Cyprus travelogue with photos, April 10th 2002
Villages in the Troodos Mountains
We're going on a tour today: named poetically "Pearls of Cyprus" in StarTour's brochure.
The bus will pick us up at the hotel, but our side of the road is closed to traffic. A man is sweeping the arrows, but that doesn't make them any whiter. Having waited for 15 minutes we all walk down to Kition Corner where we find the buses. Some are going to Paphos, but we enter a mini-bus with tourists from Fig Tree Bay and Agia Napa waiting for the pearls of Cyprus.
The guide, Marios, is a Cypriot who speaks Swedish, and he talks about this and that while we drive into the countryside. His Swedish is no problem; he speaks slowly and clearly. Maybe Marios is a botanist. At least he knows and tells a lot about plants and growth, and even Latin names are added. A young couple from one of the beach resorts falls to sleep immediately and sleeps most of the way. Even the two lively kids on the backseat cannot keep them awake.
First stop is in the village Pera. We meet an old man, and Marios starts a chat. He is the village priest and the long beard does give him the looks of a real patriarch. He has no less than 11 children, Marios translates, and has been out picking capers. That explains the bucket where a snail tries to escape, and maybe also the stained fingers.
Later on our way to the bus Marios chats with a lady who then runs into a garden. Marios keeps us busy with talk about the culinary use of prickly pear cacti, and as we (well timed) turn the corner they have arranged a pavement shop with fresh oranges and lemons. The price is probably exorbitant, but we like to say thanks for the visit and most of us buy some. The oranges and lemons here are delicious.
A bit past 10 we continue towards the museum-village Fikardou. Here we'll have brunch. The houses are old and most of them uninhabited. Actually the village has only 5-6 inhabitants, but the state pays for renovation and maintenance of the old houses, and everything is like in the old days. The brunch at the taverna is bread, cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, olives and more. Unfortunately the coffee is instant. I'm not desperate and prefer to do without.
A house has been turned into a museum. On the first floor was the living- and sitting room, and below were the stable and the room where you worked. The village church is very small but very traditional with beautiful icons. Outside we admire the cemetery. The view is spectacular and the gravestones reveal that most people grow old in Cyprus!
The trip continues to yet another village with the tasty name "Lazanias". The mountains are beautiful at this time of year - flowers everywhere. In Lazanias a creek runs in a gorge and frogs are croaking a concert. As I stand smoking my pipe, enjoying the concert while the others get into the bus, Marios smiles and tells me not to think so much. Do I look like I'm thinking? It must be the pipe! All week I see no one else smoke a pipe, and a pipe probably looks more intellectual than Marlboro Ultra Light.
It will soon be lunchtime and we drive along gravel roads and hairpin bends. Helle is by the window at the left side and doesn't feel quite comfortable looking into the abyss. There's a short stop at the Machairas monastery. I think archbishop Makarios is buried here - or maybe it is somewhere else, never mind. It looks well preserved.
Over the mountains we get to the restaurant. The menu is the national dish, Meze, which is an abundance of small hot and cold dishes. We are seated on a large covered terrace and the table is laid in advance. The plates are upside down and everybody laughs when an elderly Swedish lady serves herself salad before she discovers that the plate should be turned. There are carafes with wine, the food is delicious (uhm, their cold yoghurt!) and soon everyone chats in Swedish and Danish gibberish.
Helle whispers that a Danish woman out of my earshot complains about almost everything. Then you don't get a clean plate for each dish, and then you don't get clean cutlery. And then the bread hasn't been sliced all the way through, and then the meat has fatty rind, and then and then... It is beyond comprehension. If you cannot tolerate "different" food and different customs you had better stay at home. However some seem to travel for the sole purpose of getting a chance to complain that things aren't like back home. Or if things aren't that bad, you can always make a point of telling that it was far cheaper in Turkey last year.
Fortunately the lady in question is out of my earshot, and instead I'm entertained by a very sympathetic Swedish couple from Uppsala. Before the end of the meal there's a drawing of Scandinavia on the paper napkin, and after the brandy Cyprus is added to the lower corner.
Evening and Karaoke in Larnaca
Everything comes to an end and by 4 PM we're back in Larnaca and say hello to the cats by the tourist office. After the massive lunch we can't even think of supper. Instead we settle for ouzo at The Meeting Pub.
Around 10 we return to the hotel. There's Karaoke in the bar. Karaoke is new to us. The guy who runs the show is quite entertaining in his exceptionally tasteless T-shirt: black with orange flames. Several guests offer their interpretation of the international treasure of songs. Some painfully out of tune, but the more you have to admire their courage. And it is entertaining. Olga from Russia sings in tune, but would do better without microphone. Mike is a crooner and caresses the microphone with both hands and stiff fingers. The bartender's daughter, who's some 10 years old, shrieks hopelessly out of tune, and more than once she's encouraged to repeat the torture. Christina from Norway is euphoric and a young bunch joins in on the refrain of a Norwegian hit. Well, there's another tour tomorrow and it is getting late...