Cyprus la carte

Green almonds

We're going home tonight. The plane takes off 21.15 local time, but before that we're going on a trip: "Cyprus a la carte".

Helle is up before the wake up call 6.30. We have breakfast, check out and have our suitcases stored. The tour bus is at Kition Corner on time 8.45.

Pampos, the Cypriot who speaks Swedish, is guide again and the bus is half full. First stop is Kolossis Southwest of Limassol. On the motorway miles are eaten quickly, but speed is slow through Limassol where we follow the coast. I try in vain to spot the restaurant where my colleague and I had lunch in February.

The orange plantation

Orange flower Helle picks oranges

The area West of Limassol is home to the biggest orange plantations in Cyprus. The two most important orange types are Jaffa and Valencia. Valencia is ripe now and the trees blossom at the same time.

We pull in, get a plastic bag and license to pick. An orange tree is dense and not airy like apple trees back home. High eucalyptus trees that protect the delicate orange trees from the wind surround all fields.

Keeping in mind that we're going home tonight I pick but two oranges. Pampos asks me why I'm so modest, and I explain to him that there's no reason to pick over-weight for the plane.

The field is also home to an army of bloodthirsty mosquitoes, and within minutes they discover the tourist menu. Soon everybody is more concerned with clapping bare skin than picking oranges. The mosquitoes' general has been kind enough to peel and dissect some of the tasty fruits. Yummy! They are bursting with juice and taste fantastic.

Kolossis

Not far away in the sleepy village Kolossis we stop for coffee. The cafeteria is just opposite the church and inside old men solve serious issues over coffee and backgammon. I'm the first tourist at the counter, and I guess the host is taken by surprise when I order Cyprus coffee instead of instant.

Swallows nest

However a yell and some explanation to mama in the kitchen takes care of our order and we sit down on the veranda facing the open church door.

Under the roof shading the veranda are swallow nests with busy parents, and under the nests are shelves - better droppings on the shelf than in the coffee, I presume.

Reunification? - No thanks!

In the church are many icons glittering with gold paint and below the cross behind the altar is a skull with crossed bones like on a pirate's flag. Outside is a tray with sand where you can put your candles.

The bus is parked near the church and across the road is another cafeteria. Here are garlands with the Greek flag and a huge banner saying "OXI", which means "No". Blue and white colors - no doubt about their sympathies!

Anogyra

We continue North and the roads get almost to narrow for the bus. The road climbs until we stop in the village Anogyra where we visit a small family industry, where they make carob syrup the old way.

First you sog the chopped fruit in water for some hours and then you boil and reduce the water until it turns to syrup. If you continue the reduction process the syrup will turn to a sugar-like substance tasting of cocoa.

Boiling carob syrup Boiling carob syrup Old olive tree
Click to enlarge

Pampos says that most villagers are pensioners, but there are also some 40 Brits living here permanently. There are some very thick and very old olive trees that could have inspired H.C.Andersen.

And olives is the next item of this days' menu. We visit the Oleastra olive mill and museum in Anogyra. The process is modern and ecological with olives as input and cold pressed oil as output.

The machines are all modern and state of the art, but the stones that crush the fruit are rollers like in the old days. The stones are from the Alps and look like granite; Cypriot stone is too soft and crisp we're told.

I veto buying oil in the shop - I'm certain we can get it better and cheaper back home where someone else took care of the transport. However we do buy a small glazed bowl with an olive motive.

Lunch and wine tasting in Doros

The route takes us further up into the Troodos mountains. We're to have lunch in the village of Doros. The landscape is pretty and soon white limestone changes to the Troodos massif's red-brown of volcanic origin. When we arrive to Doros it is pouring down, so instead of picnic we are seated in a newly built carport-like house.

Outside in the pouring rain a man is grilling giant skewers with pork and potatoes. The giant barbecue is home made from an old cart on wheels. At the end is a motor and a chain rotates the skewers. Ingenious! He could easily cook for 200 people with this device.

Barbecue in pouring rain Giant barbecue
Click to enlarge

Everything is arranged as a buffet and is very tasty. Pampos and the driver help themselves to generous portions and obviously enjoy the meal. I didn't see them get the tourist menu in Paphos the other day.

Wine is served in humble red clay jugs with no ornamentation for the tourists. After the first plastic cup I'm surprised when my tongue reports that my teeth are intact, so I courageously help myself to a refill of this elixir, which must indeed be local.

Giant pot Outdoor cooking in Doros
Click to enlarge

While we enjoy lunch the rain ceases, and afterwards we walk the short distance to a local winery where they produce red and white wines, spirit (Zavania) and the famous Commandaria dessert wine. With its raisin-like sweetness Commandaria is like liquid sweets.

The red wines are ordinary, but ok. The ones made from imported grape varieties like Cabernet or Grenache have more body and weight than those made from Cypriot grapes, but it is interesting that the imported varieties require irrigation while the local don't need such tender care.

By the way it was grapes from Cyprus that were planted on Madeira in the 15th century. The firewater, Zavania, is served ice cold - probably to knock out the taste buds.

Commandaria

Wine tasting

Cyprus is famous for this delicious dessert wine produced from sun-dried grapes. The wine has been made since antiquity when it was enjoyed by connoisseurs in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome.

In 1191 the Knight's Templars bought the island from Richard Lionhart and later the Knights of St. John entered the scene. The crusaders knew more than how to wield a sword and with commercial flair renamed the wine to "Commandaria" and monopolized trade. Thus Commandaria is the world's oldest named brand in wines

During Turkish rule winegrowing got close to extinction, but was revived when England took over the island in 1878. Miraculously phylloxera never reached Cyprus. "Commandaria" is pronounced with stress on the "da".

The trip back to Larnaca goes via Limassol enabling Pampos to cast his vote in the referendum. He lives in Agaia Napa, but because he grew up in Limassol that is where he must vote.

He will vote "yes", he says, but the detour was in vain, because the UN plan for reunification was rejected massively in the Greek part of Cyprus. One may wonder why.

For thirty years they have complained about the Turkish occupation and the "theft", and now they had the chance to make Cyprus one nation again. I wonder if it boils down to good old hatred.

Going home

Back in Larnaca we kill time with a cup of coffee on the promenade. In the airport we get through check-in and security quickly and there's plenty of time to shop tax-free for the last time ever in Cyprus.

In the bus the guide said that the airport was all no smoking, but I have plenty of time to get an overdose in the large smokers' area. At 21.15 precisely the plane takes off. We are lucky to share 3 seats and sleep lightly most of the flight.

We stay the night in Copenhagen and arrive home in Aalborg Sunday afternoon. It has been a relaxed an easygoing vacation with a taste of spring exactly as planned.