Category Archives: Free and Cheap

Cyprus Beaches

~K~

Being an island in the middle of the Mediterranean, you’d expect Cyprus to have some wonderful beaches, and amazing coastal views – and you’d be right. The island has a wide range of beaches to visit, all with stunning views and great water. While we didn’t get to visit all the locations we would have liked, we still got to see a fair bit, and they all offered something a little different. It was great to finally get to a beach. It was really our first opportunity since we’d left Florida.

So I’m going to go ahead and show off the beaches of Cyprus we visited, in the order that we did.

Pissouri Beach
Pissouri Beach Cyprus

Pissouri Beach was the first of the Cyprus beaches we visited. The homeowners of our house sit were meeting up with friends and they asked us if we’d like to come along. They had decided on Pissouri because of a restaurant they liked as well as the ability to avoid the supposed crowds of Kourion Beach.

The beach here was very rocky, and we would have liked to have had water shoes – the homeowners did. But aside from that, it was really quite nice. Cliffs stood out against the sea as gentle waves came ashore.

Pissouri Beach Cyprus

The water was nice, with only a gentle swell and little to no current. You could easily spend hours floating in the water. It was also nice that once you made it about ten feet out, the large stones and pebbles made way for sand and easier walking.

Alykes Beach (Pafos Waterfront) and Municipal Baths
Pafos Swimming Pen

Alykes “Beach” we visited several times, though never actually got in the water. The first time was on my birthday when we decided to go to Pafos to celebrate. We walked past the beach, and discovered that it’s really hard to call it as such. There is no shore to speak of here, but that doesn’t stop hundreds of tourists and locals from enjoying the water.

Lounges and chairs line the waterfront. Ladders and small platforms allow you to enter the water.

Pafos Swimming Platform

As these are also a municipal baths, you find well equipped changing rooms and bathrooms right next to the water as well. The water seemed to be a little rougher here than at Pissouri, but if one was searching for calmer waters, there were walled off sections that could easily be used for younger kids or lap swimming.

Pafos Waterfront Boardwalk

One thing that is certain though, is that the water is crystal clear.

Kourion Beach
Kourion Beach Overlook

Our visit to Kourion Beach was the wind down to a long day trekking the Kourion ruins on the above cliffside with my parents. The beach was certainly a bit more crowded, but when we went all the way down to the end of the beach, we found some more private areas to swim, and enjoy a meal at a local restaurant (the best squid I’ve ever had).

Kourion Beach, like Pissouri Beach, is primarily smooth pebbles and rocks that gives way to sand once out in the water. Gently sloping, with easy waves, it is an enjoyable beach with great views of the surrounding sea cliffs.

Lady’s Mile Beach
Lady's Mile Beach Cyprus

Lady’s Mile Beach is located very near to the new Limassol Port. The beach, like the previously mentioned, is primarily a pebble beach. The water is very shallow though, so you can easily wade out into the water without it coming up high on you. The water is normally pretty calm here and can offer you a nice relaxing place to watch the local birds and cargo ships come in.

Lady's Mile Beach Cyprus

The road is a little rough though, so if your car is low-riding or not in good shape, you may not want to try this one out. If you have a 4 wheel drive though, you should have no problems at all.

If you drive far enough, you’ll eventually find sandy beach – but we stayed close to the start because of the rough roads.

Lady's Mile Pebbles
Molos (Limassol Waterfront) Beach
Limassol Beach

A few miles further north along the shore from Lady’s Mile is a nice beach called Molos Beach. This beach is a well-manicured park, that stretches for several miles along the Limassol waterfront. Here, a grassy, shady park lines the shore.

The beach itself is a soft sand, and as such attracts many locals and tourists. Most likely, it will be busy.

We didn’t get out into the water because we were visiting a cat cafe at the time, but we could see the the water was protected with stones a few hundred feet out, to make for a nice and calm swimming experience.

Finikoudes (Larnaka Waterfront) Beach
Larnaka Beach Front

The sandy Finikoudes Beach can be found in Larnaka just past the Tomb of St. Lazarus. A picturesque beach, filled with tourists and locals alike, you’ll find that there are many restaurants, cafes, and shops that line the beach.

Larnaka Beachfront

As well, you can visit the Larnaka castle which sits right on the beach.

The water itself is gently sloped and remains shallow for a fair ways out, so you can easily take a stroll in the water without worrying about getting soaked if you don’t want to.

Petra tou Romiou (Aphrodite’s Rock)
Beach Near Aphrodite's Rock

Down the coast about twenty minutes from Pafos, lies the mythical Petra tou Romiou, also known as Aphrodite’s Rock. According to myth, it is the place that the Greek Goddess Aphrodite was born – emerging from the sea foam.

