Written by MALUSE on 31 Mar, 2009
The winter three years ago was long and cold so we decided to spend the free week we have at the end of February somewhere warm. We chose the town of Larnaca in the middle of the south coast of Cyprus, 16 km east of…Read More
The winter three years ago was long and cold so we decided to spend the free week we have at the end of February somewhere warm. We chose the town of Larnaca in the middle of the south coast of Cyprus, 16 km east of the airport, we found a nice hotel on the beach 6 km east of the town centre. When we were approaching Cyprus by plane the pilot told us that there was low visibility due to a dust storm from the Sahara, Larnaca airport was open, yet the one in Pafos was closed. My back bottom! I had read the guide book from cover to cover but had found nothing about sand storms, the Cypriot woman sitting next to us informed us that dust storms were not a frequent but a regular phenomenon, they came once or twice a year. When we landed the worst was over, the first dust storm this year must really have been bad, it was worth a mention on the international news on CNN that night. During the following two days it was hazy but the dust storm didn’t hit again as predicted so that we could leave the hotel and see something of the island.I had read in the guide book that one shouldn’t start discussions on the political situation of Cyprus as the subject was too delicate, but even before setting foot on the island we learnt that Cypriots like talking about it, the first person was the woman on the plane who gave us her point of view in detail.When I mentioned how odd it was that the whole of Cyprus was in the EU in spite of the division and in spite of the fact that Turkey wasn’t, she cried that wasn’t the case, only the Greek south was, but she was wrong, in the course of our five days on Cyprus we had some more conversations on the subject and learnt that the truth is even odder: the whole island belongs to the EU, but only the Greek Cypriots from the south and the Turkish Cypriots from the north are members, the approximately 120 000Turks from mainland Turkey who have (been) settled in the north after the division are not - even if they were born there, the nationality of the parents counts.The population of Larnaca consisted of Greeks and Turks, when the Turkish army invaded the north, the town lost all its Turkish inhabitants and received thousands of forcefully displaced Greeks from the north because of the ethnic cleansing policies of Turkey; the town developed as a tourist destination only in the 1980s and its population has increased to about 70 000 inhabitants, it’s important because of the airport (the biggest in Cyprus) and the port. It is not as touristy as Pafos in the west of the island but has some hotels and quite a lot of holiday houses along the beach.When we stepped out of our hotel on the first morning into the garden and the pool area, we saw a concrete footpath running between the site and the water front and decided to walk to the centre of Larnaca, walking in sunshine and good sea air was what we had come for and five kilometres (we had been told by the hotel staff that that was the distance) didn’t seem too much. The official brochure from the Larnaca Tourist Committee claims that the footpath is 5 km long, a lie! Read 1 km and you’ve got it. As our hotel was situated in the middle of the footpath so-to-speak, we soon had to step onto the beach, the longest in all Cyprus, not very beautiful, though, the sand is dirt grey and either hard as concrete or covered with pebbles.Soon that was impossible, too, we came to an industrial area, closed oil refineries that reached down to the water front, we learnt later that they’re waiting to be demolished, the area will be filled with hotels and holiday apartment houses, in, say, ten years the whole area will look different (nicer). We had to move up and walk beside a busy road. We were too far to turn back and still quite far from the town centre. After some time we came to a parking site and asked a man how many kilometres we still had in front of us, it turned out that the distance was six kilometres instead of five and we had only covered half of it, he offered at once to give us a lift, good man that he was. He was a refugee from the north and together with the lift we got his view of the political situation.He took us to Larnaca Marina, a port for sailing boats and cruise boats for tourists at the western end of the promenade, a wide avenue, about half a kilometre long, between the beach and a row of hotels and restaurants with high palm trees on either side. At its eastern end stands a fort built by the Turks at the beginning of the 17th century on an old Venetian foundation, the Turks used it to watch business in the port, the British who took it over in 1878 when the Sultan submitted the island to the Queen for her services in the Turko-Russian war, used it as a prison, opposite the ticket booth one can see a room where the gallows was, partisans of the anti-British uprisings were hanged there until the end of the 1940s. Opposite the castle is the Beyuk Mosque which is considered the first Ottoman mosque in Cyprus, before the building became a mosque it was a Venetian Catholic Church. It looked well kept, restoration work was done at the minaret, the man who had given us the lift had told us that all mosques in Greek Cyprus are well kept and in working order whereas the churches in Turkish Cyprus have been destroyed or neglected and