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April 12, 2013 2:26 pm
Some sunny news for a showery April afternoon: the insider guide to Cyprus, 250 Things to Do in Cyprus on a Sunny Day*, is now available from the iTunes Store.
250 Things to Do in Cyprus on a Sunny Day* is the perfect guidebook if you’re taking your iPad, iPhone or iPod with you to Cyprus. Written by former Cyprus resident Chris Alden, and updated for 2013, it’s full of honest recommendations of things to do – such as walking in the Akamas peninsula (above), visiting authentic tavernas and exploring ancient sites.
Because it’s a made-for-digital guidebook, it’s also portable, searchable, and packed with links so you can discover up-to-the-minute info on your travels.
To download 250 Things to Do in Cyprus on a Sunny Day* from iTunes, just click here; to read the book, you’ll need an iPad, iPhone or iPod capable of running Apple’s free iBooks app.
Of course, if you don’t have an iPad, iPhone or iPod, don’t worry: the guidebook is still available from the Kindle Store or in paperback; see the links on the right.
So however you prefer to read, buy 250 Things to Do in Cyprus on a Sunny Day* – and discover sunny Cyprus, today.
April 9, 2013 1:25 pm
You’ll find them in many a Cypriot garden: huge, bulbous, clay jars, sometimes used as flowerpots and often found lying on their side. Known in Greek as πιθάρια (pitharia), these traditional Cyprus pots are the descendants of ancient Greek storage jars known as πίθοι (pithoi) – and assuming they’re original, they would have been made decades or even centuries ago to store water or foodstuffs such as oil and wine.
What’s odd about pitharia is their shape: cone-bottomed, like an inverted tagine, they don’t stand up, which is why they’re often found lying about, wedged into garden corners or propped up on racks like massive hanging baskets. In fact they were originally half-buried in the earth, to keep their precious contents cool.
Cyprus is still respected for its pottery: the street of Ak Deniz in Larnaca is a mini-hub of modern-day potters, while Lemba Pottery near Paphos is also well known. Traditionally, though, the main pottery villages were Kornos (now a busy village just off the Limassol-Nicosia motorway) and the more romantic Phini, near Platres in the Troodos hills.
You should also check out the Cyprus Wine Museum – its website has more info on the history of pitharia, while the museum itself is in the busy suburb of Erimi, on the old Limassol-Paphos road.
April 2, 2013 10:34 am
Probably the most romantic of all the conquerors of Cyprus – and there have been many – the Venetians ruled the island from 1489 until 1571. But they came to power with one of the most infamous dynastic coups in early modern history: the marriage and abdication of Caterina Cornaro.
Caterina was a 14-year-old Venetian, born to a rich trading family, who in 1468 married James II of Cyprus, a Lusignan noble known as “James the Bastard”. It was an odd wedding, to say the least: she was in Venice, he in Cyprus, and the marriage took place by proxy. She didn’t meet him for another four years – at which point he conveniently died and Caterina was installed as Regent of Cyprus and, on the further convenient death of her child, titular queen. Although popular in Cyprus, she never exercised full control: 15 years later she was herself forced to abdicate, and to hand over Cyprus to Venice.
The traces of the Venetians are everywhere in Cyprus – the Venetian bridges in the Paphos district (pictured) are particularly fine – but they were most notably responsible for the colossal city walls of Nicosia and Famagusta. Both cities were to fall in the Ottoman invasion of 1570 and 1571; while Nicosia fell in seven weeks, Famagusta – no doubt the Venetian “seaport in Cyprus” where Shakespeare set Othello – held out for 11 months. Venetian Cyprus came to its end with the fall of Famagusta in 1571: as a final indignity, the commander of the citadel, Marcantonio Bragadino, was publicly flayed alive.
April 1, 2013 7:02 pm
Cyprus is full of little surprises – which is why I’ve put together a list of 20 more reasons to visit the island. On this page: Cyprus time, the Greek alphabet, cars in fields, the chance to ski, and the small matter of the British.
11. Cyprus time
It’s a truism of travel writing that Mediterranean folk have a different perspective on time than us Brits. But time makes slaves of us all, so while Cypriots still head home for long lunches (creating four rush hours a day in the cities), much has changed: siestas are no longer sacrosanct, Wednesday afternoon closing is regarded as outmoded, and simple business transactions may take no longer than the time it takes to drink a coffee, which might even be an espresso rather than a Kypriako.
Go to the villages, though, and you can get a sense of how things used to be. Here, shops are open only when they are open (but could usually be opened, if you only knew whom to ask); if you want to track someone down urgently and don’t have their number, the coffee shop is still pretty much your best bet. Of course, life becomes simpler when the things you want aren’t available on demand; you start to make do with what you’ve got.
Tourists, though, like to know what happens when, so here’s the rough timetable: shops, banks and museums are open from around 8am to 1pm; lunch is 1pm to 4pm (though major attractions and supermarkets will remain open); shops often reopen at 4pm in summer and stay open till 7pm; restaurants open from around 7pm in the villages or in tourist zones, but may open their doors later in cities; as for drinking, there’s no official closing time and cafes/bars tend to close when the last customer has left (though you might take the hint if the owner starts to yawn).
