“Cyprus remained in my mind … much as heaven does in the minds of respectable people, as a place I should shortly go to, though I made no preparations for getting there.”
So said W.H. Mallock in 1889 In an Enchanted Island. But, unlike the author who penned this quote more than a century ago, you have indeed made preparations for getting there. Cyprus is truly in your travel sights and with good reason. There’s sun and sand and beaches and natural beauty just waiting for you when you come ashore. And, since this may be your first call to the island, let’s get a few facts and stats under our belt. The capable guides will fill in all the ancient history, so let’s focus now on other details.
Today in Cyprus
Cyprus is a member of the European Union and has been since 2004. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean with its capital in the city of Nicosia. And, just as a point of reference, Cyprus is approximately the same size as Connecticut. You’ll find English spoken across the island, a reminder of the period of time from 1878 until 1960 when Cyprus was under British administration.
Literary buffs might remember the names of two important writers Costas Montis and Demetrius Gotsis. Sports fans will certainly know the name of a colorful and entertaining tennis player currently on the circuit … Marcos Baghdatis … whose smile lights up arenas worldwide. Anyway, that’s enough of that so let’s segue into the important information of where to go, what to see, and what local delicacies might satisfy your palate once you’re weary from sightseeing.
Where Your Wandering Should Lead You
The choices are many. You can stay in the town of Limassol and explore there or travel a bit out of town for some of the highlights. Kolossi Castle is only about 9 miles away and a popular destination. Surrounded previously by fields yielding everything from cotton to olives even wine grapes, this 15th century castle is considered “military architecture.” Archaeologists claim its present structure masks an earlier one from two centuries prior. And, within these unadorned, simple stone walls lived the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, later the Knights Templar.
Aphrodite’s Rock, also known as the Rock of the Greek or Petra tou Romiou, is another visitor’s must-see. Though not of towering proportions, it is nonetheless filled with intrigue. Ask one of the locals to fill in the blanks of Aphrodite’s birth and how this rock plays into that story, as details are a bit too spicy for this presentation. But, for the record, Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love and beauty and sexual rapture as well as the patron of Cyprus hence her other name Cypris, or Lady of Cyprus. And, if that’s not enough, she was also known in Roman mythology as Venus who possessed extraordinary beauty and was the object of great affection not only of mere mortals but of many gods, as well. When you hear the minutia you’ll remember that she floated ashore in a scallop shell, the subject of Sandro Botticelli’s 1485 The Birth of Venus.
From birth to death, another story lives on in Cyprus. This one about Saint Neophytos. Considered a hermit (maybe he heard about Aphrodite’s father), he spent 45 years living in a cave he carved from stone, it is said, with his bare hands. While not digging other caves and avoiding pilgrims who sought him out, he wrote many important pieces including Concerning The Misfortunes of the Land of Cyprus. Egkleistra, the lowest of the caves, is open to visitors interested in viewing murals and frescoes from the 12th to the 15th century. The Ayios Neophytes Monastery dates back to 1159 and today serves as a museum filled with important artifacts. It is found just beneath the grottoes.
Where Your Food Lust Should Take You
Well, after you’ve finished sightseeing and shopping for copper, embroidered linens, and colorful pottery (all island specialties) you might want to step into a waterfront taverna to fortify your body. Some local dishes that are as good as it gets include souvlaki, an island delight; a smoked pork loin called lountza; a minced meat pastry thing called sheftalia; any catch of the day; something known as loukoumades that’s basically a thigh-busting puff cloud dipped in local honey; a slice of halloumi cheese; all enjoyed with some local wine or zivania schnapps. You’ll hear about Commandaria, considered “the oldest named wine still being produced.” Perhaps you’ll share a glass with friends to celebrate your visit to Cyprus. And maybe you can write a story entitled Concerning The Fortunes of the Land of Cyprus highlighting your time ashore. It’s a thought.