It is said that if you swim around the rock, you will be granted with youth and graceful aging. We decided to not try to test this superstition out however, as the water here was pretty rough, and we didn’t want to get thrashed against the rocks.

Instead we elected to have a picnic on the beach with pita, hummus, yogurt, and wine.

Picnic at Aphrodite's Rock

Getting down to the beach can be a little bit tricky, as the tunnel which takes under the road and onto the beach isn’t obvious at first. It’s located next to the restaurant with the same name.

The beach itself is very much a rocky beach, with stones, pebbles, and boulders primarily being present. Not the greatest place to lay out, but the location is very scenic and quite iconic.

The water here, is far rougher than the other beaches as it sits on a point of land that juts out. Strong currents, cold water, and a steep and almost immediate drop off make this beach not super friendly for young children or weak swimmers. However, it’s awesome for one key feature: the jumping rock.

Just about fifteen feet out into the water sits a pretty large rock mount, and as we witnessed – you can climb it and jump off into the waves. Some of the people were really being risky and making huge dives and just barely skimming the rocks, while others were showing off with flips.

Aphrodite's Rock Guy Jumping

I decided that I wanted to jump too, so I followed someone’s lead on climbing the wet, vertical, and sharp rock. It was a little difficult at first to climb, the rock was very slick and sharp (I actually did cut my hand a little) and was quite literally – vertical. But once about ten feet up, the rock began to slope and it was far easier to climb. It was fun to climb and jump from – I do regret only doing it once.

Kyle Jumping from Aphrodite's Rock

Honorable Mention:

There are many, many more beaches on Cyprus that we simply didn’t make it to for whatever reasons. But you can check out the key beaches that we wish we had made it to here – we really wish we could have made it to Ayia Napa:

Cyprus Island

LoveCyprus2Site

The Tunnels, Book Review

~K~

So a little while ago, we decided to try out this cool thing that Briana found called Blogging For Books. It’s pretty simple, they send you a book for free and then you just have to write a review about it and post it on their site and as a post on your blog.

The first book I chose was “The Tunnels” by Greg Mitchell. I was in no way required to give a good review, simply an honest review. So here we go.

The Tunnels brings to face the harrowing conditions and turmoil that Berlin faced through the height of the cold war. The stories of the individuals, brought to light by the investigative work of Greg Mitchell, highlights the heroics of the ordinary people who braved ever heightening tensions to bring friends, family, and loved ones out of the control of Soviet controlled East Berlin.

The narrative paints a picture of struggle and conflict simmering to a boil. Through the real life accounts of prison, torture, death, and murder – Mitchell keeps the focus squarely on those who orchestrated the tunnel projects under the Berlin Wall and the political developments that brought about the predicament.

The book also serves as an eerily relevant critique of immigration, as a political tool to control and deny people the basic rights of life. In a time when discussion of a new wall being erected sounds out on the news stations, this book serves as a chilling, thrilling, and informative read that stands to not only commemorate those who worked, fought, and died for others, but also as a warning to look at our current day situation.

neolithic settlement at choirokoitia cyprus

Choirokoitia Neolithic Site, Cyprus

~K~

Cyprus is home to several prehistoric sites across the island, with Choirokoitia being one of the largest, and best preserved sites. It also just so happened to be pretty easily accessible. It lies just off the highway about halfway between Limassol and Larnaka and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hill top at Choirokoitia

We made our way out to the site during the time that Briana’s dad was visiting us. Just like our other adventures out to Tomb of the Kings and Kurion, this would also turn into a hike. 

Being the middle of summer, it was really hot out probably somewhere in the mid to upper 90s so we made sure to bring a fair amount of water and we put on a little sunscreen. The site, like much of the island, is very dry, on the verge of being desert.

Cyprus Thistle

Upon arrival, we saw that the site was very well maintained with a visitor entrance, bathrooms, plaques, and some stone pavement. Entrance to the park cost 2.50 Euro per person, so it was not too bad a price.

Entrance
Entry Path

The site lies at one end of a longer hiking trail that will take you to several neolithic sites including the Kalavasos-Tenta (another site you can see off of the highway) and the Byzantine church of the Panagia tou Kambou. However, considering the heat of the day and the fact that the hiking trail was several miles in length, we elected to just see the Choirokoitia site.

This worked out perfectly anyways as we still were able to explore the site itself for around two hours at a leisurely pace. The entire site makes its way around a hill, with several smaller sections to view. Near the entrance, manicured paths take you to various plaques that describe how the aboriginals of Choirokoitia lived on the land as well as about the wildlife, climate, and habitat of the region.

