Saturday, November 6, 2010


From Return to Lapithos

When you travel by bicycle there is a drive to keep traveling. You’re defined by your exploration on two wheels. Finding new places, new paths and campsites is part of the excitement. Joining up those uncertain dots by bike is the adventure. It is quite a luxury to come back to a place we know. To recognize the turns, the people and the final resting place is a comfort. This is not strictly the adventure, but its effect on us is strengthened by all the dots we join to get there.

Upon farewelling Lapithos for the Greek side, I didn’t plan on seeing it again and I definitely didn’t think we would be riding so eagerly towards the same hotel. After crossing the dry tail of the Pentadaktylos range, 10 days after we left, we dropped into the lush north-west edge of Cyprus. Rows of lemon trees and olive groves began lining the road. The eyesore of villas and casinos were far off in the east. After three nights in the tent we were looking forward to a shower and a bed and it was nice knowing exactly where one was. As we returned to the foothills I could see with a bit more clarity that Lapithos is actually quite a pretty place.

The ground has always been good to the locals. The Kefalovryso headspring ensures a rich water supply and owing to this, Lapithos has been able to become renowned for its fruits and flowers. At one stage, it was home to Cyprus’ largest source of lemons and had a local variety Lemonia Lapithiotiki. It even has a native orchid, Melissoula, meaning small bee. Unfortunately the buzz evaded us.

In Nicosia, we met Dr Ari Lapithis, my grandma’s first cousin. He grew up alongside my grandma in Lapithos. After settling in Nicosia, he and his wife used to take weekend trips back to Lapithos. Dr Lapithis told us that Lapithos means appealing and beautiful. Yet after 1974 partition, this abruptly ended. Now, following the opening of the border they don’t like to go back. It was a similar story, told with a dismissive wave of the hand, amongst several of the older Greek Cypriots we met along our mountainous trek – home was now on the south side.

Lapithos would have been a pleasant place for my grandma to call home. Bounded by jagged peaks on one side and a tepid Mediterranean on the other. Citrus, fig and pomegranants thriving in every backyard. Snaking stone walled streets with flowering overhanging plants. 60 years is not long in the life of this island.

The ancient philosopher ‘Alexander from Ephesus’ called my grandma’s village Imeroessa. It means passion-arousing. I think I’ll tell her that it still is.

Return to Lapithos


Post a Comment