Last Friday, we took a trip to Troodos- the forest of Paphos. We traveled nearly 2,000 meters high into the mountains. The landscape looked similar to parts of Oregon and Washington state that I’ve had the privilege of seeing. It was very peaceful and quiet up so high- only the chirping of birds was heard. We visited the three monasteries of Chrysorroyiatissa, Omodos and Kykkos. The monasteries were established centuries ago, with the Kykkos monastery dating back to the 11th century. Inside the monasteries were beautiful golden altars decorated with icons of Christianity. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures because they are not allowed. We saw many Russians and Greeks praying at the icons that they have made a trip to see. It was especially beautiful to see the small children bowing and making the sign of the cross in front of the religious icons at such a young age. While traveling between monasteries we drove through the village where archbishop and president Makarios was born. After his term as the first leader of Cyprus, the country established the separation of church and state. His bronze statue is 10 meters tall and weights 11 tons, standing tall on top of the mountain. Guiding the way to his tomb are many beautiful mosaics. He had three wishes for his burial- to be near the monastery where he spent his time as a young boy (Kykkos), near his village and facing the northern part of Cyprus where the Turks invaded from because he wanted to see it reunited, since he died only 3 short years after the invasion. All three of those wishes were granted as his tomb sits nestled into the mountainside, facing the north.
We enjoyed lunch in the forest and then took a hike up to a waterfall. The trail and stream, which was plentiful in trout, reminded me very much of the forests and paths in Pennsylvania. It was here on this hike that I was reminded that no matter the differences that the civilizations and cultures around the world form, we are all a part of the same Earth.
We also stopped in some villages to try the native wine of Cyprus—Koumanderia! It is a mixture of old and new wine with 15% alcohol. It is the wine of kings and military commanders, the wine the Cypriots take to church and to their friends on Christmas Day. While driving in the mountains I appreciated the landscape abundant with many vineyards and farms for crops- all strategically sculpted into the landscape.
On Sunday we took a safari ride through untouched terrain in and around Akamas National Park. We visit abandoned villages, orange groves, and secluded beaches. This excursion began by riding along the coast and then venturing up into the mountains. This trip was an off-roading experience on back dirt roads without guard rails and a lead foot driver. Alongside the roads we saw lemon, orange, avocado and pomegranate trees and acres of banana plantations! I really wish we had the climate at home to grow fresh produce like this. The bananas here are small yet sweet, about a third of the size of bananas in America. Our safari driver pulled over to pick us fresh loquats from a tree in blossom- they were an amazing treat and similar to a peach crossed with an orange. We made stops at Aphrodite’s bath, took a hike to Avagas gorge and enjoyed a beautiful beach front lunch.
We also saw sea turtle nests on the beach that will hatch in September. Fun facts: turtles nest in a remote beach area away from hotels since they naturally follow the moonlight when they hatch and return to the sea. Hotels and bright lights will cause them to walk the wrong way and subsequently die. We also learned that eggs hatched at 29 degrees Celsius (sand temperature) and below make male turtles, 30 degrees Celsius and above makes females and in between produces half and half.
Sunday we took a relaxing and beautiful cruise to the Blue Lagoon. We got on the boat in Latchi and sailed up the coast where our boat anchored and we went for a swim. This was one of those OMG moments for me because I just couldn’t believe how blue the water was. This bright water was also the saltiest water I have ever been in- I was left covered in salt crystals after the swim! We enjoyed lunch by the sea and then made stops at a cheese farm and a winery in the mountains on our way back to Paphos. There was a young girl, Aleni, and her 5-year-old sister working at the cheese farm who explained to us how cheese was made… well, Dr. E translated her Greek into English for us 🙂 The goats that produce the milk for their cheese roam the farms surrounding the factory. We tasted the cheeses of halloumi, feta, Anari, and an aged cheese— all were amazing. Next we stopped at a winery and enjoyed a tasting of their delicious wines and homemade olive oil. All of their grapes are grown nearby and make for their select nine varieties of wine. My years of working at Maiolatesi’s Winery at home granted me to have a deeper understanding and appreciation for these wines and their process. Even the dry wines we tasted we still very sweet! At both the cheese farm and the winery it seemed as if the children themselves or relatives of the owners were working. Both Aleni and the man at the winery were very passionate and informative while we visited their places. I loved to see this as I think it represents both how respectful and proud these children are to their families.