To the Mountains … the Trodoos Mountains.

Vineyards in the Troodos Mountains

So I met Lenia and Panicos at 8:30 for our looooong trip to the villages in the Trodoos Mountains.  Our drive initially took us along the coast where we turned north at the village of Pissouri and then began our ascent into the mountains.  Along the way we passed olive trees and vineyards with those cute little grape bushes and the occasional traditional vines, along with a handful of wineries.

Ancient olive tree of Avdimoou

About an hour into the trip we entered the village of Avdimou, which used to be occupied by Turkish Cypriots until the 1974 Turkish invasion when the residents fled to the occupied north.  The big attraction here the “ancient olive tree of Avdimou” which is estimated to be 700 years old.  It was absolutely enormous.  And even more interesting, the old girl was still bearing fruit with the occasional olive cluster dangling from its branches.  Amazing.

Old clay pots used to store wine and olive oil

After the quick stop, we continued north and came across a sad scene on the side of the road: large ceramic pots previously used to store wine that were no longer in use.  The pots had been turned upside down so as not to collect rain water, but as near as we could tell, their useful life had ended.  Sad as it seemed to me some were still in useable condition.

Anyway,  as moved higher into the mountains the scenery began to change from dry, arid land to a region dotted with pine trees hugging the side of the road and little villages which are filled with Cypriots during the summer trying to escape the oppressive heat and humidity of the coastal regions.  There were modest rental homes along with gorgeous cliff hanging villas.  Something for everyone I guess.

By 10:00, we had pulled over in a little rest area for quick break from the long drive.  I took advantage of the stop to wander around a couple little shops selling sweets (“Cypriot Delight”, which is the same as Turkish Delight, but I was not going to say that to Lenia) and honey covered nuts.  Lenia advised me to wait to buy the sweets from the village of Omodos, which we would be visiting later in the day so I took her advice and ended up just sampling A LOT of Cypriot Delight.

View from our coffee stop.

After the tastings, I wandered and then crossed the road to take a quick walk down a mountain path to get a better view of the mountains and gorgeous valley below.  It was amazing to me that in the span of a half hour the scenery could be so different.

Anyway, after the quick break, we were back on the road continuing to wind our way through the mountains past a trout farm and more villages before reaching our first destination, the village of Kakopetria.  Now the original idea was to visit a couple of UNESCO churches in the town, which contain frescoes, but apparently no one told my tour company that the frescoe churches in Kakopetria are closed on Mondays.  Ugh.  So the trip ended up being a walking tour of an incredibly quaint, ancient village dating to the 6th century AD.

Ally in Kakopetria

As we entered the village, Panicos dropped Lenia and I off on a narrow street high above the commercial district and from here we walked the narrow little streets so I could get a look at a traditional Trodoos Mountain village.  And as it turned out, I absolutely loved the village even without stops in the churches.  The village was absolutely beautiful.

Gardens in Kakopetria
Ancient wine pots in Kakopetria

Now walking the streets was a test in balance as the little cobblestone streets were uneven and incredibly narrow.  But the really challenge while we walked was not to be distracted by the quaint stone houses dating back centuries, which bordered the little streets and alleys.  The houses were gorgeous with every house, and I mean every house, having incredible gardens and fruit trees surrounding the residences.  Many homes had ancient ceramic pots abutting the entrance to the homes and we even saw old ceramic carafes used to store wine.

Street in Kakopetria

And cats … they were everywhere.  Mamas and babies in every colour imaginable.  (In fact, Cyprus is a cat haven.  Every restaurant I have been to allows cats to wander around the restaurant.  And the cats are surprisingly well behaved never jumping on the table or approaching customers.  The cats sit patiently on the floor waiting for a small scrap to fall off a fork or for a generous customer to toss a piece of food their way.)

Church in Kakopetria

As Lenia and I wandered down the hill towards the business district, we made a quick stop in the local church (not one that contained frescos and was closed on Mondays) where we met an elderly woman who watched over the church and adjacent museum.  The woman used a walker and I found out she was in her late 90s.  As we walked into the entrance, she grabbed my hand and said “Yah su” which is a Greek greeting.  Fortunately, I have been able to pick up that word so responded in kind as she provided us with access to the church.

Lenia and I took a quick peek in the church before going to the adjacent museum which featured an old wine press and a history of grape growing and wine making in the region.

Lizard in Kakopetria
Stone of the couple in Kakopetria

We then moved on down the hill past a lizard hanging out in the sun to the “Stone of the Couple”, a giant stone said to have crushed a newlywed couple.  To this day, newlyweds pay homage to the stone on their wedding day.

