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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.

Carnival time in Cyprus February 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Limassol, Cyprus Paphos, Greek Culture.
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Dig out that wig and the dodgy outfit

Somewhere tucked away at the back of our wardrobe we’ve all got one. It’s that glittery and hideously bright costume that we cringe to look at but somehow still absolutely adore. We wouldn’t of course be seen dead in it under any normal circumstances. But we do love to make excuses to put it on.

There are the times that our lover seriously disappoints us and we pour the wine, put on the loud 60s music, and out comes the outfit complete with wig and bright lipstick as we prance around the house pretending to be a true stage diva, arms in the air and belting at the top of our lungs.

Then there’s the second excuse to wear it, carnival time! And no, it’s not just females who resort to such silliness. Every man seems to have an unleashed Don Juan within him and perhaps even more bizarre is that many males rejoice in the chance to dress up as women. Of course, it’s all completely acceptable during carnival because somehow absolutely anything goes, and just as long as you don’t wake up still wanting to wear your outfit out to lunch the next day, you’re absolutely safe.

Around the world, people love the idea of dressing up and having wild parties. But how did it all the crazy festivities begin? With carnival celebrations taking place in so many countries around the globe, the origin of the world ‘carnival’ is often debated, but it’s most commonly believed to come from the Italian word ‘carnevale’. The word literally means ‘to say farewell to the meat’, and because Catholics are not supposed to eat meat during lent, they began the tradition of holding a wild costume festival right before the first day of lent.

Carnival then became a yearly festivity where people lost their inhibitions and indulged in an orgy of feasting, dancing and other sensual activities. As time passed, carnivals in Italy became quite famous and spread across Europe and Latin America.

Just like many other festivities and cultural traditions, Cypriot carnival celebrations actually date back to the beginning of the last century, when homes in Limassol opened their doors and welcomed round friends and family for a feast of food and wine.

“They began celebrating privately,” says Skevi Antoniou from the Cultural Department of Limassol Municipality, “and would dress up in old costumes, completely disguising their faces. They would then go over to friend’s houses and tease them as they would pretend to be someone else. It was all about having a great laugh and experiencing one day a year when you could pretend to be anyone you wanted to be.”

The Greek word ‘Apokries’ is symbolic, as just like ‘carnevale’, it literally means ‘without meat’ and so everyone would tuck into juicy delights before the fasting was set to begin. Crowds would roam the streets singing and dancing, and even the donkeys were decorated and proudly paraded around town. The Limassol Municipality then began to realise how much people enjoyed prancing around the streets and took the initiate to organise carnival events on a yearly basis.

Although things are undoubtedly a little different today, Limassol remains the centre of all the fun, and hosts the largest parade down Archbishop Makarios III Avenue. But all the fun begins days before the parade. This Tuesday, you can go along to a big carnival fiesta outside the Mediaeval Castle, where everyone is invited to go along disguised in costumes and participate in all sorts of fun with music and dancing. On Thursday, a second dance will take place in the square of the First Municipal Market, where the Dreams Choir will be keeping you on your feet with old and new hits. At both the parties, awards will be given for the best three carnival costumes.

The big grand parade in Limassol this year will be taking place on February 18, with all the usual bright and cheerful floats and spectacles. It may not be Rio, but efforts are being made to make the carnival bigger and better each year. As festivities coincide with Valentine’s Day celebrations, you can expect many associations with passion and love. And for those of you who’ve already set your sights on the Carnival King in the centre of town, you’ll have probably realised that he represents the king of love.

“The carnival in Cyprus is really getting bigger and better each year. There are more costumes, more colour and more and more people who want to take part. The unified music means people have started dancing in the streets and have really become more enthusiastic than ever,” says Antoniou.

Some of the biggest floats in this year’s parade include ‘Antonio and Cleopatra’, ‘Carnival from Venice’, ‘Spiderman’ and ‘Oliver Twist’. But the most intriguing are the rather imposing ‘speed camera’ floats. Are the authorities trying to prove a point by any chance? The parade will be followed by the Limassol Municipality Philharmonic Orchestra, and prizes will be awarded for all the best floats, groups and individuals.

There will also be celebrations taking place in Paphos, with a grand parade on February 17 place on Poseidon Avenue as crowds gather to cheer all those taking part. Now all that’s left is deciding on your outfit. Unless of course you’ve already put on that wonderfully bizarre gorilla costume half way through reading this article.

Limassol Dances
February 13: Carnival Fiesta, outside Mediaeval Castle Square, 8.30pm
February 15: Outdoor Carnival Dancing Event, outside Municipal Market, 8.30pm

Grand Limassol Parade
February 18. Starting point, Ayios Nicolaos round about, ending at Ayia Sophia traffic lights, Archbishop Makarios III Avenue. 1.30pm.

Grand Paphos Parade
February 17. Poseidon Avenue. 4pm.