One constant about Cyprus time, as far as food is concerned, is that when you’re eating in a taverna, you will never be rushed to finish your meal or to pay your bill: often this is because the owner will be having their own meal immediately after you’ve finished yours. If you’re the sort of person who likes your bill brought promptly, try to ignore the urge to chase too much. Relax – you’re in Cyprus!
12. The Greek alphabet
I’m a huge fan of the Greek alphabet. Greek script has been used on a continuous basis for 2,800 years and looks utterly exotic to the Western eye – and yet it has only 24 letters, some of which are the same as in English, and the rest of which are a doddle to learn if you set your mind to the task.
All of which is a way of saying that I’ve written an ebook about the Greek alphabet which you might want to download to your e-reader if you’re visiting the south of Cyprus (or indeed Greece). Soon, you’ll be reading Greek road signs and wine bottles and menus, and being generally nerdy over dinner in the taverna – not that it will impress your other half.
13. Cars in fields
Cypriots don’t throw old cars away: they leave them sitting in fields, where they become overgrown by scrub and inhabited by lizards, and may even (after decades have elapsed) start to rust. For this reason the Cypriot countryside is dotted with cars, many of which in Britain would be considered classics, slowly turning into rather photogenic scrap. The Cyprus government thinks they’re all an eyesore and has introduced scrappage schemes, but they seem part of the fabric of the place, after a while.
14. Snow on Troodos, sun by the sea.
Yes, it is technically possible to ski and swim in Cyprus on the same day – not that you’d particularly want to, as the sea is far too cold to swim in between January and March, even in this part of the Med. But if you’re thinking of visiting Cyprus in winter, it’s worth driving up to the little ski resort near the summit of Mount Olympus; if only to say you’ve skied in Cyprus.
15: The British were here.
Traces of Britain are everywhere in Cyprus – from British-style postboxes (painted yellow) to the fact that in Cyprus, as in much of the former British Empire, you drive on the left. In out-of-the-way villages, you’ll see British-built water fountains from the 1950s, inscribed either “E R” or “G R”, and the year the project was completed; and there’s also this, rather grander, Victorian water fountain near the old asbestos mine at Amiantos, built to celebrate the completion of the then Nicosia-Troodos road. Water, of course, was a big deal in Cyprus, and still is; an English inscription on the fountain reads: “The Lord sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills.”
March 28, 2013 5:03 pm
“Decent, civil folk, who had been brought here … by a perfectly honourable passion for sunlight and low income tax.” Such is Lawrence Durrell’s description, in his classic 1950s travelogue Bitter Lemons, of British expats in Cyprus.
The British passion for sunshine is undimmed, and by and large we’re as decent and as civil, but in this climate of austerity there is less sympathy available, it seems, for those expat Brits who retire to Cyprus and enjoy the current version of those low rates of taxation (5% for pensioners, if you are prepared to sacrifice certain personal allowances). Retire abroad in search of low taxes, so the popular argument runs, and don’t be surprised if you suffer financial uncertainty as a result.
The argument is superficially attractive, but it’s the premise I would challenge. Who really retires to Cyprus to avoid tax? Or do people decide to live in Cyprus – and countries like it – because of something more important: sunshine, yes, but also the chance to travel, quality of life, low crime, and even perhaps a nice sea view into the bargain?
I can’t, of course, be unbiased on this subject. I’m half-Cypriot and I love Cyprus, and it upsets me to see the country suffering as it has in recent weeks. But because I’ve lived in Cyprus and grown to know British retirees there, I understand that many live in Cyprus because they fell in love with the place – 10, 20, 30 years ago, when the island was far less developed than it is today – and nurtured a dream to come back. In these circumstances it takes a lot to make you fall out of love – so I don’t doubt that most Brits who’ve thrown their lot in with Cyprus, especially the ones who went there for the right reasons, will stay.
That’s not to do down the serious trouble that Cyprus is in. The Europe-wide outrage caused by the first, botched bailout – in which even the smallest depositors stood to lose 6.75% of their money in Cypriot accounts at a stroke – remains the culprit here, as it was the spark to the tinderbox: the single incident that suddenly made the Cyprus crisis synonymous with Europe’s crisis. It was that error that led the world’s journalists descending on Cyprus en masse – and the resulting, steep, sharp loss of confidence will take time to recover from. Expats and Cypriots alike – now mostly breathing a sigh of relief that they won’t be subject to a levy on deposits below €100,000 – could hardly be blamed for complaining to those journalists about the injustice of a tax on insured deposits, and it seems to me that the revised bailout, while uncomfortable for many, is fairer for most.
Moving abroad is a personal decision, and when you leave Britain these are the kinds of things you may think seriously about: a country’s stability, its financial security, the cost of moving your money around, the likelihood of currency swings, whether you’ll miss family and friends, what side of the road you drive on, whether you get on with the food, whether you can make ends meet, whether you can get internet, your attitude to bureaucracy, and a hundred other things that may be more or less important to you. As expats everywhere will testify, there’s more to the decision than the rate of income tax.
And if you’re thinking of living in Cyprus: read Bitter Lemons. That will give you a sense of how far – or otherwise – we’ve all come.