Λάρνακα (Larnaca) and Αμμόχωστος (Famagusta) Text

Wenli told me to avoid exercise in the immediate aftermath of having COVID-19, as overexertion has been linked to the development of long covid symptoms. I heeded this advice, only climbing on one of my last days in Greece, a full month after initially testing positive. And yet I continue to have long covid symptoms. Never a fever, but periods of absolute exhaustion, with any exercise usually resulting in feeling entirely wrecked for the rest of the day and into the next. Sundays and Mondays were always the worst, which I attributed to my body taking the rest day as an opportunity to recover. In retrospect it seems like it might be something cyclical. Very eerily, I often text Kevin on these off days, and he reports the same difficulties on the same days despite being a continent apart.

Qianqian and I flew to Cyprus on one of these off days. Our flight ran into some terrifying turbulence shortly before landing, and the combination of my exhaustion, fear, and motion sickness required some time to decompress. Luckily, I suppose, our rental car shuttle transfer was rather late. Checking out the rental went smoothly, but the short drive to the AirBnB through Larnaca was slightly harrowing. Driving on the left side wasn’t particularly difficult in terms of staying in the left lane, but knowing where the car was in relation to the lane was. All those years building an innate sense of positioning served me terribly in Cyprus. I consistently kept too far to the left, once even causing my left rear window to fold in when i collided lightly with another car’s (luckily no damage).

Shaken and exhausted, I took my time before emerging from our room. We took an easy day in town, walking in as I’d certainly had enough driving for the time being. Even the walk into town was exhausting, but I was stubborn and we went anyways. A good thing, too, as restaurant we chose, Elia, was absolutely wonderful. The boardwalk, on the other hand, was quite awful. It consisted of that standard seaside kitsch that I remembered from the black sea coast in Russia. Virtual reality, 5D centers, bouncy castles, grilled corn, “mojitos”, the worst of fast food, carnival games, and a new addition – a “beer pong” game stall aimed at children.

Qianqian was keen to visit the beach, which was a rather ugly shade of brown, flat, and heavily commercialized. It was also raining. With no museums open, we walked the length of the main drag to the castle at the end, pushing through the fatigue despite QQ’s concern. We managed to arrive thirty minutes before closing. We paid the small entrance fee and spent the full time inside. The castle itself was nothing terribly interesting, but the poorly curated museum portion had some hidden gems – some absolutely derpy ceramics in brown and green sgraffito glaze. These alone made the sojourn worth it.

We walked home (QQ wanted to get us a taxi, but I was stubborn), which had us pass the endearing school band playing Ode to Joy for the festival in town. Qianqian wondered aloud if what Beethoven would think of his melody being used by amateur musicians the world over as an easy and recognizable tune. I figured he’d be quite pleased – Oak Hall’s alma mater song unapologetically uses the same tune, as well. Perhaps inspired by this musical interlude, I practiced for an hour before QQ delighted ordered some Wolt. Wolt, alongside Talabat and DiDi, has been a bit of a revelation as a truly local thing we can partake in with the aid of technological advances, giving us access to restaurants we normally wouldn’t visit in person.

I was determined to do a tourism the next day. This was the common theme throughout our vacation. Despite knowing full well that we didn’t have to maintain the breakneck pace of travel from my youth, despite speaking of the value of doing nothing, somehow I took the difficulties imposed by my health as a challenge to refute precisely by filling our days from morning until night.

After predictably getting lunch at the Lebanese restaurant in town, we balanced Terrence things with QQ things on our second day on the island, heading first to Cape Greco so that QQ could swim while I sat and drew above. I drove to a rather picturesque modern church overlooking Protaras afterwards, which provided a mix of attractions for both of us – art and cats. We stopped to get some “famous” loukoumades, where I flexed my Greek muscles in ordering the food and asking some questions about it. I’d sadly be unable to do much more of that throughout the remainder of the trip, due to the Cypriot dialect apparently being different enough to make communication difficult, in addition to the generally excellent English of the population. We drove into Protaras town through the main tourist street (very much a standard wretched hive of scum and villainy), getting dinner at a very disappointing seafood restaurant recommended by the Foodiva blog – too much food, too many fries, and sadly fried and overcooked fish. Bloated, we took a 白步走 down the boardwalk to the end before driving back to Larnaca in the dark.

We took a late start for our final day in the area, but managed to make it out to all the pins I’d dropped on the map to the west of Larnaca. Qianqian chose our restaurant destination, which turned out to be quite inspired. Marina restaurant in Kofinou didn’t seem like it’d be anything particularly special at first, especially as we were the only ones in the restaurant. And yet. I’m reminded of my mother’s recent change of attitude in regards to the languages that I have learned. When I was young, my parents discouraged me from learning any Cantonese with the reasoning they saw it as a small, dying language. In recent years, however, my mother has told me that it’s quite an advantage to speak a mid-sized language like Thai, as when I meet someone who speaks Thai, the connection is stronger. Fewer learn Thai (or Cantonese, or Greek) making facility in these kinds of languages all the more valuable. All this to say that as soon as I saw the proprietress of Marina restaurant, I had a feeling it would be an excellent meal.

Her daughter took our order and was impressed with my Greek, especially as compared to her Lebanese husband who’s refused to learn any in the seven years he’s been in Cyprus. She looked obviously like a ลูกครึ่ง, but I waited until her mother brought us our typical Cypriot food (a Kleftiko and Bastourmas with Cypriot coffee) to ask. Indeed: Thai. We ended up staying for two hours as I happily chatted away with her. She was elated to talk with me – there aren’t any other Thai people living in Kofinou. She shared the story of meeting her husband, getting married, living together in Thailand, deciding to move to Cyprus, learning Greek, starting the restaurant, raising their child, raising their grandchild, annual trips back to Thailand until the pandemic, and now eagerly looking forward to finally returning to visit after three years away. She gave us some delicious fresh green figs, too. Always cognizant that QQ was left out of this conversation but simultaneously not wanting to stop the flow, I eventually wrapped it up, gave her my card, and left, energized and delighted despite the nagging long-COVID symptoms.

We drove to Choirokoitia, an unfathomably old settlement which I couldn’t properly appreciate because of how insanely old it was, then drove on to the impossibly picturesque town of Pano Lefkara, famous for its lace-making tradition. Driving through the town was rather stressful (tiny streets, all necessarily one way but not officially so, with blind turns everywhere), so we found a nice huge parking spot beneath a tree and walked around. While the light was quite terrible due to an impending storm, we did have a lovely chat with the owner of Rouvis Lace. I felt simultaneously drawn in and wary during his explanation of the tradition, the town, and his own personal history. A charming man, he was nonetheless a businessman, and I felt quite torn about whether or not to trust that friendliness. In the end I regret not having bought anything, though the one thing I’d have wanted, a journal with a lace window, failed to pique further interest due to being filled with lined pages. We continued walking around the town, encountering two couples in wedding dress soldiering on through the dismal light, before ducking into a cafe as it began to pour. I drew until the rain let up and we drove back to Larnaca.

I’d told QQ about a cat monastery (St. Nicholas of the Cats) which I’d found on Atlas Obscura, but we gave it a miss due to it’s location in the complete opposite direction from Larnaca. Our final stop made up for this, however, as unbeknownst to us the Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque on the salt flats was positively swarming with cats, which QQ blithely petted and reveled in. The Mosque itself was closed, so we drove back to the AirBnB just before sunset, eating a delicious meal of Syrian mezze with our digital nomad app-managing AirBnB flatmate in the dining room before heading out to complete our one real mission of the day – five star rated Kunafa House.

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