The Island of Aphrodite is “going cultural”
Join Lyssiemay Annoh on a cultural tour
Britons and perhaps anyone else who thinks of Cyprus may
only seek to visit the country for sun, sea and meze. I
am not surprised because before I visited Cyprus, I also
considered it as a beach scene and perhaps this is what
the Island is primarily renowned for. This assumption is
still accurate because after all it is an island.
it is not an ordinary island – these 22,000 square
miles of land has more to offer than fascinating coastlines
and beaches. Today, Cyprus, the home to the Temple of Aphrodite
prides itself in historical and archaeological importance.
Its harbour was the first built during the days of Alexander
the Great and was rebuilt in 1592 AD. The island has such
a long history. My Cypriot historical and archaeological
adventure starts from Pafos (or Paphos as it sometimes spelt)
which was the capital of Cyprus in Roman times. Pafos is
also the port for the Polymus visiting shrine of Aphrodite.
I flew into Larnaca via Cyprus
Airways (Larnaca hosts the Island’s international
airport; from here, I drove toward to Pafos. Even before
I checked into the Paphos
Amathus Beach hotel I knew that Pafos is a very interesting
city culturally because it has so much to offer. The strikingly
beautiful Paphos Amathus Beach hotel which is a member of
the Leading Hotels of the World, welcomes you into its surroundings
in the most remarkable way that it makes you look forward
to your visit. The views from the hotel are simply “to
die for”. The Amathus has conference facilities, spa
and wellness facilities, a variety of 7 restaurants and
bars, a large swimming pool, games and sea-based activities,
golf opportunities, boutiques and mini-markets.
also well-tended gardens and a shop where you can buy fresh
day one of my cultural tour, I visited the Agios Neofytos
Monastery and the Egkleistra. This Monastery which
was founded at the end of the 12th Century is the
brain child of Cypriot hermit and writer Neofytos.
In the monastery's church, an ecclesiastical museum
houses icons, manuscripts, holy utensils, old books,
ecclesiastical garments, various religious objects,
jewellery, a collection of ancient Cypriot pottery
and old maps. The Egkleistra, an enclosure carved
out of the mountain, contains some of the finest Byzantine
frescoes dating from the 12th to 15th centuries.
I later travelled to Statos village to visit the Kolios winery
and managed a spot of tasting of some of the local wines.
Cyprus as a cultural destination is so fascinating. The
island is very rich in civilisation and culture. A visit
to the archaeological museum in Polis to the spot where
once stood the ancient city-kingdom of Marion brought back
an important commercial centre in the classical and Hellenistic
times. Today, it stands as a museum and home to some interesting
collection of antiquities which were discovered in the region.
All these exploration wets your appetite so I stopped by
the Moustakallis restaurant
in Polis Chrysochous in Paphos for a typical Cypriot
'meze' lunch. A Cypriot ‘meze’ meal is a feast
so ensure that you have an empty stomach when you start
to eat one up. The meal which comes in a series of courses,
offers a good variety of the recommended nutritional balance
for anyone; a perfect balance to help you to continue your
visit especially as there is so much to see in Paphos. I
still had to see the roman mosaics at the villa of Dionysus
before dinner (assuming that my large lunch would have been
digested before 8pm!). The House of Dionysus was a Roman
villa, probably dating from the 3rd century AD. The mosaic
floors are considered among the finest in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Day two and I have already recovered from my awestruck experience
and I was heading to the Omodos village via Agios Nikolaou
to visit the picturesque square, the church of the Holy
cross and the old wine press. It had to be done especially
if I did not want to leave Cyprus with only half knowledge
of its cultural heritage. Legend has it that this wine-producing
village which can be admired for its gravel-paved central
square and its rich architecture accepted the Christian
faith around 150 AD. One night, the inhabitants saw a great
fire and after search of the area, discovered a small cross
hidden in a cave. A chapel was build near the cave and with
the passing of time a monastery was built to accommodate
the pilgrims who sought cure from the Holy Cross. The history
of the Monastery of the Holy Cross is long and dates back
to 327 AD when Agia Eleni (Saint Helen) visited the island.
with all this richness in culture and heritage, I was
beginning to think that Cyprus must have some skilled
handicrafts as well so I visited the Agros village which
is the main village of the Pitsilia. Here the locals put
their skills to perfect use. I was introduced to a rosewater
and candle shop as well as a preserved fruit and sweets
shop. Fresh fruit jam has never tasted so good. I later
awarded myself another Cypriot lunch at Koilada Tavern.
I must confess that I was not expecting to eat another
‘‘‘meze’’’ but I did!
I made a mental note to choose something else on the menu
next time. While I was doing so, I thought I would try
out another hotel too to see if they were all as good
as the Paphos Amathus Beach hotel. So day three saw me
checking into Leptos
Coral Beach Hotel at Coral Bay which was in the opposite
direction. After all they say opposites attract. It was
different but just as nice and can you guess what I had
for dinner? Another ‘meze’ – a different
selection this time. Cyprus ‘mezes’ come in
different varieties; meat, fish, seafood, chicken, vegetables….
