Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Cyprus Chill ||| August 2013

My first memories & recollection of Cyprus are way back from 1990 when I was in Class 4th and while preparing for the GK Quizzes I learnt that Cyprus is the only country whose map is pictured on its flag & that makes the flag real special! And then in early 2013 Cyprus got in the news infamously for its Economic Crisis and the subsequent EU Bailout! But this wasn’t a reason for me to plan a trip as I had no idea how badly the crisis had affected the country till we were actually there and yes it was real bad & stark! The after-effects were all-too-visible…

The idea got germinated during one of our nonchalant discussions on Friday 21st June when we were discussing Trip Destinations during the August Eid Break & Tripathi said “Cyprus”! And that was it, I got back home and started the research & within few minutes I was pretty sure about our next trip!

Cut to Sunday Morning 23rd June. Our flight tickets were booked; yeah I was that quick! And then the research marathon & the trip countdown started! I was about to be immersed in Cyprus Information! And my partner-in-rhyme was Trip Advisor, without their website this trip couldn’t have been possible! I prepared the list of places to stay, explore & eat all through TA and this was the first time I was exploring its true potential! I even started my reviews & have written almost 30 reviews so far & the list is expanding slowly!

The first impressions of the country was cheap rates for everything – Flight Tickets, Hotels, Food and Car Rentals; all due to the financial crisis and we made our humble contribution by spending money when we were there! Plus the natural beauty which was mesmerizing going by the photographs I saw on the Internet! Another thing to note through my research was the effective marketing of Cyprus Tourism and especially AgroTourism which I definitely wanted to try – staying in a small & non-descript village somewhere in the Troodos Mountains! We wanted a vacation with a perfect mix of touristy beachside masti plus a serene calm countryside village stay too and that’s what I booked as well!

First 4 nights at a Larnaca Beachside Hotel named Augusta Beach Apartments and the rest of the 3 nights at a Village Resort; I initially booked the Vavla Rustic Retreat but later due to some issues I booked the Avalon Village Resort and thank God I made this decision (more details later)! Found the Avalon Property thanks to Google and the other two through TA!

This was going to be the 3rd new country I was exploring in 2013 after our February Dubai Trip and my April Lebanon Trip! And we were surely gonna make the most of the 7 days we had with us! I also had to been to India thrice already in before this trip in 2013! Hectic travelling throughout the year and I was thoroughly enjoying! 

The plan was simple…Chill, Relax, Explore and Enjoy the Sea, Mountains & the food on offer! Plus I had plans to book a car and drive through Cyprus which was going to be another first-time experience for me!

So after a painstaking wait of almost 1.5 months we were off on Saturday 3rd August to the Land of Sea-Sand & Sunshine…Cyprus!

Day 1 ||| Saturday 3rd August 2013 ||| Kuwait to Cyprus via Bahrain and a relaxed day in Larnaca

We took a Early Morning flight to Cyprus and thanks to Rajendra Prasad (my friend & office colleague) for waking up at 4 AM and dropping us at the airport for our 7 AM Flight; had a brief 90 minutes stopover at the Bahrain Airport and we landed right on time in Larnaca at 1 PM to start our Cyprus Journey….

I had decided to save money on the local travelling by using Public Transport over Taxis so that we could indulge more on Food! And that’s what we did, we took a bus from the Airport to the Beachside which costed us 3 Euros and the corresponding Taxi Fare was 40 Euros! Yes that big a difference! We had to walk almost a kilometre though from where the bus dropped us to our Hotel which wasn’t a big pain even though it was hot & humid as the distance was relatively very short! While walking, we also checked out some of the restaurants on the Beach Road & also picked up water bottles as the place where we were going to stay was a self-serviced apartment concept.

Reached our Hotel soaked in sweat, checked in and then had a quick bath to refresh ourselves! And then pulled out the Aloo & Paneer Paranthas from Sargam, Kuwait and this was supposed to be the only Indian Meal of our Trip! We had vowed that we won’t eat any Indian Food throughout our trip and explore different cuisines! The Paranthas surely saved us a trip downstairs as we were really tired and wanted a nice & sound sleep to get ourselves ready for the Evening!

We woke up at 5 PM and got ready to explore the Larnaca Beachside…the view from our room was so refreshing overlooking the azure Mediterranean Sea in front of us! Couldn’t get any better than this! The room was also pretty decent with a Kitchen as well! All that we wanted in just 60 Euros!

First stop was the Larnaca Fort which was just 50 metres from our hotel but was sadly closed by the time we reached so we sat down at the seaside right next to it soaking up the last few moments of the sunshine of the day! The sea waves hitting the shore were a much welcome relief over the lifeless sea movements here in Kuwait! All around us we could sea people chilling out, either walking on the seafront or relaxing on the beach! And one thing was sure; this was going to be one awesome vacation going by the initial feelers!

We also took a Seafront Walk & the first stop was for a Bhutta for which Bandita was craving for so long and one which isn’t available in Kuwait! Definitely a desired item for her & she gobbled it up in no time and this was going to be a daily chore for us; had the Bhutta from the same shop each day we were in Larnaca! After the much-appreciated Bhutta Session we went to the Larnaca Marina but sadly couldn’t do a boat trip due to Bandita’s Sea Sickness and also the doctor had advised us not to venture into one! And then we moved on towards exploring the by lanes of Larnaca walking towards the interiors! Spotted a shack selling a Cypriot Dessert Snack named Loukoumades and the cooking process was just like our Gulab Jamuns; didn’t taste them as it was very sugary but had a word with the uncle making them and talked to him about the Indian Connection!

