Finding Peace in Protaras

Ayia Napa is so notoriously associated with young twenty-somethings getting sloshed in the streets that it might seem impossible for peace to exist here, but it does – in the small, nearby town of Protaras.

We hadn’t slept and were feeling ropy the next morning, but with one day left on Cyprus’ shorelines, we had to get down to the beach. Fortunately, Cavo Maris is located on a crescent of beach that cradles the Mediterranean, providing the perfect opportunity for a dip in the sea. Granted, it took us a little while to get down there; beleaguered by headaches and feeling vampiric under the bright sun, we camped out by the pool beneath cavernous umbrellas until a clown showed up with some parrots and circus tunes. Soon enough, the children began dragging themselves out of the pool and the shadows and toward the clown. This was the push we needed to move camp.

I felt a little bad for the clown, because as we passed him, our guitar and uke slung over our shoulders, he called out to us almost desperately, “Hey! Play me a song? Come on!”

We clambered down the steps to the sea and paid for three recliners, and almost immediately I felt better. The briny sea air, the wind combing the tide on the shore, and the marvelous water stretching from my toes to the horizon in darkening shades of blue – what more could you want?

Tryin' to catch me slidin' dirty

Tryin’ to catch me slidin’ dirty

Unable to resist – well, Myles was perfectly able to at first – Laura and I decided to ditch the land for the sea. Three paddle boats bobbed nearby, with plastic slides mounted between the two seats so that paddlers could take a break and slide into the sea. We rented one and paddled out of the cove. In a humorous attempt to anchor our boat so we could swim, we paddled around a massive orange buoy until we were able to haul it over one of the dolphin fins of the boat. I say humorous because it took us at least two attempts to circle the buoy and because Laura cried out at one point, “This is so heavy! I can’t lift it!” I went to help her and watched the light buoy flop easily over the back of the boat. Then, it was down the dry slide and into the sea, which hit me with that invigorating combination of cold and salt. It was immediately refreshing.

I have to pause here, because if you’ve never been to the Mediterranean, you need to understand how absolutely breathtaking and surreal it is. If I could be a mermaid anywhere in the world, it would be in the Mediterranean. Growing up on the Atlantic Ocean, I’m used to losing sight of my limbs immediately after wading in. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of murky water. The Mediterranean is so unbelievably clear that you almost forget it’s there. Every time you look down, you can see your toes – right down to your chipping pedicure – and all the way down to the bottom. And it’s not especially shallow.

The Mediterranean, happily being spooned by Europe and Africa.

The Mediterranean, happily being spooned by Europe and Africa.

There’s also something comforting about the way that the Mediterranean is embraced on all sides by land. It’s hugged lovingly by coastlines belonging to countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia. (Sure, the Black Sea is surrounded by land, but can you describe Russia hugging anything lovingly?) I find it comforting to know that, if I get caught in a rogue rip tide, I’ll just wash ashore somewhere. (If the Odyssey was set in the Atlantic, it would have been a heck of a lot longer, and my students would have hated me.) Oceans seem infinite; the Mediterranean is like a really big, clean pool.

And since it’s enclosed by land, certain species – like bull sharks, to name one – are kept out. Sure, it’s linked to the Atlantic by the Strait of Gibraltar, and somewhat to the Red Sea by the Suez Canal, but luckily these outlets are not funneling sharks through. At least according to Laura’s Lonely Planet, which names tiger sharks as one of the few you might find, and not in Cyprus.

Of course, it also gets top marks for being so beautifully blue. Blue is to the Mediterranean what snow is to Eskimos; there are so many different blues that you start running out of labels, which can be very irksome to English majors. Cerulean, teal, turquoise, royal. Crayola needs to market a 24-color box called “Mediterranean” and give me some names to work with here.

Indigo, cerulean, Calypso's tears...

Indigo, cerulean, Calypso’s tears…

Laura and I swam and floated and bobbed in the waves for a good hour before paddling back to lure Myles off the shore. She refused, and we rented the boat for another hour. But even Myles couldn’t resist; shortly after we re-anchored on a tomato-colored buoy, she swam out to us and we passed the better part of the hour in the serene and revitalizing water.

Later, back on shore, my hair stiff with salt, I picked up my guitar while Laura played the ukelele, and I thought with surprise how incredibly peaceful I felt. I remembered the last time I swam in the Mediterranean, during my first year in Egypt at the North Coast, and remembered that Zac Brown Band song “Knee Deep.”

If you want to know what the Mediterranean is like, listen to that. And then get on a plane, dammit, and go see it for yourself.

Oh, hey feet

Oh, hey feet

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