Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Cyprus, October 2010

Sign in a shop window. Think Turkish Delights but slightly less tasty.

One of the first things I notice about Cyprus (after the heat and magnificent landscape) is how sparsely populated it is. Nothing is walking distance. Even the local corner shop is a short car journey away. I find that often, the key to conquering a foreign city is to master it's public transport system - usually the underground/metro/subway - thus giving you a much wider range of exploration. Yet as Cyprus is relatively small, there is no underground, or even overground. The privately run bus services are extremely poor, and the taxis prohibitively expensive. I'm not sure if this is cause or effect, but Cyprus has one of the highest vehicle ownerships per capita in the world - 742 cars per 1,000 people. (Though figures vary, even the same Wikipedia page contradicts itself)

Whenever I visit a new place I try to avoid the classic tourist destinations and clich├ęd photos of famous landmarks, instead attempting to see through the eyes of a local, exploring alleyways and back-streets. The downtown area of Limassol is currently undergoing an 18 million renovation project including "...restoration of underground utilities, construction of rainwater drainage system, reconstruct sidewalks, paving roads and strengthening of road lighting." In it's present state, there are still a large number of derelict and/or abandoned buildings, offering plenty of opportunity for one of my favourite photographic subjects.

A pair of squashes hanging up round the back of a local bar.

The sign translates as "Hot from the oven!"

I considered writing a brief history of Cyprus, but it's a little beyond the scope of this blog. If you're interested, there's a good summary here, that may help explain the above statement.

I'm not sure if they were closed for lunch, for the renovation or simply abandoned, but the following two photos are probably my favourite from the trip. They were both taken through the windows of shops in downtown Limassol.

Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor...

It was only after I shot this that I realised it was an ammunition store.


The mythical birthplace of Aphrodite (Greek goddess of love) is just down the road from Pafos, now the spiritual home of thousands of pasty/pink English ex-pats and tourists (British gods of booze and sunburn). The seafront is littered with English bars and restaurants, and there's even a Pizza Express. Luckily, we only spent a couple of hours here before heading to a sleepy mountain village for the night.

Pafos, as seen from an otherwise pretty dull bottomless boat tour.

This is a regular sight in Cyprus. They're playing a fast-paced Greek version of backgammon called 'Tavli'

Centuries of deforestation and ever decreasing rainfall (around 480mm a year - compared to around 830mm in England) has led to severe water shortages, leaving much of the landscape extremely arid and barren. (There are parts that would make an epic background for some kind of dystopian post-apocalyptic film) On the way back from the village near Pafos, we stumbled across a deserted hotel complex called "Land of the Kings" surrounding a dried up old swimming pool:

A slightly redundant 'NO DIVING' sign
Flea market in Fassouri

Taken on my last day in Cyprus, overlooking Limassol from a pile of rocks on the marina.

I fear I may have painted an unfairly bleak picture of Cyprus. Though man's impact on the environment seems particularly prominent here, it is still a very beautiful country, especially in the mountains. I would highly recommend a visit, though suggest you hire a car!