And then the highlight of the Day! Bandita’s tryst with the Fish Spa and her awesome expressions! She had a ball having all those small fish nibbling away all those dead cells of her feet! Definitely a worthwhile experience for her…Later we sat down at one of the benches and observed all the travellers passing us by! And one striking part was so many Prams and young kids! So many people were travelling with infants and young kids it was mind boggling!

It was 8:30 PM already and time for dinner! And to check out the first of the list of restaurants I had prepared in advance for this trip thanks to my research on TA! Art Café 1900 was our dinner rendezvous; the exterior & interior design, food, service and the feel…everything about this place was awesome! right from the glorious entrance, the surreal-looking bar on the ground floor and to the 1st floor which is magical & exquisitely decorated....the 2 lovely ladies were ever so helpful in letting us decide the type of wine & food to order! the service was prompt too...loved the interior design which has been painstakingly done and the effort shows! The food was real awesome - we ordered Grilled Chicken Breast in Mushroom-Pesto Sauce with Rice & Vegetables and Stuffed Bell Pepper, Cabbage Rolls & Tomato in Butter Sauce...and the best part was the WOW experience we got! My wife ordered a glass of Red Wine which she didn't like much and threw up...the owner didn't charge us for the wine which was some 10 Euros odd! Real gracious and customer-centric and it definitely was such a nice gesture on her part, considering the bad times Cyprus is going through!

Walked back to our hotel after a round of Italian Gelato and then called it a day! Day 1 in Cyprus was much more than what we had anticipated! And we just about got ready for the Cyprus Chill!

Day 2 ||| Sunday 4th August 2013 ||| Chilling Out in Larnaca

The plans for this day were plain & simple….enjoy the sea, chill and explore Larnaca and we did absolutely the same! See how obedient we are!

Woke up at 6 AM, got freshened up, had a light breakfast – another meal which became a routine; Tzatziki (yogurt mixed with cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil, and mint) Sandwich! Then went to the Beach to enjoy the water in relatively pleasant sunshine! As it got really hot by the time the watch hit 9! So we had full 2.5 hours to enjoy in the sea which we absolutely love doing! Since our Andaman Days!

Had our Breakfast at a Café named The Bailey which was so filling & delicious; couldn’t have asked for anything more! Had the Cyprus Breakfast here with Halloumi Cheese and Cyprus Coffee and it was real nice...I loved the super-quick service...after the Sea Swim this gave me a healthy & sumptuous morning meal! The place was full and even then the service was on-time and prompt! Definitely recommended...the pricing is real nice too...just 3.5 Euros for the breakfast! We went back to our hotel & were very tired so decided to have a short nap but somehow I couldn’t sleep so I got ready & decided to hit the streets! A walk through the streets of Larnaca…so glad I did that as I explored so many new things! The old-school Cypriot Houses, Gardens and buildings! Looking at all those old houses and specially the grapevines! Yeah, I guess every house in Cyprus has a Grapevine without fail! There were some old & dilapidated buildings too which were eerie & beautiful at the same time… Yes it was painfully hot & humid and I was sweating like a dog but this experience was definitely worthwhile!

I got back to the hotel and this time I slept! Had a great 2 hours sleep…woke up and then it was time for the lunch which we had at the famous “Dionyssos Fish Tavern”…The lovely hostess (I guess the owner) helped with the fresh fish selection too and the service was top-notch! The White Snapper was grilled to perfection with the perfect seasoning! And the Greek Salad was super too...I loved the Olive paste served with the Bread Basket....I loved the ambiance of the place...the Fort View and the Sea View! PERFECT I say...this is a must visit restaurant when one is visiting Larnaca...

And then had another new experience! Cannabis Ice Tea, the moment I spotted it at a supermarket close to our Hotel I knew I had to taste it! And it was superb indeed! A mild flavour of Cannabis and toned down by infusion of the Tea! It was made in Switzerland and was being openly sold! The Sea View from the balcony coupled with Cannabis Ice Tea and Sutta…..BLISS!

Another superb thing about this trip was the amount we slept! We spent so much time in exploring & eating but still always had time in the day to catch a nap! And that’s what we did after the sumptuous lunch! Had another 2 hours nap before heading out to the Sea again for an evening dip and this time Solo for me…Bandita spent her time relaxing at the beach alone…and she completely loved her time observing people walking on the beach and kids playing blissfully!

We had another long walk on the beach and then walked towards our Dinner Rendezvous…and then the first bummer of the trip…the French Restaurant where we wanted to have dinner was closed as the owners had gone for a vacation! Yea, you read it correctly…what of the country is going through the worst crisis in its history but the owners of this French Resto named Zanaar Steak House were keener for their vacation than serving their customers in peak tourist season! The wonders of Cyprus I say!

We settled for some Greek-style Street Food that night and it was simply awesome in spite of the language barrier – the entire staff at that small shack-style shop spoke no English and we communicated through sign language – which I have perfected during my 3.5 years stay here talking with all the non-English speaking Arabs! Somehow we ordered the food we wanted & it was served to us piping hot and we enjoyed it thoroughly! As the name of the shop was written in Greek too so I don’t even know where we ate! We had traditional Greek Donner Kebabs, Caesar Salad and Tzatziki (yeah again!)…went towards the beach, had a long walk and then another Gelato before calling it a day! The next day was going to be action-packed and we were damn excited about it!

