My previous post ended abruptly as we entered the province of Paphos before our final stop on our way to the town – the touristy Πέτρα του Ρώμιου in Kouklia. Said to be the rock where Aphrodite was formed in the sea from the mutilated remains of the Titan Uranus. Aphrodite was herself was the patron goddess of the island, hence the moniker “Island of Love” that persists to this day. The rock itself reminded me of nearby Beirut’s Pigeon Rocks – not particularly remarkable. Yet the dramatic surroundings lent a certain magic to the area that was undeniable.
We arrived at our AirBnB greeted by our flamboyant host Panos, who gave us a whirlwind tour before heading off to open his gay bar, Different, for the night. This welcome to Paphos highlighted its difference from the North, and indeed the coastal regions from the interior – touristy, beachy, cosmopolitan, kitschy, and modern versus the quiet, understated, forested, traditional mountains. Repulsed by the main touristy drag near our flat (replete with bars and restaurants such as “Memories”, “Happy Island”, “Keg & Barrel”, “Tea for Two”, and “TJ’s Fish and Chips”) catering to drunk holidaying Brits, QQ and I instead chose to dine at the inventively named “Corner Restaurant” at the corner, which specialized in Georgian food. It was excellent and authentic, nearly identical to my meals in the villages of Mestia and Mazeri. The khachapuri alone lasted for my next two breakfasts.
I’d read up on the province of Paphos on the airplane magazine, pinning all of the suggestions on my map. QQ decided on Letymbou village for our lunch, so we drove back into the foothills of the Troodos mountains into the small village. After being seated, both QQ and I felt a very strange vibe from the waitress – her relative impatience, indifference to my ordering in Greek, and generally aloof manner towards us contrasted sharply with her comfort and friendliness with the other patrons, especially a small tour group. I asked QQ in Chinese about it and she confirmed that it wasn’t just my paranoia/over-sensitivity – something felt racist. But we decided to stay, and it ended up being the right choice. It turned out that our waitress wasn’t comfortable with my mainland Greek as she was Polish, and her English was stronger than her Greek. I had an inkling that she might be Slavic and gave her attitude the benefit of the doubt as Slavs tend to have that trademark honesty in their social interactions – I’m happy that we did. Both she and her husband warmed to us throughout our absolutely massive mezze meal (which we couldn’t even finish). The husband was impressed with my Greek and entertained my desire to speak it, even though I found him difficult to understand. She gave us fresh apricots from the farm when they arrived at the end of our meal.
Again stuffed, we took a 飯後白步走 to the nearby church, which was apparently preparing for a wedding. I drew the fascinating monument outside that reminded me of the artwork my Russian tutor showed me in our last meeting – a specific style honoring fallen soldiers. Curious about the meaning of the monument, I asked the Polish owner/waitress, who didn’t know and redirected us to her husband at the bar down the road. He happily explained it to me in Greek, but I barely understood any of it – the problem of my obstinate use of novice Greek – so I thanked him and went back to our car.
We stopped at the much touted Ibrahim’s Khan, which was disappointing in its kitsch renovation, though we did get to see the posh commercial neighborhood there, complete with a large mural of Aphrodite emerging from the foam. Our highlight in Paphos awaited us back at the shore, however, as we spent the rest of the day – the entire afternoon – in the Archaeological Site of Neo Paphos. As we looked up the various legends depicted beautifully in the mosaics in the various houses, we were delighted to see these very mosaics used in the descriptions, often as the chief primary source for those stories. The mosaics are unbelievably well preserved. It’s truly difficult to fathom how they survived thousands of years with their bright colors and striking detail intact.
I could’ve spent hours in the park. Endless archaeological gems, lots of mosaics to copy, fascinating plackards. It was quite hot for QQ, however, especially inside the covered “House of Dionysus”. We managed to just cover all the ground before they closed, with a short stay at the Odeon and the Forty Columns temple before leaving.
We felt distinctly not-hungry that evening after our massive lunch. We relaxed pack in Panos’ AirBnB, but eventually emerged on QQ’s insistence, eventually choosing Tea for Two as the least offensive option available. The street was bustling with Brits in various states of drunkenness and we quickly nixed our initially plan of finding Panos’ bar in favor of sleep.
Once again we skipped breakfast – nothing on the street appealed to us in the slightest, and those that had some small promise would not open until too late for us to comfortably make our flight. I decided to drive us near the airport instead, and we stopped at a Shell station to fill up on the way. The single South Asian attendant was vastly overworked, running around very stressed between multiple pumps. He was forced to estimate our various cars petrol needs and feed the machines cash based on these estimations in a perfect display of poorly implemented automation meeting outdated legislation. He was extremely competent and efficient at his job, but I couldn’t help but think that this halfway measure benefited no one – either automate and self serve or employ enough people to validate the mandate for service. At any rate, he estimated so well that we read as full without the pump stopping automatically, then drove a few blocks further for our last meal of Greek food. Naturally, this involved our favourites – deep fried feta, grilled halloumi, and tzatziki.