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Take a breath of fresh air February 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Paphos.
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Take the road less travelled by hiring a 4×4 vehicle and heading to Cedar Valley

For this day trip you need to hire a good 4×4 vehicle. The terrain we traveled, during what turned out to be one of the wettest weekends on record, really needed the ability to lock all four wheels to get better traction off road on long stretches of deep, muddy, and often flooded, tracks.

Mind you, even if this trip is ventured during the summer months, it’s still one that benefits enormously from using a 4×4 as many of these tracks rarely get sight of the sun so you may still get stuck in the back of beyond and, no, as we found out, your mobile phone does not receive a signal for most of the journey.

Although a bit of a white-knuckle ride, this trip was also great fun, even taking into account the magnificent sheer drop down mountain sides, which were always clearly visible from the side of the vehicle. Speed though was not of the essence; a big part of the drive has to be taken very slowly and although it’s a relatively low mileage, this is a trip that has to be taken with care.

We left Paphos at 9:30am, traveling up the Polis road and turning off just before entering the town at the clearly marked signpost to Stavros tis Psokas, and then moved on through lovely, rolling countryside passing the very attractive villages and narrow winding streets of Steni, Peristerona, and Lysos.

The main road winds through mainly rocky hills and deep gorges filled with pine trees – this is the relaxing part, at least for the driver, but for passengers it’s constant a twisty ride and the effect may render some a bit car sick.

It took till about 11am to descend to the old, colonial-style forestry station and rest house at Stavros tis Psokas. The name comes from a monastery that once stood there, and, politely translated, was called ‘The Cross of the Measles’ but actually means ‘The Cross of the Mange.’ In the old days, before pesticides and drugs, this monastery must have been a Godsend for people affected by scabies and all sorts of other skin conditions, who would have travelled to the monastery in search of a miraculous cure.

Nowadays, lurgy-free tourists can enjoy a snack at the small cafe, there’s also a campsite plus basic but clean and comfortable hostel accommodation. Here is also the place to spot some wild moufflon. Resident forestry staff will happily show you an enclosure where a few of these very shy beasts are now kept. Moufflon also roam wild in this area but the chances of ever spotting one running free while driving through the valley are exceedingly rare, so this is a perfect opportunity to see them in their natural habitat.

Although the signpost says the distance from here to Panayia is only 27km, what it doesn’t say is that for every single one of them you travel at a maximum speed of 20kph so the journey takes a bit more than an hour. Certainly this is one road less travelled by your average tourist but it is worth the odd adrenalin rush, because, when you stop and walk a bit down the path ahead, the silence experienced is almost deafening and any botanist would be ecstatic to see such a myriad of unfamiliar plants and trees, with thousands of the aromatic cedar indigenous to Cyprus, Cedrus brevifolia, scenting the air.

After one hour of careful cornering and blowing of the horn to alert any oncoming ‘speed freaks,’ we reached a signpost indicating that we were not ‘lost’ as we had feared but a mere 7km from Panagia. Such was our relief at seeing signs of human habitation as the odd house started to dot the landscape, we broke into a loud cheer, we had made it. The relief was tremendous, as was our deep need for a strong Cyprus coffee.

We refreshed ourselves with coffee and tasty, homemade orange cake at the Green Leaf Cafe and took a wander around to see the Archbishop Makarios Museum. You could also chose to drive a couple of kilometres out of the village to see the Chrysorrogiatissa Monastery then return back down the hill before turning off at Kritou Marottou and driving up the steep hill to the sleepy village of Fyti to enjoy a hearty, home-cooked lunch at the Fyti Tavern, next to the church in the main square.


Cyprus wines of the week February 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Cyprus, Wine And Spirits.
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Graduate of Davies University, Sophocles Vlassides, a qualified oenologist, late last year presented his wines to cyprusvines.com members. Our two wines this week come from that presentation and are, in my opinion, two of the very few examples of quality red wines currently available in Cyprus. The winery is in the picturesque Kilani village.

