Limassol to Troodos and memories

Saturday 16 to Sunday 17 March

We left Larnaca by taxi, after our host came to check the apartment. Off to the airport to pick up a rental car. At the Avis office we were looked after a gentleman of southern USA origin. ‘Let the nigger take the bags’ he told us and proceeded to gives us very detailed instructions on how to look after the Citroen C3. He had us laughing so much. ‘I just want you folks to feel relaxed.‘ he told us.

So we set off on our Cypriot adventure. The motorway was good and bordered by beautiful yellow flowers. Driving was orderly – what a change from the chaotic driving we had experienced in the Balkans and Cyprus.

First stop was the Limassol fortress, a medieval fort. We couldn’t find it but we did stop by the waterfront and have lunch. Rain was threatening and our stop was well timed as it bucketed down. The beachside café quickly filled up with families taking shelter and having an unexpected lunch stop.

After the rain stopped we were entertained by a small cat who climbed a tree under the awnings and found a dry place above a heater.

The rain disappeared as quickly as it came and we made our next stop at Aphrodite’s Rock. Legend has it that Aphrodite was born out of the rock. It is an important icon in Cyprus. For me it was a return to an adventure long ago:

I had arrived in Famagusta, Cyprus with a Swiss guy whose name I can’t remember. Let’s call him Kristian. Had I met him in Istanbul or was he the guy I met on the boat from Split to Dubrovnik and hitchhiked to Istanbul with?

In any case a guy travelling on his own was always keen to hook up with a girl companion as they travel together much quicker.

We had taken a train, third class wooden slat seats, from Istanbul to Mersin, found the port and asked the ships’ crews if we could get a ride. Amazingly a ship carrying a cargo of mandarins to Denmark offered us a ride to Famagusta. The down side was my travelling companion and I had to share a small wooden bunk.

Customs people at Famagusta spent a long time studying my passport, they were quite taken by the long blonde hair and heavy eye makeup that I had now shed. By now I had accumulated a few decent stamps in my passport but I think it was the photo they were most interested in.

So Kristian and I set off to see Cyprus. Our first night was in the old fort at Famagusta, guarded by Cypriot soldiers. It was cold, damp, smelly and free.

We found our way to Limassol where Kristian thought we could sleep on the beach. It was damp and the beach looked uninviting. We had taken a taxi but had been dropped off as the driver left us. We had no other choice but to walk back into town – a long walk. We rested at a summer kiosk that was now shut up. A woman emerged, looking frightened, saying Greek? Greek? Without language we assured her that we weren’t. She took us in and gave us bread and sweet tea with carnation milk. It tasted so good. She had a lot of young children with her and was obviously worried she would be found. Somehow we ended up in Limassol for the night, perhaps at the youth hostel. In November the weather isn’t always conducive to sleeping on beaches.

Our next destination was the most famous rock in all of Cyprus and Kristian had decided we should sleep on top of it.

So it is back to the present day and I was amazed at how big that rock is and I was trying to remember how I lugged my backpack with all my possessions up that rock. I do remember it being one of the least comfortable places I have ever slept but I treasure the memory of sleeping on Aphrodite’s Rock.

This time, more than 47 years later, I climbed it. How could I not.

I read afterwards that climbing the rock is forbidden. I wonder if it was in 1971?

We continued on to Paphos and found our ‘traditional’ hotel. Our host had spent two months over Christmas in Melbourne with his brother and sister and one hundred cousins. He promised us a traditional moussaka cooked by his wife and daughter in his restaurant.

We went for a walk and found a magical balcony to watch the sun set over the water, accompanied by a ‘decent’ beer and wine.

The moussaka was not exciting. The traditional hotel was quaint with a very small room. It felt more English than Greek.

Paphos is famous for its beaches, an improvement on the damp grey beaches along the south coast. But beaches weren’t on our agenda. The Tombs of Kings was.

The Tombs of Kings is a large necropolis that is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Some tombs date back to the 4th century BC and they vary enormously, from small holes built into the side of a cliff to beautifully carved Doric columns and fresco walls. While the artifacts have been lost or removed, we were free to scramble over and around most of the tombs.

And there are no kings buried there.

The setting against the sea on a sunny day was beautiful. Here pale pink cyclamens grow wild along the ground and hanging out of the rocks. We had seen white cyclamens growing wild in Turkey, but these were so pretty.

In fact there were wild flowers everywhere. Predominantly yellow but red poppies, and a variety of blue and white flowers. I suspect I took more photos of the flowers than the ancient tombs.

On the road again, and we made our way to the hamlet of Troodos and Mount Olympus. The scenery was stunning as we climbed the mountain.

Cyprus advertises that you can ski in the morning and swim in the afternoon. Perhaps this is true, but the snow that remained there was icy and more for playing in. And it is still winter and some days were quite chilly so you would be a brave swimmer. There were ski tows operating and lots of families enjoying the end of the snow season.

We stopped at a lookout to appreciate the beauty of Cyprus’ one mountain. There we met a German and a Swedish couple who were looking for walking tracks. I think most of the tracks may have been damp and icy.

We stopped in Troodos for lunch. Lunch is for me, Bruce seldom has more than a coffee.

This brought back another memory from my adventurous days. I’d decided to stay in Cyprus and get some work to supplement my meagre bank account. The youth hostel had jobs advertised and I took the opportunity to take on a waitressing job in Troodos. It all appeared quite safe as all jobs were advertised on the youth hostel notice board and vetted by the staff.

A Greek gentleman picked me up and drove me to the mountain resort. We stopped for coffee and I bought myself some very fine crochet thread and a crochet hook with a view to making something very special for my mum.

The hotel was empty and I was given a nice room and told I would be briefed later by someone who spoke English. I had nothing to do so set about experimenting with my crocheting.

It was lonely and quiet, not quite what I was expecting.

A day or so later the gentleman’s wife arrived home. There was a lot of screaming and shouting. Then I was told to pack my bags because I was being taken back to Nicosia.

I don’t know why the job fell through. Was there nothing for me to do or was my lack of Greek language unsuitable or was a young foreign lady not suitable for madam?

The people at the youth hostel felt sorry for me and my bad experience, so they hooked me up with another job. This time it was working in a bar in a new hotel on the edge of the city. The main clients were American Marines who ordered something (perhaps anything) with Grenadine in it. They taught me how to make their favourite cocktails. Each evening when I arrived at work I had to cut a mountain of carrots into strips. They were served with lemon juice as a snack – something I’ve loved ever since.

So we drove down the mountain, enjoying the wonderful scenery and the never ending abundance of yellow flowers.