Thursday, June 07, 2007

Paphos Day 5 - June 1

Lets try this again.

The alarm is set for 7:30 this time, bags packed and we head down for an early breakfast. When finished it's outside sitting on the wall just outside of the hotel to wait for our excursion shuttle. This time it actually shows up. Yeah!

The tour is taking us up into the Troodos mountains and the final destination being the Kykkos Monastery. Driving around the countryside I am again struck by how much Cyprus reminds me of the Okanagan Valley. The dry arid climate, the scrub brush along the road. As you get up into the mountains then you see the fruit trees. The cherries are just about in season, there are also citrus groves and of course olive trees.

We have a good tour guide she narrates all through the trip and highlights that agriculture is one of the main exports, the second being light industry. The further up the bus goes the greener it gets. But this is not a tropical climate so no palm trees or rain forest. But they do have a number of different pine trees and things just generally start to look greener.

Our first stop is a little village called Arsos and we have a breakfast break. Some fresh baked brown bread, 2 different types of cheeses, fresh cut tomatoes, salami, of course marinated olives (with oregano, coriander and a few other spices I can't remember). The best part? Some dry red wine and Cyprian whisky - all before 10AM. Our stop here isn't long but we get enough of a break that we can wander the streets and take pictures. There was this great little church next door with some lovely art work inside.

More driving as we snake around and up higher and higher. The 2nd stop is at an official tourist trap. Again, more food is given to us. This time it is what looks like a bagel on steroids but is whole wheat with cinnamon baked inside and then the outside has either honey or sugar along with sesame seeds. So you get this initial taste of sweetness when you bite in and then the soft chewy inside. It was so big it lasted me two days. They also had some fresh roasted cashews and peanut brittle. All very yummy. But other than the food not much to do here. The "shopping" was the regular rack of postcards, tacky looking pottery, calendars, toys etc. The whole area looked like a new build specific for the purpose of a tour bus stop. Not necessary in my books.

Third stop was the Kykkos Monastery. The origins go back to the 11th century. It's been built, destroyed and rebuilt a number of times. The newest building dates back to the 18th century. The cloisters have wonderful paintings all along the walls. They are actually a new feature. Completed in the 1980's by a Cyprian artist but their newness does not take away from their beauty. Inside the monastery is the church. No pictures allowed inside. There is a screen that is made of gold that is beautiful. The other claim to fame is there is an icon of the Madonna and Christ child that was supposedly painted by St Luke (I thought he was supposed to be a doctor). But it is currently behind a veil which is only removed during special occasions like Easter and Christmas. There are a number of chandeliers that are also made of gold that have just recently been restored so were gleaming at their fullest. One of the largest ones was a donation from the Russian Orthodox church.

The monastery is still in use but there are only about 25 monks living their now. The oldest is 83 years old and has been serving there since he was 13 years old. He greeted us as we were about to go into the church. He looked remarkably well and able bodied. Very smiley.

After the monastery we head back a different way and stop in another village for lunch (yes more food). It is a traditional Cyprian feast of Dolmades, a yogurt and feta dip, salad, roast chicken, a macaroni and spicy minced pork (I think) pie - think like a sheppard's pie but with macaroni instead of mashed potatoes and a béchamel sauce and the final dish was a potatoes, onion, tomato and marinated pork thing. I was full at this point so I skipped that one but it did look good. On the table were more marinated olives, spiced differently than the ones we had a breakfast and some local red and white wine. Both were quite nice and light tasting which was good for lunch. A heavy wine would have been a bit much. Lunch was the final stop and then it was just the long drive back into Paphos. I always feel like sleeping but fight it as I'm worried I'll miss something out the window.

We got back to our hotel a little before 5:00 so we changed into our bathing suits and caught a little sun before having to get ready for dinner. In the evening we caught the bus that went north up to Coral Bay.

It really reminded me of Grand Bend in Ontario, a bit of a tourist trap with the main road lined with restaurants, bars and souvenir shops. All the bars have the England/Brazil football match on so we found a bar that advertised Guinness on tap. I ordered one and then witnessed the barman grab a can from the fridge. He noticed my questioning look, and then said is it OK? I commented that it wasn't draft, and his reply...

It's just the same.


Peggy said...

"It is just the same." Really? How you resisted the urge to grab that man by the ear and drag him to Dublin, plunk him on a seat and force him to compare Guinness from the can and draft Guinness (or the verbal equivalent) I will never know. You didn't really expect proper Guinness in Cypress, did you?

Sounds like you're having a great Cypriot holiday. I love those icons in the churches! I think we have a few reproduction icons here at the house.

strugglingwriter said...

Great photos. Oh, and "It's just the same." is just sad.

Chris said...

Yes I know. He just couldn't understand my horror. But still Guinness out of a can is still better than Leon (one of the Cyprus local brews).

Colleen J said...

Ah, the food, glorious food, so reminiscent of Crete and yet so different. Olives and lemons and yogourt, oh my! Mmmm, I love hearing about your gastronomic adventures Chris!