Sean I and visited Cyprus for a week in November.  This is the first time in I don’t know how long that we’ve spent 7 nights in one location on vacation.  Normally we do extended weekends or, if we go away for a week, we visit at least 2 locations.  It was kinda nice to stay put for a change.

Because this was actually our Christmas present to each other, we decided to live it up and we stayed at the Four Seasons.  The hotel was fabulous.  I don’t know what the ratio of staff to guests is but it seemed pretty high and the customer service was outstanding.  We had a buffet breakfast every morning that was included in the room rate, and we ended up having dinner at the hotel most evenings too.  The food was fabulous.

Just to give you a little info about Cyprus, it’s a country that is surrounded on all sides by the Mediterranean Sea.  A lot of people think it’s part of Greece, but it is in fact its own country.  As you can see by this map , it’s closer to the Middle Eastern countries of Syria and Lebanon than it is to Greece.  These countries are both only about 65 miles away from Cyprus, while Greece is almost 175 miles away.

Cyprus is a member of the EU (European Union) and they use the Euro as their currency, but for some reason we had to go through customs both coming and going even though we never left the EU.

Cyprus was under British rule until 1960 and as a result they drive on the left-hand side of the road just like the British do.  You pretty much have to rent a car if you want to do any sightseeing on the island, so we did just that.  Sean did all the driving and did a great job.  I drove on the left-hand side of the road once, very briefly, when I was in Ireland in 1992 and I had no desire to ever do it again.

The British still have 2 military bases in Cyprus that are considered British sovereign areas.  The rest of the country is split, with most of it being under Greek Cypriot rule and part of it being under Turkish Cypriot rule (citizens of Cyprus are called Cypriots). Turkey is the only country that recognizes their part of Cyprus as a republic.  Everyone else considers it an occupied territory.  Nicosia (called Lefkosia in Greek), the capital of Cyprus, is actually split between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots and is the only divided capital in the world now since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Enough history for now.  Our first night at the hotel, we stopped by the bar for some refreshments.  I saw Pimm’s No. 1 on the menu and decided to try it because my cousin Mary from England is always talking about it.

Here’s my Pimm’s as seen on the left.

It was pretty yummy and I ended up having several of them over the course of the week.  Pimm’s is a gin-based liqueur, which I’m glad I did not know before trying it because I don’t like gin.  It doesn’t taste like gin at all though.  The drink tasted cucumber-y and was refreshing and delicious.  The reason it’s called Pimm’s No. 1 is because have been several different Pimm’s drinks on the market at various times.  Different numbers have different alcohol bases.  For example, Pimm’s No. 4, which is no longer made, had a rum base.  Pimm’s No. 1 is usually mixed with lemonade, although it’s not lemonade as we know it in the United States.  English-style Lemonade is more like our Sprite or 7 Up.  It’s also mixed with various fruits which give it the fruity, refreshing flavor.

Enough about Pimm’s.  You may have noticed that there is also a beer in the photo above. Sean tried a KEO, which is a Cypriot beer.  He said it was pretty good.  While researching KEO beer for this blog, I discovered that the Greek Orthodox church owns 20% of the company that brews it.  Apparently the church was upset a few years ago when they found out that the beer was featured in an American pornographic film.  I have not done any further research to discover either the name of the film or how the church found out about this product placement.

Our first morning in Cyprus, much to Sean’s dismay, I went out onto the balcony of our hotel room to take some photos of the sunrise.

I mean it’s not every day that I get to see the sun rising over the Mediterranean from a hotel room balcony, so I had to take advantage of the opportunity.

If you ever visit Cyprus, one thing you will notice is that there are cats all over the place, even at the Four Seasons hotel.

Here’s photo of a couple of kitties hanging around some people having breakfast in the outdoor seating area of the hotel. 

