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Chambers at Large on a Heritage Tour of Cyprus

I’ve always loved history, and the Mediterranean island of Cyprus has had a very turbulent history indeed due to its location.  It is a gateway to three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa, and has been occupied by peoples from all three. To learn about the history in detail I took a Heritage Tour with Sea Island Travel & Tours and I have to thank my guide, Eva, and driver, Andreas, for making the day so interesting and worthwhile.

Our first stop was Aphrodite’s Rock where it is said the Greek goddess of Love and Beauty came out of the sea touching the rock with her left hand, the hand of the heart.  It is believed that if a person swims anticlockwise three times around the central rock, naked, at midnight under a full moon, their most heartfelt wish will be granted.

The stories from Greek mythology are extremely entertaining and ignite far more interest in this cynical visitor than a rock jutting out from the sea and, dare I state that, swimming naked around a rock at midnight is more likely to get one arrested rather than grant a wish!

Our next stop was an ongoing excavation of Roman ruins and regular readers of my blog will know that I do enjoy learning about the Romans, their history filled with the three F’s (fighting, feasting and fornication).  However at Kourion archaeological site a more compassionate story was revealed.

The remains of the thirty five room house tell the tale of Eustolios, a Christian trader, who built the dwelling to give shelter to philosophers and those who wished to rebuild and trade in the town after it was destroyed by an earthquake.  The town flourished and Eustolios’ welcoming nature is seen in an inscription on a floor mosaic, written in Ancient Greek:


Enter to thy good fortune and may thy coming bless this house 


His wealth and erudition can be seen in the beautiful mosaics which decorate the floor.  Creation was one of the many subjects discussed and the woman depicted in another floor mosaic is Ktisis, who personifies  the creation of the world.  Eustolios’ Christian belief is evident by the symbol of the fish, Christ being a ‘fisher of men’.

The nearby theatre was once twice its height and held 3500 people who came to watch, among other entertainment, lions fight.  (This reminded me of my visit to Belfast Zoo where I saw Barbary lions, now extinct in the wild, which fought the gladiators in Roman arenas.)

The theatre is very impressive and I’m sorry I didn’t have enough time on this tour to explore more of the site, where work is ongoing.

Our next stop was Kolossi Castle, dating back to the 13th century, but rebuilt in the 15th by Louis de Magnac and his coat of arms can be seen on the grand fireplaces within. If you look even more closely on the castle wall, just below the fake balcony, you can see the scorch marks from boiling oil poured down on those attacking the castle. 

King Richard I (the Lionheart) made a base in Cyprus during the Crusades, and some crusaders cultivated the area growing citrus fruits, grapes and sugar cane.  A sweet wine was made from the production of grapes and sugar which is still made today making Commanderia wine one of the oldest in the world.  King Richard drank it at his wedding!

Moving inland up into the mountains we made a stop at a Ktima Gerolemo vineyard where I enjoyed sampling several wines.  I was so impressed with the rosé I bought a bottle.  I also purchased a small bottle of Zivania, a strong spirit that is quite palatable.  A relation of Eva’s who is 106 swears it is the elixir of life and I tend to agree.  On my last day in Cyprus I felt a cold coming on, so I took a couple of shots of Zivania before bedtime and woke in the morning feeling much more clear headed.  The cold never took hold!

Our final destination was to the mountain village of Omodos where we visited the Holy Cross Monastery, the oldest in Cyprus.  Within this Orthodox church is a piece of hemp (rope), with which Christ was tied to the cross.  This is on view within the iconostasis, although the church also holds a piece of the cross too which is in the sanctuary.

I’ve visited many Orthodox churches but none with chairs.  The chairs  in the Holy Cross church were a little different to regular church pews.  The seats lift up allowing people who wish to stand to lean against the back of the chair.

Learning that some services can last several hours I can appreciate that standing for such a period of time can be hard on some and to lean against something or to be able to sit down is a relief.

Having visited the church I made my way into the village, the central area of which is cobbled, and took a seat in a taverna, Ktima Gerolemo, where Dimitri was running around like Usain Bolt serving customers with good cheer and bonhomie. I ordered a glass of rosé and a sandwich and I have to say both were extremely generous.  The sandwich, the size of a dinner plate, was filled with halloumi cheese, ham, tomatoes and other salad stuffs and the glass of chilled wine was delightfully large.  The price was reasonable too, much cheaper than at home!  Thanks Dimitri. It was delicious and very welcome after a busy day. 

I also extend many thanks to Eva, Andreas, and all the staff in the vineyard.  I thoroughly recommend this tour when visiting Cyprus.  It was enjoyable and informative.  Keep up the great work everyone.

 

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I mention Belfast Zoo in this blog which you can access via this link:

 

 

 

And to view my other excursions in Cyprus, please click on the links below:

 

 

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Cyprus was never on my list of "hope-to-visit" places, but after reading your blog and seeing your photos, I realize it should have been on that list. (Of course, at 83, it doesn't really matter because I now have to realize that I will never get to the island of Hawaii, despite it having been on my list for decades! )

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