Really ancient history

25 November 2016

Once Commando was back safe from his epic run up the mountain we collected his bag from beneath the row of bronze busts on plinths, a memorial to the men who died in the EOKA struggle for unity with Greece in the 1950’s. Then I finally got my ice cream. The pleasure was short lived though. The first coach back to Coral Bay was preparing to leave and Commando was eager to get his tired legs onto a sunbed as soon as possible. With no food allowed on the coach, most of my ice cream ended up in the bin. 

Back at the hotel, after a shower and a leg massage, we headed for the sunbeds beside the pool. All my worrying about Commando running up a mountain had been in vain but not unwarranted. He’d come through the ordeal unscathed but, when we met up with Sue and Eddie, we learned everyone had not been as fortunate. A few runners had taken tumbles on the challenging course, including Sue. Thankfully no one was badly hurt. Poor Sue had fallen in the first few kilometres but had picked herself up and carried on, bloody but undaunted. She was sporting a large bandage on her knee but was adamant she would be running the half marathon in the morning.

Soon after Eddie and Sue left us Commando was snoozing in the sun. Sitting beside him reading, I quickly became restless. On our walks back and forth along Coral Bay Avenue for our evening meals I’d spotted an interesting sign for Maa-Paliokastro, the Mycenaean Settlement of Cyprus Museum. From what I’d read there wasn’t a great deal to see but it was very close to our hotel so I thought I’d take a wander. If nothing else it would make up for hours sitting on a coach and give me a little exercise. Besides, even a little scrap of history is worth a walk.

At the end of the beach promenade, where yesterday’s race began, I’d seen some steps winding up the hillside. I had an idea they might take me onto the road towards the museum without the need to go onto the main road. Even if they turned out to be a dead end they seemed worth exploring so I set off in that direction.

It was a steep but pretty climb, lined with flowers I didn’t recognise, and I came out on a grassy area overlooking the bay. There was a large white gazebo and a path of sorts but I wasn’t sure if this was part of our hotel or not so I passed it by and headed out of a gate onto a shady lane that seemed to be going towards the museum. Perhaps there were signs out on the road but my detour meant I hadn’t seen them and I wasn’t entirely sure if I was going the right way or trespassing on someone’s driveway. Apart from a black cat walking towards me there was no one about though so I kept walking.

Near the end of the lane I stopped to admire the bourganvilleia scrambling over  the wire fence. There was a stunning view here across the bay. Even if I’d taken the wrong path the turquoise water and the sandy beach below seemed worth the climb. A few steps further and I came to the gate to the museum. There was a small modern building of stone pillars with a white painted flat roof. Signs told me this was where I was supposed to pay to enter but it was completely deserted. This left me in a quandary. Did I go through the open gate without paying, wait around in the hope that whoever was supposed to take my money appeared, or turn back?

In the end I decided to go through the gate. If I was challenged later I’d offer to pay whatever the entrance fee was. Hopefully I’d be able to make myself understood and wouldn’t end up getting arrested for trespassing. Almost at once I was passing through a far more ancient gateway in what must once have been a high stone wall fortifying the Bronze Age settlement. Now the stones were barely waist high, worn and ragged like a row of rotting teeth. In fact, closer inspection showed large cavities, worn by centuries of the rain that is so scarce here. They reminded me of the volcanic rock and lava bubbles of Lanzarote.

Ahead there was a low round building with a domed copper roof. This was almost certainly the museum. Rather than head towards it, I followed a rough trail across the centre of the peninsular. If I was going to get thrown out for not having a ticket I wanted to explore as much as I could first. Before long I came to the ruins of buildings, oblongs of low stone walls that must once have been rooms or perhaps individual houses. With so little left it was hard to imagine what they might once have been. Perhaps if there’d been someone at the gate I’d have got a leaflet telling me, as it was,  I had to let my imagination do the work.

From Google I knew this area was first excavated in 1952 and again between 1979 and 1985 and was where Aegean refugees settled in around 1200 BC. Excavations also discovered signs of older houses formed from cavities in the rocks dating from the Early Chalcolithic period but I saw no signs of these. Apparently, archaeologists found evidence that some of the buildings I saw were used for cooking and eating, others for industry, making pots and working metal. Sadly, without their expertise, I couldn’t quite imagine what the village must have looked like but it was interesting to think of the people who lived there so very long ago, the first Greeks in Cyprus.

