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Phespirit goes to Cyprus
Paphos     November 2006

For the last warmth of a warm year, Phespirit went to Cyprus. In leaving this trip until the last week of November he knew there would be no guarantee of blistering heat. As it turned out, though, he was able to enjoy seven days of sunshine and consistent temperature highs of 23°C. More than adequate. Only a raw winter chill in the evenings served to remind Phespirit of the season.

So, with the sun on his back he started exploring Paphos and its environs. Over two days he walked from the deserted pebble beach by Paphos airport to the sparsely developed coast at Yeroskipou Beach, then along the full length of Poseidonos Avenue. This begins with a scattering of four-star hotel complexes and culminates with an intense mass of bars, restaurants, hotels and souvenir shops at the old town harbour. There's a quaint little castle at the harbour, beyond which is Paphos Archaeological Site. Some of the Roman mosaics in these grounds are very fine indeed, particularly at the so-called 'House of Aion'. Other sights around the old town include Ayia Kyriaki (a Byzantine church surrounded by extensive ruins), plus a couple of catacombs, and at Fabrica Hill there's a classical theatre. Finally, on the northern fringes there are the 'Tombs of the Kings'; a grand subterranean complex built around the 3rd century BC. All pleasant stuff.

Prices are sky high in Cyprus. Phespirit reckoned only Iceland, Norway and Switzerland to be more expensive. Nonetheless, there's no shortage of British tourists relentlessly converting U.K. pounds into Cypriot pounds and then shovelling them into the bloated beast that is the island's tourist industry. Phespirit's contribution was to buy onto a couple of 4WD excursions - to the Akamas Peninsula and the Troodos Mountains - but he preferred to make his own arrangements when it came to visiting the capital, Nicosia.

'Service Taxis' are eight-seater vehicles that operate between all the major cities of the south, providing shared transport at a fixed price, picking up and dropping off passengers at any requested location. It's a good system. Phespirit was collected from his hotel in Paphos shortly after 8:00am, changed taxis at Limassol and was dropped off near Platia Solomou in Nicosia at around quarter to eleven. He had a little over four hours for sightseeing, which isn't much, so after a minor detour to the Holy Cross Catholic Church he headed across the U.N. Buffer Zone into occupied north Nicosia with minimal delay.

Phespirit plotted a course around north Nicosia that took him from the Octagonal Fountain to the Venetian Column to Büyük Hamam to Büyük Han to the Belidiye Pazarı to Selimiye Camii to the Bedesten. Büyük Han is a superbly restored Ottoman inn, now occupied by craft workshops and cafés; Selimiye Camii is a magnificent mosque occupying the shell of an old Roman Catholic cathedral. These two buildings are arguably the highlights of the city. Before returning to the south, Phespirit wandered around a few more grand houses and mosques as far as Yeni Cami, and then back through the Arabahmet district. Highlights of the south included the Cyprus Museum, the Shakolas Tower, the Cathedral of St John, and the city walls and bastions. The north is the more interesting half, it has to be said.

Despite having arranged for a return service taxi to collect him at 3:00pm, Phespirit suspected that he had been forgotten. It was only by chance that at ten past three he was able to wave down a passing taxi from the same company and get a lift to the depot. He eventually arrived back in Paphos at ten to six, all hungry, like. There are plenty of places to eat in Paphos of an evening. During his stay Phespirit dined at the Imperial Chinese Restaurant, the Pegasus Pub and - best value, best service - the Oasen Italian Greek Restaurant.

Phespirit closed out his time in Cyprus with a pleasant walk along the west coast from Coral Bay to Agios Georgios. All in all, Phespirit had a nice time and no complaints, but for some reason never felt an affinity with the island or its people. Indeed, of the two independent Mediterranean island nations, Phespirit felt much more at home on Malta. But this is no criticism - he would happily return some day to explore the places he did not have an opportunity to see this time around.

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