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Paphos

sunny

Bus back to Limassol and I headed back to the guest house to grab my bag, say cheerio to Serge the nice old boy on the desk and head for Paphos, Cyprus' major town in the west. It's actually split in two with an upper inland portion known as Ano Pafos, though everyone just calls it Pafo, and Kato (Lower) Pafos, the more touristy seaside resort. My first trip in a service taxi in quite some time and I saw that the ubiquitous stretched 7 seater Mercedes' had been replaced by a fleet of nice new shiny minibuses. The beauty of service taxis are that they're invariably faster and they'll pick you up and drop you right at the door. It was bad news though when the driver asked my destination. I requested the Youth Hostel, a place where I had stayed years before but "youth hostel closed" was the response. Already committed to going and rather late, I could tell it was just going to be another one of those days, or rather nights. I could make enough sense of the radio chat to understand they were asking around for another hostel to drop me at and so I was relieved when he pulled up in Ano Pafos, the inland portion up the hill and directed me down a lane to the other hostel. I didn't question the sincerity of the driver but it transpired there was no hostel to be found, instead a derelict building, a few private houses and a cliff top view of the coast uncomfortably far away. All I could do then was walk down the hill and look for a reasonably priced bed, but I already pretty much knew there were none to be had. For the 3K long slog with my bag down to the seafront I looked for guest houses and hotels without success. The town had been sewn up entirely by package tourism resort hotels and so cheap sleep and walk-in trade were unknown concepts here. Its not the first time I had been in such a situation and I wasn't going to worry about it, so after taking the risk of hiding my bag in bushes, it was dark by now after all, plan B was simply to reinvest my dig money in a pub or two and sit it out till closing time. Fortunately that wasn't until 3am, whereupon I found myself a convenient sunlounger on the beach and tried to grab a few hours kip. I was lucky in that it wasn't in the slightest bit cold, in fact the sea breeze was a blessing, but unfortunately the mosquitos were not in such an accommodating mood. I rose with the sun and as the rest of the holidayers slumbered on I searched in vain for coffee. It could have been worse. The pragmatist in me resolved that at least I would be makıng an early start, there was a lot to be done again that day and I didn't feel so tired after all.

Paphos was developed as a resort not by chance. It had prospered here since antiquity and the remnants of its original glory lay close by the harbour, adjoined by its landmark Venetian fortress. Nea Pafos was a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Roman ruins over a vast expanse with the exquisitely mosaiced House of Dionysos being its star attraction. Such was the distance involved I had to later take a bus to the associated site of the Tombs of the Kings. These were in fact never intended for royalty, it was a name ascribed simply as testimony to the quality and scale of effort afforded upon them for their merchant class sponsors. There must have been a hundred or more tombs cut into solid rock, some into rock face as though like caves, others dug down then capped with roofs supported by grand Romanesque pillars. Some had chambers within chambers within chambers, they reminded you of ancient Egypt.

After traipsıng around all day in this bent it was another long hot trail back up the hill to Ano Pafos only to find there were no buses running back to Limassol. Two major cities of the island, there was only one bus a day and none at all on Sundays, ridiculous. Fortunately a kind soul directed me to the service taxi office nearby and so I was bound back to Limassol before long. Unusually, for you normally had to wait for the transport to fill up, there was only me and an Irish girl in the van. She was the first person I'd had a decent conversation with in a week of being there and it was a pity she was actually leaving for the airport. I saw the twinkle in her eye and knew she shared the regret. You have to go via Limassol if you want to go to Nicosia the capital from Paphos, the Troodos mountains got in the way of the most direct route, and so I had decided to split the journey and leave myself just enough time to wander round the medieval fort and museum in Limassol which had eluded me before. It was an Ottoman structure, built over the remnants of a Venetian church and indeed you could still clearly see the joins where arches were abruptly swallowed up by retaining walls or whatever. It wasn't that impressive from the outside, too square and approachable to have been a serious challenge to a concerted invader, but it held a fine collection of armour and weapons which helped bring it to life. It was difficult to imagine that although now swallowed up by the city it had once been an isolated seat of power on an island out to sea.

Posted by andyhay 00:00 Archived in Cyprus

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