Day 3 ||| Monday 5th August 2013 ||| In & Around Larnaca

This day started too with a 2-hour long Sea Session followed by a long breakfast session; this time at Tuck Inn where I had the authentic Greek Frappe for the first time! It is what Masala Tea is for India! The staple drink of the Greeks & Cypriots…Bandita had fresh orange juice instead – she isn’t much of a Coffee affectionate anyway!

Next-up was a city tour of Larnaca – the open-bus Tourist Trip which took us through all the important landmarks of the city with English Language Commentary through headphones which was very informative indeed…

And the name of the Tour was quite unique too! Love Buses! It was managed by a Cypriot couple and they had 2 such tours…one of this 3-hours city tour every Monday, Wednesaay & Friday and the other was a 8 hours tour which went to Famagusta on Saturdays & Sundays…

We visited the following monuments/landmarks:

  1. The Angeloktisti Church...11th Century Byzantine Church...
  2. Panagia Angeloktisti Church…12 kms away from the city and built in 11th century over the ruins of a 5th century early Christian basilica
  3. Hala Sultan Tekke or the Mosque of Umm Haram...Revered as the 3rd most important Mosques in Islam...
  4. Larnaca Salt Lake…which was sadly dry at this time of the year
  5. The Panagia Faneromeni Monastery…built in 1792
  6. The Agios Georgios Makris Church...built in the 13th Century AD... 
  7. The Kamares Aqueduct built in 1747... considers to be the "most prominent" water supply structure ever built in Cyprus

The Tour started at 11 and we were back by 2 PM…Sun burnt & sweaty but loaded with a lot of Information about Larnaca and Cyprus! It was the best possible way of exploring the city in optimal time and not so expensive either…the trip costed us just 30 euros! We had ample breaks in between and got a lot of time to click photographs & explore the places on our own! Met a Spanish Tourist Andre with whom a long bakar session! And this guy was damn interesting! Lost his job recently due to the crisis in Spain but rather than brooding he decided to travel to Cyprus for 2 weeks & then go back and start the job search! I wouldn’t have done that for sure! And I am sure many others too!

Got back to the hotel, had a nice & long bath, ate in the room and then had a long 3 hours afternoon siesta! Outside it was painfully hot & humid and we were in no mood today to venture out! And after this refreshing sleep session we hit the city at 7 PM…started with a long shopping session for Cyprus Souvenirs – for our home, friends & family and thoroughly enjoyed those sessions with the shop owners – talking about India and our lives in general!

Visited the “Church of Saint Lazarus” in full evening splendour & it looked gorgeous in the fading light and during the exploration walk around the church spotted our Dinner Venue which looked awesome & the menu was quite decent too! Came back at 9 PM for the Dinner at Taratsa and had a brilliant meal! I had Octopus for the 2nd time (after Lebanon) and in their full form – with the head! In Lebanon I had just the grilled tentacles but here I had the full grilled Octopus! Ordered Grilled Mushrooms and Pasta for Bandita which was delicious too….and this was not all, this restaurant was also about the splendid Fort View from the eating area and also the hustle & bustle of the street! Just loved that setting and sat there for a very long time much after our dinner was finished!

With another brilliant day behind us and another one in store the next day it was time to call it a day! The sleep came in no time!

Day 4 ||| Tuesday 6th August 2013 ||| Nicosia Exploration

This day was dedicated to Nicosia – the capital city…the only remaining divided Capital of the World! After the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Nicosia became the last remaining divided capital in the world, with the southern and the northern portions divided by a Green Line…between the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and Cyprus, this happened after Turkish invasion in 1974.…In 2011 it was ranked as the 5th richest city in the world in per capita income terms; don’t know where it stands now after the crisis…

Woke up at 6 AM and went to the balcony and was awestruck! The colours of the rising sun made me go bonkers! Was pure lucky to witness that scene and I am sure it won’t go out of my memory ever! What majestic colours….the blue, yellow and orange combining made the scenes magical! Inspired by this accidental good luck I decided to wake up earlier than this to photograph the progression of the Sunrise the next day!

It was going to be a long day indeed filled with lots & lots of walking and yeah not to forget – eating! Armenian, Venetian and Spanish cuisines were part of the list!

Took a Bus from Larnaca to Nicosia at 7:30 AM which was economical (7 Euros return fare), fast and very comfortable! Reached at 8:45 AM and went straight to Avo, the Armenian Resto to experiment with this cuisine for the first time! Had the Lahmajoun or the Armenian Pizza which was very light & flavourful! Couldn’t try anything else as nothing else was ready that early! But still my first Armenian experience was a real good one!

After a sumptuous breakfast and a long walk we reached the Cyprus Museum – the biggest & the most significant museum in Cyprus! Time for some history lessons! And lots of them learnt plus a lot of pics clicked…The history of this small country goes long-long back and it was nice to learn so much through excavations and their presentations! Those 2 hours were definitely worth!

Next up was all about a passion! The Cyprus Classic Motorcycle Museum was on the agenda next! When we reached there it was a very small place but dripping with history! Had lots of vintage bikes – Triumph, Norton, Ariel, Indian, BSA, BMW and many others…some of them were relatively new and some really old dating to early 1900s…but the best moments were when I spotted the Royal Enfield bikes parked! Moments of nostalgia and ecstasy! Another super experience it was….Nicosia was surely going great guns!

