Old things in a beautiful place: Paphos, Cyprus

After a very low-key rainy Christmas season in London hiding from Omicron and hanging with Carrot on the couch, I needed to get away! Anywhere! My priorities were to find an excellent wifi connection in a place that might have a glimmer of sun without breaking the bank. Paphos, Cyprus emerged as the perfect destination.

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My decision was immediately affirmed when the weekend I arrived was filled with brilliant sun, 19°C, and a sweet sea breeze. Paphos is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with heaps of history. Paphos has been inhabited since the Neolithic period and has more than enough historical spots to satisfy the nerdiest history buff.

My first stop was the Tomb of the Kings, located just north of the city centre. This necropolis was used from the 4th century BC as a magnificant burial spot for the rich and famous.

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In spite of it’s name, it is unlikely that any kings were actually buried here, but that does not detract from the cool experience of wandering through the elaborate and well-preserved ancient structures. Gotta say, they knew their way around building things to last!

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I continued my wander into the city centre, where I came across “Paul’s Pillar.” According to Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas arrived in Paphos to preach about Christianity in 45 AD. At this time, Paphos was the Roman capital of Cyprus. However, 2 Corinthians recounts how Paul was tied to a pillar and lashed for preaching. Following this, the Roman governer converted to Christianity, effectively establishing Cyprus as one of the first Christian states in the world. [I guess I did pay some attention in Sunday school].

This site has been home to a church since the 4th century. You can now see Gothic ruins and a church built by the Venetians in the 15th and 16th century (Agia Kyriaki Chrysopolitissa), which is still used today.

You can’t get very far in Paphos without hearing about Aphrodite, the Greek god of love and beauty. According to mythology, Aphrodite was formed when Uranus’ genitals were cut off by his son Cronus and thrown into the sea. Aphrodite emerged from the resulting foam to the rocky Paphos coast. Homer writes about Aphrodite in both the Odyssey and the Illiad, and throughout classical literature. It is hard to avoid, as who doesn’t like stories about beauty, love, lust, passion, magic, and madness.

“…There is the heat of Love, the pulsing rush of Longing, the lover’s whisper, irresistible—magic to make the sanest man go mad.”
― Homer, The Iliad

Bocelli’s famous depiction of the birth of Venus / Aphrodite which you can visit in Florence at the Uffizi.

Also, a casual castle and some other ”aaart” things. Not bad at all.

While there is a wealth of historic sites to visit, I was surprised to see how many storefronts and buildings were vacant and closed. While the guidebook may claim a “vibrant modern city,” that was not what I found. Whether it is traveling outside of peak tourist season or the scars of economic recessions over the past decades, both of which were undoubtedly exacerbated by the pandemic’s eviscerating influence on the hospitality industry, there were large parts of Paphos that were shabby and deserted. That said, I was able to find a few gems – a couple great coffee shops and a delicious waterfront restaurant.

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Insider tips:

In terms of getting around etc, the airport is 19km outside of the city centre. A cab would cost €30-40, but if you are patient, you can get the bus for €1.50. Bus 612 brings you to the harbour station, which is a pretty central and useful stop. Allegedly bus 618 also will bring you to the old town, but current construction at the station in the old town made it impossible for me to find this bus. In general, the bus system was very consistent and ran exactly on schedule (no island time on the bus), and it is very useful to get to other spots outside of the city (like Coral Bay).

The wifi at the Airbnb was excellent, there were an abundance of friendly cats for which I carried a bag of salmon treats to make friends along the way. On the other hand, there were far too many creepy old men driving up beside me as I walked alone down the street for my liking, and it seemed like truly hot water was not possible for love or money.


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