Paphos & Akamas Peninsula, Cyprus – Part 2

I was planning to keep this blog up-to-date, but I started working recently (I initially thought I was going to be a stay-at-home expat wife), so have again neglected this blog. It has almost been two months since we visited Cyprus, but here is my final post.

So we spent a wonderful day exploring the Akamas Peninsula. We were extremely lucky with the weather during the time we spent in Cyprus. It was the end of November, but we had incredibly sunny days and the temperature on the coast was a nice 22 degrees celsius. The water was the same temperature, so we also stopped at one of the bays for a swim. Although it was a tad windy, as you can see in the photo below, we could not have wished for better weather.

The bays along the Akamas Peninsula are beautiful, and in November, you can spend a day relaxing by the water and not run into anyone. There were a few people walking along the path from the Baths of Aphrodite to the Blue Lagoon, and one or two other people on quadbikes, but you still felt as though you had the place to yourself.

We headed back to our accommodation in Drousia in the late afternoon. On our way we drove through some of the small rural roads around the village and got some beautiful golden-hued shots of the vineyards and surrounding countryside. The town of Drousia has a population of about 400 people, which swells during the summer months. But in the low season, you can see the locals going about their daily business, tending their fields and wandering through the narrow streets of the village.

We left Cyrpus being very impressed with the country. We spent four fantastic days exploring the southern half of Cyprus. We would like to go back and visit the northern, Turkish administered part of Cyprus some day.

I’m heading to Tanzania next week, so stay tuned for some post from Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater and other places in Tanzania. I will also be updating my blog to include a few other places we have visited in Oman over the last few months.

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Essentials

Stay:
We stayed at KTIMA 1937 Kannides (booked on Airbnb) which is a traditional house which has been renovated and converted into five apartments. It was simple and cosy and less than an hour’s drive to the Akamas Peninsula. There is also a new hotel in Drousia, called Dorusia Heights Hotel, for those who are after a bit of comfort and style.

Eat:
Not wanting to venture out too far, we walked down the road from our accommodation and had dinner at Christo’s Tavern. It is run by a lovely husband and wife team and feels like an extension of their home, with simple furniture and a fire place blazing in the winter months. There is no menu, just what’s available on the day.

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Paphos & Akamas Peninsula, Cyprus – Part 1

After leaving the Troodos Mountains, we headed west towards the Akamas Peninsula. On the way we stopped at Paphos for lunch and to check out the archeological site. Paphos is a very tourist orientated town, and I’m glad that we visited during the low season, as it was reasonably quiet. Being a tourist hub, there are plenty of great restaurants. We had a wonderful lunch on the waterfront at Ta Mpania.

After lunch, we visited the archeological site. I was a bit disappointed at the quality of the site. I had previously been to Jordan and visited the Roman sites in Amman and Jeresh, which were far superior. However, the Paphos mosaics were fantastic. It’s definitely worthwhile visiting the site for the mosaics alone. They are extremely well preserved for their age, some date back to the 4th century, and they are exquisite.

In the afternoon, we headed north towards the Akamas Peninsula, where we spent the following day exploring the national park on a quadbike. I have included a few photos below, but more information is to come in the following post.

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Essentials:

Eat:
We had a wonderful lunch a Ta Mpania in Paphos. The restaurant/cafe/bar is right on the water’s edge. The interior is well designed and for those who would like to sit outside, there is comfortable lounge seating on the deck overlooking the harbour. I had a moussaka, which was delicious, and Jonathan had a greek sandwich (pita bread filled with olive tapenade, tomato, cucumber and feta cheese). The serving sizes were large and it was great value for money.

Troodos Mountains, Cyprus – Part 2

Since we had only four days in Cyprus, we had to choose to travel through either Greek or Turkish Cyprus. Since the 1950s, north-eastern Cyprus pushed towards a union with Turkey, and south-western Cyprus became increasingly affiliated with Greece. Conflict broke out between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots, which finally resulted in the northern part of Cyprus being annexed to Turkey. After doing some research on both sides of the country, we decided to travel through Greek Cyprus, to explore the Troodos Mountains and the Akamas Peninsula.