Well I thought one more ‘meze’ will not do
me any harm before I headed off to Lemesos where I had
a rendezvous with an ancient city kingdom and a Medieval
is day four and my first stop was at the ancient
Kouron site. After paying an entrance fee of 1.70
euros you are introduced to one of the most spectacular
archaeological sites on the island, Kourion was
an important city kingdom where excavations continue
to reveal impressive new treasures.
particularly for its magnificent Greco - Roman Theatre,
Kourion is also proud home to stately villas with exquisite
mosaic floors and an early Christian Basilica among
in the 2nd century B.C., Kourion’s awe - inspiring
theatre is now fully restored and used for musical
and theatrical performances. The House of Eustolios,
consisting of a complex of baths and a number of rooms
with superb 5th century A.D. mosaic floors, was once
a private Roman villa before it became a public recreation
centre during the Early Christian period. The Early
Christian Basilica dates to the 5th century and was
probably the Cathedral of Kourion, with a baptistery
attached to the north face. The House of Achilles
and the House of the Gladiators also have beautiful
mosaic floors. The Nymphaeum, dedicated to the water
nymphs, is an elegant Roman structure.The 2nd century
A.D. stadium is located outside the main Kourion site,
about a kilometre to the west on the right hand side
of the road to Pafos. Also impressive is the Sanctuary
of Apollo Hylates, situated about 2.5 kilometres west
of the ancient city.
After a lesson in
archaeology I headed off to Kolossi, a village on
the outskirts of the city of Limassol. It is built
close to the imposing castle which bears the settlement's
name. The Kolossi Castle held a great strategic importance
and contained production of sugar, one of Cyprus'
main exports in the middle Ages. The original castle
was possibly built in 1210 by Frankish military when
the land of Kolossi was given by King Hugh I to the
Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem (Hospitallers)
and the present castle was built in 1454 by the Hospitallers.
Besides the Hospitallers, other dwellers in the castle
include Richard the Lionhearted, and the Templars.
Lunch was at the Mageiron Tavernaki and I remembered
not to order a ‘meze’ – chicken
and French fries it was! A woman had to be allowed
some few indulgences every now and then.
My final destination
was to visit the Aphrodite Hills Golf Course
but I had to pass by Petra tou Romiou –
the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite. A visit
to Cyprus will be meaningless without this stopover.
The Petra Tou Romiou or the Rock of Aphrodite
(as known in English), is a scenic place, located
off the old Pafos-Lemesos road. It's
a popular tourist spot, for its breathtaking view of
the sea, and more famously the birth place of Aphrodite.
has it that this is the Rock from which Aphrodite mythically
arose from the foams in the sea. It is widely believed
that at the time when there existed only Ge, the Earth
and Ouranos (Uranus), Ge asked one of her sons, Cronos
(Kronos) to mutilate his father (Uranus). Obeying these
instructions, Cronos proceeded to cut off Uranus's testicles
and throw them into the sea. From the sea arose white
foams, from which a maiden arose, the waves first taking
her to Kythera and then bringing her to Cyprus. The
maiden, named Aphrodite, then went to the assembly of
gods from Cyprus.
Hence, the Romans widely referred to her as Venus. It
is also said that Digenis Akritas, a Greek superhero,
threw a large rock to secure the Saracen ships and this
rock today stands as the Petra Tou Romiou leading to
the above translation as the Rock of the Greek. Aphrodite
widely attracted a cult following in Pafos, which was
then crushed by the Romans. This is evident from the
Sanctuary of Aphrodite, in Old Pafos, a beautifully
excavated site. It is important to note that Aphrodite
was known for lustful love more than romantic love.
My main aim for dropping by the Aphrodite Hills Golf
Club was for coffee and to see if I could invest in
one of its luscious properties; but the views were simply
delightful and after all that historical, cultural and
archaeological experience, I was more enchanted by its
Spa features than anything else.
Nevertheless, the centrepiece of Aphrodite hills, an
ambitious new £150 million, 580 acre development
a mile or so inland from the south coast of Cyprus,
is a magnificent 18-hole championship course which was
laid out by the leading American golf designer Cabell
Robinson and opened in October 2002. Its retreat Retreat
Spa though is a haven for the senses. It has a total
of 24 treatment rooms and a dedicated expert team of
therapists. The Spa offers a comprehensive selection
of over 100 luxurious treatments including face &
body, massage and hydrotherapy to name a few. The Retreat
also offers guests a stunning infinity edge pool with
exceptional views, a juice bar & restaurant as well
as fragrant relaxation gardens with loungers and day
beds. The heart of the spa comprises of the Greco Roman
inspired thermae; a series of progressively warmer heat
rooms tempered with cooling showers. I am sure you will
not believe me if I said that I did not have time to
sample any of these spa delights – all I got was
a trip round the 18-hole championship course in a baggy
and then I had to rush off for my final dinner at the
Alantida Restaurant before I returned to London the
Day five – final day and I was all packed up to
return to London. I had a burning question though, what
was I going to say to anyone who asked why I had visited
the Island of Aphrodite and not found lustful love?
It took me only two seconds to answer the question.
My answer – I found romantic love with the cultural,
historical and archaeological Cyprus!