The Road To Ruins


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Middle East » Cyprus » Larnaca
November 6th 2018
Published: December 4th 2018
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Amphitheature, Ancient KourionAmphitheature, Ancient KourionAmphitheature, Ancient Kourion

The drama of the view would more than match the drama on stage.
We had now come to the last couple of days of the trip, a trip that had seen us so far sample three very different environments; the strange atmosphere of the divided city of Nicosia; a slice of Turkey in Northern Cyprus; and then the unique, energetic and intriguing liberal Arabic vibe of Beirut. Now we were back in Cyprus and we were going to explore what the Greeks and British have left behind in the Republic Of Cyprus.

It had been a long day being carted across the Lebanese countryside and at the end of it, we now we were on our flight back over to Larnaca where we arrived around midnight. We had still to arrange a rental car however so we still had to keep going a bit longer before we could get to the hotel and crash.
Despite the late hour, all the vehicle desks at the airport were still open so we approached the Budget one. The man behind the desk was friendly enough but then he told us the price for the cheapest car over two days; 110€. When researching online a few weeks earlier, the same car would've cost about 30€. Europcar then gave
Coastline Near Lara BeachCoastline Near Lara BeachCoastline Near Lara Beach

This stretch of coastline is arguably more spectacular than Lara Beach itself.
us the same price. We decide to take a taxi to the hotel and try and book one online for the next morning to see if we could get a better deal but despite only being a five minute drive away, the taxi drivers' union wanted to charge us 15€ - which with a return journey to make back to the airport the next morning to pick up a car, would've cost another 15€. So we would need to make a minimum 30€ saving on any car rental deal we could find online, just to make taking the taxi now to the hotel to try and do so worthwhile; and there was definitely no guarantee we would get such a discount this late in the day. Therefore, the best thing we could do was to swallow the pill and pay the 110€ which would also be our transport to the hotel. I was seething - we had left it to the last minute and we were now paying the price for doing so. The price being a completely, unnecessary extra 80€. So always book your rental car in advance people!

I had volunteered myself as the designated driver and
Ancient KourionAncient KourionAncient Kourion

The ruins of the once mighty city state.
it would be my first time behind the wheel for about seven months.
With every new manual car I have to drive, I always need a little bit of time to get used to the clutch, differentiate between indicators and windscreen wipers and how to start the engine (no car of mine has ever needed the clutch to be down to start the engine!). Therefore, I don't think I would’ve have filled the rental car company worker with much confidence as I struggled to get things going...
Nevertheless it is always nice to drive again after a hiatus, especially when it is on my natural side of the road - the left. Cars are right-hand drive as a result, a leftover from British rule. The British have also left behind an army base which they control and we would drive through some of UK's sovereign territory on the island on the Akotiri Peninsula. Whole villages have been built to house British military personnel and their families with the housing within them resembling English terrace houses rather than Cypriot stone cottages.

The hotel we were staying at was actually quite nice - it was right on Larnaca's Mackenzie Beach and
View From Ancient KourionView From Ancient KourionView From Ancient Kourion

The view probably trumped the ruins in all honesty.
we enjoyed a lovely breakfast outside where it was definitely hot enough to swim. I thought about how nice it would be great to come to Cyprus as late as October for a proper beach holiday as the crowds would be less and the weather still beautiful. Older expats at the hotel also made me think that this also wouldn't be a bad place to spend part of your retirement...

Cyprus isn't the biggest island so with a car, it was quick and easy to get between places. Limassol, just 70km from Larnaca, would be our first port of call.
As we arrived in the city, parked the car and made our way down to the waterfront, it reminded me a lot of Palma de Mallorca with its flash marina (which felt very Auckland Viaduct-like), waterside promenade and small old town, although on a much smaller scale. The flash buildings opposite the palm tree-lined promenade evoked Panama City. Big brand shops lining one particular street in the city centre, resembled an English high street. Young people were everywhere - Limassol's city centre backstreets had the feel of a university town, albeit a university town that shared space with British retirees a la
Limassol MarinaLimassol MarinaLimassol Marina

The marina has recently just undergone a €300m facelift and probably hosts a couple of Russian oligarchs and their superyachts.
Spain, as well as Russian oligarchs and their superyachts - quite the bizarre mix. The old Turkish Quarter has almost been fully gentrified but provides an aesthetically pleasant pedestrian precinct.