After our visit to Kykkos Monastery, we stopped by Kakopetria for lunch and to take a wander through the old town. The Englishman we met in Platres suggested we have lunch at Chrysanthis Restaurant in Kakopetria. It was a fantastic recommendation and we had a great lunch of freshly caught grilled trout, salad, baked potatoes, bread and spreads. After lunch we drove into Kakopetria town to explore the cobblestone streets and old mud-brick homes of the old town. It was a very small, but extremely pretty village, with beautiful courtyard gardens.

We also visited the village of Fioni, in search of the famous Foini pottery. The one workshop in town was not open, as we were visiting in the low season, but we called the number on the door and were able to visit the home of the pottery maker. We walked into a small garden to find a old lady, she must be in her 80s at least, who showed us into her barn where she makes pottery. In the past, most of the families in Foini made pottery, but now this woman is the only one left in the town who does. She tried to explain to us, in her limited English, that she had learnt to make the pottery from her mother and grandmother and she showed us a few magazine articles about her and the pottery of Foini. We left purchasing a water jug and a traditional Foini vase, with birds and flowers, which is depicted on the 10 cent piece of the Cyprus Pound.

Our last stop in the Troodos Mountains was was the little village of Lofou. It’s almost worth visiting for the drive drive from Trimiklini, as the landscapes are stunning. The Englishman we met in Platres suggested we visit Lofou as it is a great example of a traditional Cypriot village. Although it appeared to be a ghost town (there was not a soul in sight), the village was well preserved, with the original cobblestones covering the narrow streets of the old part of the village. There were many old original homes, and the few that had been renovated, had been done to reflect their original state.

After two nights in the Troodos Mountains, we headed west to the Akamas Peninsula.

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Essentials:

Eat:
Lunch at Chrysanthis Restaurant, which is on the main road, just outside Kakopetria. There isn’t a menu as such, but the owner of the restaurant, a lovely Cypriot man, attends tables telling diners what he has available that day. We both ordered the grilled trout, which had been caught that morning from dams located next to the restaurant. As with most places in Cyprus, you won’t leave on an empty stomach. Aside from the fish, bread and spreads (tahini, hummus and taramasalata) came out, as well as olives, salad and baked potatoes.

Buy:
Try to locate the old woman in Foini who makes the traditional pottery. There are a few signs with a telephone number in the town, which reaches her daughter, who speaks good English. There are some pottery stores on the main road from Lemesos to the Troodos Mountains, but these are all mass produced. The quality and the style of the Foini pottery is far superior. And plus, you’re supporting this lovely old lady, rather than a big business.

Troodos Mountains, Cyprus – Part 1

I know we’ve only just arrived in Oman, but we had a four day long weekend for National Day and the Sultan’s Birthday, so we went to Cyprus. We want to take advantage of being so much closer to Europe, Africa (I’ve just booked a trip to Tanzania for a week in January!) and Asia, so we’re trying to squeeze in a few holidays where we can. Cyprus was never on my bucket list. We did toss up going to Iran, Sri Lanka or Zanzibar, but we, I mean Jonathan, decided on Cyprus. It was a good decision at the end, as we felt that Iran might be a bit too culturally restrictive; we needed more time to see Sri Lanka properly; and the weather forecast for Zanzibar was rain and storms – plus, the flight times for all these destinations were not favourable, especially since we had such a short timeframe to work with. We had wonderful weather in Cyprus, as it was sunny everyday, with an average of 16 degrees in the mountains and 22 degrees on the coast. And being the low season, there were hardly any tourists about.

Lefkara was our first stop. When travelling through Cyprus, take time to visit some of the many rural villages, as here is where you get a real taste of authentic Cyprus. Not only will you see old and traditional streets and buildings, but you will get a taste of everyday Cypriot life – women doing the grocery shopping at the local markets, men sitting in cafes during the afternoon hours and children running through the narrow streets.