Once we reached the bottom of the hill we took a quick look at the river that runs through the town (as well as some ducks cooling off in the water) before Panicos picked us up for our onward trip to Asinou, near the demarcation line between Cyprus and the Turkish occupied regions.  We were going to see Holy Church of Panagia of Asinou, which has the best frescoes of the ten UNESCO heritage designated churches.

As we left Kakopetria, Lenia had Panicos drive down a little side road to see if the Church of the Virgin Mary (one of the frescoed churches) happened to be open.  Unfortunately it was not, so Lenia called the proprietor … no answer.

So we gave up on that church and headed north to Asinou.  The drive took us out of the forested area and down the mountainside to a very arid region with scrubby bushes and lots of military outposts.  We ended up taking a shortcut through some small villages (we had less than an hour to reach the church before it closed for the day) before once again passing through a forested area to reach Asinou.

Holy Church of Panagia of Asinou
Nave Holy Church of Panagia of Asinou

Now the little church was really tiny (much like the Church of the Virgin Mary we saw in Kakopetria).  Before we entered, I donned a long skirt (rules for attire are strictly enforced).  The church consisted of two parts the nave (main part of the church), which was constructed in 1099 and was used as a monastery church until it was abandoned in the 18th century, and the narthex which was added in the second half of the 12th century.

As we walked around, Lenia provided commentary on all of the gorgeous, incredibly well preserved frescoes.  The majority of the painting told the story of Christ with the occasional portrait of a king and queen thrown in.

Fresco from 1105-1106 AD
14th and 15th century frescos

The original frescoes dated to 1105 and 1106 AD with additional frescoes added from the 14th to the 17th centuries.  And I must say, of all the frescoes I have seen, including those in Armenia and Georgia, these frescoes were incredibly well preserved.

So after the church visit, we reversed course and drove back along the same route we had just come before turning off just past Kakopetria where we meandered along a very narrow, windy road to the little village of Omodos, well known for its sweets, bread and artisans.

Main Street in Omodos
Grapes hanging from a tree in Omodos
Special “crispy” bread in Omodos
Ancient wine press in Omodos
Proprietor of art gallery showing how to crochet

Panicos dropped us off on the main little cobblestone street and we walked the block or so to a little square filled with tavernas.  Now, at this point, it was close to 2:00 and we were all starving so we picked a little taverna and had some lunch.  But even before we could order, lunch was interrupted by a funeral procession.  Now this village only has 300 residents so what are the odds?  In fact, Lenia told me this was only the second funeral procession she had seen in Omodos in her many years as a tour guide.

Anyway, we watched the Hearst pass along with the funeral procession of family mourners walking behind the car.  It only took a couple minutes to pass and once it did, we were able to order lunch.  I opted for the grilled halloumi cheese with tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce since it was a local specialty.  Unfortunately, I found the halloumi cheese far too salty (not good for this one kidney transplant kid) although lemon squeezed on the cheese did cut down on the salty taste.

After lunch, Lenia and I walked around the little town, visited the local bakery, which specializes in making bread from chick pea foam (delicious) and sweets from nuts and honey (spectacular).  We then wandered through some local artisan shops, met a proprietor who is the youngest person in the village maintaining an ancient crochet technique (which she learned from her grandmother) and wrapped it up by passing by the church where the funeral service was just concluding.

We then walked down the hill to the car only to run into the Hearst heading to the graveyard.  We called Panicos who drove down a side street, picked us up and then reversed course back up the hill and finally out of the village.  It was questionable whether we were ever going to get away from that funeral.

Road literally cut through the rocks

Anyway, we began the long drive back to Paphos taking a different route that still took us through the pine forests and through vineyards past huge rock formations (including one that had been cut in half to make way for the road) before descending towards the coast.

Second largest dam in Cyprus

We made one last stop at the second largest dam in Cyprus (which I could see from the road on Saturday) before making our way onto the expressway and back to Paphos.  It had been a loooong day and as crazy as this may sound, I was going to do it again tomorrow.  I had signed up for a Halloumi cheese making and food tour and it will take me … you guessed it … to the Trodoos Mountains.  Oh well.  Not much walking tomorrow.  Mostly eating, which works just fine for me.

Author: lawyerchick92

I am a lawyer by trade, but long to be a full time traveller. My life changed for the better when my brother donated a kidney to me on October 14, 2002.

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