Monday, March 31, 2014

Choirokoitia Archaeological Site

The Choirokoitia Archaeological Site (also known as the Khirokitia Neolithic Archaeological Settlement) is located near the modern village of Choirokoitia in the Maroni Valley, within the Larnaca district of Cyprus.

This site is one of the oldest settlements in Cyprus.  Also, it's considered one of the best preserved settlements from this time period throughout Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean.

According to a sign at the site, "The first inhabitants arrived at Choirokoitia 9,000 years ago and settled on this hill that overlooks a tributary of the river Maroni.  Initially the settlement occupied only a part of the hill and was protected naturally by the escarpment and artificially by the construction of a defensive wall.  The settlement later spread beyond these boundaries to the western part of the hill."

Choirokoitia was discovered in 1934 by Porphyrios Dikaios on behalf of the Cypriot Department of Antiquities.  In 1976, the excavation of the area proceeded with Alain Le Brun.
According to another sign at the site, "The inhabitants of Choirokoitia lived in circular structures of various sizes.  Only the lower stone-built part of the walls is preserved.  As was attested by the excavations, the house is defined by a concentration of such structures around a small yard....  The deceased were buried in pits cut into the floors of the habitation units.  They were often accompanied by objects of everyday life, such as stone vessels and necklaces."

From history, it's evident that the people of these area vanished suddenly without an adequate explanation when Choirokoitia was abandoned.

Today, there are two main areas for visitors to explore, including the excavation site and the reconstructed huts.

There are numerous steps leading to the top of the excavation site, which is primary location for the ancient ruins of Choirokoitia. 

Each house was actually a small compound with several buildings designed in a circular area around an open space, which served as an inner courtyard.  The population of Choirokoitia has been estimated to around 300 people.

According to a sign at the site, "The basic architectural unit is a circular structure with a flat roof.  The materials used are stone-blocks of light-colored limestone collected from the surrounding area and dark-colored stones from the river-bed, pisé and sun-dried mudbricks.  A habitation unit or house may be defined as a compound of several of these units around an unroofed space."

The reconstruction area includes five model dwellings, which were built in the Neolithic style with the same methods and materials as the ancient ruins.

According to another sign at the site, "In the course of its efforts for the best protection of the site and in order to facilitate its interpretation for the visitors, the Department of Antiquities proceeded to reconstruct five circular units and part of the enclosure wall, including one of its entrances.  These are identical copies of the original structures....  One of the circular structures was left semi-finished in order to show the various stages of its construction and the materials employed for this purpose: stones, mudbricks, wood, and reeds."

In December 1998, the Choirokoitia Archaeological Site was included in the list for UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Sites, which originated in 1972.  Choirokoitia was the third World Heritage listing for Cyprus.

According to this website, "Choirokoitia was included in the list for three basic reasons: (1) It is the most important archaeological site of the Neolithic period that reflects the expansion, (2) the permanent habitation of settlements, and (3) the role of Cyprus in the spreading of the Neolithic civilization from the eastern Mediterranean to the West."

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Choirokoitia is worth exploring, by both visitors and local residents, especially since the Choirokoitia Archaeological Site includes ancient ruins at the excavation site, as well as the nearby reconstructed huts.

Site: Choirokoitia Archaeological Site. 

Category: Archaeological Site. 

Location: About 1.5 km from the main highway and near Choirokoitia Village, within the Larnaca district of Cyprus. 

Phone Number: 24322710. 

Operating Hours: 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM on Monday to Sunday, during winter months.  8:30 AM to 7:30 PM on Monday to Sunday, during summer months.

Entrance Fee: €2,50. 

Date of Visit: 2010.

Pissouri Village and Beach

Pissouri Village is located between the cities of Limassol and Paphos, yet it's within the Limassol district of Cyprus.

This village is a popular tourist area, partially due to Pissouri Beach.

Pissouri Beach is situated in a lovely area with the cliffs of Cape Aspro nearby, and it's considered a Blue Flag beach.

For both tourists and locals, Pissouri Village is worth exploring, particularly for those interested in visiting Pissouri Beach.

Site: Pissouri Village and Pissouri Beach. 

Category: Village and Nature. 

Location: About 30 km west of the city of Limassol, within the Limassol district of Cyprus. 

Phone Number: N/A. 

Operating Hours: Daylight hours. 

Entrance Fee: Free, except for the optional cost of umbrellas and sunbeds at the beach.

Date of Visit: 2008 and 2010.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Erimi Village

Erimi Village is located near Kolossi Village, which is west of the city of Limassol, within the Limassol district of Cyprus.  Also, this village is partly situated in the British Territory of Akrotiri.