We stopped in Lefkara primarily to buy some well known Lefkara lace, but the village is also very pretty and worth visiting. There are numerous small stores scattered through the streets which sell lace and embroidery which has been made by local women. Although they all sell tablecloths, napkins, sheet sets, cushion covers, etc., each woman has her own designs and aesthetic. We bought a small square tablecloth made of locally woven linen, with sections of crotchet and lovely lace embroidered floral motifs, which we currently keep on our dining table. Being the low season, many of the cafes were closed and the streets were very quiet, but I can imagine that the village would be buzzing with tourists during the summer months.

We spent the night in Trimiklini, at the base of the Troodos Mountains, in a lovely 300 year old family home which had be wonderfully restored and tastefully decorated. In the morning, we did an hour walk through the forest to Caledonia Falls. We did part of a 4 hour return walk (6km return) – we didn’t want to spent all our morning hiking, so only walked from Platres to the falls, which was just over an hour return. The morning was fresh, but not too cold. We ran into an Englishman who had been living in Cyrpus for 15 years and had worked for the tourism board. He gave us some great information and tips for travelling through the Troodos Mountains.

After our walk, we headed to Kykkos Monastery, which was about an hour drive from Platres, to have a look at the beautiful mosaics. These mosaics are not very old, but they are absolutely stunning. They decorate much of the exterior walls of the monastery. The monastery was originally founded in the 11th century, but has been rebuilt several times, due to fires. They current buildings were built from 1831 onwards, but the monastery has a lovely serene feel about it, and is a wonderful place to visit while you’re in the Troodos Mountains.

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Essentials:

Getting There:
Hire a car from Larcana airport, as public transport doesn’t really exist outside the cities. I’d recommend taking a good map, or even a GPS, as although most places are reasonably well signposted, the signposts can be rather confusing at times and it is easy to get lost.

Stay:
We stayed at Juniper Mountain Retreat, a wonderfully restored home, which has been in the same family for 300 years. We’re not ones to stay in five star resorts or swanky hotels – we’d rather stay in authentic and simple guesthouses, and this was one of the nicest places we have stayed in to date.

Buy:
Lace in Lefkara and orthodox icons at Kykkos Monastery. There are many women in Lefkara selling lace, so take time to visit a couple of stores to get an idea of what you like. Also speak to a few women, many of them speak English reasonably well, and ask them to describe their techniques, so you can differentiate between handwoven and machine made pieces. You will pay much more for handmade items, but the work is far superior. If you’re after orthodox icons, Kykkos Monastery is the place to go. Again, handmade works are pricier, but you get a quality piece. There are a few gift stores outside the monastery which sell mass produced icons. If you’re after a special piece, there are two stores within the monastery grounds which sell handmade icons made at the monastery.

Istanbul, Turkey (Day Two)

My second day in Istanbul was a lot more energetic, so to say. I was feeling better and spent the day with my friends exploring more of the city, even despite the wet weather in the afternoon (and it was also freezing cold).

We got up early in the morning and visited the Topkapi Palace. We hoped to beat the crowds, but it was already filling up by 9am – still, I can’t imaging how many more people there would have been later on in the day. The Palace is incredible and really does exhibit the wealth and influence of the Ottoman Emperors. For architecture lovers, this is another one of those must see buildings – a definite blend of the eastern and western aesthetics. Truly a beautiful complex – which I hope you can get some idea from the photographs.

After spending almost half a day at the palace, we wondered through the spice markets to stock up on baklava and turkish delight, and then made our way of the the Galata Bridge towards Taksim. We saw the many men fishing from the bridge and went up the Galata Tower. We were so lucky to have a break in the rain and see the sun come out for 10 minutes whilst at the top of the tower, giving us a spectacular view of the city below. The incredible skyline, dotted with mosque spires is far different from any other modern city-scape I’d seen before.

We then wondered through Istiklal Avenue, along with many other people. Despite the horrible weather, by now it was getting darker, colder and the rain was increasing, the place was buzzing. I would have been lovely to stroll through the central shopping strip on a warm evening, listening the the buskers and tasting the street food whilst meandering through the stores. Oh well, maybe next time.

