Cyprus – Oswego County Business Magazine
The Mediterranean island has a unique position at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and the Middle East
By Sandra Scott
With its strategic location in the eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus has been the crossroads between three continents since the time of Aphrodite.
Cyprus was the first country visited by the Apostles Paul and Barnabas in their mission of spreading Christianity, the Crusaders stopped on their way to Jerusalem, and today tourists are enjoying the whole aspect of Cyprus.
According to legend, Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, was born from the foam of the waters off the city of Paphos. There are several places on the island associated with the goddess, including the beautiful beach where Aphrodite (Venus in Roman mythology), emerged from the sea. West of Polis is the cave that Aphrodite used to secret meetings with her many lovers.
Long a vacation destination for Europeans, Cyprus is virtually unknown to travelers from the Western Hemisphere. Many come to enjoy the beaches. With 400 miles of coastline, there is a beach for everyone. The “Blue Flag”, an exclusive eco-label awarded to beaches meeting strict criteria, has been awarded to 49 of the country’s beaches.
Cyprus offers accommodation to suit any wallet, from a beach hut to a temple of luxury that even Aphrodite would like.
The resorts offer full service, offering a plethora of water sports, golf, fine dining with shops, museums and historic sites nearby.
Cyprus has an agrotourism program which encourages the restoration of traditional houses so that they are equipped to receive guests. It’s the perfect way to get in tune with the Cypriot way of life, stopping to smell the jasmine, enjoy the nature trails, visit historic monasteries, and meet the locals at the local tavern. At certain times of the year it is possible to ski in the morning and bask on a sunny beach in the afternoon.
For history buffs, history is everywhere. Currently, Cyprus has three UNESCO World Heritage sites with other sites on the waiting list, and new archaeological finds are common. Choirokoitia, dating to 6800 BC, is a Neolithic site with reconstructed round stone huts that testify to a relatively sophisticated way of life for the time. At the archaeological sites near Paphos there is an amazing collection of intricate and colorful mosaics. The House of Dionysus, so named because of the mosaic depicting Dionysus, the god of wine, contains the most famous mosaics. The house was large and lavish, detailing the level of wealth in Cyprus during Roman times.
Not far away are the underground Tombs of the Kings, which appear to have been influenced by the Egyptians. Lemesos Medieval Castle and Museum was built in the 14th century on top of a Byzantine castle and has been occupied by various groups through the ages.
The fortress is where Richard the Lionheart married Bérengère in the 12th century. Saint Paul’s Column is a religious monument of historical significance located in Paphos. According to local accounts, this was the place where the Apostle Paul was tortured when he first arrived on the island to preach Christianity. Due to the column’s association with Saint Paul, the site has had immense religious significance and several churches have been built nearby over the ages.
The Troodos Mountains are home to Mount Olympus – at 6,400 feet, Mount Olympus is the highest point on the island. In the Troodos Mountains there are ten Byzantine churches with exquisite wall paintings, all of which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. This is where Aphrodite took up residence with the 12 gods of Olympus. The ski season in the Troodos Mountains runs from January to April with four ski lifts and eight downhill ski runs.
Dating back 1000 years, the capital Lefkosia (Nicosia) is both old and new. Located in the heart of the island, the town that was once surrounded by a star-shaped Venetian fortress wall and moat. The Cyprus Museum has exhibits that span over seven thousand years. It is interesting to note that there are terracotta figurines, although smaller, they predate those in Xian, China. The city has many high end stores, boutiques and craft stores.
The island’s unique position at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and the Middle East has added exotic dimensions to the island’s cuisine that makes it particularly varied and delicious.
Taste several of the great dishes with meze which consists of 30 small plates of food, tasty dips and vegetables to a wide range of fish and meat dishes. Much more than appetizers, meze is often the heart of a meal. In some restaurants and taverns you can choose to order a seafood meze or a meat meze. Enjoy a meal with one of the best wines on the island. Cyprus wines are considered to be the oldest in the world. Their production began in 2000 BC. Try Commandaria, a sweet dessert wine, which is considered one of the oldest wines in the world. Do not miss the opportunity to attend a performance of traditional dances.
To visit, only a valid passport is necessary. Cypress is part of the EU so the Euro is used and although Greek is the official language a higher percentage of Cypriots speak English than any other European country.
Sandra Scott and her husband John have traveled the world for over 50 years. With John’s passing, Sandra moved to Oswego and continues to travel.