years. We chat some more and time flies, because suddenly itís three AM. It is about time to head back to the hotel: itís already late and we have been drinking too much. We say goodbye and promise to send a mail. The walk takes about half an hour and weíre home at half past three and fall asleep. This nightís rest will do us good.
A wrong night like this, just one in the week should not do any harm. In the end we did have fun.
Sunday June 19, 2011: Do nothing and return home
Today will be our last day here in Cyprus and that is not always very funny, but we make the best out of it and can look back to a very nice vacation. We wake up at eight, which is not even that late, since we came home very late (early) yesterday (today). We have a bit of trouble to wake up, but Timo the most. He canít get out of bed, comes to sit on the balcony, but then returns to the bed without actually sleeping, but he loves the peace. Veerle is waiting outside with tired eyes, but she does not want to give in. eventually Timo comes out of bed and we immediately leave for breakfast. It is a bit after ten and our stomachs give us clear hints we need to eat something and no alcohol yesterday. We walk to Ta Bania at the harbor and have an English breakfast and an omelet with bacon and mushrooms. Itís very good with a fresh orange juice. We make the most of our time here and enjoy the last day in Paphos.
We need to do some shopping for Linda and Patrik because they gave us a lift to the airport and will pick us up, so we buy two small bottles of olive oil and a bottle of Ouzo Plomari and two half liters of retsina. Weíll see what we will give them and what we will keep. The shopping does not take long and the walk back to the hotel is also finished after half an hour. Weíre making it a day of relaxing, so we decide to rest at the swimming pool. We stay in the shade and try to sleep, but a Greek family decides otherwise. In total there are about ten people and they make too much noise. Greek people know how to make noise. They talk all the time and it looks like they are having trouble with each other every time too. We move to a quieter place at the children swimming pool: luckily itís quiet here, because there is only one mum with her child.
It is a nice place to get some tan, but first cool down in the water. Itís great to dry up in the sun afterwards. Yes. After swimming we stay here and sleep for almost an hour. By now we could use it too. Time goes slowly and Veerle thinks that time should also go this slowly when we were having fun. Neither of us are real-pool-fans, so after three hours of doing nothing, we can use some action. Itís not really action. We are having lunch at a small snack bar and manage on our last day to have pita. Veerle prefers kotopoulo and Timo normal gyro. Like every type of food here we like it also and have a drink. We return to the room, because itís almost five in the afternoon and we still need some time to prepare the luggage. Earlier at eight this morning Veerle had asked at the reception for a late checkout. Sunjets only picks us up at seven, so that is a bit long to stay here without a room and leave the luggage behind the reception. We pay thirty Euros to keep the luxury of the room and can take a shower, pack the luggage and enjoy the last retsina and white wine that was still in the refrigerator.
At half past six weíre ready and go to the entrance of the hotel so the bus of Sunjets can pick us up over there. There are few people waiting and the bus is well on time. We get in and leave to the airport. Our hotel was the last in the row and we need to be in the bus for about twenty minutes to PaphosInternationalAirport. And then comes the usual shit: check in, passport control, check of the hand luggage, another passport control. Apparently, they want to be sure that everything has been check properly. At half past eight they already start boarding, but we wait a bit and write the report of the day. When that is done we also get on the airplane, hoping that everything will be going well. We can leave about thirty minutes early because everything and everyone is ready. That is good news, because it will take us longer because of the headwind. The flight now takes four hours and twenty minutes, but we arrive twenty minutes earlier than planned. Linda and Patrik pick us up and at half past one in the night we arrive home. Cartouche is happy to see us and weíre happy to be home. A day of traveling can get tiring. Now it is only thirteen degrees in Belgium, but we donít have a problem with it now. Tomorrow we have a last day off to get everything in order and then on Tuesday we need to go to work again.