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Chambers at Large: Exploring Paphos in Cyprus

I had every intention of staycationing in May, but Jet2 sent me an offer I couldn’t refuse: a week in Cyprus, 5 star hotel, B&B, less than £1000 (including direct flight).  With the prices in Ireland losing the run of themselves and the weather forecast being showery, windy with a threat of thunderstorms I soon found myself back in Paphos, this time at the Athena Beach Hotel, next door to where I stayed before.

The joy of this seaside town is that it’s only twenty minutes or so from the airport and there is plenty to do and nothing to do, which suits me perfectly!  I spent a few days exploring the town and the rest of the time reading and writing by the pool or in my room, the balcony of which had a lovely view of the gardens and the sea.

A big thank you to Stevie’s Taxis who chauffeured me to the Archaeological Site near the harbour one morning and to the Tombs of the Kings another.  

Paphos Archaeological Site is, I believe, still being excavated, but there was no sign of any digging being done the morning I arrived.  Archaeologists have unearthed information from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantian periods but my focus was on the mosaics located in the House of Dionysus, the House of Aion and the House of Theseus.

These are not actual houses but areas named after the mosaics which were once the floors of salubrious residences of the wealthy in Paphos.  The dwellings are long gone with only a few columns and ruined stone walls remaining, but the mosaics are some of the finest I have ever seen and the information given alongside them is very thorough, describing who and what is being depicted.

In the House of Dionysus, where the mosaics date back to the second century AD, are representations of my favourite three Fs in social history: fighting, fornication and feasting.

Dionysus returning from a war campaign in India with panthers and slaves is shown in a large mosaic in the centre of the house and nearby are hunting scenes with men armed with spears battling with lions, tigers, wild antelope, boars and onagers.

A mosaic of Phaedra and Hippolytus urged me to find out more about the couple and the story is wonderfully salacious.  Phaedra falls in love with her stepson, Hippolytus.  When he rejects her advances she accuses him of rape.  Phaedra’s husband, Theseus, prays to the god Poseidon to kill Hippolytus.  He obligingly does and Phaedra then kills herself.  (I really must get to grips with Greek and Roman mythology.) 

A little more mundane, but still marvellous, are mosaics of everyday objects, a peacock and several with geometric patterns.  The House of Dionysus did not disappoint.

I then moved outside to the House of Theseus which was possibly home to a Roman proconsul, the governor of Cyprus circa 2AD.  Little remains of the house except for the mosaics which, to my surprise, are still open to the elements, but Cyprus has very little rain and the wind doesn’t seem to be doing too much damage.  Larger stones around the mosaics offer some protection from sand and smaller stones.  The god Poseidon is depicted in one mosaic with his wife Amphitrite, aptly situated near the sea and another of the goddess Aphrodite.

Moving out of the sun I once again went inside into the House of Aion, the god of Eternal Time.  Here the mosaics depict Dionysus as a child and the story of two competitions: one a beauty competition won by Cassiopeia; another a music competition where heads literally roll.  The flute player Marsyas is decapitated as he dares compete against the god, Apollo.  There’s nothing quite so damning as a sore loser and it seems all those talent shows gracing the small screen are nothing new!

I admit I did not see everything at the heritage site which is vast.  I decided to save it for another day as I’m not one to stay out too long in the sun, despite sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat.  Seeing the mosaics was time well spent and I’ve discovered I need time to assimilate where I’ve been and what I’ve learned.


Next door to the Archaeological Site is The Tombs of the Kings, inappropriately named as no kings were buried there, but evidence suggests it was the resting place of the wealthy and high officials of the Ptolemaic State.

My visit proved to be enlightening as the tombs are quite impressive with stone steps leading down into rooms similar to those in which the rich and famous once resided.  Similar to burial vaults found in Alexandria there is an atrium circled by tall columns and carved into the walls are niches (loculi) where the dead were laid, some large, others small.

These are family burial chambers which were once decorated with frescoes, but have been plundered by grave robbers, who left next to nothing behind.

One decoration above a loculus caught my eye as it was very similar to what I’d seen in Petra: two arches in squares with triangles on top.  I wondered the significance of the triangle pattern which reminded me of a crown.

Going up and down uneven steps is almost as challenging as an obstacle course for me now I’m in my mid-sixties, and I thank the people who offered their assistance in helping me down the steepest of steps.  I do carry a stick with me that folds up into my rucksack, but I never refuse a helping hand.

 

Both the Archaeological Site and the Tombs of the Kings are well worth a visit.  Entrance fees are very reasonable, but  do wear walking shoes as the ground is uneven and a hat as there is little shelter from the sun.

Having been driven to both places I walked back to my hotel along the promenade which runs for miles along the sea front, easily completing my target of 10,000 steps. It is here and in the grounds of the hotels that you will see numerous cats.  Cyprus, it seems, was known as the Island of Cats and it struck me that many of them have the ability blend in with their surroundings, as if they are half chameleon.  They are certainly well fed, possibly by local fishermen who can be found early in the morning fishing off the piers.

Dogs are not welcome on the promenade and, thinking about it, I saw very few in Paphos, maybe one or two in farm areas when I toured around Cyprus.  Cypriots, I conclude, tend to be cat lovers, like myself and maybe that is one of the reasons I like this island so much.

A clock tower and a yellow post-box in the harbour is a reminder Cyprus was once a British colony.  Seeing the latter took me back to my day in Famagusta and if you’ve not yet read that blog, please do so.  Only then will you know the significance of a single, yellow post-box.

 

Cyprus has been a joy to visit and I will return in due course.  When depends on the offers Jet2 send me in the future.  I’ll be checking my email.

 

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I can’t sing Cyprus’ praises enough.  It’s well worth a visit. It is (at time of writing) reasonably priced and the hotels in which I stayed were first class.  Please click on the links to my other blogs to find out more about this interesting and beautiful island.

 

 

 

Discover more about my reference to the post-box in this blog:

 

 

 

I mention my visit to Petra in Jordan which is deemed to be one of the Wonders of the World and I was certainly impressed when I went a year or so ago.  To find out more please click on the link:

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

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I always enjoy reading your blogs about places I've never visited.....or, in this case, never even heard of (I am ashamed to admit). When I first read your travel blogs I thought I might go see some of those sites for myself some day....but now, at 83, I have to recognize that I'll never get there in person, so all the more I appreciate reading your descriptions.


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