We left Cavo Maris for the mountains in the late afternoon. Both Laura and Myles had raved about enchanting little villages built into Cyprus’ Troodos mountains, so we booked two days in a village whose polysyllabic name proved difficult to pronounce.
“Ryan and I had wanted to stay here when we were passing through, but it was all booked,” she told us.
Thankfully, this time, we managed to book what looked like a charming little mountain home called Vasilikis House. But first, we had to get from the coast into the heart of Cyprus, and Laura was going to drive us there. Our day had not been off to a promising start after our night in Ayia Napa – see previous two entries – so the two hour drive that awaited us had a lot of potential to be unpleasant. On the flipside, it was ridiculous.
Laura had never driven on this side of the road before, while Myles had plenty of experience. So much, in fact, that we ditched the GPS and relied instead on maps in Russian, along with Myles’ strange, inherent knowledge of Cyprus’ roadways.
“Every fiber of my being wants to be in the other lane,” Laura told us disconcertingly as we drove along the coast. Fortunately for us, she resisted this urge and kept us alive, though entering roundabouts was highly entertaining. We’d see a sign announcing an upcoming roundabout that was more detailed than a water cycle diagram, Laura would creep into the roundabout, and Myles would calmly say things like, “You’ll want to merge left onto the B1” or “Just slow up for a second, because that car is about to crash into us.”
All of this interspersed with side-splitting stories about Laura’s time in Hawaii with a talented but eccentric family made for an easy journey into the mountains.
It was in Nicosia that the scenery changed from idyllic, pastoral hay fields and farmland to urban decay and slow traffic. A few minutes after passing into Cyprus’ capital, my phone bleeped a “Welcome to Turkey!” message and we realized we were near the northern part of the island under Turkish control.
“Nicosia is divided between Greek and Turkish rule,” Myles told us, “and you can tell the difference.”
To enter the Turkish side of the island, you need to cross a proper border. From what I understand, the Turkish north is in a state of disrepair, while the Greek-controlled south flourishes with beautiful natural resources and tourism.
“Apparently they found oil in Cyprus,” Laura said as we turned onto the road leading into the mountains. “Both sides are going to have talks, because no one will invest in the oil if the island is divided like this.”
Leaving the ramshackle capital behind us, I could only hope that for once, oil could unite rather than divide.
We reached Kalopanayiotis under a blanket of gray clouds. The wet streets wound us through the mountains, through thick stands of pine and spruce, a richer and greener welcome than Nicosia had provided. After rounding a bend, a modest sign appeared on the roadside reading “Welcome to your village.” And how appropriate. Kalopanayiotis becomes your village almost immediately, with amicable people and a quiet mountain charm.
It took a bit of inquiring and mispronouncing before we found Vasilikis House, its owner standing on the wet road and waving at us. A jovial man, Kostas helped us with our things and took us down the flight of stone steps to a wooden porch that overlooked the mountains. He eagerly showed us our accommodations: a home with two bedrooms, a living room, a full kitchen, and a bathroom, along with the porch and our own private pool and patio also overlooking the mountains. It was more than we’d hoped for.
In fact, all of it was more than we’d hoped for. Coming from parched and scorching Cairo, the rainy mountain air restored my memory of things like soil and pine trees and growth. The smell of earth and dirt was all around. Below us, an unseen river rushed through a deep ravine. Thunder rumbled in the distance. Otherwise, it was silent and still in the mountains, and I loved it.
We were all pretty tired and decided to check out the restaurant, Casale Panayiotis, which was at least one hundred steps down from our little home. We descended the stone steps, avoiding glistening snails, and entered the little town. The restaurant was warm and cozy, with little candles and white walls. We were seated at a corner table and given menus that listed numerous Cypriot options – so many, in fact, that we decided to return again the next night. Lively Greek music played lightly over the speakers, the red wine was dry and delicious, and water was served in a traditional earthenware jug draped in a light cloth hemmed with cowrie shells.
The food was absolutely succulent. We ordered a little too much, mainly because our favorite fried feta with sesame seeds and honey happened to be on the menu. Louis, the manager, was friendly and helpful with recommendations. At one point, the other waiter, Sawas, came over to collect our plates and, hearing we were American, excitedly told us about the time he spent in the US.
“I’ve been 25 times,” he said earnestly. At first we thought he was exaggerating, but we quickly learned that he’d spent time working on cargo ships. “I was in Houston 7 times. In New Orleans, 3 times…”
We drank wine while he told a story about how he cooked souvlaki for an immigration officer once who then helped him get his visa renewed for another two months – something that could never happen today.
Stuffed and sated, we made our way back up the long, steep stairway to our little mountain home for some pink wine and bed. It was a far more relaxed evening than our wild night before, and we couldn’t wait to explore the curious, friendly little village in the morning.