Soyz Trip to Limassol and Paphos
For Ozkul Arif it was his first time back since 1974
By Chris Elliott
Always keen to see and learn more about the island of Cyprus I went with Hatice Tevfik on the trip she had arranged to go to Limassol and Paphos that was advertised on her Face book page “Soyz Day Trips and Events”
We set off from Soyz Bar in Çatalköy on a coach with a party of 21 eager people for the trip to the Metehan crossing where we got off the bus and went through the TRNC immigration controls before we boarded a larger Greek coach for our onward journey. This coach was larger and more comfortable and I could only reflect on the crazy politics of Cyprus where we have seen these and bigger coaches travelling around North Cyprus with so many visitors eager to see the sights but TRNC coaches and hire cars are not allowed to travel to the south into the Cyprus Republic.
So off we went travelling south east through Nicosia to pick up the motorway and along the way were able to reflect on property expansion in the south with mostly modern buildings and also the odd hypermarkets that tend to draw visitors to the south for shopping due to their variety of stock if not cheaper prices.
I have been on this motorway once before so I sat and watched the scenery with the odd farm drift by and noted how brown and barren it was beginning to look just like areas in the north. Just two months ago it would have looked so green with the various spring vegetation.
Soon we pulled into a small rest area for the normal toilet stop and a chance for those that wanted to grab a drink for the journey.
Off we went again and after a while we were travelling with the sea in sight in the distance on our left as we travelled westward and soon entered Limassol where we drove to the Festival Park and to a coffee area to claim our free coffee courtesy of the first coach company, Asbestos Otobus.
The park was busy with parties of school children and students and was buzzing with life. The organisation of the catering facilities in the park was excellent with a point to collect your coffee and another where they collected payment or in our case a token card from the coach company and some of our party were delighted to be able to order bacon rolls which we do not see on sale in many places in North Cyprus.
The park was very well established with many fine trees, succulents and plants which were well cared for and a few years ago this sight would have been a shock for visitors from the North but not now as our Bellediyesi (councils) in the North are working hard to transform their municipalities with new walkways and road reservations which are bedecked with plants and bushes. Parks we do not see often but modern play areas for children and adults we do. Given a few more years we may see parks like this in North Cyprus like the excellent Bariș Park we have in Kyrenia. Soon it was time to leave and we walked back to the coach passing a small zoo along the way.
Sadly we only saw a brief glimpse of Limassol with many modern buildings and shops with the occasional quick glimpse of much older buildings as we continued our journey and perhaps a return visit here should be on my wish list.
On our coach was Ozkul (Oz) Arif and his wife Sue. As a Turkish Cypriot, Oz was returning to the area of his family’s village Evdim where he was born in 1958 for the first time since 1974. At the age of 2 years he moved to Limassol with his family where they lived until he was taken prisoner at the age of 16 years by Greek soldiers in 1974 and held outside the Limassol Hospital for 5 days.
Managing to escape he made his way to the British Episkopi base where refugees were seeking safety.
He pointed out with emotion the area of a British base at that time and told us how all of the Turkish Cypriots were brought to an area of safety called Happy Valley
For those wanting to learn more of these times and what it was like to be a refugee in Cyprus, please read the story of Cemal Boransel by clicking here and we hope that Oz will also share more of his memories of those years b’ygone in the weeks to come.
Onward west our coach went until we finally drove into Paphos and arrived down at the harbour where we got off and stretched our legs, and admired the views before we all went to the Castle Restaurant and were warmly greeted by the staff and ushered to our seats under an awning overlooking the harbour. We were served with a very nice grilled chicken or kleftico dish with lots of nice salad and chips and a cooling drink. Many of us also chose to have an optional dessert from a wide choice on the menu and were helped by Oz who spoke Greek and got on very well with the restaurant staff.
Whilst we were having our lunch there was a commotion when a large pelican waddled out of the Pelican Restaurant next door and entertained the crowds before it went back into the rear of the restaurant again.
After lunch we wandered along the harbour admiring the boats and cruisers and spotted one that looked like the famed Nautilus. At the end of the harbour there was the remains of Paphos Castle which whilst impressive was quite tiny when compared with our Kyrenia Castle.
Now it was time for our return journey and Oz, who is a great fan of the history of the area, had spoken to Hatice and the coach driver and they had agreed to make a detour so we could visit some places of great interest. The first of these was Aphrodite’s Rocks and this was reached by turning off the motorway onto an older road and we soon pulled into a car park and then we went down some steps into a dark tunnel to walk through to the other end and when we came back into the sunlight we found ourselves on a stony beach with the famous rocks in front of us and a few of our group ventured in for a swim or paddle in the lapping waves and perhaps we saw Aphrodite coming out of the waves.
Back through the tunnel now to the gift shop and time to grab that small memento before continuing our journey.
On our journey the landscape changed from barren rocks to an area full of trees as the road twisted and wound round the mountain side and Oz pointed out the British Episkopi ,military area where he had come to all those years ago. To see the sports fields on the base full of lush green grass made you realise that a lot of watering is needed to keep these sports fields in such good condition.
The next port of call was the Kourion Archaeological site where we had a look at the House of Eustolius under its very impressive modern curved roof. Walking on the suspended walkway above the ruins it was amazing to see all the layout of the building with remains of some intricate decorative flooring and also some very intriguing entrances or vents to rooms below the level we were standing over.
Next we had time to look at the restored Amphitheatre and you could stand there close your eyes and perhaps be transported back in time to see the crowds roaring as either man or animals fought to the death. There are many more buildings to see and explore here and I hope that Hatice may arrange another trip that will allow more time to explore this fascinating place.
So that was my day out and on the way back on the coach I played portable snakes and ladders with a fellow passenger and reflected on what a super day out I had experienced and the fascinating sights I had seen.
I am now looking forward to another day out and will be keeping a close eye on future events via Facebook and Soyz Day Trips and Events’ click here