At last, the weekend is here! Today we had no company visits—just tourist trips. I was elated that we stopped our bus to pick up the tour guide who walked us through the Old City of Nicosia on Monday. I cannot understate just how much I adore this woman. She is not only a veritable encyclopedia of Cypriot history and culture, but also a wonderfully sweet lady with considerable lived experience on this island.
Our first stop was the archaeological site of Kourion, an ancient Greek colony. The ruins included an amphitheater and a stone house that was destroyed in an earthquake many years ago. The stone house, called the House of Eustolius for its owner, was open to the citizens of the village for bathing. Our tour guide explained the ornate mosaics on the stone floors, which included fish (symbols of secret Christian believers during Roman rule) and a black and white bird (symbol of the Old Testament). As for the amphitheater, we each took turns standing at a central location on the stage to observe how our voice boomed throughout the stands.
After exploring Kourion, we left for Aphrodite’s Rock. On the way, we passed through a British military enclave on the island. Britain retained a military base in Cyprus when Cyprus gained its independence, and the area remains British territory to this day. This peculiar village was yet another reminder of how Cyprus has emerged from a revolving door of empires and imperialists.
We made it to Aphrodite’s Rock after about a half-hour, and seeing the natural wonder in real life surpassed any pictures I had seen. Prior to arriving, our tour guide made sure to provide all of the myths and history surrounding the rock (as well as the myths and history behind pretty much everything on this island). Those who swim around the rock at midnight become ten years younger, apparently. The rock marks the location where Aphrodite rose from the remains of Uranus after he was mutilated by his titan son, Kronos. We all climbed the rock and took stunning photos as we breathed in the sea air and endless horizon.
From Aphrodite’s rock, we went to the Tomb of the Kings in Paphos, where we will stay the night. The tomb is, oddly enough, not the burial site of royals— rather, citizens of Paphos found their resting places in the tombs. The tombs were severely plundered by Richard the Lionheart and his troops, so there were no frescoes or treasures to admire. However, the underground passages and Dorian columns augmented the timeless, mystic sensation of walking where ancient civilizations once walked.
Lunch was also in Paphos at the Pelican Tavern, which, true to its name, featured an enormous pink pelican that walked around freely under supervision from the owner. Once we ate, we visited the Paphos mosaics at the House of Dionysus. Soldiers (I am not sure during which war) discovered the ancient mosaics while digging trenches. Our tour guide brought the mosaics to life, explaining stories I knew (such as those of Narcissus, Daphne, Scylla) and ones I did not. I especially appreciated the Easter eggs she pointed out. For instance, the positioning of Cupid in a mosaic reveals whether it ends in tragedy or love. Cupid holding an object like an umbrella in the air between two characters indicates a happy ending; Cupid positioned to the side holding an object downwards indicates tragedy.
Our long day of touring ancient ruins and mosaics left us ready to relax. We checked into the hotel at around 4:30 and then enjoyed a night on the Paphos harbor. On Sunday, we plan to enjoy the beach and pool. Dr. Sherwin says that we can double up our blog post for Saturday and Sunday, so my journey will continue on Monday. Until then!