2005 Domaine Vlassides Shiraz, Limassol Region > For many, this is one of the best Shiraz grape varieties on the island. The nose is redolent of red fruit, cherries, ripe raspberries and blackcurrants. All define well on a complex nose, showing also notes of wild Mediterranean herbs and violet. This harmony is evident on an intensive palate. Full-bodied, there is a mind-blowing spectrum of meat juices, black fruit and grilled spices. Hints of tree bark and cigar smoke wind sinuously through the velvety flesh. The tannins are firm and the acidity is pleasantly balanced. Reminiscent of New World Shiraz with five-year ageing potential, serve at 18 degrC with rich meat stews, roast poultry or, my favourite, barbequed meat.

2003 Domaine Vlassides Cabernet Sauvignon, Limassol Region > Sophocles adds 10% Cabernet Franc to this inky red. Elegant and juicy, it has a typical Cabernet nose; classic cassis, plum, capsicum, ground pepper, vanilla and cedar wood. The palate shows lush black fruit married to ripe tannins and precise new oak. Full-bodied, the finish is restrained, deep and complex. Serve at 18 degrC with full-flavour meaty dishes especially lamb, casseroles and mature hard cheeses.

Marcos Baghdatis reaches Marseille final February 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Tennis Squash.
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Marcos Baghdatis has shown very little trouble playing from behind.

The seventh seed from Cyprus, Baghdatis rallied from a set down for the second day to reach the final of the Marseille Open on Saturday.

Baghdatis charged back for a 3-6 6-3 6-2 victory over Jarkko Nieminen of Finland, winning his career-high ninth straight match and reaching the championship match for a second consecutive tournament.

In the quarter-finals on Friday, the Cypriot battled back from a slow start to post a 2-6 7-6 (9-7) 7-5 triumph over Russian Mikhail Youzhny. In his latest win, Baghdatis broke Nieminen six times and edged the Finn in total points, 80-78, en route to improving to an impressive 14-3 on the season. Coming off a win at Zagreb earlier this month, Baghdatis will aim for his third career title against France’s Gilles Simon. Simon advanced to his first final in close to a year by toppling Robin Soderling of Sweden, 6-2 7-6 (7-2).

Soderling was coming off an upset of sixth-seeded Frenchman Richard Gasquet on Friday, but Simon went 5-of-8 on break chances against the Swede to secure a spot in the final for a local player. Simon lost his only previous appearance in a championship match at Valencia, Spain, last April.

Rebuilding Cyprus airports February 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus News, Transport Air Sea Land.
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The man responsible for bringing the Cyprus airports into the modern world puts in a 12-hour day but sometimes struggles with the laid-back Mediterranean approach

We all know what a typical landing is like when you arrive in Cyprus and this flight from Heathrow was no different. Some people clapped their hands, relieved to finally be back on dry land, as older ladies dressed in black began crossing themselves in thanks for God protecting them from turbulence.

‘Zorba the Greek’ started playing on the speakers, as seatbelts were unbuckled and passengers stood up despite the friendly protestations of the airhostess. Mobiles began ringing and a few people placed cigarettes behind their ears, waiting to light up as soon as they reached the ‘strictly’ non-smoking terminal. Home sweet home.

It was your usual plane experience until a couple of tourists sitting behind me chuckled loudly once the aircraft reached a halt. They seemed to find it hilarious that the runway had patches of earth beside it speckled with wild weeds. “You wouldn’t find that in many places,” one of the young men remarked as the other laughed and said, “you can’t expect much more from such a tiny island can you?” I cringed but couldn’t help listening to the rest of their conversation as a discussion followed about how amusing it was that the airport looked so small and yes (shock, horror) how disgraceful it was that you have to get on a bus to take you to the terminal building. If the mere sight of the airport made them so distressed, then how would they cope once they got into a taxi and hit the roads?

These memories came back when I was handed a big, white envelope and told to have a look at some new airport designs. I’m greeted by what, to the untrained eye, looked like a new Heathrow airport terminal, boasting long walkways and boarding bridges, where contemporary architecture is complemented by a cutting-edge concrete, steel and glass design.

