Monday, March 20, 2017

Cyprus, Paphos and the DIY Hotel

We made it to our hotel. It’s a nice one, too—friendly staff, good food, clean room, close to the beach. And it has an interesting, and appropriate, motto: “Less like a hotel, more like home.”

I say “appropriate” because when I went to put my clothes in the bureau, the knob came off in my hand. Then I found that the shower was unusable because the metal thingy that holds the shower head in place is wonky.

Leaving Britain
Arriving in Paphos
My Swiss-Army knife took care of the bureau, and I was able to temporarily jerry-rig the shower head in place with pipe cleaners (I always knew smoking a pipe would come in handy some day) but to really fix it, I’m going to need some stout cord, electrician’s tape and a crescent wrench. And so, to that end, we’re heading out to explore the town.

Along the sea front, some guy was making a living by having people pay him 1 euro to have their
photo taken holding this iguana. For 2 euros, you didn't have to hold the iguana, and for a 5er,
you didn't even have to be in the picture. That's the option I bought for my wife.
We’re staying in Paphos, an agreeably smallish city that is not pronounced how you think, because the PH is sounded as F, as in PHISH. Locally, it is spelled Pafos, which makes much more sense.

Seriously, is this a big problem in Cyprus?
Paphos is in an odd sort of limbo right now. Despite the stunning blue sky, relentless sun and 80 degree warmth, it is still winter, and technically, the off-season. Therefore, we—the incomers—are wearing short-sleeved shirts and sun hats, while the locals are still in jackets and jumpers.

Another sign that we are still in the off-season is the continual, minor construction going on along the sea front and surrounding area—new sidewalks are being laid, walls are being repaired and, like anyplace in Britain where the Queen is about to appear, there is a pervasive smell of fresh paint on the breeze.

This may happen every year at this time—a spruce up before the summer crowds arrive—or it may be due to Paphos being a European Capital of Culture for 2017. I’m not sure how these honors come about. Perhaps they put everyone’s name in a hat, or something. This year, Hull is the UK capital of culture, so there you go.

Hull is home to thousands of naked Smufs, so it must have something going for it.

As I pointed out in my last post, Cyprus has a lot of history, but I previously focused on the bloodshed that happened as a result of that history. Those conquering nations, however, did do more than put the indigenous people to the sword, they built some magnificent structures, as well, and when a new conquering nation arrived to put them to the sword, they left these buildings behind. Really, the place is lousy with them.

A Roman Theatre

Another Roman Theatre

Yet another Roman Theatre -- I told you the place was lousy with them.

At the edge of town, they seemed to have randomly cordoned off a section of land (conveniently close to the tourist district) and called it an Archaeological Park. Included within the boundaries are four Roman villas, an early Christian Basilica, Greek structures, a medieval fort, a Roman theatre and lots and lots of columns—all within an area about the size of a city park.

(Okay, it wasn’t random, but it certainly was convenient, and so filled with artifacts that it is now a UESCO World Heritage Site.)

Really, you can't swing a cat without hitting something like this.

There are so many frescoes and tiled walkways that you are allowed to walk on some of them.
Not this one, though.
Found this on the wall of a Roman Lavatory. 

This was a fresco of a Roman family portrait.
Translation:  LtoR Back Vickie, Tony, Nicola, Aunt Amanda and Eric
Front: Cousin Earnie and his weird grildfriend Bertha, Uncle Jake, Bob (holidng Simon) and Sue
at Simon's first birthday party
In addition to all that, Cyprus is the birthplace of Venus – the Goddess, not the famously red planet – and this is where she sprang forth from the foaming sea.

Oops! I mean Aphrodite.Venus is the Roman equivalent.
Exciting as all this is, I still have a wonky shower back at my hotel. I managed to acquire some stout cord by purchasing a braided bracelet and unraveling it. But it proved impossible to find a souvenir crescent wrench and there are no Paphos-themed rolls of electrician’s tape on display anywhere, so I guess I’m just going to have to improvise.

Next time: The DMZ

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


I’m waiting to check my bags at the airport and it has just occurred to me that I am paying a premium to fly due to my short stature.

Think about it, I’m flying to Cyprus, and allowed to take a single bag with me that weighs no more than 30 pounds. Now, I weigh 160 (ish) pounds, so that’s a total of 190 pounds added to the weight of the aircraft at a cost of £X. So for each pound, it is costing me £X/190.

In front a me is a guy who, to be kind, weighs at least 200 pounds. So his cost per pound will be £X/230, meaning he is getting a better deal. Given this, it stands to reason that I should be charged less, or allowed to bring a suitcase weighing 70 pounds, to even things out.

(For you folks who went to school after the invention of calculators, lets say X=£200. So I’m paying £200 divided by 190, or £1.05 per lb, while the guy in front of me is paying £200 divided by 230 or only £.87 per pound.)

I understand why the airlines don’t charge people by how much they weigh, but you can see why I think they should.

So, why Cyprus? To my American friends, it must seem an unlikely destination, especially since, as I recall from my life in America, Cyprus doesn’t exist. In America, the world pretty much consists of America. If pressed, most of us will grudgingly admit to Canada and Mexico, and others might recall hearing about a place called Europe and a vague area known as The Rest of the World.

But Cyprus? Not heard of it. Did we ever invade it? No? Oh, that’s why I never heard of it.

Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Canada, Europe, America, the Rest of The World
Tiny little island: Cyprus

Cyprus, I understand, is an island in the Mediterranean, located somewhere between Europe and the Rest of the World, and rather closer to Syria than I should like it to be. For Brits, however, it offers the ideal holiday destination—it is sunny, warm and a member of their erstwhile empire, which means the indigenous population speaks passable English and you can get a breakfast that includes baked beans and fried tomatoes without anyone thinking you’re weird.

Nice enough island, but some dodgy neighbors. 

The selling point for us was, my wife had already been there and had found it agreeable. So that’s where we are going.

In order to avoid being the ugly American, I did some quick research on Cyprus (because, as mentioned earlier, Cyprus did not exist in my world until my wife showed me the travel brochure) and found it to be a rather intriguing place.

Any patch of land on the planet can only hope to realize a few good selling points: it can be strategically located, rich in resources, or both. The downside is, it will also be forever drenched in the blood of people fighting to control it. On the other hand, a patch of land might find itself inaccessible and/or desolate, in which case it will perpetually play host to a tiny population living in endemic poverty. (I’ve left “Stunning vistas” out of this equation because that was never really a selling point until the invention of tourism. You don’t think the Romans were up in Cumbria fighting the Picts because they liked the view, do you?)

At any rate, Cyprus had the good fortune (or the bad luck) to be the former. As a strategic stopping off point between Africa, the Middle East and Europe—with fertile soil, an agreeable climate and some really pretty beaches—it fell, at various times, under the control of the Assyrians, Romans, Greeks, Persians and the British, before gaining independence in 1960.

As an independent nation, it lived a quiet life until July 1974, when Turkey decided it looked interesting and blood flowed once again. The reasons were varied and complex but the result was rape, pillage and massacres on both sides and an uneasy truce that sees half of the island occupied by the Turks and a DMZ patrolled by the UN.

The bloodshed has stopped, however, and a generation has passed, so now the DMZ and the occupied zone have become tourist attractions in their own right. I’m looking forward to seeing them.

And that time is getting closer, as it is now my turn to check my bag. I wonder if I can convince the young woman behind the counter to give me a discount because of my size.