It is early May and while the temperatures are steadily on the rise and the flowers are set to bloom, this particular time of the year simply beckons to swap the frenetic city life for the warmth and languid tranquility of the Mediterranean, well, for a couple of days at least…
The island of Cyprus, rightfully famous for its welcomingly mild climate, fine sandy beaches and developed tourist infrastructure, is that kind of destination which fits the bill. However, there is a lot more to this little gem of the Mediterranean than meets the eye. Strategically positioned amidst the Europe, Africa and Middle East, it quite literally stands at the crossroads of cultures and civilizations. Being a potent magnet for earnest conquerors throughout its remarkably eventful history stretching over millenniums, Cyprus has persevered accumulating and incorporating those influences layer by layer into an intricate tapestry of people and events, where each colour and pattern stand for a particular culture and a point in time. The result of this centuries-long cross-cultural amalgam has been firmly imbedded both in its architecture and the DNA of its people. Remnants of Hellenistic, Ottoman Empire, Byzantine, Roman and Venetian influences are dispersed throughout the island where each and every stone has a story to tell.
The best way to discover those stories is to engage in an utterly flâneur act of strolling along the narrow sun-drenched cobblestone clad streets amongst artfully weathered facades and let your intuition be your guide. Surely it will not leave you disappointed – be it cosy little cafés, galleries and bars surrounded by medieval Venetian walls of the old town in the capital Nicosia or quant little villages with ubiquitous olive and almond trees, picture-perfect white and blue of the houses with beautifully carved wooden or wrought iron doors, balconies and windowpanes lavishly adorned with flower pots. Almost every village has an account of some illustrious historic figure, the likes of Leonardo da Vinci or the French poet Arthur Rimbaud, either visiting or staying there at some point.
A different and equally enthralling experience is passing through a hauntingly quiet buffer zone in order to proceed to the other side of the island and experience the statuesque splendor of the ancient city of Salamis, or admire the imposing Otello tower of Famagusta as well as fascinating Gothic architecture and medieval castle remains of Kyrenia.
There is something so very special about Cyprus. Quite possibly, its undeniable charm lies in the rustic simplicity of its surroundings, nonchalant demeanor of the locals or particular lucidity of the air that makes all colours appear more vivid than usual. Or, it could well be “l’art de vivre” – this ingenuous ability to “relish the moment” one inevitably picks up after spending some time there that creates a certain sense of belonging and lures to revisit this beautiful island again and again.
So, next time you are in Cyprus, escape the familiar comforts of your hotel zone and discover all the hidden treasures it has to offer.