The Cyprus Wine Museum is situated in this village.  According to the Cyprus Wine Museum website, Erimi Village "is the starting point of the cultivation of grapes and production of wine in Europe."

This little village is a pleasant place to visit, particularly for those interested in the Cyprus Wine Museum. 

Site: Erimi Village. 

Category: Village. 

Location: Near Kolossi Village, within the Limassol district of Cyprus. 

Phone Number: N/A.

Operating Hours: Daylight hours. 

Entrance Fee: Free. 

Date of Visit: 2010-2013.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Marion-Arsinoe Archaeological Museum

The Marion-Arsinoe Archaeological Museum (also known as the Local Museum of Marion-Arsinoe and the Polis Archaeological Museum) is located within the town of Polis tis Chrysochous, which is situated on the northwestern side of the island, within the Paphos district of Cyprus.

In this museum, which opened in 1998, the majority of the ancient items were discovered at the Marion-Arsinoe ancient city-kingdom ruins and the surrounding area.

In the museum's brochure, it states, "According to ancient literary sources recorded by Stephanos Vyzantios, the city of Marion was founded by the legendary King Marieas....  In 312 B.C. Marion was conquered by Ptolemy I and the Kingdom was abolished.  Ptolemy II Philadelphus later rebuilt the city and renamed it after his sister and wife, Arsinoe.  The new city was smaller than Marion but it also flourished due to its close proximity to the copper mines.  Arsinoe continued to exist in the Roman, Early Christian and Early Byzantine periods when it seems to have suffered extensive destruction by the Arab invasions of the 7th century A.D.  Archaeological evidence indicates that the city was also inhabited during the Medieval period between the 12th and 14th centuries A.D."

In the Marion-Arsinoe Archaeological Museum, there are three main exhibition spaces: Room I, Room II, and the Atrium.  The first room features ancient artifacts from the Neolithic to Medieval time periods, while the second room primarily focuses on ancient times that were discovered in the Marion-Arsinoe necropolis.

According to a sign at the museum, "The cemeteries of the kingdom of Marion and the later Hellenistic town Arsinoe occupy an extensive area around the architectural remains of the ancient town....  In this Exhibition Room are presented the most important cemeteries, which yielded interesting material, demonstrating that Marion developed culture equal to that of the rest of the urban  areas of the Island, and stronger commercial relations with the Greek world."      
The Marion-Arsinoe Archaeological Museum is a pleasant and worthwhile visit, especially while exploring this area of Cyprus.

Site: Marion-Arsinoe Archaeological Museum. 

Category: Museum. 

Location: Archiepiskopou Makariou III Avenue in the town of Polis, within the Paphos district of Cyprus. 

Phone Number: 26322955. 

Operating Hours: 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM on Monday to Friday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Saturday, and closed on Sunday. 

Entrance Fee: €2,50. 

Date of Visit: 2013.

Colors Café

Colors Café is located at the Four Seasons Hotel in the city of Limassol, within the Limassol district of Cyprus.

According to the hotel's website, "Colors Café at the Four Seasons Hotel has been fully renovated and its firmly established as one of the most popular spots in Limassol for morning breaks, afternoon snacks and evening cocktails.  With its new decor and ambiance and of course re-engineered menu offering a larger variety of savory items, including gourmet sandwiches....  Colors Café serves tasty homemade gelato and pastries, savories, delicious sandwiches, salads and wraps, exquisite cakes and a wide variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, including freshly brewed coffee and all tea flavors."

Colors Café is a lovely restaurant with delicious desserts.

Site: Colors Café. 

Category: Restaurant. 

Location: Four Seasons Hotel, near Ayios Tychonas Village in the city of Limassol, within the Limassol district of Cyprus. 

Phone Number: 25858000. 

Operating Hours: 9:00 AM to 1:00 AM on Monday to Sunday. 

Entrance Fee: Menu prices vary. 

Date of Visit: 2013.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Kourion Archaeological Museum

The Kourion Archaeological Museum is located in Episkopi Village, which is about 20 km west of the city of Limassol, within the Limassol district of Cyprus.

The museum is situated within the private house of the late George McFadden, who led the archaeological research regarding ancient Kourion from 1934 until 1953.  The building was built in 1937, and it was later renovated into a museum after it was gifted to the Cypriot Department of Antiquities, which opened the Kourion Archaeological Museum on December 15, 1969.  

Within this archaeological museum, there are two main exhibition halls with ancient artifacts primarily from the Kourion Archaeological Site, as well as the surrounding area. 