Post this we went to the old shopping area of the city named Laiki Geitonia District which is right next to the disputed Border…the look & feel of those streets were real amazing…sunshine trying to peep and awnings trying their best to keep it at bay! And this battle was giving the streets a surreal colour! It was best to walk through and get soaked! We did some artefacts shopping too and browsed through the world famous (and obscenely expensive) Lefkara Art; bought a single piece for my mother as a souvenir! Spent a hour at a Lebanese Sheesha joint (yes they are everywhere); enjoyed some Ice Tea and bakar with a Nepalese Man who worked at the café….and his strange reasons to come to Cyprus and living like this! Was a very interesting discussion indeed!

Time was ripe for some Venetian Lunch and off we went! Walking again to one of the most famous & acclaimed restaurants of Nicosia - Greco's Nest and when we reached we were famished! The light breakfast & the long walks had taken a toll on our poor tummies….the place was relatively empty considering it was a weekday, this meant we got impeccable service by the attendant who explained us the cuisine and the dishes on offer! We ordered Greek Salad, a Khus Khus concoction; Penne Pasta and Grilled Chicken….all of them were simply divine! And we got immersed in the aromas and flavours of the food…but there was no time for rest or recovery as by the time we finished he brought complimentary desserts for us! The icing on the cake as they say! Another restaurant ticked from the list!

Unfortunately I forgot bringing our Passports so we couldn’t cross the Border to Turkey which was such a big bummer and one mistake for which I wont be able to pardon myself ever…one exclusive experience missed due to my mistake!

Next up was a walk till the Venetian Walls, Eleftheria Monument and the Famagusta Gate….another long walk but the relief was that the Sun and heat were going down and we walked through relatively shaded roads! We took regular breaks as Bandita was really getting very tired and the point of total exhaustion wasn’t very far away! I tried my best motivating and egging her till the Famagusta Gate; luckily we spotted some beautifully designed homes adorned with all kinds of trees – grapes, pomegranate, olive, dates and what not! They were surely a big relief for our tired bodies! And while we were walking and looking intently at the Map a local who was walking behind us suddenly spoke to us – “Let me suggest a shortcut to you guys”! He was a perfect God-send, afterall who wanted to lose way in that searing heat! We thanked him and took the route suggested by him…

And after this we had enough and decided to take the bus back to Larnaca…the only agenda item left was a Spanish Dinner at the Casa Vieja Restaurant but we decided to give it a miss as a Spanish Resto was on our Limassol List! We were damn lucky as the bus was just about to leave the Bus Station when we reached! We were there just in the nick of time plus we got seats too! Phew! And then the rest of the journey was a complete blur as both of us slept like nobody’s business, it could easily be named slumber going by the intensity!

Reached our hotel and after a bath slept for 3 hours to get rested & relaxed! We ventured out at 9 PM, chilled out at the Beachside and had a Pizza Dinner at one small café…freshly made dough and wood oven fired…perfect way to end another awesome day! Yeah quite poetic too!

Day 5 ||| Wednesday 7th August 2013 ||| Goodbye Larnaca – Say Hello to Limassol

 I had put the alarm for 5 AM and was ready at 5:15 AM to hit the balcony with my camera to capture the Sunrise progression….right when it was about to pop up in the horizon till the time it was just about ready to blaze for another day! And I was lucky to get a clear view and clicked a lot of pics to capture the colours! My good friend Mohaneesh made this collage portraying those scenes in one photograph!

After the hectic photography session we had a light breakfast and left our Hotel to hit the Finikoudes Beach one last time before we were to leave for Limassol…and clicked a lot of pics while we were inside the sea too…the best part about this beach was that we could venture almost a kilometre inside the sea without any fear of drowning! Bandita doesn’t know swimming and even she used to go right till the water was head-high for her! And it was always calm in the mornings as if mirroring the progression of the day! Spent almost 2 hours in the Sea before having a heavy breakfast at Tuck Inn which became our routine BF joint throughout our Larnaca stay!

Got back to our hotel, finished our packing, checked out and then took a Bus for the Larnaca Airport…it was sad leaving the City, we had so much fun there but still better things were waiting for us! More new experiences and hopefully more fun too!

We reached the airport where we were to meet my friend from Dubai, Gaurav Verma and surprise his family as they didn’t know that I & Gaurav had planned this rendezvous well in advance! The look on Jyoti Bhabhi’s face was simply awesome!

Both of us had pre-booked our Car Rental online through but sadly my rental company forgot about my booking and didn’t send the car as scheduled! I frantically started calling the owner (Thanks to Trip Advisor that I was able to pull out his number in advance and saved it too!); finally he picked up well after an hour had passed and gave me a shocker! He told me that he had no spare Automatic Car in his garage and he had no other option! I was shell-shocked as I had already paid the booking amount in full & had no plans to spend more money for the car plus all my future plans in Cyprus were dependent on this rented car!

Unfortunately Gaurav also faced some issues with his booking and had to pay an extra amount to get the car! So much so for online bookings! Thankfully Elias (owner of Thrifty Car Rentals, Cyprus) sent a Mini Van to the Airport to take us to his Garage and he told me that he had a solution in mind! We reached his place all hassled & worried but Elias’ warm demeanour soothed our nerves immediately! And his solution was awesome too!

