Cyprus, 2004 - Friday


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Now I know I said that today would be a tourist in town day, but it rained hard all night, so when I woke up at 7am, I thought I might as well go and see what changes the rain had made. It hadn’t made a lot of difference at all. The roads were less dusty, so I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing a dust trail behind me as I went, like some cowboy riding across the desert. The potholes were easier to spot as they were full of water, but the downside of that was I had to keep putting the wipers on as the water sprayed up onto the screen. The fords were up slightly, but nothing to worry about. In fact, despite hitting all the mud I could find, the car came back cleaner that it was last night! That depressed me, so I had a shower and went into Paphos. I found a parking spot, under a sign that said something in Greek about parking. I figured if I wasn’t meant to park there they would see the red number plates and realise I was an ignorant tourist and let me off. Besides, everywhere else wanted me to pay, and had signs to that effect in English.

I wandered down to the market, stopping in to look at sunglasses in an opticians. The guidebook said Cyprus was cheap for genuine designer sunnys, and I fancied a pair of Oakleys. I found a pair I liked, but they were over £100, and I wasn’t sure about the genuineness. I found two pairs of polarising Oakleys, and held them up with the lenses at right angles to each other. The owner kept going on about how good the glasses were, and how genuine they were, but I could see right through the alleged polarising lenses. Crossing them at right angles should have cut out all light. I pointed this out to the owner, who said ‘so you know all about lenses then’ and walked off. Oakleys they were not, so I went into the market and got a pair for £5. Not nearly so nice, but a good shape and a stamp on them that nearly says Oakley, and £100 saved.

The market apart from that was a let down; I looked in a couple shops, but the prices were high, and everything was designer labels at designer prices. The shop keepers as well were polite, but distant. I much prefer the asian/oriental market seller’s attitude. They want you to buy, they tell you you should buy, and they won’t let you leave till you do. Mong Kock market in Hong Kong is my shoppers paradise. They show you something you don’t want, you tell them what you do want, and they get it for you. Then you start arguing over the price. Here the shops had nothing I wanted, and apparently they won’t barter, so I got even more depressed, and went to the internet café. After sorting my bank balance, and reading over sixty emails, I headed out for lunch. Down a back street, between old stone buildings housing carpenters and welders, I found a little café that had no English signs, and was full of old men shouting at each other over games of backgammon. There was no fake Greek chintz, here. Everything was plastic chairs, vinyl tablecloths, and cigarette smoke. The cook and I tried to communicate, until I hit on saying ‘kebab’, which seemed to work. I grabbed a can of guava juice from the fridge, and sat at an empty table. After a while my pork kebab came. It had huge lumps of burnt pork fat in between piles of tomatoes and cucumbers, all sandwiched in a toasted pita bread. The chef grilled it in front of me over hot coals. No late night burger van chilli sauce and five raw onions in it. No, this tasted incredible. And it came to less than £2!

Next was the true tourist thing. I went down to the bay, and paid my £1.50 to get into the ruins. I was not expecting much. I’m sorry, but I don’t get excited over things like this. Stonehenge, to me, was a pile of rocks. Its just the way I am. Until I saw the House of Dionysus, however. The mosaics on the floors are incredible. That a farmer ploughing his field around 25 years ago discovered them is incredible. Then I went outside, around the back of the building that has been put up to protect the mosaics, and found you are allowed to walk around some of the excavations. You can walk on some of the mosaics, and bend down, and touch them. Stonehenge is a pile of rocks you can’t even get close to because of the fence. This site covers the Greek and Roman periods, and you can walk in amongst it all. It is amazing. There is an amphitheatre that you can sit in (it has been repaired in places), old city walls you can stand on, buildings to walk around, a castle to explore; it is incredible. In the Roman villa you can see the under floor area, which reminds me of my seventh grade history lessons, where we learnt about the Roman’s under floor heating system (sorry Miss Wolters, I can’t remember what it was called) where slaves worked bent double. Could this be what I was seeing the remains of? If you go, take a torch as there are a couple of caves you can go in (one is in the bank behind the amphitheatre. I couldn’t tell how deep they were as I didn’t have one with me. Also, see everything while you are there. It is worth the walk. If, however, you are too tight to pay the £1.50 there is a ruin just outside the complex which you can go and see for free. I asked the tour guides where the ‘early Christian basilisk’ was, and got the reply ‘but that is just ruins’. I wonder what they thought they were showing people round, show homes or something? Anyway, I left the complex and went to see the ruins, and found it very similar to what is inside the complex, but not as spectacular. Unless it is a choice between eating or paying to go in, pay and enter.

I enjoyed that so much I decided to head up to the Tombs of the Kings (which was never used by kings, and doesn’t have any dead people in it) where upper-class people of the era were buried. I paid my 75 pence, and went in, but I am afraid I had overdosed on history by now, and ended up getting irritated by it all. I walked around the first few I came across and took pictures, then legged it. Fortunately you don’t have to leave by the guards section, so I could leave without having to admit to the guard that 5 minutes was all I needed there. Apparently there are some much more spectacular tombs than those I saw (just holes in the ground), but I just couldn’t hack it. I needed a break, so I headed back to the hotel.

By the time I got to the hotel it was about dinnertime anyway, so I had a think where to go to eat. I fancied trying the Lara restaurant, which was out on the Arkamas peninsula, next to a turtle-breeding beach. It had the bonus that it was out up a dirt road, which was just what I needed. I had fun getting there, but found it was closed, with no lights on anywhere. I had half expected as much, especially as the one before it had been closed as well, so turned back to a fish restaurant I had passed earlier. I’m not sure what it was called, but it is on the coast road just north of Coral Bay, and has a swimming pool outside. It was the typical set up, with the family in the corner watching a TV, and no other guests. I was getting the impression that no one eats out at this time of year. They took me to the fridges, where I chose my fish, which they took off to grill for me. While I waited they brought out other food (all included in the price of the fish). First was fish soup. Not fish flavoured water, but something more solid than liquid. It was full of fish. I only had one bowl, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to eat anything else. Then they brought out salad, chips, humous, olives, whole cooked sardines and chillies, and of course a lemon. I ate this (chips with humous are great). Then they brought out my fish. Grilled whole, then filleted, and served in some sort of olive oil dressing, it was wonderful. It was the most expensive meal to date, at £11, but worth every penny, and far cheaper than it would have been in the UK.

When I got back to the hotel I decided I ought to try and be sociable, so went to the bar to try the brandy sour, a drink that Cyprus is meant to be famous for. After trying it, I decided I won’t try another, but finish it and headed back to my room. You know where you are with Ouzo.

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