are used as warehouses or stables. Some 50 m further into the old Turkish quarter stands the Orthodox Saint Lazarus Church from the 10th century, a multi-domed building of a type only to be found in Cyprus. The walls are bare bricks, icons hang everywhere, the carved wooden central wall is covered with icons from top to bottom as is the case in Orthodox churches, there is no altar. Monks’ singing drafted through the church, from a tape but very atmospheric. We looked into the crypt at Lazarus’ tomb; when Jesus Christ had resurrected Lazarus from the dead, the latter moved to Cyprus and became a bishop there (or did he?). His head lies in an ornamented chest in the church, in the middle of the top cover is a round opening covered with glass through which a part of his (a?) skull is visible, people came in and kissed the spot ardently, really kissed it, I could see the damp patch. Eek!We strolled through the old Turkish quarter, looked at tiny cafés and one room shops, visited the small market hall where we saw the biggest potatoes ever, but found the quarter quite miserable and not picturesque as suggested by the guide book. The shopping street running behind it looks a bit more modern but we were surprised at how low the standard of living is, we hadn’t expected this, after all Cyprus was at the top economically of all the ten new member states that have recently joined the EU. A taxi-driver told us that the Greek Cypriots have all reason to be content, unemployment is low, Turkish Cypriots from the north come to work in the south (the Turks from mainland Turkey living in the north aren’t allowed to) as do thousands of immigrants from Asia and Eastern Europe. Well, everything is relative.What else has Larnaca got to offer? There’s a small archaeological museum, one for palaeontology and marine life, the town is certainly not overwhelming culture–wise, but how many tourists care especially in summer when the temperature rises up to 43°C (109° F)? I liked the town and the area, we got what we had come for and I saw and heard only five country people. Being the world champions when it comes to travelling the Germans are everywhere and often in the majority, not so in Cyprus, though. Due to the fact that it was a British colony, British tourists feel good there, we heard that about 53% of the tourists come from the UK followed by Germans, Russians (never have I seen so many Russians since I visited Moscow!) and a mixed lot from different countries. You may dislike this information, for me going to Cyprus meant killing two birds with one stone; I enjoyed warmth (20° C / 68° F) and sunshine in February and the English language at the same time! Close
Written by dangaroo on 30 Dec, 2008
Larnaca International Airport is the airport that I had the fortune (?) to be at twice - arriving from Athens and a week or so later, leaving to Cairo. Cyprus being rather small, you are never going to be too far away from Larnaca, although…Read More
Larnaca International Airport is the airport that I had the fortune (?) to be at twice - arriving from Athens and a week or so later, leaving to Cairo. Cyprus being rather small, you are never going to be too far away from Larnaca, although Paphos airport is better located if you are staying in the west of the island and of course Paphos in particular.The Larnaca airport is a cramped tiny box of an airport with a lot of flights to Russia, Ukraine, Great Britain and the nearby Middle Eastern countries like Israel, Lebanon and Egypt. It seemed to have an awful lot of flights for it's size with not enough seats and queues bumping into each other - I can only imagine it is much worse in the middle of the summer with lines of sweaty, drunk tourists in tow!The airport is well placed for clubbers as Ayia Napa is rather close, I was staying somewhere near Paphos and to get there, I had to take a shuttle bus to Limassol and then another from there. It costs 7 euros to Limassol and at least another 5 on to Paphos. Nicosia is connected more regularly and for 5 euros only.I've never flown out of Paphos, though it looked tiny too so I wouldn't be sure that it would be too different, it seems like the infro-structure can barely match the amount of tourists the little island nation receives. Close
Written by josephene allen on 13 Apr, 2006
The best way to sample Cypriot cooking is by trying a meze, simply a collection of lots of little dishes served for sharing, made up of whatever is available in the kitchen on that day.In order to make the best of a meze, here are…Read More
The best way to sample Cypriot cooking is by trying a meze, simply a collection of lots of little dishes served for sharing, made up of whatever is available in the kitchen on that day.In order to make the best of a meze, here are a two simple points worth bearing in mind: don’t feel obliged to eat everything; and take your time.All mezes start in the same way, with a selection salads and cold appetisers served with bread or pita. In the more touristy places, these are almost all the same, and rarely are the appetisers homemade: salad is the standard ‘village’ variety, usually with feta; and the appetisers are tzatziki, olives and tahini, which is made from garlic and sesame seeds. However, if you pick a good restaurant, you’re likely to get a lot more: beetroot; cold green beans (called fasoulaki); pickled caper berry leaves; a selection of greens such as dandelion leaves, kohl rabbi, coriander and artichoke leaves; carrot and cheese; and endless versions of potato salad.