Elias offered his own car to us! Yes, surprising but true! His car was an Automatic Diesel Ford Focus whereas I had pre-booked a Petrol Automatic Toyota Yaris so for me it was a much better deal! Plus it was his own self-driven car so was much better maintained too! He asked me to take special care of his car which I promised to him and then set off towards Limassol! God Bless Elias!

The empty Highway and brilliant weather to boot…the second leg of the trip couldn’t have started on a better note even with the minor hiccup! I called up Gaurav and coordinated our drive too; I was some 15-odd kms ahead of him and thanks to Google Maps & my Blackberry Device right on track!

I stopped the moment we reached Limassol to wait for Gaurav to join us…when he came we shopped some grocery from a supermarket to stock ourselves for our upcoming stay!

Our next stay was in a small & non-descript village named Fasoula in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains some 12-odd kms from Limassol; during my research I got to know Agro Tourism as a concept was very popular in Cyprus and after the hyper-active Larnaca stay we definitely wanted the peace & tranquillity of a village stay to even out things!

After innumerable wrong turns and U-Turns we finally reached our the village at 3 PM and checked into our Hotel – Avalon Village Houses which was a beautiful property going by the first impression…birds chirping, perfect weather, sparkling blue water in the swimming pool, a nice sit-out area and huge rooms! Couldn’t have asked for more I say! Had a light lunch and then slept for a couple of hours to get rejuvenated for the evening ahead!

The evening plan was simple – Explore Limassol and have a Spanish Dinner! Yeah, this was going to be the first Spanish meal for the both of us and I was damn excited for it more so because we had to skip our Spanish plans in Nicosia! Gaurav and his family went to an Indian resto for dinner! But our vow was still going strong…no Indian Food in Cyprus!

We reached the Boho Chic Tapas after some brisk walking (the hunger pangs were getting stronger you see) and ordered our Dinner anticipating a real good one! And when it was served it looked tremendously awesome and the taste my dear friends was much better than what we had thought and it looked! Our first Spanish Cuisine experience couldn’t have started on a better note! The Grilled & Smoked Chicken I had was by far one of the best tasting I have ever had! Bandita had ordered Aubergines (Brinjal & Baingan for us) and even they looked awesome; I had a small bite & they tasted good too! The Gazpacho soup was real nice as well! And the dessert of the day - Creme Brulee was the perfect end to a brilliant dinner! Badly wanted to try Sangria but then due to the no-alcohol restriction, couldn’t do that!

After stuffing ourselves in true Spanish Style we walked towards the sea side to soak in the Limassol air and relax for a bit…We picked Gaurav & his family at 11:30 PM and then left for our Hotel through a pacy drive across the foothills….and in no time I was found snoring away to glory!

Day 6 ||| Thursday 8th August 2013 ||| Day Trip to Lofou Village through Troodos

Woke up at 6 AM due to too much of sunlight pouring into our room, decided to get freshened up & leave for a walk around the village and it was a real nice decision I say! The village was gingerly waking up & I got strange looks from all the villagers (which country is he from type looks)! But I was determined not to get too flustered with those wide eyes staring at me! Went to the Village Centre (Panchayat) and had a nice & hot cup of Cypriot Coffee and Chips to begin the day…had a long conversation with some of the villagers in broken English & got to know more about the village through them…I love talking to locals and this was another nice experience talking to Cypriot elders about their country and lives in general!

Got back to the Hotel at 9 AM to get ready; the POA was to drive to another village named Lofou and have lunch at the very famous Village Taverna about which I had read loads of positive reviews…we could finally leave only at 10:30 AM after everybody got ready…

After a picturesque drive of an hour or so we reached Lofou and were treated to true Cypriot hospitality! We were the only tourists in that village; unfortunately the Village Winery was closed as the owner had gone to Greece for his annual vacation…the Taverna was open though! And it was beautiful indeed…we ordered fresh pomegranate & orange juice to get refreshed…the lunch was ordered after a long bakar session! Outside the weather was getting really hot but thankfully we were in a shaded place plus the Juice helped our cause too!

I ordered Grilled Lamp Chops for me and Spinach & Broccoli Moussaka & Cypriot Tajine for Bandita…and the Lamb grilling process started then…right from firing up the grill with coal and then heating it up! It was a wonderful sight indeed…we had a long chat with the owners and bought their in-house wines too! And the food was wonderfully awesome…the chops & mousakka were perfectly grilled and the taste was superb! Polished off everything which was ordered and once again overate which is a habit with me when I eat out!

The owner told us that they grow everything on their own…Potatoes, Tomatoes, Leafy Vegetables and had 10-15 Pomegranate trees in their backyard too! They had a Sri Lankan employee too & it was nice talking to her & discussing what else but Cricket with her!!!

While going uphill we had seen a big water reservoir which pretty much overshadowed the scenery and while going back decided to explore it; it turned out be the Kooris Dam reservoir – the biggest dam of Cyprus…went till the Dam Site, clicked few pics and then started the drive back to Fasoula…

Came back and had another Afternoon Fiesta before heading to Limassol to hit the town again! And this time the agenda had Shopping included too! A night before we had spotted almost all the shops with big discount posters! And some of them were Closedown sales which meant a discount of 70-80%! The Economical crisis had forced many shop owners to close their shops as they could no more pay the rents or the electricity bills! And they had to liquidate their stock at dirt-cheap prices!