As I wandered amongst the ruins I came across lots of little piles of sea shells dotted about on the ground. It seemed odd to find them so high on the cliff where the sea would never reach and I wondered if they were somehow connected with the ancient settlement? It seemed impossible that fragile shells would have lasted such a long time though, as no one has lived here since 1150 BC.

Puzzling over the mystery of the shells I walked on, heading towards the end of the peninsular on a rocky trail of sorts. It was hard to tell whether the rocks I passed were a natural part of the landscape or parts of the ancient village. According to my reading, the fortification walls ran right around the settlement including the seaward edge of the pensular so it was possible some of the larger stones were the remains of this.

The path, such as it was, wound around the outside of the peninsular and soon I was looking at the bay towards the south of our hotel. The sky over the mountains was impossibly blue with one, tiny white speck of a cloud. A small boat was slowly moving away from the beach, it looked like a pleasure boat of some kind, probably full of tourists. A little way ahead I saw what looked like a small cairn on the rocks at the cliff edge.

When I reached it there turned out to be two small cairns made from the Swiss cheese rocks piled one upon another. Wondering who built them I stooped to take a photo and, as I did, noticed yet another cairn a little further on right on the edge of the cliff. Why they were there and what they meant I couldn’t tell.

It might have been possible to walk right around the peninsula back to the gate but I wanted to visit the domed building before I left so I made the cairns my turning point. Now I was walking along the cliff edge northwards, towards our hotel. Below the cliffs the sea was pounding against the rocky shore and, apart from large mounds of spiny shrubs, the landscape was dry and barren dotted with rocks large and small.

Inhospitable as it seemed, I stumbled upon a few small clumps of yellow flowers dotted here and there. They looked like hawkweed and I couldn’t help wondering how they survived on dusty rock with so little moisture.

Pretty soon I could see the domed roof of the museum building ahead. It seemed to be designed to be camouflaged by the mounds of green spiny shrubs and would have been easy to miss if I hadn’t known it was there.

When I finally reached it, I discovered it was actually sunken into the rock. Stone steps led down to a strange curved copper door that seemed to pivot on a central hinge. If it had been closed it would have followed the contours of the circular walls. The whole effect was something between a spaceship and a hobbit house.

Feeling slightly nervous, I slowly descended, sure there would be someone inside who’d want to see the ticket I didn’t have. As it was I needn’t  have worried. The building was empty. Opposite the entrance was a mirroring opening. At first I thought it was another door but it turned out to be a window

The curved walls were lined with large information boards showung things that had been found on the site, there were some round, glass topped tables and a circular copper disc in the centre of the room. Other than that there was nothing at all.

The museum was designed by Italian architect Andrea Bruno to blend with the surrounding environment and it’s certainly beautiful. Even so, I had expected exhibits of some kind. Of course, as I hadn’t actually paid for my visit I could hardly complain.

With little to see other than the building itself and a niggling worry that someone was going to tell me off for being there, I didn’t stay long and was soon back out in the sun again. As I walked back towards the gate a man was circling the sea on a jet ski.  Somewhere amomgst the row of sunbeds in front of our hotel, Commando was snoozing. The little office was still deserted as I passed and I was soon heading back down the steps to the beach.

The sun was geating low in the sky by the time I got back to Commando and he was beginning to feel a little hungry after his morning exertions. On the way back to our room I stooped to pick up some flowers fallen from one of the shrubs in the hotel garden. I had no idea what they were but they smelled lovely so I took them back to our room.

By the time we’d got changed, ready for our walk up the hill to the Coral King for dinner, the sun was setting. On the horizon a large ship appeared to be sailing on the edge of the world. Before we left we sat for a while watching as the orange globe of sun gently sank beneath the waves. One of the best things about holidays is having time to watch the sunset.

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Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

4 thoughts on “Really ancient history”

  1. I hope your husband didn’t get burned to a crisp with all that napping in the sun!
    Strange that there wasn’t someone at the museum. That building is great and the history of the place is mind boggling.
    The views and the flowers were beautiful. The last bouquet especially so, but I have no idea what they are.

    1. Commando was liberally slathered in sun tan lotion and so was I. He is lucky as he goes brown, being blonde, I don’t really and I burn if I’m not careful. I wonder if there are only people selling tickets at the museum in summer. In November there aren’t very many tourists so it is probably not worth them paying someone to sit there. It was wonderful to wander around such an ancient site, even if I didn’t really know what I was looking at half the time. The same with the flowers, I had no idea what most of them were but they were lovely and the ones I picked up in the hotel grounds smelled beautiful.

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