You’ll see that there are also some fish swimming around in front of the kitties as there is a Koi pond at the hotel.  There are signs on the table asking people not to feed either the fish or the cats, but obviously some people “forget” about the signs as it looks to me like that cream-colored cat is eating a slice of cheese.

After breakfast we headed out to start sightseeing.  Our first stop was Kolossi Castle, which was originally built in the year 1210 and then rebuilt in the year 1454.

I need to digress here to tell a little side story.  The castle was not originally our first destination.  We started off looking for what ended up being our last destination, but that’s ok.  We did not get a GPS unit with the rental car so we were navigating the good old fashioned way, with a compass.  Just kidding.  We were using a map.  At one point I pulled out the map but couldn’t locate my reading glasses, so I advised Sean that I could not read the teeny tiny writing on the map without my glasses.  He was a little tense from trying to drive on the other side of the road and made a comment about me being blind.  So not nice.  Anyway, I saw (despite being blind) a road sign indicating that Kolossi Castle was coming up so we decided to make that our first stop. Upon arrival, Sean said he had to use the rest room.  Well, good thing I watched where he was going because he went into the ladies’ room.  Who’s blind now, hmmm?  That’s what I thought.  I shoulda just let his ass use the wrong rest room for being so mean.  But being that I’m so nice I pointed out his error.  He asked how I knew that was the ladies’ room and I said “Um, because of the sign next to the door with a picture of a woman in a dress?”  He went around to the other side of the building and as he was walking into the other restroom he said “I still don’t see how you know which is which.”  I said “Really?  You don’t see that sign above your left shoulder with a picture of a man in a suit?”  And I’m blind?  That must be what they mean whey they say the pot is calling the kettle black, I think.

OK, back to the castle.  It’s located in an area known as Limassol (Lemesos in Greek), which is one of the six districts that make up Cyprus.  A little side fact is that Richard the Lionheart, who was King of England from 1189 to 1199, got married in Limassol in the year 1191.  By the way, I’m pointing out the Greek names of the towns as you can see.  The Greek name is what’s on all the road signs and maps so you kind of have to know them if you want to get to the right place.

This structure is near the top of the Kolossi Castle.

You can see that there are five little arches in the structure with openings in each of them.  When the castle was being attacked, its defenders would throw boiling water or oil as well as rocks through those openings.  Those medieval people were pretty creative.

During the Middle Ages, sugar was a main export of Cyprus.  Next to the castle are the remains of a sugar mill as seen here.

This sugar mill complex dates back to the 14th century. 

Our next stop was the Kourion Archeological Site.  The kingdom of Kourion was founded around the 11th century B.C.  The history of Cyprus is just amazing and there are numerous archeological sites around the country.

This photo shows the Kourion theatre.

The original theatre, used for gladiator games, was destroyed in the 4th century A.D.  A lot of the sites we visited during our week in Cyprus were destroyed during the 4th century A.D. due to a series of earthquakes.  The Kourion theatre was reconstructed in the 19th century and is still used today.  But not for gladiator games, as far as I know.

Here is a remaining marble column from the Roman Agora at Kourion.  An agora was basically a marketplace and an assembly place.

Cyprus had become part of the Roman Empire in the year 58 BC.  The Romans appear to have constructed a lot of things on existing sites, so that’s why you see structures and items spanning hundreds and hundreds of years at the same sites.

I guess if you’re going to build a kingdom, building one on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean is as good a place as any.

These are the remains of the public baths.

The baths were constructed in stages starting around 50 B.C. and ending around 365 A.D.  We’ve seen bath remains like this in other places and it never ceases to amaze me that they had cold, warm and hot water as well as steam baths in these places so long ago.

One of the fantastic things about the different archeological sites we saw is the remaining mosaic floors.

This one is in a structure called the Gladiators House.  It’s named that because of the mosaic, not because gladiators lived there.  The house was constructed in the second half of the 3rd century A.D. and was destroyed by the previously-mentioned earthquakes just 100 years or so later.