For more information, Tel: 25-745919, 25-343120

Max Williams > Great for roasting December 4, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Paphos.
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It’s not some kind of food snobbery, honestly, but I resolved to never again venture into one of those blackboard touting eateries plying their dubious culinary trade along Paphos’ tourist strip.

That said, last August during my summer holidays in Cyprus and at the request of one of our readers who eulogised about the place, I stole myself to try out the recommended Sunday lunch served at Max Williams.

Although this establishment caters to the fuelling, rather than fine dining, needs of tourists, it stands apart from others of its ilk as the owner has her heart, and the customers’ welfare, in the right place. Laura Goodband stands for no nonsense in her kitchen and now has a clientele stoutly supportive of her good value and exceedingly safe Sunday lunches.

The problem many of these tourist restaurants suffer from is ever escalating rents, which is the high price they pay for being positioned right on the front, which also leads to them being open all hours and serving all meals.

That’s why a small taverna set on family land way up in the hills can easily offer a lunch at least two to three pounds cheaper than those plying their trade on the tourist strips. So, £5.95 for a Sunday lunch main course is just about right. For that you can select from roast lamb, pork, beef or chicken, all of which come with piping hot roast potatoes, decent mashed potatoes, just in case you need an extra carb hit, cabbage spotted with fresh black peppercorns, carrots and peas.

If you order the roast beef, as we did, out comes a waitress carrying aloft a Yorkshire pudding the size of Mount Olympus. This truly humungous thing of beauty when liberally doused in rich gravy turns into a mini meal in itself. If you manage to finish the generous slices of meat and all the trimmings you may well feel as if you have indeed climbed every mountain. For those who clear their plates, then look longingly at the pudding menu there’s a selection of comforting food to round off the meal: home-made bakewell tart with custard, apple crumble and a chocolate gooey confection.

Of course, traditional roasts are not the only choices available on a Sunday, there’s a full menu offering good stuff that is genuinely made every day.

We also tried the chicken wings, which were plump and juicy although the accompanying sauce was a bit overpowering. The home-made pate with cranberries was fine if a little too fine for my liking but that’s because I relish a more robust garlic sodden number. Snacks to Full Monty lunches are also on the menu as is a nice little nugget of tastiness buried away under a good layer of flaky pastry in the form of baked steak and Guinness pie. This gem alone is well worth the visit to Max Williams and, if you can also wangle a wall size serving of Yorkshire to accompany the pie, then afterwards you won’t need to eat for a fortnight.

Lorna herself doesn’t eat meat so vegetarians have the added bonus of a menu created by someone who appreciates the infinite variety of dishes available.

Max Williams
Speciality Roast lunch served both on Thursdays and on Sundays
Tombs of the Kings Road (opposite Tea for Two), Paphos, tel 26 221314. Price £5. 95 and upwards.

Paphos > a home on a cliff November 15, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Paphos.
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With seven bedrooms and 10 bathrooms, Marc Wall’s new stone house in Cyprus seems intended for the Brady Bunch rather than a family of three. But Mr. Wall, an American, said it will be the perfect setting for him and his German wife, Gisela, to raise their 3-year-old son.

After falling in love with the country during a vacation six years ago, Mr. Wall decided this year to move his family to Cyprus from London, where he had been based. He looked at about 40 different properties before deciding on a half-built house that was selling for the equivalent of $1.4 million just north of Paphos, on the western side of the island. The house, which totals 550 square meters, or almost 6,000 square feet, is being built on the edge of a cliff overlooking the island of St. George. It is scheduled to be finished in January.

Houses in Cyprus typically sell for $1,700 to $2,433 per square meter, or about $158 to $226 per square foot, depending on the location.

Boasting unobstructed views of the Mediterranean, the Walls’ new house is one of the most eye-catching in the area. The private swimming pool appears to be filled by a cascade of water that flows down the slope where the house stands. The house also will have a gym, sauna and jacuzzi. But, for Mr. Wall, the real selling point was Cyprus itself and what it offers to young families seeking a quiet way of life.

“People are very friendly here and they are very genuine and family life is very important to the people,” he said. “The school system is also very good and I plan to send my son to Greek schools, at least until he learns Greek.”

About 85 percent of the island’s 780,000 residents speak at least English.

All in all, Cyprus seemed to fit his family’s needs, said Mr. Wall, who has worked in financial markets for 22 years. “Fortunately I can do my work out of my house thanks to the Web and broadband,” he said. “And telecommunications in Cyprus are cheap when compared to the rest of Europe.”

Mr. Wall is not alone in singing Cyprus’s praises. Many foreigners say they buy homes here to enjoy the more than 340 days of sunshine a year, and a high standard of living that is inexpensive compared with other European countries.

The low rate of taxation also helps. Anyone who is retired and a permanent resident, someone who spends more than 180 days a year in the country, pays just five percent tax on their income, which can include foreign pension payments. Property prices have long been on the upswing, especially since the country entered the European Union in May 2004.