We lapped up this opportunity like nobody’s business and shopped like crazy! I bought CAT Boots (145 Euros original price for just 40 Euros!), gifted Bandita Blue Mirror Aviators which was selling at 30% discount. Also bought loads of other stuff too! Infact we had to buy a new bag as we had no space in our existing bags which we got from Kuwait! It was mind boggling indeed…yes it affected my budget planning but still all the expenses were worth! 2 of the tees I bought were insanely awesome!

Went back to the Parking Lot to put all our stuff in the car and then met Cleo again…Cleo was manning the lot and we thought he was an employee…but infact he was the owner of that space & used to work for 14-18 hours everyday manning the lot! A real hard-working guy and still floating high in spite of the crisis! We had a long conversation discussing Cyprus, our families and India too! Both his daughters were married & settled in Greece and he was enjoying his life with his wife in Cyprus! Loved his spirit towards life even at that age and shared a smoke with him too!

He checked about our plans for the next day and we had nothing concrete planned so he started suggesting places & the moment he used the words “Trekking” and “Waterfalls” I knew where we were heading the next day! He called his friend and got all the details for us including the places to eat, route and distance! Such a nice gesture on his part…we were complete strangers and he helped us re-plan our trip! Even a night before he was really helpful as he helped us locate the Indian Resto Gaurav had to go to! He called the Resto using his Mobile Number and guided us! And you would read more about the next day ahead…it was a brilliant advice indeed!

After the shopping & the talking we went for our next POA – Dinner at Ousia Lounge Resto located bang opposite the Limassol Fort – another listing thanks to TA! We walked to the Resto using my trusted navigation partner – Google Maps & were greeted to huge crowds at that Resto complex! Nobody could tell that the country was suffering from any sort of Economical crisis! The place was hustling & bustling like there was no tomorrow and most of them were locals! Cypriots surely know how to celebrate life!

Luckily we got a table for us as the resto was completely booked! We ordered our dinner…me Grilled Salmon and Bandita another dose of Aubergines; man she loves them or what and my mother too! It isn’t that tough you see…MIL & DIL having similar tastes! And this was another sumptuous & delicious meal! We hadn’t gone wrong so far in Cyprus when it came to food! Everywhere we ate we had a delicious meal! What a delight!!!

We had another long walk around the Fort Limassol and I must say Cyprus Forts, Churches and Mosques are so miniscule compared to the Indian pones that the first time you say this in your mind “Is this really a fort?” but then comparing anything between India and Cyprus is a futile effort in the end especially the size of Monuments!

And this was the most happening part of Limassol by far we were told and the vibes were so electric! Everywhere we saw happy people drinking & talking merrily…and then we saw a huge square with restaurants-cafes-bars on the edges and a GIGANTIC sitting area in the middle and all we could see were people, very very animated people and loud music blasting! And no chaos, not even remotely even with those many people drinking; no space, no table was empty! It was a musical symphony to say the least…both of us were awestruck! We somehow passed our way through & when we looked back we got awestruck again! So much alcohol flowing and still no ruckus! I mean how that is possible…

After the Night Fiesta of Limassol we started for Fasoula and then my real forte came out – MISNAVIGATION! I am sure many of you by now know my awesomely insane skills when it comes to Map reading & navigation and here I was again; this time in a new country but the routine was very similar to what I always go through in India…getting lost even with Google Maps! And I must say I felt happy because even Bandita wasn’t worried! She knew in the end we would reach our destination…somehow!

But then we asked for help and he turned out to be a very good Samaritan indeed; he stopped his car, came out towards our car & checked where we wanted to go, went back to his car, got his Paper Map out, explained me the route but seeing the utter confusion in my eyes asked me to follow his car to the main highway from where I somehow knew the route to Fasoula! Another moment of Cyprus hospitality and that too at 1 AM in the night!  Reached our hotel safe & sound, I explored my shopping once again like I always do and slept like 2 very satisfied, lucky & happy souls!

Day 7 ||| Friday 9th August 2013 ||| Day Trip to Kalidonia Waterfalls & Mt. Olympus through Troodos 

This was going to be another awesome day in this already awesome trip! I was going to drive through the Troodos again & this time to the highest point of Cyprus – Mt Olympus which stands at a lowly 6,404 ft which compared to the Mighty Himalayas is so puny! And considering I have motorcycled to 18,000 ft plus heights this sounded even punier! But then Mountains are Mountains and the last time I saw them was in November 2012 so I was hungrily waiting for them! And this time there was a trek involved too…another opportunity not to miss!

We started from our Hotel at sharp 9 AM after clicking lots & lots of pics of the Hotel property & around…the drive was very picturesque and the weather perfect to make it even better! We were driving to the territory of Platres in Limassol District which houses many Ski Resorts when in the winters the terrain becomes white! In the summers it is lush green though…

We reached the starting point of the trek at 10 AM and after a lot of deliberations started our way up…Gaurav carried Tavishi’s Pram with him as the initial route looked quite easy for the pram to go through but this later turned out to be a big mistake as the trek became difficult & the terrain very rugged and poor Gaurav was left with no choice but to carry the Pram on his shoulders while Jyoti Bhabhi carried Tavishi…and the ever so smart Hiranya realized very early in the trek that if he had to reach quickly he had to walk with us! And that’s what he did!

