cyprus 5: abandoned places

we came across a few abandoned villages during our drive through southern cyprus. sometimes, a village has been abandoned because an earthquake or water problem rendered it unlivable; however, it may be the case that a village was abandoned because it had been a turkish-cypriot village before the turkish invasion, and the residents left it for safety in the north.

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apparently, some cypriots are too polite to say the word "damn."
apparently, some cypriots are too polite to say the word “damn.”

dams are impressive pieces of architecture.  when i was in albania, i photographed the vau i dejës dam for a friend who was doing some architectural work for the electric company (including a few pictures with my 6×6 camera):

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so here have the asprokremmos dam, an earthen dam built from 1978 to 1982. stones on the embankment, a huge concrete overflow reservoir, and a capacity of 51 million cubic meters of water …

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… and below it all – in case the dang fails – a row of beehives to protect the buildings on the coast from the onslaught of water.


do you know the way to agia solomoni

we decided to visit the church and catacombs of agia solomoni, which was located relatively close to our hotel. agia solomoni (saint solomoni) was an early christian who took refuge in a cave to escape persecution by the romans. when the romans located her hiding place, they walled her up inside, condemning her to a long and painful death; however, when the cave was opened up 200 years later, she walked out alive. so the legend goes.

amazingly, there is not a wikipedia entry on this.

as is typical, there was a only a small sign pointing us toward the site, so we parked and trudged up a hill to the only structure we could see up there. it turned out to be some kind of shed, but there was a staircase cut through rock leading underground, so down we went. we were underwhelmed by what we found:

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sure, interesting, but a holy shrine? not so much, especially if the mattress and discarded beer cans were anything to judge it by.

we spied another way out and scrambled up, thinking maybe we somehow came in the wrong way, and we did find a nondescript chapel-like room further along the side of the hill, yet – curiouser and curiouser – the exit led onto someone’s junk-filled backyard.

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“okay,” we decided, “this is just some inexplicably bad tourist attraction, like you read about in inexplicably bad tourist attractions magazine,” and we went back to the car. however, as we drove back onto the main road, we saw a chestnut tree with ribbons tied onto its branches for good luck, and a neat set of stairs leading downward, and we realized that this was the entry to the church and catacombs, and the other place we’d been exploring was just a dirty hole in the ground.

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cyprus 2: mosaics

the paphos archaeological park contains sites dating from the roman period up through the 13th century. most impressive (to me) were the mosaic floors from the roman villas.  this is the floor of the “house of aion,” 4th century b.c.  (aion is the god of time, who features in one of the center panels, and for whom the building is named.)
this scene shows the infant dionysos in hermes’ lap, about to be handed over to his teacher, tropheos.
this is a telling of the myth of apollo and marysas, in which marysas, who challenged apollo to a music contest and lost, is about to be flayed alive.
moral: don’t mess with the gods.
outside, and currently exposed to the elements, is this mosaic in the “house of theseus,” showing theseus killing the minotaur.
columns from the house of theseus.
other ruins. i think the green burlap fabric in the lower right, under the sand, is a cover for other mosaics which are not currently on display.
an ornamental mosaic floor.
since this site has been occupied by numerous invaders since the romans, there are more recent ruins, such as the castle of saranta kolones (forty columns), which was built by the lusignans around a.d. 1200. the lusignans were a royal house that originated in france and conquered much of europe and the levant for a time. (according to wikipedia, the mythological founder of the family is used as the logo for starbucks.) the castle was destroyed by an earthquake 20 years after it was completed.

cyprus, part 1: the πέτρα του ρωμιού

a few weeks ago, we went to cyprus for a few days. the south and west of the island – the part i visited, well below the green line – appears πολύ ελληνική (very greek) …

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… although its history as a british colony is pretty evident as well.


so let’s take a look around.

the birth of venus by sandro botticelli, c. 1485
the birth of venus by sandro botticelli, c. 1485

we’ll start at the petra to romiou, or aphrodite’s rock. this is the spot where the goddess of love, aphrodite, who was born from the sea foam, came ashore at paphos, carried in a scallop shell.  it sounds very romantic, until you read the detail in the wikipedia entry:

in the most famous version of her myth, her birth was the consequence of a castration: cronus severed uranus’ genitals and threw them behind him into the sea. the foam from his genitals gave rise to aphrodite (hence her name, meaning “foam-arisen”), while the erinyes (furies), and the meliae emerged from the drops of his blood.

i don’t remember that from my copy of d’aulaires.

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next: mosaics