The Kourion Archaeological Museum is a rather small museum, yet it's worth visiting, particularly those planning to visit the Kourion Archaeological Site.

Site: Kourion Archaeological Museum. 

Category: Museum. 

Location: Episkopi Village, within the Limassol district of Cyprus. 

Phone Number: 25932453. 

Operating Hours: 8:00 AM to 3:30 PM on Monday to Friday, and closed on Saturday and Sunday.

Entrance Fee: €2,50. 

Date of Visit: 2010.

Pizza Express

Pizza Express is an Italian restaurant in the city of Limassol, within the Limassol district of Cyprus.  Also, there's a Pizza Express in the city of Paphos, and it's situated along the seafront in the tourist area.

After opening in 1998, this restaurant's main focus seems to be serving pizza and pasta in a fine dining, yet family-focused environment.  To view the menu, visit the Pizza Express website.

Pizza Express is a delightful restaurant and worth visiting at least once...or twice to visit both the Limassol and Paphos restaurants.  :)

Site: Pizza Express. 

Category: Restaurant. 

Location: Spyrou Kyprianou Street in the city of Limassol, within the Limassol district of Cyprus, as well as Pafinia Sea View Court, Poseidon Avenue in the city of Paphos, within the Paphos district of Cyprus.

Phone Number: 25318709 and 26923034. 

Operating Hours: 12:00 PM to 12:00 AM on Monday to Sunday. 

Entrance Fee: Menu prices vary. 

Date of Visit: 2008-2013.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fasouri Flea Market

The Fasouri Flea Market is located in Asomatos Village, which is near the city of Limassol, within the Limassol district of Cyprus.

Every Saturday and Sunday, it's open for local residents and tourists to shop at the vendor stalls with a wide variety of items for sale.

The Fasouri Flea Market is a decent place to shop for fairly new and used items, particularly books.

Site: Fasouri Flea Market. 

Category: Shopping. 

Location: Asomatos Village, within the Limassol district of Cyprus. 

Phone Number: 77778828. 

Operating Hours: 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM on Saturday and Sunday. 

Entrance Fee: Free, yet prices for items vary.

Date of Visit: 2009, 2013, and 2014.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sunday Market

The Sunday Market is an outdoor flea market (or car boot sale) that's located along the seafront in the city of Limassol, which is within the Limassol district of Cyprus.

There are a variety of products for sale, both new and used items at the Limassol Sunday Market, and it's worth exploring.

Site: Limassol Sunday Market. 

Category: Shopping. 

Location: Near Saint Catherine's Church in the city of Limassol, within the Limassol district of Cyprus. 

Phone Number: N/A. 

Operating Hours: 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Sunday, during winter months.  7:00 AM to 7:00 PM on Sunday, during summer months. 

Entrance Fee: Free.  Prices for items vary.

Date of Visit: 2009-2013.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Greek Independence Day

Greek Independence Day (also known as Greek National Day) is a public holiday in Cyprus that's celebrated on March 25.  Even though Cyprus is a separate country from Greece, Cyprus still honors and celebrates this that that commemorates the start of the 1821 Greek War of Independence.

According to history, Greece was under Ottoman Turkish rule from 1453.  On March 25, 1821, at the Agia Lavras Monastery, Bishop Germanos of Patras raised the Greek flag and declared that the Greeks would fight for their freedom and independence.  On June 9, 1821, three ships sailed from Cyprus (which was also under the Ottoman Turkish rule at the time) to assist the Greeks with fighting for their independence.  Over 1,000 Cypriots fought in the Greek War of Independence, and many of these Cypriots were killed in battle.
With early success, the Greeks captured Athens in June 1822.  However, by 1827, Athens and most of the Greek islands had been recaptured by the Ottoman Turks.  Towards the end of this long war, Greece was granted assistance from other countries.  In 1829, an international treaty declared central Greece as independent.  However, the war continued until all of mainland Greece and the Greek islands were solely under Greek rule.

After years of fighting, Greece was fully recognized as an independent country on July 21, 1832.  Since Cyprus was a separate country from Greece, the Cypriot island remained in the Ottoman Empire until 1878, when the island was given to Great Britain.  Eventually, Cyprus gained its independence in 1960.

Also, March 25 is considered a holy day for the Greek Orthodox Church, which is the main religion in Cyprus.  According to the Greek Orthodox calendar, it's Annunciation Day, when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she was pregnant and would give birth to Jesus, the Son of God. 