Near the Gladiators House is the House of Achilles.  I took a photo of Sean’s heel at the House of Achilles.  Get it?  I crack myself up.

The House of Achilles also takes its name from the mosaics there that contain different scenes with Achilles in them.

After we left this archeological site, we stopped by another one called The Stadium.

I know there’s not a lot to see here, but this was the former site where pentathlons were held, as well as chariot and horse races.  The photo shows half of the oval “track”, which was about ¼ of a mile long.   The stadium, which held about 7,000 spectators, was constructed in the 2nd century A.D. It was destroyed – you guessed it – by the earthquakes in the 4th century A.D. 

Our next stop was the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates.  It seems that the Greek/Roman god Apollo was either called Hylates in Cyprus, or the Cypriot god Hylates was Apollo-like.  I’m not really clear on this but in any case that’s why it’s called the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates.

What you see in the photo was partially reconstructed in the year 1980.

On our way to the next destination, we saw this teeny little church along the side of the road.

We saw a lot of them while driving around Cyprus and some were no bigger than a mailbox.  They serve as shrines that are put up for various reasons.  This particular shrine had a sign next to it that read “Love suffereth long, (and) is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil; rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.  Love never faileth: but whether (there be) prophecies, they shall be done away; whether (there be) tongues, they shall cease; whether (there be) knowledge, it shall be done away.”

This next photo was actually taken from the site of that little shrine and was our final destination for the day.

That big rock that you see jutting out into the sea is known as Petra Tou Romiou or Rock of the Greek and is the birthplace of the Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love.  The rock is therefore also known as Aphrodite’s Rock.  One Greek myth says that Cronus cut off the genitals of his father Uranus and threw them into the sea, causing a white foam (yes, really) from which Aphrodite arose.  Sean got quite a chuckle out of “genitals of Uranus” so you can go ahead and snicker as well if you like. 

Here I am hanging out on the pebbly beach with Aphrodite’s Rock in the background.

The next day, Monday, we headed out for more sightseeing.

The first stop that day was another Aphrodite site, the Temple of Aphrodite.

There were more mosaics here, including this one depicting Leda and The Swan.

If you’re not familiar with the story of Leda and The Swan and would like to read about it, you can do so here

I took photos of two interesting signs in the restroom at this site.

The first one is one that we’d also seen during our visit to Greece earlier this year.

Yup, you are supposed to throw your used toilet paper in the garbage can instead of flushing it down the toilet.  Seems kinda gross but their plumbing systems just won’t handle it, and I’d prefer to just throw the paper in the can rather than risk having the toilet overflow on me.

The other sign is this one.

Darn, I so wanted to wash my feet while I was there.

There was a little museum at the site with some pretty cool stuff.  I thought this was one of the more fascinating things in the museum.

What’s so fascinating about a clay storage jar, you ask?  Well, it was made in the 14th century.  14th century B.C., that is.  That’s just mind-boggling.

After leaving this site, we went to the Holy Monastery of Saint Neophytos.  Look how blue the sky was on this day.

Saint Neophytos was an Orthodox priest from Cyprus, as well as a hermit who lived in a cave. He was also an author and many of his manuscripts survive.

There wasn’t a whole lot to see at the monastery.  The main reason for our trip there was to see the Agios Neofytos (Saint Neophytos) Cat Park.

The land on which the cats live was provided by the monastery and the place is run totally on donations.  You can read more about the cat park here

When we first got there, the fence was locked and we thought we weren’t going to be able to get in.  While we were petting some kitties outside the fence, though, someone came along and unlocked the gate.

Here are some of the first kitties we saw.

I love that kitty just hangin’ out in the cinder block.

Here’s Sean surrounded by about 15 cats.

I had to take a photo of this cat just relaxing in a tree.

I didn’t even notice it until I downloaded the photos, but there’s another cat behind the black one. 