Now, I didn't give the blog entry the title I have given it because of anything negative about Cyprus; the idea behind it was more literal. We were driving, thus we were on the road; and we were visiting ruins, the first of which was Ancient Kourion, just outside Limassol.
Th Kingdom of Kourion was established some time around 1000 BC and was one of several powerful city-states on the island. The ruins, like in Baalbek, are mainly Roman and it was during the first 400 years of the first millennia that Kourion was at its most prosperous before it was eventually destroyed by repeated earthquakes and then finally, Arab raids.
Having been at Baalbek the previous day, I wasn't super-impressed by the actual ruins themselves; it was the views atop the hill that trumped the actual ruins on display. You certainly can't say that the builders of this city didn't have a sense of drama. The spectacularly set amphitheatre reminded me of the one in Termessos. The site
Turkish Quarter, LimassolTurkish Quarter, LimassolTurkish Quarter, Limassol

Limassol's old town has recently been regenerated and makes for a nice stroll. The Grand Mosque is in the background.
was however was nicely mapped and laid out and the signboards were able to bring the ruins to life a little. You still do get over it though - ruins at the end of the day, are still essentially ruins and this was my second consecutive day of them.

We were making good time and managed to get to Pafos - on the island's western coast - where we were staying for the night, in the late afternoon. The 50km journey on the motorway from Limassol to Pafos, I thought, was rather scenic.
My first impressions of the city however, weren’t that great. Our rather tired-looking hostel was located right in the middle of what looked like a scene from Booze Britain - full of tacky bars with drinks specials set up for Uni Lads On Tour. Thank goodness that its almost the off season and that most of the bars were shut up - the hordes of young English lads seemingly replaced by all their grandparents. The pub over the road was full of older British retirees escaping the UK winter. I do however believe that UK tour operators fly directly to Pafos; one of the reasons why
Mosaics, PafosMosaics, PafosMosaics, Pafos

Dating back to the Hellenistic or Early Roman period, this isn't the most intact mosaic but the most detailed one I saw. It is inside the Villa Of Theseus in the Pafos Archaeological Park.
it has taken me so long to get to Cyprus was the fact that I only ever knew it as where loads of Brits of the annoying kind went on holiday and not much else. Things are slightly classier down by the harbour with some pleasantly-set waterside restaurants.

One of Pafos’s main draws however is its archaeological park which is right next to the town harbour.
Findings in the park date all the way back to the 3rd century BC and the site itself is of the Ancient Greek and Roman city. Not as compact, dramatic or intact as Ancient Kourion, the archaeological park's highlight is its mosaics, many of which are remarkably intact. But other than a small fortress and an amphitheatre, the site generally underwhelmed as it was really spread out, some of the sites are merely rocks in the ground and others couldn’t even be found, so insignificant they were. I did manage to catch a neat sunset by the lighthouse however.

There was one last Cypriot dish that I had yet to try so when we arrived at the recommended Hondros restaurant, I made sure that I ordered one of its specialities, the kleftiko.
Intact Mosaics, PafosIntact Mosaics, PafosIntact Mosaics, Pafos

Genuine work of art from the Hellenistic or Early Roman period. Inside the House Of Dionysos in the Pafos Archaeological Park.
Kleftiko is basically a Cypriot Sunday roast lamb; it was nice but it was no New Zealand roast lamb. We really are blessed back home when it comes to sheep! I also had some lovely grilled mussels as a starter since I was by the sea and it was the first time I can remember ever having them cooked that way. The mussels were nice and relatively large too, by European standards, and I liked the flavour added to them by the charcoal.
Scott went for the grilled halloumi for starters (bet you didn't know that halloumi is originally from Cyprus) - something of which I've had plenty of too, during our stay in Cyprus.

There were some more archaeological sites that we could’ve visited around Pafos but we were pretty ruin-ed so we opted to head to the beach for our last day instead. One of the main reasons Brits love coming to Cyprus is because of its beaches and it would’ve been remiss of us to have come to Cyprus and not gone to the beach - especially with the weather the way it was. So not only did we decide to hit a beach but we
Lara BeachLara BeachLara Beach

One of Cyprus's most highly-rated beaches.
decided to hit the one regarded as the best in Cyprus - Lara Beach, about forty minutes up the west coast from Pafos.
It took a bit of effort to get there though. The 10km dirt road we had to follow brought back memories of driving in South Africa, with a similar car. It would’ve been difficult enough in an automatic, in all honesty. I embraced the challenge however and the fact that I have had experience of this before got me weirdly thinking about all the different experiences I've had on my travels and how fortunate I have been to have had them.