Luke 1:26-38 (NIV) states:
"In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, as descendant of David.  The virgin's name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, 'Greetings, you who are highly favored!  The Lord is with you.'  Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, his kingdom will never end.'  'How will this be,' Mary asked the angel, 'since I am a virgin?'  The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.  Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month.  For nothing is impossible with God.'  'I am the Lord's servant,' Mary answered.  'May it be to me as you have said.'  Then the angel left her."
In honor of Greek Independence Day, it's tradition in Cyprus for school groups and marching bands to parade through the streets.

To view a list of the 2014 public holidays in Cyprus, please click HERE As the year progresses, plan to visit this blog to view updates and descriptions of the various Cypriot holidays.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Kourion Archaeological Site

Kourion Archaeological Site is located near Episkopi Village, about 19 km west of the city of Limassol, within the Limassol district of Cyprus.  It's considered one of the most impressive archaeological sites on the island.

Kourion, also known as Curium, was once an important city-kingdom in Cyprus.  According to tradition, it was originally founded by Argives, and it survived through the Hellenistic, Roman, and Christian periods.  Kourion was destroyed in the 4th century, due to a series of massive earthquakes.

While the ancient city of Kourion is quite vast, the Kourion Archaeological Site only includes several of city's highlights, such as the House of Eustolios, Ancient Theater, Earthquake House, Agora, Early Christian Basilica, Public Baths and Nymphaeum, Early Christian House, House of the Gladiators, and House of Achilles.

To access the sites, drive to the first little building at the archaeological site to pay, and then continue driving up to the top parking lot.  Walking through the visitor’s center leads to the House of Eustolios.

The House of Eustolios contains complex baths and mosaic floors from the 5th century.  This building was initially a private Roman residence, and then later used as a public recreation center during the Early Christian period.

 According to a sign at the site, "This building, excavated around 1938, was originally thought to be a palace....  It follows the usual Roman peristyle type of private house architecture."

The mosaic inscriptions indicate that the owner, Eustolios, was a Christian.  One mosaic inscription translates to: “In place of big stones and solid iron, gleaning bronze and even adamant, this house is gift with the much-venerated signs of Christ.”  Another mosaic inscription translates to: “Eustoloios, having seen that Kourians, though previously very wealthy, were in abject misery, did not forget the city of his ancestors but first having presented the baths to our city, he was then taking care of Kourion as once did Phoebus [Apollo] and built this cool refuge sheltered from the wind.”

According to another sign at the site, "The public use of the building and its connection with Christian worship is demonstrated in this inscription in the southeastern corner of the peristyle according to which Eustolios is giving strength to the structure through Christian symbols rather than by large stones, iron, copper or diamonds.  Other rooms to the east and south have simple limestone paved floors which have been destroyed by surface erosion.  These were perhaps areas for private use and housing for poorer citizens."

The House of Eustolios is located at the southeast end of the Kourion Archaeological Site, and it’s situated under a covered structure.

The Ancient Theater is located next to the House of Eustolios.  Even though the ancient Hellenistic Theater was originally built in the 2nd century BC, the current structure dates back to the Roman period with 2nd and 3rd century additions and restorations.  In the 3rd century, it was modified, by removing the first three rows of seats, to accommodate gladiatorial contests.  Within the same century, it was restored to its original use.

In the 4th century, the Theater was destroyed, due to massive earthquakes.  Before its destruction, the theater seated 3,000 spectators.  It was once a full-height auditorium that was enclosed, but today, only the foundation remains, which has been restored.  According to a sign at the site, "The theater as we see it today is the result of reconstruction work by the well-known Greek architect Antonis Travlos, an expert in restoration, in the middle of the last century."

Today, this ancient open-air amphitheater is utilized for musical and theatrical performances, such as Shakespeare at Kourion.


Shortly after leaving the Ancient Theater, there is a small path to the left, which leads to a private house, called the Earthquake House (also known as the Roman Private House or Earthquake Stricken House). 

It was constructed in the 1st or 2nd century and remodeled in the 4th century, before being demolished by a massive earthquake on July 21, 365 AD.

 During the excavation, a small ring with the Monogram of Christ inscribed on it was found, which indicated that this was the home of a Christian family or at least Christians were visited this home at the time of the earthquake.  The ruins of the Earthquake Stricken House reveal life in Kourion at the time of this destructive earthquake. 

The items found during excavation are displayed at the Kourion Archaeological Museum in Episkopi Village, and this museum will be featured in another blog post.

After returning to the main path, there is a little covered gazebo on a hill, which provides nice views of the archaeological site, as well as a resting spot, if necessary.