Fig at Choirokoitia
Building at Choirokoitia

There are also several brick and plaster buildings that have been preserved and restored that you can view. These buildings show how family units would have lived, with each building serving as a room, arranged in a circular pattern forming a larger familial structure.

Restored Village
Interior of Restored Village

Moving on from here, the path turns more to a worn dirt trail and makes its way around the bend, overlooking what used to be a river. It could still be river, but it was hard to see if there was any water considering the drought. Regardless, in ancient times, the settlement existed due to it’s location next to the Maroni River.

Hillside

Along this section we found the remains of ancient walls and early settlements. It is believed however, that this particular site was later abandoned in favor of a location further up the hill by a few hundred feet.

Archaeological Trail
Wall at Choirokoitia

When we arrived the larger location we were struck by the enormity of the site. Numerous stone alleyways, rooms, and buildings stood embedded into the hillside. For preservation purposes, we were not allowed to go into the ruins themselves (which were covered by a tarp to protect from the harsh sun), but elevated walkways and ramps provided for ample viewing of the archaeological dig.

Upper Village Choirokoitia

The structure itself feels small due to the fact that the people of Choirokoitia were between 4’11” and 5’3”. The 300 to 600 inhabitants only lived to 35 years on average.

For reasons unknown, the people of Choirokoitia abruptly abandoned the village around 6000 BCE. The region was not inhabited again for another 1500 years. Recent evidence in Limassol has pointed though, to the theory that the people simply moved further west – mostly likely in response to climate pressures. 

Looking at the Restored village

At the top of the village there is a viewing platform that provides for a great view of the surrounding hills and valley.

All in all the site of Choirokoitia is a great place to see. It’s a little off the beaten tourist path that you’ll encounter near Pafos, but it’s no less amazing. If you want to visit, it is open daily from 8.00 – 17.00.

Neolithic Cave at Choirokoitia

late afternoon october Belgrade Serbia Interior gun display of kalemagden fortress belgrade serbia

Kalemagdan Fortress Of Belgrade, Serbia

~K~

After a long walk from our AirBNB, we began our final approach through the well manicured, gently rising park to Kalemagdan Fortress. Sitting atop the ridge at the confluence of the Danube and the Sava river, the fortress has stood as the center of Belgrade since it was constructed by Justinian I in 535. The city had existed though since the 3rd century BCE as Singidunum. The fortress has remained an important icon to the history of Belgrade, standing strong through the mainly invasions and occupations of Serbia.

Kalemagden Statue
Kalemagden Front Gate

Passing through the flowered gardens, vendors with trinkets, and statues and busts of famous figures, the crisp wind of fall swept through the descending leaves and welcomed us into the massive stone entry. We were brought into an interior space filled with relics from the World Wars, most notably artillery, as well as recreational spaces. We proceeded on though, as were making our way to upper part of the fortress.

Kalemagden Park
Kalemagden Canons

This was not our first time at Belgrade Fortress, due to it’s location and size, it’s quite easy to make several trips to visit. We previously had ventured along the western side of the fortress, looking down upon the Sava and it’s moored bar / barges. The gardens that surround the fortress offer a great place to relax. It also offers wonderful panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

Kalemagden Wall Overlook
Kalemagden Wall Overlook
Kalemagden Sava River

Our first foray into the fortress was from this western side, and presented slight difficulty as there was some construction going on. However, a quick climb put us right at the top and inner field within the fortress. We took a few photos, but as we’d already had a full day, we did not do a full exploration of the grounds.

Kalemagden Draw Bridge
Kalemagden Interior Home
Kalemagden Front Cliff

However, this time, we took a more thorough look around, and already knew what to expect and where to look. We were in search of the Ruzica church which we knew lay at the northeastern edge of the fort.

Kalemagden Ruzica Walls

We made our way out through the various bridges and fortifications of the massive fortress and eventually came out at one of the entrances facing the Danube. Jutting from the base of the walls was the Ruzica church. The church is small, but has a character to it. The chandeliers are made of the used bullet casings and swords from soldiers during the first World War.

Kalemagden Briana In Ramparts
Kalemagden Side Gate
Kalemagden Cliff Gate Briana
Interior of Ruzica

Setting out from the church, we could see the sun was beginning to set on the Danube, and we made our way down the hill towards a small ruin. What it was, we don’t know, but the crumbling stone walls indicate it was of some importance to the massive fortifications above.

