Not too long ago Ayia Napa was a small sleepy fishing village. The boom of tourism has transfigured it in a relatively short space of time into a throbbing night-spot. It seems to be particularly appealing to young people, who are catered for quite handsomely.
The beaches around Ayia Napa and Protaras are famous for the beautiful blue of their water and although they are now overcrowded in some places it is still a lovely spot, especially if you like an active holiday.
The castle stands as a fine example of military architecture originally constructed in the 13th century. It was subsequently rebuilt in the middle of the 15th century to the form it is now. It served first as the Grand Commandery of the Knights Templar, and after the fall of Acre in 1291 for some years, as the headquarters of the Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.
My island in the sun
I lived in Limassol for three years. But as I kept travelling on business etc., I guess I also got to see the place as a tourist.
Limassol, called Lemesos in Greek is one of the largest cities on this beautiful island in the Mediterranean.
The weather is usually pretty good - though it can get unbearably hot at times - fortunately, there are lots of places which have air-conditioning.
Apart from the beaches, which attract holidaymakers in their millions, there's a lively tourist area - chock-full of bars, pubs, discos and night clubs.
The city lacks sky-scrapers, and so one gets an uncluttered skyline. There are lots of idyllic suburbs.
There are a few musuems of note. Unfortunately, they are open only during normal business hours - which means that you may see them only on weekdays - in the morning.
Public transport isn't great - but as Limassol stretches along the sea, it makes for a lovely walk. You might rent a car, scooter or motor-bike from any of the dozens of agents in the Tourist Area. The steering is on the right, and one drives on the left of the road. Rented automobiles are identified by a red number plate beginning with Z.
There are lots of restaurants. As for cuisine - you can get Lebanese, Indian, the local meze (which refers to a set of dishes including meat, grilled vegetables, salad, dips, bread etc.), fish (from a Taverna!), fast food (McDonalds, Burgerking, KFC etc.), pizza, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, German, Japanese etc.
There's lots more to say about Limassol - so feel free to mail me if you're planning a visit, and have any questions.
Paradise Lost - and found again.
"A living history lesson."
For me, the small village of Lofou, about 16 miles Northwest of Limassol, is not only a very beautiful and peaceful little place, it also speaks volumes about the history and current state of the island.
Lofou has always been an isolated sort of place. It sits at about 2500 feet above sea level in a natural amphitheatre shaped depression, and was never served by a through road. Even now, you need to come off the E601 road through Agios Therapon, and basically the road ends here. The views as you can see, are wonderful.
So why am I going on about the place speaking volumes about history? Well, a look at the census information shows that population here, in what was essentially an agricultural community, peaked at 962 in 1921. By 1976 this had dropped to 156. Basically, what happened was that, post World War 2, most of the village migrated the short distance downhill to the Limassol "suburb" of Ypsonas to seek work, agriculture alone no longer able to support them.
This fact is dramatically illustrated by the old village school, pictured here shuttered, which no longer functions as there are no children left to teach. It does, however, serve as a community centre nowadays.
In the 80's and early 90's the village effectively died. At one point, I have been told, there were no more than a couple of dozen elderly people living here, most of whom are sadly no longer with us. The village, literally, fell to pieces. The photo shows the remains of what was once a home just waiting for the elements to claim it.
I suppose, if you've read this far, you now expect me to present you with a few photos of a dilapidated heap of stones lying about, but, in fact, that's not the case at all.
What happened was that the emigres (if you can emigrate 16 miles) generally made good lives for themselves. Now, many people in Cyprus have second homes, mostly in the mountains. They use them to escape the oppressive heat of the summer near the coast. The concept of owning a second home isn't the same as it would be in the UK, you don't need to be a millionaire to do it. So the people with roots in Lofou started to rebuild. People either still owned family property, now rundown, or else bought property cheaply, and set about restoring it. The photo shows some of the large amount of work still going on.
So what is the upshot of all this? Well, what you have is certainly not a normal community but at least the fabric of the village is being preserved. the situation is that Monday to Friday the place is deserted - literally. There isn't even a proper shop in the village, just a kiosk that opens during the summer to cater for the increasing numbers of tourists renting some of the renovated houses. There is a coffee shop and a couple of restaurants that only open in the summer and at weekends.
However, visit at the weekend, and you will find the sons and daughters of old Lofou residents returning to the homes they have lovingly restored and bringing their own children with them. I include here a picture of my friends place here. I don't do this to show off - the guy worked hard, but merely to illustrate the kind of things that are being done here. This house has been in his family for generations. I've seen photos of what it was like before, a near wreck, and it is now one of the most beautiful houses I have ever been in.
I understand that some of you reading this will be sceptical about property developers and so on so I should explain the situation legally regarding these restorations and also why so many Cypriots can afford a second home.
Fearing the loss of their heritage, the Cypriot government offered large financial incentives to renovate old properties (up to 80% of the cost, I believe) which could potentially have led to a lot of unscrupulous people making hideous holiday flats, but this is not the case. The authorities are insistent that the houses must be renovated in the original style, and apparently they are extremely strict about this. My friend told me the Council surveyor visited regularly during the work to make sure it was being done sympathetically.
Have a close look at this picture, and you'll see what I mean.
Having visited a few times, I'm still not sure what to make of Lofou. I can understand the argument that outsiders like myself might make that it's nothing more than a Government sponsored weekend retreat for people with a bit of money, and it might bring in a few tourist pounds / dollars / euros or whatever.
On reflection, I really don't think this is the case. I have been lucky enough to have visited a number of homes in the village (my friend's extended family seems to encompass about half the weekend population) and I can see the obvious pride they take in their second homes. Better, I think that the place is inhabited, at least for a couple of days a week, than to just fall into dust.
I would encourage you to go and see for yourself.