My agenda was clear too, have a nice chilled bath and have tonnes of watery masti which I have always had during my Bike Rides! And taking a bath in a waterfall is a magical experience indeed! The moment I spotted a watery space comfortable enough to go in I just couldn’t stop myself and off I went for a chilled dip…and what crazy fun it was! I just went back to the good-old times of my Bike Ride days….after this cold & quick dip I re-started the trek taking many breaks in between to take breathers in between and not get too exhausted…After an hour of walking our way up we reached the final rest point of this trek before the last & the toughest part! I asked Bandita & Bhabhi if they wanted to stay here and skip the tough part but the gorgeous & strong females were in no mood to give up and they also decided to reach the top & witness the waterfalls for themselves! I was so proud of both of them to see their spirit!

And then we reached and witnessed the gorgeous sight of water pounding down from the Kalidonia Waterfalls which is considered to be the highest waterfall on the island of Cyprus! The water of the waterfall falls vertically from a height of 12m…I have trkked to Tiger Falls in Chakrata, Uttarakhand, India and they fall from a height of 50 metres so you can imagine how small Kalidonia were but even then it was a mesmerizing sight after coming from the desert of Kuwait! I quickly changed into my water-gear and went to get a chilled splash! Soon Gaurav also joined in and we had a ball getting frozen and splattered!

All this while other tourists & locals who trekked their way up looked at the two of us taking a bath in that icy cold water with awe and thinking – look at those 2 foolish men! We even tried convincing couple of people to go in but they didn’t budge! Talked to a local family and got surprised to know that they stayed just 30-odd kms away from that place and this was the first time they had come to Kalidonia after spending all their life in Cyprus! The Laal Quilla conundrum which many Delhites also experience! I also visited the world-famous Red Fort only in 2008 after 28 years of my existence!

After almost an hour of going in the water & gingerly coming out it got too much for us and we changed and decided to trek our way down which is always the easiest part of a trek! No more huffing & puffing and just the excitement of going downhill at a brisk pace! And there was a big motivation for me personally…there was a huge Trout Fish Farm at the ground level and I was in no mood to leave without grabbing & biting a full grilled Trout Fish! That taste and flavour just can’t be ignored and if it is fresh from a farm right next door then you can very well relate with me!

And the Grilled Fish came in all its glory, waiting to get gobbled up but not before taking some pics! I love taking the before & after pics of whole Grilled Fish! It is a sight to behold…and the fish was very well grilled and tasted superb….we also had fresh Watermelon which was on the house! Watermelon is the national fruit of Cyprus and this was the first time we had it during our trip…better late than never as they say!

After the hearty lunch we drove towards Mt. Olympus point through the picturesque Troodos Mountains and the heights kept getting increasing! Unfortunately we couldn’t drive till the highest point on the top as a British Air Force (RAF) long range radar currently operates at Mount Olympus' peak so the final approach road was out of bounds for us…still it felt really good to be standing at the highest point of Cyprus! The roads were beautiful to say the least…We came down after spending some time on the top for a hot cup of coffee and I bumped into 4 colleagues! And I hired these 4 Chartered Accountants in March 2012 from the CA Campus and had also helped them in planning this trip! Big coincidence of meeting them at that place I must say!  

The next POA was also very straightforward; exploring a Winery and we were in no mood to leave Troodos without exploring one…initially luck wasn’t on our side as 3 Wineries we visited were all closed & our spirits were going down…but then I spotted a board on a small lane which we had reached thanks to getting misnavigated again and I decided to try my luck one last time before calling it a day! And BINGO….it was open! And to our utter surprise it was a multi-award winning Winery! Talk about being lucky…

The Ayia Mavri winery was the first to be set up in the village of Kilani founded & managed by Mrs Yiannoula Ioannidou and her husband Ioannis, a doctor by vocation. It was set up in 1983 and was started to fulfil their father and grandfather's wish to have their own vineyards and turn into wine their own produce! This meant the 10 wines they make are all made with almost child-live love, care & dedication!

Mrs. Yianna took us for a guided tour starting from the process of getting the Grape Juice, explaining the various presses & machines through which the juice comes out and explaining each bit in detail! The passion was all so visible! It wasn’t just a money-making proposition for her; it was about passion of making world class wines! The annual production is 50,000 bottles of wine (very small compared to other Cypriot wineries) because expansion has been deliberately cautious in order to maintain the high quality of the wines produced.

Then she took us to the basement where all the wines are stored and chilled…it was a surreal feeling for sure! This was the first time I was in a winery and getting to see all those things which I had only read or seen them on television! It was definitely very exciting…she also showed us the oldest wine bottle of her collection which is being aged since 1987!

Then the Wine Tasting session started! Even wehen we told her that we would not be buying any wines from here she didn’t lose any of her enthusiasm and opened her entire collection of tasting bottles for us to sample! What a grand gesture indeed…We ended up tasting 4 of her best wines and each of them were completely different to whatever I have had earlier; the wines were so tasteful and aromatic. She also taught us the actual method of tasting, sampling and enjoying a wine starting from stirring the wine in the glass and soaking in the aroma to how to gargle the wine to let the taste buds get drowned! What an educative lesson we had!