Kalemagden Grass Hills
Kalemagden Field Path
Kalemagden Ruins

Before night fell, we made our way out of the fortress compound on the north where a large manicured field lays.

Kalemagden Panorama

The region around and within the fortress houses a lot to do. There is the Belgrade Zoo, Fortress Exhibition, Gallery of Natural History, and the Monument of Gratitude to France.

Kalemagden Dino Park
Zoo Mural
Kalemagden Tennis Courts
Kalemagden Briana On The Ramarts

The Big Churches Of Belgrade, Serbia

~K~

Christian influence into the region we know today as Serbia began in the 2nd century. Byzantine missionaries in the 9th century promoted and spread the religion across the land, with Christianity being declared the state religion.

Over the years, the march of history has brought Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, and Judaism to the region, but Eastern Orthodoxy and Serbian Orthodoxy reign supreme in the region at 84% of the population.

As such, you can find numerous churches across Belgrade (and the nation). We visited a few of the more notable churches and cathedrals. And needless to say, they are quite impressive. Here I am going to go over the three big ones that should be on your tour lists.

Church of Saint Mark

St Marks Cathedral

This church was the first place that we visited. Sitting at the north end of Tasmajdan Park, it is a stunning and imposing church dedicated to the Apostle and Evangelist Mark. It was originally built in the 1830s, but the new church, as you see it today, was built in 1940.

St Marks Cathedral

The exterior is made of two colors of naturally occurring red stone. The interior is a large room that rises to 60 meters (186 feet). There is highly decorated gold throughout the church.

St Marks Interior
Interior of St Marks

Though we only entered the church once, we passed by it numerous times on our way to other parts of Belgrade.

St Marks Alter
St Marks

Today, the remains of Tzar Dushan, a prominent figure in medieval Serbian history is buried beneath the church.

St Marks Plaque

Saint Sava Temple

St Sava

We came to the Church of Saint Sava multiple times during our stay in Belgrade. The surrounding grounds are large parks and fountains as well as a large library. The church stands as a dazzling centerpiece to the area. We attempted to view the library, however you cannot simply go in as a tourist. We were limited to a very small display of old books and bibles.

St Sava Statue
St Sava Park
National Library

In 1594, Serbs rose against the Ottoman rule, during which time they carried flags with the icon of Saint Sava. The Ottomans responded by taking the sarcophagus and relics of Saint Sava and brought them to Belgrade, where they killed anyone in their path and then burned the remains on the Vracar plateau.

St Sava Front

Three hundred years later in 1895, it was proposed to build a temple to St. Sava at the place of the burning. Construction began in 1905, but was delayed by the first and second Balkan War as well as World War I & II. Construction began again in 1985 and progress has slowly continued.

St Sava Candles

Today, the church is nearly complete. The exterior is finished, though interior work continues as decoration of the walls and dome take form.

St Sava Interior
St Sava Interior Arch

The church is organized in the form of a Greek Cross, with a central dome rising 80 meters, and four semi-domes at each arm. The facade is white marble and granite, and the interior will be mosaics once completed. The church is one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world by volume and is the largest in Serbia.

St Sava Murals
St Sava Interior Dome

Ruzica

Outside Ruzica
Ruzica Ivy

We visited the Ruzica Church at the base of Kalemagden Fort on the Danube. The original construction is not known, but the Ottomans destroyed the original church in 1521. It was later converted to a gunpowder magazine in the 18th century and then converted to a military church in 1867.

Ruzica Church
Interior of Ruzica

It was heavily damaged during the first World War and underwent renovations in 1925. Today, the church is decorated by chandeliers built from the spent casings and swords from soldiers during the first World War.

Ruzica Chandeleir
Ruzica Lawn

Family Friendly part of bangkok

Lumphini Park

~B+K~

I added Lumphini Park into our itinerary for the day we visited the Snake Farm (Kyle’s choice) and Wat Hua Lumphong because it was nearby, I wanted to go to a park, and most of all: I wanted to ride the duck pedal boats in the lake! The last time I rode a pedal boat was when I was a child visiting Germany (or maybe Austria) with my family (when we lived in Italy) and it was a lot of fun! I thought this would be a neat activity for us and it would only cost just over a dollar.

Duck boat

After our long day which included the walk to the metro station, the ride there, the above activities, and various other little stops, we were pretty tired but I knew I would be upset if we didn’t go. 

Upon entering, we found that there were many people enjoying the park. Several thousand citizens were going about their days. We noticed that the park is a popular fitness place, with lots of people running around and others taking part in various group exercise/aerobics classes. There were also many families and individuals simply taking in the nature.

