Cyprus - Limassol & Kyrenia
17 Apr 2012
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We had hoped to take a bus into town, but we are told it is the start of four days public holiday, and most places will be shut. Mid-morning people are coming back into the hotel reporting that almost everything is shut. The weather is not that flash either, so it is a good day to blob out.
At lunchtime the hotel puts on Easter drinks and traditional Easter food. Chocolate eggs are not that common over here, instead they take an ordinary egg and dye it bright red when they boil it. There is a traditional Easter cheese bread – we try it and everyone finds it a bit dry, but not unpleasant. The bar manager has a local drink (a spirit made from grapes) for everyone. The first taste is not that good, so we have a couple more to see if it improves. It doesn’t, and Demitris tells us later he doesn’t like it either. Just as well there is lots of boozy punch to take the taste away. We try more of the food, including the traditional local cheese that Tony had at breakfast. He thought it was feta, but it was more like rubber. There is a lot of food out for us, for some reason not too many people turn up for the party, we think it is because many staying here are “all inclusive”, which includes all meals and some drinks, so those people probably don’t feel that it is anything special. We hear about some of the local Easter traditions.
Later Tony grabs his book and sits by the pool, but it starts to rain, so he heads under cover until a wedding party turns up. The noise is a bit too much for him to relax, so it is back to the pool as the rain has stopped, for now. Poolside reading doesn’t last long as the hotel has put on an afternoon tea in one of the poolside bars, so we head over there for a cuppa and cake. The sun has come out briefly, so we can relax and read a bit more by the pool, just us and the cats. Cynthea heads back to the room, and one of the many, many cats decides Tony makes for a good blanket to lie on. Tony just hopes it doesn’t have fleas! The cat wants (expects!) to be patted and smooched, Tony tries to ignore him and pushes him off a couple of times, but the bugger is persistent, like only a cat can be.
Monday 16th April
It is another public holiday, but more shops are open today and the buses are also running. After our usual big breakfast we go to the pool bar where Demitris has planned cocktail making lessons. Once again there are very few people here. Demitris shows us how to make three cocktails - Sex on beach, Mai Tai and Gin Fizz. Then the really good bit is we get to have one each, we both have Sex on the Beach (without the sand!). There are a few more drinks made up, so we follow with a Gin Fizz. As it is a small group we get to talk to the hotel staff about how the place is run, and they tell a few tales about some past guests. It is an interesting session, some people never cease to amaze us. Demitris tells of a couple who put in a written complaint because the tour rep did not tell them they needed to take swimwear to the waterpark! We ask him about the bad reviews on trip advisor, and he says it is usually people trying to get “compensation” for a bad experience. We look at the worst of the reviews which complain the apartments are across a “busy road” and down a “poorly lit” alley. Neither could be further from the truth. Perhaps the road is busier in the season, but it certainly wasn’t the case when we were there. As for the alley, we have been down there late at night and found it well lit, and not a worry at all.
We want to go into Limassol for a look around, and head to the main street to catch the bus. As we arrive at the corner we see the bus pull away from the stop. There is no timetable, but there “should” be another in fifteen minutes, so we take a stroll along the road to wait a couple of stops down. A day pass costs us EUR3 each, and we ride towards the old part of the city. We are looking for the hotel where Tony’s Dad stayed when he was stationed here. We have a map to track where the bus is, but as there are very few street signs it is as good as useless. We wonder how we would have managed trying to navigate in a car, not well at all we suspect! Some businesses are marked on the map, so we use that as a guide and get off near where we need to be, we hope!
We stop for a coffee, and try to work out where we are, but it is hopeless, so we decide to just head in the direction we think the hotel is. Still no street signs, but we soon find the place, take some photos and head back to the beach, where there is a great pedestrian park along the waterfront. We wander along the beach where there are a few people about enjoying the sun, a few are even in swimming, but it is a bit too cool and breezy for us today. We get back on the bus and decide to stay on, just to see where it goes. But it stops at the “new port”, and everyone has to get off – we hope this is not the last bus for the day! There is not a lot to look at at the port, most of the area is restricted. There is a cruise ship docked, but we are not sure when the bus will leave to head back to town. We figure it wont be too long as the driver is at the depot having a ciggy break, and around fifteen minutes later he brings the bus back over to where we are waiting. We go back to the old port part of town and go sightseeing.
There is a souvenir shop near the roundabout at the old port, and some of the prices are not too bad, but we don’t have too much room so leave the turtles, tortises, puffer fish, etc on the shelf. Yes, they had once been alive, and no, they didn’t do too good a job of preserving them, not that we are into that sort of thing anyway. We head off to the museum and the castle, but they are both closed for the holiday. There are lots of bars and cafes open, and more souvenir shops than you can shake a stick at, so we browse about for a while and then catch the bus back to the park on the waterfront. We sit in the sun and eat lunch, take a wander along the beach and catch the bus back to our hotel. Tony had seen some nice Tshirts on our first day, so we got off the bus early and tried to find the shop again, but no luck.