After we had our fill of petting and holding cats and kittens, we made a donation and moved on to our next destination.

To digress a little, here’s a photo of our rental car’s license plate.

And here’s a photo of part of a Cyprus license plate.

Notice any differences?  Yeah, it’s pretty glaringly obvious that you’re driving a rental as they all have those bright red license plates.  I can see the upside of that so that people know to steer clear (literally) of tourists who are probably not used to driving on the left-hand side of the road.

Here I am at our next destination, the Baths of Aphrodite. 

As the name indicates, this is the place where the goddess Aphrodite used to bathe.  It is also the place where she met and fell in love with the Adonis, the Greek god of beauty and desire.

The Baths of Aphrodite are located within a botanical garden.

That’s a photo of a carob tree in the botanical garden.  Carobs used to be a major export product of Cyprus and you see carob products for sale all over the place there.  Carob is used as a substitute for chocolate and it’s not bad-tasting at all.  People who are allergic to chocolate can usually eat carob with no problem.

The baths/gardens were our last tourist stop for the day.  There was a restaurant nearby so we went there for some cake and Cyprus coffee before starting the drive back to the hotel.

You may have tried some other kinds of coffee that are basically the same as Cyprus coffee, such as Turkish coffee or Greek coffee.  It’s a very thick coffee served in a small cup and the coffee grounds settle to the bottom of the cup.  You have to be careful not to keep swirling your cup around and stirring up the grounds or you’ll end up with a mouthful of them.  Not that I’d know from experience or anything.  All I’m saying is it’s a good thing they serve a glass of water with the coffee.

This was a view from the restaurant.

The next morning I enjoyed a paraffin pedicure at the hotel spa as I wanted to have a somewhat relaxing day.

After the spa treatment, we stayed local and went to see the Limassol Medieval Castle/Museum which was about 5 miles from our hotel.

Those little doorways you see inside the castle lead to what used to be prison cells. 

The first version of the castle was built in the 12th century.  As you read earlier, Limassol is the place where Richard the Lionheart got married.  This castle is where the marriage actually took place and where Richard’s bride, Berengaria, was crowned Queen of England.

After leaving the castle we walked around the pedestrian shopping area and ran across this confusing sign.

I mean, which is it?

The next day, Wednesday, we headed to the town of Paphos (Pafos in Greek) where our first stop was Paphos Castle.  Here’s a view of the marina from in front of the castle.

You can see what a beautiful day it was.  And here is the castle itself.

The castle was originally built during the years of the Byzantine Empire (somewhere between 330 AD and 1453 AD).  It was destroyed and rebuilt a couple of times over the years.  It has also served various purposes, including being used as a salt warehouse by the British when they had control of Cyprus.

We next visited the Kato Paphos Archeological Site, which was just a few blocks away from the castle.  This site has buildings that date from prehistoric times though the Middle Ages.  Like the Kourion Archeological Site that we visited on our first day of touring, this site has a lot of beautiful mosaic floors.

Four Roman villas have been uncovered and restored at this site and the mosaics here are amazing.

This mosaic is in the House of Dionysus, named for the many representations of the god of wine found in the villa’s floor.  This particular section of the floor depicts the monster Scylla of Greek mythology.  When we saw this, I said to Sean “Oh, like The Police song.”  I got a blank look in response.  I sang “Caught between the Scylla and Charybdis” and he said he never knew that’s what they were saying in the song “Wrapped Around Your Finger”.  If you didn’t know it either, then you’ve learned something new today.  You can listen to the song here and the “Scylla and Charybdis” line starts at about 0:43.

Here’s another mosaic that I liked.

The information sign said it depicts “…two shepherds in a state of inebriation.” It also said that the letters in the mosaic identify the shepherds as “the First Wine Drinkers”.  Lucky them!

Because we were staying at the Four Seasons hotel, I had to take a photo of this mosaic.