Runners in the park

At first we just plopped down in the grass and enjoyed the weather and people-watched for a bit.

Kyle in grass
Warm Bangkok Sun

After we had rested, we decided to go for a stroll.

Looking at lumphini lake

The wildlife was quite active, with many birds, fish, and turtles going about their business. We had read that there were monitor lizards at the park, but we weren’t sure if we’d actually be able to see them – we found a couple early on swimming the lake and it was pretty neat.

Monitor Lizard at Lumphini Park

We proceeded on a bit afterwards, and even came across a collared cat. We don’t know whose cat it was, but most likely it was just someone’s indoor/outdoor cat that found a great place for a nap. We pictured his owners going for a run and seeing him sitting there and say ‘So, this is where you go during the day, Oscar.’

Cat Nap

Finally, we located the swan-boat rental area. The cost is/was 40 baht for a half-hour ($1.13). Initially you must give 80 baht, but as long as you make it back in time, they’ll refund you 40 baht. We hopped into the boat and spent the next half hour puttering about the lake.

Park in BangkokOn Lumphini LakeKyle paddlingIn the boat

We also had a great skyline view in some areas.

Bangkok Skyline

Towards the end of our ride, we stumbled upon what is apparently the resting ground for the monitor lizards, because we found dozens of them dozing in the late afternoon shade along the bank of the lake. We noticed that they were actually pretty much everywhere, climbing onto boats, or where ever else they could find a quiet spot. We tried not to bother them, though because it’s clear they just want to be left to themselves and can become scared quite easily, despite looking like mini dinosaurs.

Monitor Lizard

The sun began to go down as we got out of the boat, so we made our way back to the entrance. Luckily, there is a metro station not far from the entrance which makes it easy to access.

Sunset Reflections

More on the park:

The park was created in the 1920s by King Rama VI. Originally meant to be an exhibition center, it was converted into the first public park in the city after World War I. It was named after the birthplace of Buddha in Nepal. Today, a statue of the king greets you at the southeast entrance to the 142 acre park. You will find more than a park, though. Lumpini park is home to a library, an apprentice school, an Elder Citizens club, and more. If you can get to the park early, you’ll find tai chi classes offered. As well, there are various playgrounds for children. Between 10 and 3 you can also cycle for exercise.

If you want to visit, you can get to it via the MRT Subway Silom or Lumphini Station and the BTS Saladaeng. The park is open from 4:30am to 9:00pm. 

All in all, it’s a great place to enjoy nature while you’re in a city of over 12 million people. 

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If you like parks, also check out these other other parks/similar within other large cities:

Parks and Gardens in San Jose

Le Van Tam Park (in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam)

Bukit Nanas Rainforest (in Kuala Lumpur)

Paphos, Cyprus – Activities And Adventures

~K~

Paphos

The coastal city of Paphos lies on the the southwestern most shore of Cyprus. Easily reached via the A6 highway, it is a very direct route from the primary airport on the island in Larnaka, and is just under an hour’s ride from the major port city of Limassol. Paphos is also home to Cyprus’ second largest airport. The city is a bustling resort town that enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate and is considered to have the mildest temperatures on the island.

Paphos Lighthouse

The city is made up of two parts: Old and New Paphos. Old Paphos has been inhabited since Neolithic times, and was the center of the cult of Aphrodite at Petra Tou Romio and various pre-Hellenistic fertility deities. New Paphos contains the modern buildings and resorts, as well as ruins and archaeological sites from the Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman periods.

We visited Pafos on two occasions during our stay on Cyprus: once on my birthday and another time with Briana’s dad while he was visiting us.

Paphos Waterfront

Waterfront

Paphos Waterfront

The Paphos waterfront is a lively resort area with numerous cafes, restaurants, and souvenir shops. You’ll also find plenty of public “beaches”, or rather swimming spots. The waters surrounding Cyprus tend to lend themselves to go swimming, but often lack any sand but instead have large pebbles. In this case, there aren’t even pebbles, just a spot to jump in. We didn’t partake in any swimming, but dozens of swimmers were enjoying themselves.

Paphos Waterfront
Paphose Waterfront

We ate at two different locations on the waterfront. Once for my birthday, which had a pretty good basket of fish n’ chips, and a really strong Irish coffee. Generally I think of an Irish coffee as a bit of Bailey’s in the coffee, but they just threw in a bunch of whiskey on this one. The other place (Mar Bianco Cafe Bistro) was right along the main boardwalk with Briana’s dad who treated us to some wonderful Cypriot food. In both cases the food was plentiful, a trend we found across the entire island.

