sloths go west

Thursday, 22 November 2018

copper island

I think we cycle about three hundred metres from the airport terminal before we stop by some large bushes.  How about here?  We're still in the airport grounds.  Waiting for a couple of buses to pass and a taxi.  Crashing through the knee-high hedge out of the street light and into the darkness.  Invisible to passing vehicles.  We put the tent up and go to sleep.

Riding into Paphos town the next morning we stop at a cafe in a village.  A double espresso and a cup of mountain tea. Is that sage?  We look at the shops across the road.  A swish new hairdresser and an old-fashioned barbershop next door.  As we watch, the old barber appears, hangs a sign on his door, locks up and walks off.  The local church is a sunken byzantine affair in the main plaza.  All around is modern landscaping.  The sandstone blocks of the church are honeycombed fromage. Honeycombed cheese?  No, honeycombed from age.
Our airbnb appartment isn't available until 2pm so we ride into the old town of upper Paphos and park at the parador - a promenade at the top of a cliff - looking over the lower town where the tourist hotels are.   As we watch, a steady stream of Europeans emerge from the steep road up to the parador and head over to the covered souvenir market.  Fat men gather at a cafe in their Newcastle United Away Kit - no shirts - all pot-faced and red-bellied - supping beer and lording over the view.  Two taxi drivers try to tempt tourists into their cars.  One of them greets an English couple by name.  They've been shopping.  They chat to the two drivers.  "It's not like the high streets in England" she says, "it's all changed nowadays."  The taxi drivers nod knowingly.  "The blacks" one of them says.  She doesn't blink or skip a beat. "The internet.  Everyone buys everything on the internet".  The taxi drivers nod knowingly. 

The old town feels empty of people, of life, of commerce.  There are streets of closed up and dusty shops.  Rusting locks on supermarket doors.  Sun-bleached signs.  Empty rooms peer out through dirty windows.  Then we find the tourist pedestrianised streets with new shops and seats and newly planted tree-saplings.  It still looks empty.  Low-season.

In the lower town, down by the harbour are the ruins of several Roman villas excavated from a plateau.   Outlines of walls and rooms with large swathes of mosaic floors.  Along the shore are the Tombs of the Kings - a series of cave complexes built as a necropolis and later used for accomodation. 

Paphos was recently a European Capital of Culture.  The workmen are still finishing off the 'beautification' of the town.  New plazas, tidy public spaces.  A restored minaret on an abandoned mosque in the old town.  Further up the hill is the real town where most of the locals live.  We find a Lidl (European Capital of Supermarkets) and overfill our panniers, ready for the mountains.