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Winter in Cyprus

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We decided to start our year with a trip on the first day of 2023. While others were just coming back from their New Year’s Eve, we were heading to the airport to fly to Larnaca, the oldest city in Cyprus.

Although it was the first day of January, we were greeted upon landing by spring-like weather, with sunshine and temperatures of almost 20 degrees. We had been to Cyprus two years before, at the end of August. Then we were captivated by the sea water, which was warmer than anywhere in Europe, not to mention the unreal blue color of some bays. And as we first explored the north-west coast of the island and even spent a day in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, we now wanted to take a trip to the mountains in the center of the island to enjoy the picturesque villages there.

We visited some extremely pretty villages in the Troodos Mountains after a journey of about an hour and a half on winding roads through old pines and rocky slopes.

The scenery in the foothills is perhaps the most beautiful of the year at this time. The fields, scorched by the scorching summer sun, were now green and full of freshness. Everywhere you looked, you saw two seasons intertwining, but neither of them was winter. You could see orchards full of fruit trees: citrus, apples, persimmons, pomegranates, and even figs. The vines, as thick as tree trunks, were laden with amber grapes.

Some trees still kept the leaves that adorned their branches. Down below, on the ground bathed in soft rays, small spring flowers trembled fragilely, gently shaken by the wind: anemones, daffodils, wild clematis, flowering almond trees.

At the heart of every mountain village is a church, many of these painted stone and wood churches are centuries old and included in the Unesco Heritage List because of their uniqueness.

One example is the Church of Archangel Michael in Pedoulas, which we found empty, without a sign of a human being around. This made encountering such a place even more special. A small windowless church, cool and dark, with archangels with huge wings and bunches of dried buccuses on the wooden table at the entrance. On the east side a small bell hung right against the wall. Stone and wood, absolute stillness, light streaming on the faces of saints and closeness to heaven. Wonderful!

Omodos is another village that has remained in my heart. Located in a submontane wine-growing area, here I could see traditional installations and vessels for processing grapes to make wine. Everywhere in the area, there are wineries where you can stop for tastings and shopping. The square in the centre of the village, obviously dominated by a church, is full of taverns with blue tables sheltered under huge dukes, where you can eat traditional Cypriot food or even buy meat products, sweets, honey, wine.

Kakopetria is another beautiful village, crossed by a small river that runs through the mountains. The grapes hanging heavily from the old cows and the tangerines full of fruit will always remain in my memory of this place. Somewhere, on one of the hills on which the village is spread, I found a small church with a white stone tower, with a bell, a simple courtyard, in the middle an old olive tree still full of fruit although much had shrivelled on the thin moss grown on the stone slabs in the courtyard. An old woman lay in a chair, bathed in the afternoon sun with a cat in her arms. Inside, silence and lit candles. Next door, I could see an old olive press, where the locals once made their precious oil. A few houses down the hill, a lady was displaying all the flavours of the place in a wooden arbour: fig, walnut, orange or pomegranate jam, rose and jasmine syrups, olives or chilli paste. We lost ourselves in the alleys lined with pots of bucuioc along the walls, among old houses with small gardens covered with hanging flower stalks, ripe lemons and tangerines, and even a few tomato melons still bearing fruit. A potted Christmas star in a window was the only time I remembered it was winter.

I returned to the seashore the next day but my thoughts still lingered there among the green slopes of the Troodos Mountains.

Of all the memorable places on the coast I’ll put White Sones, somewhere between Limassol and Larnaca, where I saw one of the most beautiful sunsets, there on that buttery white cliff where the honey sun reflected unreal and on the beach with the most perfect oval and white stones I’ve ever seen.

Another place I would mention is the fishing village of Zygi where at every turn, even in this season, you can find countless tavernas where you can have fresh fish and seafood in the most generous portions possible. And where, even if it was only January 3rd, we had a great swim in the sea 🙂

From Larnaca, I take with me the memory of the best orange pie and a visit to the Church of St Lazarus (Lazarus is the one risen from the dead by Jesus from Nazareth, who apparently lived in ancient Kition, now Larnaca, for 30 years after the resurrection. His tomb is housed in this 9th century church, a magnificent curch simple but breathtaking.

And finally, if I take my eyes off the sea, the image that I want to remain imprinted on my retina is that clear blue glow at the Sea Caves, on the very first day of the year where like a prophecy the sea whispered to me that all will be well in the year just begun.

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