Meal At Paphos
Paphos Food

We also enjoyed a delicious smoothie from an ice cream shop on our first outing.

The famous Pink Pelican of Paphos Harbor will also make itself seen frequently, and has become a bit of a tourist attraction. While sadly not the original, you’ll find him most days at the Pelican Bar which is aptly named for the bird.

Pink Pelicans At Paphos

Paphos Castle

Paphos Castle

At the very end of Paphos Harbor you’ll find the historical Paphos Castle. Originally built as a Byzantine fort, it was reconstructed in the 13 century after the earthquake of 1222. It was dismantled by the Venetians in 1570 and then fortified by the Ottomans when they captured the island. The castle has served as fortress, prison, and warehouse throughout it’s long history guarding Paphos harbor, but today stands as a listed landmark.

We didn’t go inside while we were in Paphos, but we did take a few pictures of it. It is a little bit on the small side, but apparently well worth the visit. It costs 2.50 Euro to enter (at the time we were strapped for cash and were more interested in the Archaeological Site).

If you’re interested in visiting, the hours are:

Winter (Nov 1 – March 31): 8:00am – 5:00pm

Spring (April 1 – May 31): 8:00am – 6:00pm

Summer (June 1 – Aug 31): 8:00am – 7:30pm

Autumn ( Sep 1 – Oct 31): 8:00am – 6:00pm

Archaelogical Site Paphos

This was one of our favorite things that we did while on Cyprus. I chose to do this on my birthday after we dropped off the homeowners of our housesit at Paphos Airport. The Archaeological Site Paphos is just a few hundred meters north of Paphos Castle along the waterfront.

Ruins At Paphos

The UNESCO World Heritage Site is a vast complex of monuments. Here we found beautiful and well-preserved mosaics in the House of Dionysus – the god of wine.

Mosaics At Paphos
Mosaics At Paphos

The house of Thyseus, named after a mosaic showing the Greek hero Thyseus fighting the Minotaur.

Mosaics At Paphos

The House of Aion and the House of Orpheus also contain great mosaics.

Mosaics At Paphos

The Roman Odeon stands as a well preserved amphitheater and is still used during the summer for musical and theater performances. The Hellenistic theater, a theater cut into the rock is also still used to this day.

Archaeological Site Paphos Amplitheatre

As well there are the remains of an Agora dating to the 2nd Century BCE and the Asklipion, a temple that served as a hospital named after the god of medicine.

Paphos Ruins
Archaeological Site Paphos

If you’re interested in visiting, it costs 4.50 Euro and the hours are:

Winter (Nov 1 – March 31): 8:00am – 5:00pm

Spring (April 1 – May 31): 8:00am – 6:00pm

Summer (June 1 – Aug 31): 8:00am – 7:30pm

Autumn ( Sep 1 – Oct 31): 8:00am – 6:00pm

Be sure to bring some water, it gets hot!

Tombs Of The Kings

Tomb Of The Kings

Another one of our favorites, and an awesome UNESCO site to check out located about 4km north of the archaeological site is the Tombs of The Kings. The tombs themselves are not actually of kings, but rather belonged to the rich aristocrats of the 4th century BCE through to the 3rd century CE.

Briana In A Tomb
Tombs Of The Kings

The tombs are carved and cut into the native rock. Some are more simplistic while others contain Doric columns and frescoed walls. All contain alcoves in which the dead were placed (though none now remain.)

Tomb Of The Kings
Tomb Of The Kings
Tomb Of The Kings

The site is made up of 7 tombs spread out over a large area. Tomb 3 is the largest and most impressive of the tombs.

Tomb Of The Kings
Tomb Of The Kings

We enjoyed climbing about through the stone caved ruins and trekking through the rough desert landscape.

Tomb Of The Kings
Tombs Of The Kings
Tombs Of The Kings
Tombs Of The Kings Stairs
Tombs Of The Kings
Briana At Tombs Of The Kings

Entry is 2.50 Euro and it’s hours are: 8:30am – 7:30pm year round.

Ayia Kryiaki Chrysopolitissa

Church

The Panagia Chrysopolitissa church was built in the 13th century over the ruins of the largest Byzantine basilica on Cyprus. The church was originally 7 aisled, but due to damage throughout the years has been reduced and rebuilt into a 5 aisled church.

Church Ruins
Church Ruins

The church still operates today, but also serves as a historical site. Mosaics remain on display and can be viewed from the cat-walks that surround the standing building.

Church Ruin Mosaics

As well, you can view St. Paul’s Pillar, whether tradition states that Paul was flogged before the Roman Governor Sergius Paulus was converted to Christianity.