Litsa Chrysostomou, marketing manager at BuySell Real Estate in Cyprus, said that house prices have increased six percent to eight percent a year in the last few years. Mrs. Chrysostomou said the area around Paphos is particularly popular with foreign buyers, primarily because the airport will be expanded by 2008 and a new marina with 1,000 moorings is expected by 2010. Also, the Cypriot Government has decided to allow the development of at least seven more golf courses; now there are only three, all in the Paphos area.

But Mrs. Chrysostomou and many other real estate experts warn prospective buyers to stay away from Cyprus’s Turkish north. “Properties might be cheaper there but there’s no way to check who the real owners are” because there is no reliable land registry, she said.

The island has been divided into Greek and Turkish Cypriot sectors since July 1974, when Turkey invaded the Republic of Cyprus and since then occupies the northern part of the country. Only Turkey, however, recognizes the so-called and self-proclaimed Turkish Cypriot government, which controls 37 percent of the Republic’s area, a situation that is one of the problems endangering Turkey’s membership negotiations with the European Union. The E.U. has threatened to suspend membership talks with Turkey unless it allows Greek Cypriot vessels to access its harbors by mid-December.

On the legal and internationally recognized Greek Cypriot side of the Republic, there is a land registry and legal system very similar to Britain’s as well as the promise of solid rental returns topping seven percent a year on investment properties.

Loucas Kitrou, the real estate manager at Aphrodite Hills, a large development at the mythical birthplace of the goddess Aphrodite, near Paphos, said the availability of mortgages in euros allows foreign investors from those countries to enter the market with little difficulty. Cypriot banks also can arrange mortgages in other currencies. Cyprus’s current national currency is the Cypriot pound, worth about $2.23.

He said that while Cyprus historically has been a retirement destination, especially among Britons more than half of all foreign buyers these days are families with children.

For Mr. Wall, the ability to allow his child to play outside alone was, for him, one of Cyprus’s main draws. “Crime is low and I feel very safe with my child being outside here,” he said. “No one will snatch him off the street,” he said.“This is the kind of lifestyle we want.”

A carnival of cuisine in Cyprus November 14, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Cyprus, Cyprus Limassol, Cyprus Paphos, Food Cyprus, Greek Culture.
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Food-lovers looking for the ultimate celebration of edible delights might like to jump on a flight to Cyprus for its annual Carnival event in Limassol and Paphos during February.

Carnival involves several days of eating and parties, and takes place in the run-up to the traditional 50-day fast preceding Easter. The main focus is very much on food, as reflected in the designation of weeks to certain dishes; celebrations begin with Meat Week, while the following seven-day period is known as Cheese Week.

Visitors to Cyprus should take the opportunity to sample some traditional treats, including pastry bourekia stuffed with mint cheese and ravioli, stuffed with chopped meat or cheese and local wines. Revellers can work off whatever they consume with a string of parades, balls, musical performances and other open-air events.

And with Cyprus boasting a 10,000-year history and beautiful scenery, holidaymakers should make the most of being in such a culturally rich location by visiting attractions throughout the country.

For further details, see the Cyprus Tourism Organisation website > http://www.visitcyprus.org.cy

Paphos > A busy place November 5, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Paphos.
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To the world it is an archaeological treasure chest. It is the historic heart of the city of Paphos, a busy port and resort on the west coast of Cyprus.

In Greek mythology, the goddess Aphrodite was born near Paphos. The city derives its very name from the mythological daughter of Pygmalion, a king of Cyprus, and a woman, Galatea, who was brought to life by Aphrodite from a statue that Pygmalion had carved and subsequently fallen in love with.

Once the capital of Cyprus and for seven centuries its largest city, Paphos (Cypriot spelling: Pafos) has been named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations. It earned that distinction because of its extensive and endangered antiquities that intertwine with Greek, Roman, Byzantine, pagan and early Christian influences.

With three major museums, two castles, and three noteworthy churches among many others, Paphos is one of the most important crossroads of culture in the Mediterranean Sea. Especially interesting there are the 4th-century B.C. “Tombs of the Kings” the 2nd-century A.D. Odeon, and the broad expanse of mosaic floors at the houses of 3rd-century A.D. noblemen Dionysos, Theseus and Aion. The mosaics depict scenes from Greek mythology and have been meticulously cleaned, preserved and presented.

For all its history, Paphos is not a stodgy town known only for its ruins. Its lively harbor is filled with marinas, open air seafood markets and restaurants, night clubs and shops. Beachfront resort hotels line nearby shores, and traditional Cypriot tavernas may be found all over the picturesque city.

Paphos is also the base for tours of the ecologically sensitive and geologically spectacular Akama Peninsula and of the scenic Troodos Mountains of western Cyprus.

More information > www.kypros.org/cyprus/paphos.html 

Theanan Seaview Villas, Cyprus October 20, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Paphos, Hotels Cyprus.
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