Today our tour takes us to Kyrenia, on the north coast, cost EUR49 each. Again we stop at the coffee shop at Chiorokoitia for a few minutes. We are in the same mini bus, with the same driver, that we had on the trip to Famagusta. We meet Donna and Russ who are from the steel town of Scunthorpe (no, we have never heard of it), it is near Lincoln. They are talking of coming to NZ one day, so Cynthea gives Donna our contact details.
We cross the boarder at Nicosia, this is not such a relaxed border patrol here as everyone has to get off the bus and personally go to passport control. We have a guide join us on the bus again, we wonder how much they get paid for sitting there doing sweet f.a? Are they there to report any negative comments from the Greek side?
Kyrenia (renamed Girne by the Turks), is a very pretty town. Our first visit is to Bellapais Abbey, a 12th century monastery on the hillside above the town. It was originally occupied by a French brotherhood, the Order of Premontre, and was known to them as the "Abbaye de la Paix. Because it is on the Turkish side of the boarder there has been no restoration work, and it is hoped that something will soon be done to stop the site degrading.
We had lunch at a restaurant across the road before moving on to Kyrenia Castle, guarding the entrance to the harbour since the 1500s. There has been a settlement at Kyrenia since the 10th century BC, but the first major castle at Kyrenia was constructed by the Romans, and subsequently fortified by the Byzantines. The Byzantine structure of four towers linked by walls was later strengthened and enlarged. The current appearance of Kyrenia Castle dates from when the Venetians were "given" the island of Cyprus in 1489.
We passed through the fortified entrance in the northwest corner of the castle, and on up a sloping ramp that leads to the parade ground in the centre. The parade ground itself is lined with guardrooms, stables and living quarters, and more ramps lead to defences on the upper sections of the walls. We spent some time there walking around the top of thick walls and exploring the depths of the dungeons.
In the castle is the Shipwreck Museum that houses the oldest trading ship known to us which, with her cargo, was raised from the bottom of the sea in 1968-69. The ship's wooden hull was well preserved in the sand mud, and was "mapped" labelled and lifted in pieces to the surface. The objects in the museum are the original ones carried on her during her last voyage about 2300 years ago.
The ship sailed in the Mediterranean during the life time of Alexander the Great and his successors. She sank in open waters less than a mile from the anchorage of Kyrenia. The evidence points to her being taken by rough seas around the year 300 B.C, when she was rather old.
We had time for a short walk along the waterfront, where the buildings curve graciously around the harbour. We head back to the market square to catch the bus back, but we are a bit early so spend bit of time there having a look about. There is a really narrow street leading down through the shopping area – it seems to be only one way, now that is a surprise. We get an icecream from the shop (probably not a good idea to scoff a beer with a long bus ride ahead!).
We leave around 3pm and head straight back to Limassol, with the only stops being for boarder control and at the coffee shop, arriving back at the hotel just before 6pm, in time for the Hotel Managers’ cocktail party by the musical fountain.
Cynthea goes to get Digby out of her bag to take a photo, but he isn’t there. We search through our packs, but he is nowhere to be found. We go back to where we got off the bus, but he is not there either. We hope he has been left on the bus, but the hotel staff cannot tell us how to get hold of the tour bus company, we are told we have to go through our rep, but it is Amir’s day off. There is a holiday help line back in the UK, but they cannot give us the phone number of the company because it is an “internal” call. They said no one answered the phone at the office because it is after 6pm, but we are sure these places stay open longer than that. They tell us they will call back in the morning after they open at 8am (hmmm, thought they were a 24 hour help line?). That makes it 10am in Cyprus, and by then the drivers will be well on the road.
We cannot do any more until the morning, and we feel the loss very much. He is more than just a toy dog, he is a very sentimental link to home. Cynthea wonders if he was thrown out with some rubbish, we hope that he fell out of the bag on the bus when Cynthea got the water bottles out. We leave tomorrow, so hope that he is found and can be returned to us in the morning, if not at the hotel, then at the airport.
Around 8pm Tony decides he is going to find that Tshirt shop, come hell or bust, and sets off on a mission. He gets a fair way along the road, and decides that they didn’t get that far on the first night, so crosses the road to see what is over that side. Way further down the track he spots the shop, the Tshirt is there, but by the time he gets across the busy road they have shut – bugger. We had not seen the Tshirts anywhere else, so he will have to try again in the morning, but there are no opening times on the door. Tony could have sworn that they didn’t get this far along the road on the first night.
He heads back to the hotel, and passes a few other souvenir shops on the way. In the very back of one store are similar Tshirts, so he calls in. These will do nicely, but they are a Euro dearer than the other place.