St Paul's Pillar

The interior of the present standing church can also be visited. The church is smaller, but well decorated and contains many paintings.

Inside The Church
Brotherly Love
Panagia Theoskepasti 
This is another church, just a little down the road from Pangia Chrysopolitissa. We weren’t able to visit it, but it is still operating and can be visited during service. The church was built in the 10th century, and is today listed as a part of the greater Paphos UNESCO World Heritage Site. The original church was destroyed, unfortunately, but was rebuilt upon it’s foundations in 1923.
Church of Panagia Theoskepasti

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If you enjoyed this post, check out these posts we’ve picked out for you!

Borobodur

Kolossi Castle

Hala Sultan Teke

Vietnam Museum

Vietnamese Women’s Museum

~B~

According to a Vietnam tourism site, the Vietnamese Women’s Museum is “one of Hanoi’s most overlooked museums and is also one of its best.” I have to agree. The museum was originally established in 1987, but has undergone a number of renovations since that time and had existed in its current state since 2010. It’s run by the Vietnamese Women’s Union and its purpose is to provide knowledge on the history and culture of Vietnamese women, including their role in the country’s past, present, and future. The union as a whole also seeks to promote gender equality.

When you arrive, there is a large open courtyard. To the left is the ticketing office, further up to the left is a special temporary display area/large room for the museum, and to the right is motorbike parking and a cafe/restaurant. Straight ahead is the main part of the museum. Pictured below: view of courtyard from somewhere inside the museum.

Vietnamese Women's Museum Courtyard

During the time we visited (March 2016), the first building on the left focused on women’s role in disaster relief and was pretty interesting! I think the exhibit may have been temporary but I’m glad we got to see it. The area provides information on recent natural disasters in Vietnam and how disasters affect men and women differently.

Disaster info room

One board told us that (according to a study by the London School of Economics), as a result of inequality, women and children are 14 times more likely to be injured or killed during a disaster. It provided examples such as the 2010 Pakistan floods (seventy percent of the 18 million affected were women and children). The study found that disasters have greater long-term impact on the health, learning, and livelihood of women. In a recent cyclone in Myanmar, over half of those killed were women and almost all women lost their primary income source. The large room also provided examples of how they manage with what they have, such as making lamps out of beverage cans.

Tools or something

Though I don’t remember hearing about them on the news, there were two Typhoons in 2013 which were pretty devastating for the people of Central Vietnam. Additionally, in January of this year (2016), Northern Vietnam experienced a record breaking cold-wave which killed thousands of livestock and crops. It also impacted forest there. Obviously climate change is mentioned as a likely culprit.

The frost 2016 VN

As of late, there has been funded training for women to learn to deal with such disasters. Many Vietnamese don’t know how to swim and the training provides/provided them assistance in learning how to swim, administer first aid, and more. It left many of the women feeling more confident and the education appears to have been very helpful. One woman was quoted as having told others in a certain area to change their crops from rice to lotus which more than quadrupled their profits.

At the time we visited (March 2016) they had another interesting temporary exhibition as well: a Comic and Cartoon contest.

Vietnamese WOmen's Museum Temporary Exhibit

This one was just outside of the main museum building. The theme was “Gender Equality: Picture it!” and the contest was organized jointly by Belgium and the UN Women Viet Nam and was originally launched November 25 2015 (International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women) with the 40 winners displayed March 1-10, 2016. It was a really neat display and while I would like to post all/most of the comics, I will just limit it to a few.

Poster Exhibit
More Equality Posters

The sign which provided the information on the contest also contained some facts about gender (in)equality in Vietnam. Over half of ever-married Vietnamese women experience some form of violence from their partner in their life, but only one percent of these cases lead to a conviction. Nearly ninety percent of women have experienced public harassment in public places. Of course, unfortunately, these numbers are not terribly far off from the rest of the world. In fact, according to this article, 100 percent of women in France say they are harassed using public transportation alone. You can find more on street harassment statistics here, and, if you would like to compare, you can also check out the 2010 CDC report on Intimate Partner Violence in the US which reports on violence experienced by both men and women.

Gender Poster
Gender equality posters

The poster also mentioned that a significant sex ratio imbalance in Vietnam (favoring males) has presented itself in recent years which is problematic and is likely responsible for more human trafficking and forced marriages. One in ten girls in Vietnam experiences child marriage. There has also been a recent decline in the political representation of women in Vietnam. One problem in Vietnam is the very deep-seated corruption at every level. We have some issues in the US with corruption, but it is not quite like Vietnam. There is also a growing problem with alcoholism in Vietnam which tends to be associated with abuse. You can see this featured in some of the displays.

