CYPRUS: The Southeast
We flew in and out of Cyprus by means of the airport in Larnaca, and stayed on the outskirts of the city for three nights.
We had a great apartment with a balcony overlooking a small fishing harbor and a beach, with incredible sunrises.
Across the street from the apartment was this restaurant. We
had a great meal there,
and the owner/waiter and his sister/kitchen manager both took time to talk with us,
have a drink with us, give us more wine on the house, free desserts, and more!
We enjoyed it so much that we stopped there again before flying out.
At the heart of the old town of Larnaca is the church of Agios
Lazaros (Saint Lazarus), built in the tenth century.
The earliest Christian community on Cyprus is said to have been founded in Larnaca by Lazarus, the man
whom Jesus is supposed to have raised from the dead. His tomb is said to be in the crypt of this church.
The city also has a Muslim past. A few blocks from the church
is the Büyük Cami Mosque, once the center of the city's Turkish population,
before the civil war of 1974, when the Turks were forced out of the areas of Cyprus where Greeks were in the majority and Greeks were
forced out of the areas where Turks were in the majority. The mosque was originally built as a Christian monastery before the Ottoman era.
Nearer to our apartment was another mosque, called the Hala
Sultan Tekke (Shrine of Umm Haram).
It was built in 1816 to honor an aunt of Muhammad, named Umm Haram, who is said to have died on the spot.
Larnaca's old town is busy with people and cars, but there were
a few quiet areas,
like this narrow street that had been turned into a colorful outdoor cafe.
Larnaca has a good archeological museum, showcasing the ancient
history of Cyprus, with its multiple layers of settlements,
including Phoenicians, Mycenaean Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, French Crusaders, Venetians, and Turks.
Across from the museum was this medieval monastery, now a school.
Along the seaside is a fort built by the Ottoman Turks in about 1625.
Within the fort are the tombstones from the former Muslim cemetery.
The fort affords views up and down the coast, and along the seaside promenade that stretches much the length of Larnaca.
A few buildings survive from the British colonial era (Cyprus was a British colony from 1878 to 1960).
An old art deco movie theater also offers a glimpse at Larnaca's past.
We took a Sunday drive east along the coast from Larnaca to Agia Napa, home to a shrine of the Virgin Mary, built in about 1100.
The monastery is now surrounded by nightclubs and restaurants,
since the town has become a popular destination for young tourists.
Its success (if you can call it that) is due in large part to the nearby white sand beach and shallow turquoise bay.
We thought it would be quiet on a Sunday, but a triathlon was taking place that day and the whole town was packed.
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