Around and About Paphos – Cyprus

As I mentioned before, we were a bit apprehensive about our return to Paphos after five or six years, had the place been ruined by over-development and would the places we knew, that made the place so special before still be there?

Things certainly had changed a bit, but not too much and it was good to catch up with old friends,  like George Panayiotides (the Panayiotides clan patriarch),  of the Nereus Hotel and Chris, who runs our favourite restaurant in Paphos, the Georgia Meze House.

George and me

We first visited the Nereus over 20 years ago, fell into the place’s relaxed happy go lucky groove, and found ourselves going back several times while our daughter was growing up.  Over the years we tried a couple of other hotels in the resort, but none of them had the same atmosphere. So you can imagine how delighted we were to be able to rent one of their two bedroom apartments for just €600 last week. Not bad for four people, especially when it included a proper cooked English/Cypriot breakfast too! Imagine bacon, tasty farm eggs, beans and sun ripened tomatoes plus fresh fruit, yogurt and honey – breakfast heaven even if there was no square Scottish sausage!

With the flights costing in at about £250 each from easyJet and taxi transfers at €30 each way, courtesy of another old pal, Stevie and one of his six door stretch Mercedes limos (It was so cool, just like a work’s outing for Bond villains), we saved at least a grand on the equivalent package deal for four from Thompson or Thomas Cook. Plus none of that hanging about at the airport waiting for people to find the correct coach malarky either.

Nereus Hotel

So what is the place like?. The resort area is more properly known as Kato Paphos and consists largely of the area surrounding the harbour. There is a tiny beach, mind you if you want some good sand catch a local buss (€1) for a day out at Coral Bay. What does make this town so special, is the wealth of history, which is hardly surprising given the island’s turbulent past. Greeks, Romans, Franks, Crusaders, Venetians, Ottoman Turks and the British have all been here and left their marks.

A tiny bit of Britain's colonial history in Paphos Old Town.

So much so that the whole town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but more on the history and archeology later. There are some beautiful churches like Panagia Theoskepasti here. the name means veiled by God and according to the local legend God sent fog to protect the church from Arab raids. The present church dates from 1923 .

Panagia Theoskepasti

There are some fabulous places to eat and others like Ta Mpania here on the waterfront,

Ta Mpania

are just the place to watch the sun go down over the harbour with a cold (if expensive €3.50) beer.

Sunset Cyprus style

It also does a fabulous strawberry and white chocolate waffle for €5.75 and, so I’m reliably informed the best Coke float (€3.50) on the island.

Ta Pania's famous strawberry and white chocolate waffle

At the end of the harbour on the pier the town is overlooked by an Ottoman fort that was later used by the British to store salt, it looks quite spectacular all lit up at night.

Ottoman Fort by night

That’s enough to be going on with, more on the restaurants and history later, but if you fancy paying a visit to Paphos, I do recommend the Nereus (link to the right). For airport transfers Stevie’s cabs operate a fleet of six door Mercedes cabs and can be booked from the Nereus reception.

Easter in Cyprus

Easter is one of the most important festivals in the Greek Orthodox Church’s calender and when we arrived in Paphos the town was already gearing up for it. At every roundabout there were decorations like these,

Easter Roundabout

with huge Easter chickens, eggs and bunnies. Lots of the shops were selling special Easter candles, more on those later.

Easter candles

Outside the main Orthodox Church in the resort itself, Panaya Theoskepasti, we discovered this effigy of Judas Iscariot waiting to be burnt at the stake on Easter Saturday. I thought was an interesting parallel with the pagan practice of burning an effigy of the dead Winter King at around this time of year to mark the passing of the Spring Equinox.

Funeral pyre for Judas

On Good Friday after the service at  Panaya Theoskepasti an icon of Christ was paraded enthusiastically around the town, but the major event took place on the Saturday.

Panayia Theoskepasti with icon of Christ

On Saturday many of the bars and restaurants put out baskets of hard boiled eggs with red died shells, symbolising the blood of Christ

Easter Eggs Cyprus style

No doubt this practice is assimilated from earlier religious practices to do with rebirth at this time of year. For example the Zoroastrian Persians, who ruled much of the middle east including Cyprus, painted eggs for Nowrooze, their new year celebration that fell at the Spring Equinox. Eastern church lore claims that the egg shells miraculously turned red when Mary Magdalene brought hard boiled eggs to the women at the tomb of Jesus and they beheld the newly risen Christ.

Saturday evening came and the excitement in the air was palpable. As it got dark people began gathering outside Panaya Theoskepasti with their candles, to listen to the service being broadcast from within. By the time we arrived, close on midnight, poor old Judas had been burning for some time. The chanting of the priests over the load speakers was quite beautiful though and the icon of Christ, decorated with flowers, on the church steps was illuminated.

Icon of Christ

As the Midnight hour passed the doors of the church opened and the priests symbolically brought forth the light of the resurrected Christ to the world,

The Priests bring forth the light of Jesus into the world

which was then passed from one candle to another creating a river of light that spread down from the church into the street and into the wider world, accompanied by the ringing of the church bells and the explosions of home made fireworks.

The light passes from the church to the wider world

Even as a confirmed non-believer it was a great experience and I’d like to thank the lovely lady who handed me a candle so that I could participate in it.