But there was something awfully telling that this definitely wasn’t Heathrow as the blue sea glistened in the background. These were the plans for the much-anticipated new Larnaca and Paphos airports that should ensure that no more tourists complain about our seemingly ‘third world’ facilities. But how easy is it to convert a rather small and humble airport into one that looks like it could be part of a glamorous movie set?

The man that hands me the envelope is Bob Manning. As Chief Executive Officer of Hermes airports, Manning is the man in charge of transforming both airports over the next few years. Calling himself an “Australian through and through”, his management experience commenced as an officer in the Australian Army and was followed by CEO positions in Municipal Government and Cairns Port Authority. He’s since had extensive experience in airports, seaports and the tourism industry, acting as the man in charge of major construction works.

All plans are already in action for our airports and it’s expected that by 2009 they’ll look extremely different. The Larnaca terminal will be a three-level building served by 16 passenger boarding bridges. The capacity for the first works is 7.5 million passengers per year. The Paphos terminal will be a one-level structure with a capacity for 2.7 million passengers per year. As we chat, the sixth construction crane is erected on sight and Manning tells me that 115 million euros have already been spent on the works.

It’s certainly no small task and Manning says these new terminal buildings will be the most important ‘investments’ in the history of Cyprus. His no nonsense approach shows that getting something done today means getting something done today, rather than the tomorrow that never comes. And yes, starting a job at 9am means starting at 9am, not at 11am after morning banter, two frappes, a few cigarettes and endless gossip about the neighbours. His alarm is permanently set at 5.30am with no exception and he sets off for work at Larnaca airport, where he spends most of his time. “On arrival at the office, my first task is to switch on my laptop and ‘hope’ that not too many emails have come that evening. My first hour is spent with my personal assistant, Helen, who pretty much organises my day,” says Manning.

“I don’t find it hard to work around Cypriots, but work habits and patterns here are different to what they are in Australia. I’m not criticising, but it’s obvious that people are a lot more laid back when it comes to getting certain things done. It’s just the whole Mediterranean way that’s different, where deadlines seem to extend a little, and things seem to wind down after lunch. That’s been hard to adapt to.”

He hopes to bring us up to ‘world standard’ and as we talk I realise just how committed he is to getting things up to scratch. “The airports at Larnaca and Paphos are totally inadequate for Cyprus in 2007. Tourism and air links are critical to the future of the island and the current airport infrastructure can only serve to hold back development and growth in these two key sectors. To do nothing is not an option,” he says firmly.

But it’s not all work and no play for Manning who explains that travelling is a big part of his routine. His move to Cyprus in November 2005 inevitably meant missing the folks back home but his wife joined him at the start of 2006. “We miss our children terribly but, on the upside, we’re able to travel to Australia quite easily from here. Distance isn’t an issue. When you’ve lived in Australia you get used to travelling long distances.”

From leaving home in the morning to returning home in the evening it’s a 12-hour day. “I don’t find the job tiring but I do find it challenging. That’s not to say that I don’t get tired, and come each Friday afternoon I very much welcome the approach of the weekend,” he admits. “When I get home I like to relax with my wife by having a drink before the evening meal, read personal emails that have come in during the day, and catch up on current affairs and sport on TV.”

Yeroskipou gives go-ahead for major expansion February 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Cyprus.
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Yeroskipou Municipal Council yesterday unanimously approved the master plan for the ambitious expansion of Neapolis in Paphos, Cyprus.

The Yeriskipou Council accepted the plans for the construction on Thursday; just two days after the plans from the ‘Paphos Plantations (S.M.K) Ltd’ were put before them.
The Council cites one of the reasons for accepting the plans was the strategic use for the new buildings that are set to be built, such as an education centre, a hospital and a research centre. The Council believes this kind of infrastructure will help the development of the area.

