Prelude in Limassol
After almost two years I revisited Cyprus in February 2004 to participate in a seminar near Limassol. Although mostly work it was a nice prelude to the vacation Helle and I had already booked for April.
The seminar was arranged at the star-spangled spa hotel, Le Meridien, 15 km from Limassol. A luxurious reservation with lots of servants and prices set accordingly. I had a nice time, which made me long even more for the holiday.
Holiday in Cyprus
We touch ground on Cyprus, Saturday evening April the 17th 2004. The airport is in Larnaca where we'll stay for a week. In Larnaca - not the airport.
We felt it was time to revisit Cyprus after the success in 2002. Alas Startour doesn't fly directly from our hometown Aalborg anymore, so we had to go via Copenhagen.
We move into the apartment at Sun Hall hotel and go for a walk to The Meeting Pub where we enjoy a pint of the local Keo and watch the remarkable Saturday night activity on the beach promenade.
All citizens between 14 and 25 years pass at least 3 times before we leave and go to bed. The apartment at Sun Hall is a bit worn, but ok and the sea view from the 6th floor is marvellous.
A stroll in Larnaca
Sunday morning the weather is nice and pleasant for walking. Larnaca is not a big city - I guess some 70,000 souls + tourists live here. We know the "terrain" and go for a long walk along the promenade, past the medieval fort and into the old Turkish part of town.
This is where you find Militzis, the excellent restaurant we enjoyed so much two years ago. Somewhere on the Internet I had read that it was closed, but fortunately that is not true; as we pass, the staff is busy in the kitchen.
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Two years ago the minaret by the fort was wrapped in scaffolds and it still is. Work probably stopped for some reason. We criss-cross back to the city centre through the old town with its crumbling houses and wonder what will remain after the next inevitable earthquake. In a cosy back yard near the hotel we find a small restaurant, Julios, with tables under palm trees and flowers.
Two locals play backgammon and sip coffee. A cup of Cyprus coffee is cheap: 40 cent, which is much cheaper than on the promenade's fly paper. It is also much more peaceful here. Julios looks like a powerful man. When he walks he bends a bit and it looks as if he suffers from a back injury; but that is guesswork. He is very kind.
Startour's briefing at 11-12 is mostly promotion of their tours, but we do get some bits of useful information, although we find it difficult to understand why they promote the fish restaurant, Dionyssos. We had dinner there in 2002 and it left no fond memories. The sewers have not improved since 2002 and you must still put toilet paper into a bucket - if you flush, the sewers will block, we are told.
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The power sockets in Cyprus are not like the ones back home and as the hotel is out of adapters, we buy one in a kiosk and settle down at Hobo Café. Here we have a light lunch with Mediterranean view.
Sunday is family day. Hobo has an arcade with all kinds of playing machines and kids are all over the place frequently begging their parents for more coins. Almost everybody drinks Caffe Latte. An old gentleman has fallen asleep in an upright position, resting his head on the palm of his hand with perfect balance.
We go home for siesta. I try the adapter - it doesn't work. I'm not amused, so I go straight back to the kiosk and complain. I bring Helle's hair dryer, and the new adapter is tested on the spot.
Our sieasta nap is interrupted by a young man armed with a walkie-talkie. In pidgin-like English he says something about the balcony door. He pulls at the curtain and then leaves. I'm not sure what it was all about - suspicious.
Well, we are awake now and leave at about 4 in search of the Internet café mentioned by Startour's guide at the briefing. It isn't where it is supposed to be according to the tourist map, but we find it despite the misinformation and check email.
Later a cup of sweet Cyprus coffee at Café Vé on the promenade. I ordered one with no sugar and one medium, but the young waiter seems to be in a world of his own looking dreamily at girls passing by. At the next table a man oblivious to the girls is reading Lonely Planet's guide to Cyprus, and many pass by doing their Sunday promenade.
We go home to relax some more and then change for supper. During the day it has become windy and a haze shields the sun, so we don't dress for tropical nights.
Aperitif and the blue half hour
At The Meeting Pub we get a table with sea view and enjoy an ouzo of decent size while the TV and large screen shows a local soccer match. "Bottom league!", says Helle, who knows about this sport. The stadium is large and good looking and there are many enthusiastic spectators.
The visiting team is losing and their fans at The Meeting Pub are helpless. The fans at ringside however do their best to turn the tide by throwing stuff after players and officials. One of the officials is hit and gets medical care.
What we call "The blue hour" begins at sunset, but here it is more like "The blue half hour" because the sun sets so quickly. Light dims on the Eastern horizon, and the colour changes gradually from light to dark blue. Soon sea and sky is one. It is beautiful and sets the mind at peace.
Meze at Militzis'
A quarter past eight we walk towards Militzis. The spotlights in the pavement, supposed to illuminate the small medieval fort, aren't lit and on the far side of the fort the noise from the promenade is hardly heard.
It is peaceful and quiet here. The wind has set with the sun, and the Mediterranean splashes kindly against the coastline. We pass the restaurant "Monte Carlo" with only a few occupied tables in the sea pavillion.
Militzis however is almost full - in the smokers' area. If we want to smoke, the waiter says, there's only room outside or just inside by the open door. I do like a puff now and then, so we take the table just inside, but the draft is pretty cold so we quickly change our minds and move into the large and almost empty non-smokers' area.
We don't remember the smokers and non-smokers division from the last time we were here, but with time it will probably be a demand in the EU. In Italy and Ireland it is already forbidden by law to smoke at bars and restaurants - not even a single "gas chamber" is allowed for addict comfort.
If you want to smoke you must go outside. In a city like Rome that at least triples the health risk because of the smog, and in Ireland you'll probably get wet feet and catch a cold. Smoking is indeed dangerous to your health.
We get Meze, the Cypriot national dish, which is an endless flow of different dishes in small portions. Militzis' red house wine is local and goes well with the food.
Cypriot wines made from local grape varieties are sunburnt and spicy with less body and weight than traditional wines from e.g. Europe or South America. Twice I excuse myself for "a bit of fresh air" and leave Helle to battle the dishes while I have a silent conversation with the Med and my pipe.
At about ten a large Cypriot party arrives and is placed in the non-smokers' area even though most of the men are armed with lighters and cigarettes. Most of the tourists have left by now, so the waiter puts an ashtray on our table too and says with a smile that now it is okay to smoke.
We finish our Cyp-coffee and the brandy. The bill says £ 16,45. Coffee and brandy on the house, says the waiter and makes an excuse for a small slip of no importance - they had brought the bill when I wanted the waiter's attention so I could order coffee. Maybe they didn't care to make a new bill. Fortunately the customer decides the tip.
Militzis is just as good as we remembered. The menu hasn't changed and prices have increased on a few items only. Home to bed.