What follows next depends upon the type of meze you have ordered. Grill mezes are the most common, and consist almost entirely of meat, accompanied by chips—not a good vegetarian meal. You’ll always get sheftalia, which is a cross between a sausage and a burger made of pork and held together with caul or stomach lining (and much tastier than they sound); and there will always be some form of souvlaki, which is chunks of grilled pork. The rest will depend very much on the season and the preferences of the kitchen: grilled liver; lamb chops; grilled sweet meats (offal); local liver sausage; chicken; and occasionally stews such as afelia (pork flavoured with coriander). A fish meze, very rarely includes any meat, but if you’re expecting a feast of fresh sea food and fish, forget it. The Mediterranean in and around Cyprus yields very little, and the Cypriots are in any case far too fond of cooking on a grill or in a deep fat fryer to make the best of what is on offer. Most of the fried fish is done in a light batter, and served whole, so the overall effect can be both sickening and unsatisfying at the same time. As with the grill version, there are some basics you’ll always get: barbouni are small red mullet, caught locally, deep fried in batter and served whole (and whether you eat the whole thing or choice cuts depends entirely on you); calamari is squid rings done in batter, and is always of the frozen imported variety; small, locally caught squid are usually fried and served whole; and ochtapodi krasato is a delicious stew of octopus in red wine. Depending, as always, upon season and the choice of the kitchen, you may also get prawns (nearly always imported); local whitebait; small deep fried meatballs, usually made with fish and potato; deep fried local baby crab, which are delicious and almost like crisps; small sea bass, served cold; or a fish stew. The end of the main course is a whole grilled fish, usually sea bream, served split open with herbs and butter. And, of course, you get chips.A traditional meze is not always an offer, but when it is, it is probably the best way of sampling genuine local cuisine using ingredients in season. This is a good option, too, for vegetarians, although you need to watch out for meat stock. The variety of food offered as part of a traditional meze is much more varied, and much more dependant upon what is in season, but it is safe to say that you will probably get some form of potato that is not chips, you’ll get a dish of eggs with mushroom, spinach or courgette, and that aubergines will feature. The really good thing about a traditional meze is its unpredictability and variety: spare ribs; liver stewed in red wine; baby potatoes roasted in the kleftiko oven; karaoli yahni, fantastically tasty tiny little snails that you suck out of their shells, cooked in tomatoes or rice; melinttzanes yiahni, aubergines stewed in tomatoes and garlic; endless varieties of baked feta; roasted olives; baked lamb brain; baked wild mushrooms; vegetable stew made with beans or kolokassi, a root vegetable that tastes a bit like smoked potato; and loukanika, small versions of the local liver sausage.The variety is endless, and you never get the same combination, even in the same restaurant. You’ll get a pat on the back from the proprietor for ordering it, and on top of all that, a traditional meze is always cheaper than either the grill or the fish variety.All mezes end with fruit, fresh or candied, and in some cases a pastry such as bourekia, which is like a small parcel filled with honey or stewed apple. Coffee too, is included, although if you don’t want the Cypriot variety (sketo with no sugar, metrios with a little) which is certainly an acquired taste, you’ll get Nescafe. Fruit is whatever is in season— tangerines, oranges, bananas and kiwi in the winter, melon and cactus fruit in the summer. As a rule, the more local the clientele, the more likely it is that it will include some less common varieties.Ordering a meze with an open mind and an empty stomach is a treat to the visitor, and to the Cypriots it’s a way of life. You won’t regret trying it.