The Yeroskipou Council warned of the need to avoid constructing a similar model to the Universal housing estate that was located nearby and called for the need to preserve the caves located in the area.

Despite the master plan for the extension of Neapolis being accepted by the Council, this does not mean that construction works can go ahead just yet. It is up to the Town Planning to now examine the company’s application for the developments in the region.

The Neapolis project by Leptos Developers is one of the biggest ever in Cyprus and intends to attract a number of new businesses to the area, moving away from the traditional form of real estate and tourism.

There are reports that Neapolis will include an English-speaking University and have some 3,000 members of staff. The area is also thought to focus on cultural as well as sport development, with many museums, parks and a number of football and tennis grounds.

PrimeTel in new 2.5Gbps SDH network in Cyprus February 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Telecoms.
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Private telecom and multi-media provider PrimeTel has implemented a new layer of network, using SDH technology, that runs on STM-16 level and it is capable of 2.5Gbps speed.

Using their existing nationwide fibre-optic infrastructure, PrimeTel is the first privately owned alternative telecommunications carrier in Cyprus to use the SDH Network technology. PrimeTel’s SDH network currently spans from Nicosia, to Limassol and Paphos.

The utilization of SDH technology enhances the resiliency of PrimeTel’s national backbone network system, as it also functions as a backup solution. With the SDH technology that PrimeTel has adopted, they bring a new generation of service in the Cyprus market and are capable of offering SDH and PDH circuits to Internet Service Providers and large corporations. In conjunction with its fibre network infrastructure and the local loop unbundling, PrimeTel has unlimited broadband capabilities and can offer services across various sectors of the market, covering the telecommunication carriers, business, residential and corporate sectors.

Related Links > http://www.prime-tel.com/Main/default.aspx

Nortel lands mobile WiMax contract in Greece February 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Telecoms.
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Europe’s first MIMO-enabled mobile WiMAX Network to run at three times the speed, one third the cost

Nortel will work with another Canada-based firm, Craig Wireless, in deploying a wireless broadband network across Greece utilizing mobile WiMax technology. Mobile WiMax is one of the points of emphasis for Nortel in its new strategic marketing initiatives.

The Greece project involves use of so-called MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) technology from Nortel. MIMO, combined with a networking for multiplexing of signals enables carriers to utilize radio spectrum at higher speeds. Craig Wireless plans to target rural areas for the project.

“We laid the foundation for next-generation mobile WiMax by deploying Nortel’s fixed solution to create the first commercial WiMax network in Greece delivering ‘Internet Everywhere’ services to people in Athens, Heraklion, Patras, Thessaloniki and beyond,” said Boyd Craig, chief executive officer of Craig Wireless. “Now, we’re moving forward with Nortel’s mobile WiMax solution to extend service across Greece and provide users in key metropolitan areas with roaming access to high-speed mobile services such as voice over Internet protocol, Internet browsing, e-mail and data.” Nortel will work with Unisystems, is joint venture partner in Greece, on the project.

UNI-NORTEL, a joint venture in Greece between Nortel and Unisystems, will provide and install a complete mobile WiMAX solution for Craig Wireless that includes Nortel’s Access Services Network Gateway for handling up to 300 base transceiver stations and managing the handoff of devices from one BTS to another; the Network Management System 5000 for managing the BTSs in the Access Network and the core network elements in the Craig Wireless network architecture, and the Nortel WiMAX Base Transceiver Station for delivering industry-leading performance, capacity and coverage – this unique WiMAX BTS has built-in MIMO capabilities and advanced Radio, Modem and Power Amplifier technology.

“UNI-NORTEL has been able to provide Craig Wireless with world-class technology and experience in delivering the most advanced mobile networking solutions,” adds Kostis Stavropoulos, general manager, UNI-NORTEL. “This new contract for mobile WiMAX demonstrates Craig Wireless’ customer satisfaction and confidence in UNI-NORTEL’s ability to support their continued business development in Greece.”

For more information >  www.uninortel.gr 

Related Links > www.craigwireless.com and  www.nortel.com