It’s called “The Four Seasons” mosaic.  The sign said “Summer and Spring are represented in the upper corners, while Winter and Fall in the lower corners.” (I didn’t leave out any words – that’s what the sign said.)

As I said earlier, lots of cats in Cyprus.

This regal-looking (aren’t they all?) kitty was just there for the petting at the archeological site.

This is the Odeon (theatre), which was built in the 2nd century.

Like the other theatre you saw earlier in the blog, this one is still used today for performances.  You’ll notice there’s a lighthouse in the background; the Mediterranean is just behind the Odeon.

And here I am on the steps at the Odeon.

This is Saranta Kolones, a Byzantine-era castle.

The name Saranta Kolones means “Forty Columns” and is indicative of the columns that were found at the site.  The castle was built around the year 1200 on the site of a former fort and was destroyed a short 22 years later by an earthquake.  It was never rebuilt. 

After visiting the archeological site, we stopped for refreshments at a restaurant near the marina.

I had a yummy iced coffee and Sean had a Carlsberg beer.  Although Carlsberg is a Danish brewing company, Carlsberg beer is also brewed in Cyprus and is the best-selling beer there.  Sean said he liked the local KEO beer (mentioned earlier) better.

We also had a snack.

I love me some tzatziki and pita bread. Tzatziki is basically a Greek cucumber dip and it’s delicious.

We got back to the hotel just as the sun was setting.

This kitty was just warming itself on the rocks and came up to be petted when we called it.

I took a photo of this the next morning at breakfast.

That is grilled halloumi cheese.  Halloumi cheese originated in Cyprus and is similar to mozzarella, but a bit saltier.

After breakfast on Thursday we headed to the Troodos Mountains, the largest mountain range in Cyprus.  On the way to our main destination, we stopped at the Holy Cross church.

It is a very small church and the entire interior is beautifully painted.

Near the church is this monument to the Balkan Wars of 1912 – 1913.

Somewhere between 1,500 and 1,800 Cypriots fought in the Balkan Wars and 55 of them were killed.  The bust you see in the photo memorializes Michael M. Stivaros, one of the Cypriots who was killed in the wars.  A sign next to the memorial says that he wrote these words in a letter shortly before he died: “All that I feel these days as a soldier I have never felt before. I feel as though my body and soul have doubled in strength.  The heavy weapons do not tire me.  You can be sure the Cypriot students will honour their country, parents and schools who taught them great patriotism.”

To digress yet again, we ran across a lot of these signs in our travels around the island.

Every time we did, I couldn’t help thinking of this song

This was our main destination of the day, which was about a 2-hour drive from the hotel.

This is the Kykkos Monastery, one of the wealthiest monasteries in Cyprus.  The monastery was built around the icon of the Virgin Mary, which is a painting by the Apostle Luke. We didn’t get to see the icon because nobody is allowed to look at it.  Apparently whoever does will be blinded.  Although I guess it wouldn’t have hurt me to look at it because according to my husband I’m already blind….

Near the monastery is the burial site of Archbishop Makarios III, who was a monk at the monastery at one time and who ended up as the first President of Cyprus.

He was buried at this site at his request.  You may be able to see that there is an armed guard behind the tomb.  There was another one in front of the tomb.  Of course we asked if it was OK to take photos before snapping away, and the guard obviously said it was. 

This giant statue of the Archbishop is at the bottom of a hill that you have to walk up to see the tomb.

On the way back from visiting the tomb, we stopped to check out the upper bell tower of the monastery.

Our last full day in Cyprus was the following day, Friday, and we decided it would be a non-sightseeing day.  We spent a few hours at the beach and took a swim in the Mediterranean, then a few hours at the pool.  We went to bed somewhat early as we had to get up at an ungodly hour for a 6:25 a.m. flight. 

We had a really nice week in Cyprus and have even tossed around the idea of going back next year for another visit, so check this site in another 12 months or so to see if we did!

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