Cyprus: Limassol, Peyia, Lempa, Paphos, Tala
We were drawn to the sea more than usual during these weeks, we couldn't get enough of it. We took long walks along the coast, had picnic meals next to it, explored the rock and tide pools it created plus swam and paddled in it.
We took a drive to visit Limassol Castle. There's been some sort of building there for centuries, from a guard post, to a monument and even a cathedral. The current castle building comes from the 1600's. We enjoyed exploring the museum inside showing armour, pottery and even a skeleton with a gruesome story.
One day we walked along the coastal boardwalk in Paphos, watching birds fly the currents looking for a meal. We ate a packed lunch at Alykes beach watching the jet skis and paddleboards before escaping the heat with fresh sorbets eaten in the shade.
Midweek we spent a morning on the aptly named Sandy Beach which has the best rockpools we've found so far. Fish, crabs and shrimp fill the little pockets of water waiting for the next high tide to rescue them. Dexter's highlight was when he stepped in a pool and a shrimp jumped out onto my foot! After we stopped laughing we made sure they went back safely into the water to continue rock pool life.
It was a great week to be in an Orthodox Catholic country as their long run up to Easter came to it's grand conclusion. There was bell ringing, fireworks and celebrating all week.
On Good Friday in Cyprus, churches and their devotees spend the day decorating a kouvouklion. This is a covered wooden platform with handles on which they lay their Epitaphios, an icon showing the body of Christ in the grave. Women and children come in and out all day, bringing flowers and beads to cover the platform and then in the evening, after much prayer and singing, everyone in the community walks behind the platform as it is paraded through the local streets.
I hadn't know any of this beforehand but on the Friday in question I heard a lot of commotion from the church behind our apartment so I went to see what was going on. I stood at a distance watching throngs of people entering the church, each exiting a while later with a tall candle. As I was watching, a parent from the swimming club approached to wish me Kaló Páscha (Happy Easter). She insisted I go into the church with her to hear the blessings close up. So, feeling a lot like a fraud, I went in to pay my respects (I basically stood at the back feeling very overwhelmed but it was beautiful, with flowers and candles all around while singing took over the airwaves and sweet incense filled your nostrils).
Later that evening the procession actually went right past our apartment. Regardless of ones religious beliefs it was a wonderful spectacle of community and family.
The next day is known as Holy Saturday. Churches celebrate the story of Christ rising again with bonfires and fireworks late into the night before everyone goes to bed too late and then gets up on Easter Sunday for a day of family and BBQ's. The excitement in the air really was palpable.
During our travels I'm so glad we are able to get these little insights into other cultures and religions.
The following week Dexter turned 7. Since we had started travelling he'd been asking to go to a waterpark and luckily we were staying very close to one in Cyprus so that's what we did for him. He was so happy all day and declared "this is the best day ever, even better than when we went to that dinosaur museum" , haha, high praise indeed. We arrived at 10:30 in the morning and didn't leave until 5pm as they were shutting the park. We were all exhausted!
We ate delicious vegan cakes from a local bakery and went out for pizza, turning 7 is obviously pretty fun.
Birthday celebrations finished we filled our week with more fun. We explored some more of the coast along Paphos harbour, away from nature into the hotel section. There's some beautiful scenery here but we noticed a lot of taller and much bigger buildings being constructed in other places on the island and I really hope they keep some places free from being too built up. I guess it's a hard balance to find for any town or city, making space for tourists while also keeping the vibe that drew them there in such large numbers in the first place.
After volunteering in Greece and Egypt, the boys were keen to find an animal sanctuary to visit and help out at and the wonderful people at Agios Neofytos Cat Park (otherwise known as Tala Cat Sanctuary) were happy to oblige. The monks at the monastery used to care for the stray cat population in the area but as the monks grew fewer and cat numbers larger it became a real problem. A British couple who had lived on the island for 10 years began to help feed the strays and raise money to help with medical issues and eventually the church gifted them some land to turn into a refuge and shelter. Today they look after over 800 cats at any one time! It's an incredible place. The boys and I took some food, treats and toys as a donation and will be going back to help with feeding and cleaning as much as we can over the next few weeks.
There was the usual swimming, kayaking and music lessons plus one evening I joined a lovely group of people at a yoga and meditation session on the beach at sunset. That was pretty special.
Time here was speeding past, with us all enjoying different aspects. It's getting hotter, it was approaching 30°C yesterday although the wind and clouds can still pick up in the evenings.
(Edit to add, we had the second earthquake of our travels too this week, another small one thankfully, about 5 ish on the Richter scale, but it was longer than our Kefalonian experience and so felt a little more alarming, a few smaller shocks before and after too!)