We planned to have dinner in Taksim, but the weather was uncomfortable and the riot squad presence making it even more so. So we headed back to Sultanahment on the metro, to have a quiet dinner in a more familiar place. After dinner, we made a leisurely stop for me to purchase a beautiful kilim rug (now taking pride position in my lounge room) before bidding farewell to this amazing city which is Istanbul.
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Essentials:

Shopping:
I just wanted to add in a little something about rug purchases in Istanbul. Many people come to Istanbul to purchase the beautiful tribal rugs from rural Turkey. Make sure you do  your research and buy from a reputable place – I’m sure that there are a plethora of imitations out there. I bought my kilim rug from Noah’s Ark Carpets and Kilims located on Divanyolu Caddesi in Sultanahment. They were recommended by National Geographic and the service was amazing. The staff were incredible knowledgeable and went out of their way to make us as comfortable and well-informed about our purchases as possible. They come highly recommended and I would definitely buy from them again.

 

Istanbul, Turkey (Day One)

Istanbul is now one of my favourite cities in the world – I absolutely fell in love with the place during my two day stay. There is something about the city that makes it somehow magical – the architecture, the atmosphere, the little cobblestone streets, the food, the people, I don’t know, but there is just something special about Istanbul. And even thought I was unwell and the weather was terrible, I still managed to fall in love with the place. I was also lucky enough to have one of my close friends and her fiancé in Istanbul during the same two days I was there, so it was great to explore the city together.

I wasn’t well at all on this first day in Istanbul, so I only managed to see the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque) and the Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya), and squeeze in a bit of lunch is a cute little restaurant in Sultanahmet. I was absolutely awe-struct by the architecture and design of the two buildings – they definitely have that wow factor. Both buildings are so enormous and so spectacularly decorated, there really isn’t much like it in the world.

I would have liked to wander around Istanbul, particularly the little streets around Sultanahmet, a bit more on this first day, but the rain increased and I wasn’t well enough, so I spent the afternoon in my hostel having a good old chat with my fellow roommates.
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Essentials:

Stay:
I stayed at Cheers Lighthouse Hostel. I newly opened hostel, located in Sultanahmet, only a short walk from the Blue Mosque. The rooms were immaculately clean and the staff incredible friendly and helpful – they even made me a cup of lemon tea whenever I was in the common room, to help me get better.

Eat:
There are a plethora of restaurants and take-away food options in Istanbul – the locals, and the tourist, obviously like their food. In Sultanahmet there are plenty of restaurants, and the competition is high, so I’m sure you’ll find that most places offer good food at a reasonable price. for something sweet, head to the Spice Markets for an enormous selection of pastries, turkish delight and other goodies.

Getting There:
Istanbul has great connections via air throughout Turkey and the rest of the world. From the airport, most hotels and hostel can arrange shuttle services, or take a taxi or a bus into the centre. Everything in Sultanahmet is within easy walking distance, but if you want to go a little further afield, such as Taksim, there is a good light rail/metro network, or as we did on day two, spend the day wandering through the streets to make the journey a little more interesting.

Pamukkale, Turkey

Sorry that there has been a bit of a break between this post and the last – I’ve just completed my uni exams for this semester (post-grad law – not recommended if you want to have some semblance of a life) and now finally have some free time to continue with these posts!

So my next stop was Pamukkale – located in the Denizli region in central western Turkey, made famous for it medicinal mineral springs and travertine formations, which are made from the carbonate deposits of the flowing water (as much as it looks like snow, it is not). Pamukkale actually means ‘cotton castle’ in Turkish, and when you see the travertines, you’ll understand why the site bares that name. Although they are far from soft.

The old Greco-Roman and Byzantine city of Hierapolis, on of many old city ruins found in Turkey, is also located on the site and a must see for all those ancient history lovers.

Pamukkale is one of Turkey’s major tourist attractions, and does attract many many tourists. I visited in the shoulder season (late September) so I can’t imagine what it must be like in the peak of summer. The ancient city of Hierapolis was virtually empty of tourists, but the travertines were overflowing almost with more tourists than water. So there isn’t much of a chance to spend the day relaxing in the mineral springs, although it still is an amazing place to visit.

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