Past the gazebo, the Agora (or the marketplace) ruins are located straight ahead.  In its present condition, the Agora consists of a series of public building that were built in the 3rd century, during the Roman period.  There are also structural additions from the Early Christian period.

However, the Roman Agora was initially built on ruins from the Hellenistic period, which are considered to be the most ancient monument found in Kourion.  These ruins consist of the foundation of one outer wall and several small inner walls.  Porticoes with marble columns, from the 2nd century, line the Agora on both sides.

To the south of the Agora, there are the ruins of the Early Christian Basilica, which was most likely the Kourion Cathedral.   Within the Kourion area, there are three main basilica ruins, but only one is located within the Kourion Archaeological Site.  The other two basilicas are located next to the Kourion Stadium and along the Ayios Ermogenis beach.

Built on the ruins of Roman edifices, the Early Christian Basilica dates back to the 5th century, and it was altered in the 6th century.  It was destroyed during one of the Arab raids, around 654 A.D.  During the  7th century, the Early Christian Basilica was rebuilt and then abandoned in the 8th century.

The ruins indicate it was once a three-aisled basilica with a baptistery and bishop’s house.  It is considered to be one of the most important early Christian monuments in Cyprus.

Northwest of the Agora, there are ruins of the Public Baths and a Nymphaeum, which was a sacred place dedicated to water nymphs.  The Roman Nymphaeum was built in the 1st century and then destroyed in the 7th century, possibly during Arab raids.

According to a sign at the site, "The Nymphaeum of Kourion, the sacred place devoted to the nymphs, minor divinities--protectors of springs and waters--is a huge building measuring 45m in length and 15m in width.  It...separates the large complex of the public baths of Kourion in two units."

According to another sign at the site, "The original phase of the northwestern unit of the Public Baths of Kourion, dating to ca 50 BC to 100 AD, comprises the remains of a cold (frigidarium), warm (tepidarium) and a hot (caldarium) chambers....  To the second and third phase of this until (ca 100-365 AD) belong the remains of one simple and two apsidal rectangular Thermae (steam baths) with a complete hypocaust working system."

After visiting the Public Baths and Nymphaeum, the path leads to the ruins of the Early Christian House.  Dating back to the Roman period, these ruins include mosaics and columns, as well as a triclinium, which is a formal dining room in a Roman building.

Located between the Early Christian House and the House of Achilles, the House of Gladiators consists primarily of mosaic floors.  Built in the 3rd century, this private Roman house has a central courtyard and rooms on every side.  The ruins depict various mosaics, including a gladiatorial combat scene, which is quite rare in Cyprus.

According to a sign at the site, "The luxurious private house or alternatively a small public training ground (Palaestra) is...named after the subject matter represented on its mosaic floor.  According to the excavators it was constructed in the second half of the 3rd century, an era when the mosaic floor enjoyed considerable popularity."

The House of Gladiators, particularly the southern part of the building, was destroyed in the 4th century, due to earthquakes.  Today, it is under a covered structure with a row of benches that provide another resting spot, if needed.

The House of Achilles is located at the end of the path, on the northwestern edge of the hill that faces the road the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates.  Due to its location near the Kourion city entrance, this 4th century building was possibly used to greet officials or important guests.  Only part of the original building is viewable today. 

According to a sign at the site, "It was constructed during the early 4th century AD, at a period of artistic revival as regards the mosaic floors, with themes taken from pagan tradition.  This trend appears shortly after the religious tolerance decree, a vigorous renouncement of paganism in favor of the expanding Christianity."

There are several floors with mosaics, including one depicting the legendary Greek hero, Achilles.  According to another sign at the site, "The central scene portrays Achilles meeting with Odysseus in Lykomedes house where Achilles, disguised as a girl, was sent by his mother to avoid his participation in the Trojan War.  A scene depicting the goddess Thetis' mother of Achilles giving him his first bath, dating to the 5th century AD, also survives."

Since the House of Achilles is the last place to visit at this archaeological site, the path ends.  After turning around, the same path will lead back to the House of Eustolios.

The Kourion Archaeological Site is located on the top of a cliff, and it overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and Curium Beach, so the views can be spectacular, weather-permitting.  It's one of the major archaeological sites in Cyprus and definitely worth exploring by both locals and tourists.

Site: Kourion Archaeological Site. 

Category: Archaeological Site. 

Location: Near Episkopi Village, within the Limassol district of Cyprus. 

Phone Number: 25934250. 

Operating Hours: 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM on Monday to Sunday, during winter months.  8:30 AM to 7:30 PM on Monday to Sunday, during summer months.. 

Entrance Fee: €4,50. 

Date of Visit: 2010 and 2011.