After stopping at a cafe with a view for a coffee, we decided to try and get to the beach via the beach road with was much smoother. We then realised however, that the road wouldn’t get us there and that it was also super sandy - meaning that I needed to drive with bit of pace. Going through one stretch, Scott shouts from the passenger seat; “more gas, more gas...more GAS!”
To achieve the desired gas however, I had to change gear at precisely the wrong moment - losing acceleration as a result. The reason why we
Coffee With A ViewCoffee With A ViewCoffee With A View

We stopped here at the Lara Cafe for a coffee, just around the corner from Lara Beach.
needed more gas then became resignedly apparent; we were now stuck in the sand.
Placing rocks under the tyres to give us traction didn't work and I stalled the engine a couple of times trying to get the wheels spinning. A local passer-by then came to our rescue with a rope and a 4WD - but he seemed annoyed that he had to help us.
The carabiners on his rope slipped off twice but it was third time lucky as the power of both our vehicles finally got us out. I thanked him a couple of times but he just took off and left.
“Didn’t seemed that happy to help us, did he?” I tell Scott.
“I think he just thought we were a couple of idiots”, he replies.

We luckily didn’t manage to lose much time and finally got to the beach.
As far as a Mediterranean beach goes, it was pretty awesome - Falassarna for me, is still better - but it was definitely scenic.
As a beach where turtles nest, metal cages line the sand, protecting the nests from humans and surprisingly, foxes. It also means that development is banned here meaning that like in New
Agios Lazaros, LarnacaAgios Lazaros, LarnacaAgios Lazaros, Larnaca

Beautiful 9th-century church in the middle of the old town.
Zealand, anyone can come and throw down a towel here and enjoy it without paying a cent for some bullshit sun loungers. The water was pretty clear (not as clear as Falassarna or Corfu however, nor as Listerine blue as Korcula) and although it was cold as you entered it, it became beautiful once you got used to it. It was my final swim of the year and it was amazing.

It then took about two hours to get across the island, back to where it all started 12 days ago; Larnaca. On the way, we passed through some sleepy villages where it would be be lovely to own a holiday home.
Once we got to Larnaca, we only had time to walk briefly through the pretty town square and its cute narrow streets before enjoying one final Cypriot meal. Although a little burnt on the outside, the sheftalia (Cypriot mincemeat sausages) I ordered were pretty nice.

Having had our last meal and enjoyed the beach on our last day, we felt at that stage that we had had the complete Cypriot experience (apart from boozing with sunburnt Brits). It was then time to drop off our rental
Limassol PromenadeLimassol PromenadeLimassol Promenade

Looking down Limassol's rather pleasant waterfront promenade.
car at the airport and get on our flight back to Berlin. I really enjoyed our little tour through the Republic of Cyprus and I would be more than happy to return.

Twelve days away has felt like a long holiday. Experiencing four very different environments made it feel much longer than it was. Weather aside however, I was looking forward to getting back to Berlin - even when I was in London, it always felt nice to get “home” after being away, even if I would choose to stay if I could every time. There is just something about getting back to certainties, your home comforts and your own bed, despite always generally having a great time away.

It is now not going to be long before I am writing again as I have already booked my travels for the rest of the year. In just over three weeks time, I will be on the road again, where I will be marking a milestone country, one that I will finally make it to. An obsession to finally be sated, one that has continually eluded me. Until now.

Until then...

Τα λέμε σύντομα (Ta leme syntoma),
Pafos CastlePafos CastlePafos Castle

Relatively small castle on the harbour.

Derek


Additional photos below
Photos: 24, Displayed: 24


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Behind The Marina, LimassolBehind The Marina, Limassol
Behind The Marina, Limassol

Somewhat colourful and aesthetically pleasing architecture behind Limassol's marina.
Katholiki Greek Orthodox Church, LimassolKatholiki Greek Orthodox Church, Limassol
Katholiki Greek Orthodox Church, Limassol

Quite a prominent landmark in the city centre.
Metal Cages, Lara BeachMetal Cages, Lara Beach
Metal Cages, Lara Beach

These cages protect turtle nests from foxes, although I'm pretty sure a foxy fox would be able to find a way through them.
Beach ViewBeach View
Beach View

What was in front of me as I lay down on Lara Beach.
Pafos WaterfrontPafos Waterfront
Pafos Waterfront

Where most of the action takes place in Paphos.
Pafos HarbourPafos Harbour
Pafos Harbour

There are a few nice restaurants right next to the marina.
Bars, PafosBars, Pafos
Bars, Pafos

A couple of bars that would be full of young, intoxicated Brits at the height of summer.
Baywatch, PafosBaywatch, Pafos
Baywatch, Pafos

Based on the TV show, this was probably the coolest bar I saw in Pafos.
Amphitheatre, PafosAmphitheatre, Pafos
Amphitheatre, Pafos

Roman amphitheatre with lighthouse in the background.
Sunset, PafosSunset, Pafos
Sunset, Pafos

Enjoyed at the Pafos Archaeological Park.
Mackenzie Beach, LarnacaMackenzie Beach, Larnaca
Mackenzie Beach, Larnaca

The view from our hotel room balcony.


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