During our third day in Paphos I had booked us on a bus tour to see some of the surrounding area. Without a car it seems our only option, especially during Easter when very few local buses are en route, is to join the charter tourists on a well air-conditioned bus driving us to tourist hot spots along side dozens of other tourist buses.
We were picked up at the hotel before the bus took us down the coast towards Petra tou Romiou. It was early in the morning and I was looking forward to a bit of sleep on the bus, but it seemed our guide had other plans as she continuously told us about not only our destination but also ridiculously irrelevant facts about upcoming Cypriot tennis players and pilots who hopefully would make it to Formula 1.
The Ancient Kingdom of Kourion
Despite our friendly guides constant chatter, the tour was okay or as good as any bus tour can get. After Petra tou Romiou – the birthplace of Aphrodite – we journeyed to the Ancient Kingdom of Kourion, where we enjoyed the rebuilt Kourion Theatre and the nearby House and Baths of Eustolios which offered the earliest Christian symbols in Cyprus in the form of birds and fish mosaics.
But we were far from alone as tour bus after tour bus was driving in and it was hard to hear our own guide over the noise of the others. This phenomenon seemed destined to follow us all day.
The Crusader stronghold – Kolossi Castle
Our next stop was the romantic yet dangerous crusader’s castle Kolossi. Again I had to compare it to our travels in Jordan and the magnificent Kerak castle. But while Kolossi lacked the size, it stood beautifully in the landscape, and I was quite caught by the place despite the tour busses rolling in.
The present castle is from 1454 and built during the Crusader Kingdom of Cyprus, but the original castle was highly likely built around 1210.
I never really new much about Cypriot history before and must admit that I am quite fascinated with the role of Cyprus during the crusades.
The island was conquered by Richard I of England in 1191 by a matter of chance and pride. Due to ill treatment of his men, sister and bride-to-be by the local emperor, Richard decided to conquer the island and then selling it to the Templar Knights. During his six to eight months reign of Cyprus he married his bride Berengaria of Navarre.
Richard’s conquest of Cyprus led to 400 years of western domination of Cyprus and changed the previously free island into a feudal society under the rule of the ousted King of Jerusalem Guy of Lusignan and the following House of Lusignan.
Kolossi Castle was built by Hugh I of Cyprus grandson of Guy of Lusignan and given to the Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, who also rebuilt the current structure, which in my opinion as absolutely gorgeous.
After a walk around the castle we bought freshly pressed orange juice from oranges grown in the fields around the castle at the nearby kiosk before enjoying the view of the castle from the shade of a pepper tree.
Lunch was our next stop and according to the constantly chatting guide it was a remote and special place which was impossible to find. However, when we arrived we discovered that even here we were not alone as another tour bus had already claimed the outside tables.
We were referred to the inside of the tavern and while treated to a pleasant lunch, it did not seem the special place the guide had rambled on about. However I did feel a spark of pleasure as the rain started pouring down outside leaving the people on the other tour bus in the middle of what seemed a thunderstorm. At that point I was mighty pleased with our indoor seating.
The rain stopped before we reached Omodos and it seemed as if the sun caught up with us through a hole in the sky as we pulled in to Omodos. Quite fortunate, something I have to admit we have been throughout our visit to Cyprus. It has been cloudy and rainy but only shortly has it been directly above us.
Omodos is a picturesque little village in the Troodos mountains and one of those places I would have preferred to stay in overnight in order to experience it without the rest of the tourists tagging along. We were by no means the only tour bus at the parking lot, and the place was buzzing with tourists who enjoyed a coffee at the main square or shopped local delicacies at the many stores catering to the day tourists.
I was saddened that we only had an hour and 20 minutes to explore the village and it became a run against the clock to both see the place, manage to take some photos without brightly coloured fellow tourists and shopping. But we managed. However, unlike many of our fellow passengers on the bus we stayed in the village until the last minute and since our bus was one of the last to depart, we managed to experience just a taste of the real Omodos as the locals began to gather at the square for a coffee and the shop keepers took a breath of fresh air after rush hour. Not having the option to sleep over this small glimpse of the real Omodos was the next best thing
Reaching the bus one minute to departure time we settled in for a thankfully quiet ride back to Paphos knowing that we had all of Sunday to soak up the last of the sun before returning home.