We couldn’t resist ourselves and ended up buying 5 bottles of her award-winning wine! The Mosxatos 2006… Made from sun-dried Muscat of Alexandria grapes, it features a dark gold colour, a nose rich in explosive, captivating aromas of lychee, compote, quince jelly and dried fig. What fascinates in the mouth is the wine's exuberance and overall flavour, its apparent fattiness and its acidity that capably resists the rich sugar content. It is a simply superb wine! (Words from CyprusWinePages Website) I couldn’t define it in any better way!

Once the Winery Tour was over, Dr. Ioannis took us to a short tour of the Vineyard where all those wonderful grapes are grown! He also gave us a bunch of black grapes which by far were the best grapes I have ever tasted in my life! The taste was completely different than any other grape I have eaten before…

It was a wonderful & beautiful experience to have visited the Ayia Mavri winery and interacted with the ever so gracious & hospitable couple and I wish them all the luck and good health for their future…They welcomed us even without a prior appointment which is always the case for a Wine Tour and even when we told them initially that we had bought our share of Wines Our first Winery experience couldn’t have been better and all thanks to both of them…BIG THANKS!

After this wonderful experience it was time to get back to our Hotel as were really exhausted after the day long activities especially the 6-kms long trek! We reached and had a nice long sleep to get ready for the long evening ahead…

Woke up and then hit the pool one last time with everybody splashing our way to complete delight! By the time we took bath and got ready all of us were damn hungry and walked to the local Village Taverna named “Areti” which served local Cypriot delicacies including some village delicacies made by the owner herself! And this was going to be a special meal for me as I finally decided to have a Pork Dish! The staff was members of the owner's family, making it even more authentic! I had a long conversation in broken English with the Attendant who was the nephew of the owner and also enjoyed a smoke with him!

The food as expected was superb and also the Vegetarian options…we ordered Tzatziki, Cyprus Salad, Grilled Vegetables, Souvlakia, Sieftalia and Cous Cous! A full Cypriot meal…and the desserts were served complimentary to make things even better! Cyprus continued to delight & entertain us till the very end! It was the perfect last dinner of a delightful trip which was sadly just about to end…just like all good things come to an end one day…

We went back to our hotel stuffed & content…sleep came very early once again….tomorrow we were scheduled to fly back to Kuwait so obviously we were a little sad!

Day 8 ||| Saturday 10th August 2013 ||| Fasoula – Larnaca - Kuwait

Well this was going to be the last day of our Cyprus Chill and understandably so we were a little sad! Bit at the same time damn happy too for such a relaxed & awesome vacation…so wanted to start the last day on a coffee-laced High! We woke up  at 7:00 AM and then had a long Coffee-Chips-Bakar session at the Village Coffee Shop which was bang opposite our Hotel….it was the place where almost all the villagers used to come every morning, have a coffee, talk to the fellow villagers and then start the day ahead! And we also did the same, ordered Cyprus Coffee for us and had it with Chips we had brought along…and had a nice-little talk with some villagers! And it was the best possible place to observe people too…left the Chaupal & then clicked last few pics of the trip, mainly of the Hotel exteriors and our room’s interiors which was a huge room…had a very big Living room , kitchen area and the Bedroom had a Roof Window through which Sunlight used to blast in! The Bedroom had a table with Archaic Village tools in it and it surely looked scary to me! The Living Room had a Piano in working condition which we couldn’t utilize much due to obvious reasons!

We left the Hotel at 10 AM after bidding goodbye to the Vermas & wishing them the best for the next 3 days of Cyprus Vacation which they were supposed to spend in Paphos…we dropped the Car at the Thrifty office and thanked Elias for his lovely gesture of sharing his own car with us – a real gentleman I say!

After finishing all the formalities at the Airport took a stroll through the Duty Free Shops and then my eyes went gaga over an Orange Nautica watch! And just couldn’t control myself…I had been planning to buy an Orange watch for so long and finally I found one of my choice! Spent the final Euros remaining in my pocket and bid Goodbye to Cyprus on a high!

Reached Kuwait where one of my office colleagues had come to pick us up and finally it was all over!

But then we had tonnes of beautiful memories of the gorgeous country….it is a wonderful place to visit and to make things better it is highly economical too so I highly recommend Cyprus to all my friends who plan to visit and enjoy a Mediterranean holiday!

Big Thanks to Bandita for being such a sport once again and being my partner-in-rhyme as always...We had a wonderful time with The Vermas and they made even  the trip more memorable for us!

Cyprus was a wonderful host and it is a lovely country indeed! we pray to God that it recovers quickly from the Economic Crisis and gets back to it's glory days once again...

The Next International Holiday is already planned and if all goes well we would be flying off in Mid/End July to a new destination...and yeah with our new comrade - Abhay! HELL YEAH...

Till the time we meet again… 

Cheers to life… 

Till then ride safe and have safe sex… 

Hasta la Victoria Siempre…

Jai BoP…


Vijendra Rawat said...

A picture unfolds... in front of me... and I have added this place in my list....I will read it again... as i want to Savior the trip again....

Ken Slayer said...

bhai ki planning aur research ke to kya kehne.the poetic sense is rising in your blogs now. also nice to see Abhay entering the blogworld now.

Tripathi wasnt planning to join u? but then why would he be on love buses. now maybe, yes.

Tzatziki, angrez. seedha bol- kheera raita sandwich. and the rest of the culinary experience looked unbelievable.

was it the right season to visit? sounds like too hot.