I realised recently that despite the fact that I have been to Cyprus more times than is strictly necessary, I haven’t yet written a blog post about my husband’s mother land in my Greek Girl Abroad series.
So here it is.
I just got back from the home of Aphrodite last week after a brief stint to see relatives and to sort out general faff that came with the package deal I got when I married my Greek man (i.e. obligatory family events / obligatory church events / obligatory over-eating etc).
Most of the family now live in and around Larnaca after they lost their land in Famagusta to the Turks in the 1974 invasion, so we spend the majority of our time there.
Despite being fairly small, Cyprus is the third most popular island in the Mediterranean and is a major tourist destination. Yep, you’re probably thinking AYIA NAPA BABY! (Incongruously, the word ‘Ayia’ actually means ‘holy’ in Greek. ‘Napa’ means something like ‘wooded valley’. Well the place is definitely NOT holy and there’s not much wood left now!)
Ayia Napa lies near Cape Greco (a beautiful spot) at the eastern part of Cyprus, just south of Famagusta. Although generally known for its raunchy (and trashy) nightlife, Ayia Napa is really quite pretty and the beaches are lovely with lots of restaurants to choose from and plenty of souvenir shops to browse around. The most popular of these beaches is Nissi beach, which is visited mainly by young people not wearing much. I prefer Limanaki beach which is less crowded, less dirty and has better restaurants (and I am currently STILL a young person).
I tend to go to Napa for the beaches and the food – I am not the clubbing type at all and you can avoid the noisy areas completely, although it is really quite fun to go for a stroll up the hill to THE SQUARE and watch all the drunken going-ons.
If you are looking for more of a Greek vibe and boutique shops where the locals go, then Larnaca might be more up your street. The city’s landmarks include: the Church of Saint Lazarus (where I got married); the Catacomb of Phaneromeni Church; Hala Sultan Tekke; the Kamares Aqueduct; and the Fort of Larnaca. Oh and not forgetting Palm Beach Hotel.
The main promenade on the seafront is called Finikoudes – a great place to have a stroll day or night, check out the shops and enjoy some food. I have spent many nights stuffing myself with chocolate lava cake down at Hobos Café or enjoying a delicious iced milkshake at Flo Café. You can guarantee that you will bump into family members at Finikoudes and there are always festivals, concerts and other community events going on.
If you are feeling adventurous you can take a trip up the Troodos Mountains to see its variety of churches and monasteries – its advisable to bring a cardi as it can sometimes get a wee bit chilly. You could also visit the camel park at Mazotos.
The port of Limassol is another tourist hub (and I might add has become a mini Russia) and has two ports which make it the largest ship management service in Europe. Landmarks include castles, museums, gardens and sculptures, and of course restaurants and shops aplenty… (mostly catered for the Russians).
According to legend, Aphrodite landed in Paphos when she arose from the sea…(either that or she took Cyprus Airways to get there). The exact rock where she planted her beautiful feet on is known as ‘Petra tou Romiou’ – ‘Stone/Rock of the Greek’ – the sea in this region is generally quite rough and tourists are not permitted to climb the rock. Although of course you get the odd idiot each year who does so.
Paphos is also home to castles, hotels (including the five-star Aphrodite Hills resort), the mosaic site of The Tombs of the Kings, churches and monasteries.
You can travel to the North/Turkish part of Cyprus from Nicosia, the country’s capital and main business area. Nicosia offers a wide variety of musical, theatrical and cultural events and is home to The Cyprus Symphony Orchestra. The Cyprus Archaeological Museum in Nicosia is the biggest archaeological museum in the country. It is home to the richest and largest collection of Cypriot antiques in the world (as well as a few of my husband’s most antique relatives…).
Whether you are looking for an Inbetweeners Movie style summer fling, or a nice family break, Cyprus has lots to offer (my father would add “but not as much as Greece”). Just don’t forget that you are not supposed to put toilet paper down the loo and you should carry a hand sanitizer with you AT ALL TIMES.
Oh and if you travel to Larnaca Airport and suddenly think you are in Moscow don’t be too put off. There ARE some Greeks still out there…somewhere…(probably hiding in the Troodos Mountains).