Gender Equality Poster

Now to the main building! The main building of the museum is five stories tall and needless to say, we ended up spending quite a bit more time there than we originally anticipated. Honestly, we could have spent even more time examining the exhibits better if not for us getting so tired and hungry and my toe hurting.

There are three primary themes/galleries: Women in History, Women in Family, and Women’s Fashion. I wasn’t really aware of this going in and didn’t think that all of the exhibits were tied strongly to one of these categories, but we also saw a couple of other exhibits which may have been temporary as well. The categories are also divided further (such as by time period). All exhibits provide text in Vietnamese, French, and English. Through exploring the museum, we learned about women in Vietnam and their roles over time. We learned about family life in Vietnam, including interesting aspects of marriage, childbirth, surnames, customs and traditions, and more over time and among different ethnic groups.

For example, the Viet, Yao, Bru-Van Keiru, Ma, Hoa, and a few other populations are patrilineal meaning men are more important and privileged. There are also some matrilineal societies, though, including the Ede, Jarai, Churu, and Raglai, among others. Among these groups the wife’s name is taken, girls inherit wealth (with the youngest girl being the “most privileged”), and the oldest woman in a family has a “decisive role in family affairs.” Girls are preferred as children.

In the past, families were sometimes polygamous, but now monogamy is the norm. One board on marriage (hon nhan) reads: “Wife and husband are as inseparable as a pair of chopsticks.” Marriage used to be arranged, but today people have more freedom in choosing a partner. When it comes time for marriage, there are a number of rituals which sometime includes consulting fortune tellers in order to determine the best days for their engagement and wedding rituals. The Viets look for the “most auspicious timing” for a wedding date. The couple get married in the groom’s house and then live there afterwards. Among one ethnic group (the Sinhmun) the couples would have a first ceremony and then stay with the bride’s family and have a second ceremony eight or nine years later over at the groom’s family (pretty different)! Among the Taoi, people were required to file their top 6 teeth prior to getting married. We also learned about gift-giving and other customs. Don’t worry, there is plenty more to read about if you go there.

In addition to their familial roles, we learned about women’s role in work and war. We had learned some about the significant role of Vietnamese women in war efforts from our visits to the Cu Chi Tunnels, the War Remnants Museum (still need to write about this one) and the Hanoi Hilton/Hoa Lo Prison but learned a little more here as well.

War Posters

In one area we found a tool the women used to grind rice and flour. We struggled with it a bit. These two older American men who we think may have been veterans (also possibly a couple) encouraged me when I was struggling with it. They asked where we were from and seemed disappointed when we said Florida. They were from the northeast. We wished we had engaged them more but were just a bit shocked/excited to find someone else from the US (as almost everyone else we had heard/encountered at this point seemed to be French with a few Brits, Australians, and other Europeans mixed in).

Tool

The fashion section was quite large (an entire floor). We saw jewelry and clothing, both special and regular wear, from different ethnic groups and different time periods. We enjoyed looking at all of it and learning the purpose of the clothing.

Vietnamese dress
Vietnamese Clothing
Special VN clothingPink dress

The top floor was closed when we visited and I’m not sure what was inside (if anything), but other exhibits we saw were on topics such as music and religion.

Vietnamese Religion

One area displayed information on mother goddess worship (the oldest religion in Vietnam). One board read: “In the mother Goddess worship, women are the centre of the universe, looking after all four regions: heaven, earth, water and mountains and forests. Unlike other religious beliefs, worshippers find their expected desires and happiness right here in their current life. By following the Mother Goddess, their spiritual needs are satisfied.”

VN religion

There were a few areas throughout which also contained films/videos to watch (worth watching).

In the gift shop we bought one of our first souvenirs while traveling (a cat picture)! They also have old propaganda posters and things of that nature if you’re interested. We didn’t try out the cafe because I didn’t see any vegetarian food but as we were starving from staying much longer than we anticipated, we did look for a place to eat after we were done and what do you know, we found a Loving hut (a vegan restaurant with locations worldwide) right across the street from the museum. Surprisingly, it was a new and an interesting experience which should be its own post, though (or at least combined with the other Loving Hut we visited in Hanoi).

Visit and you will learn not only about the women of Vietnam, but about Vietnamese culture and history as a whole.

Here’s the info:

Address: 36 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam (see: http://baotangphunu.org.vn/Vi-tri-bao-tang/)
Hours: 8am-5pm Tuesday through Sunday (closed on Mondays)
Admission: 30,000 VND (~$1.34)

Kolossi Castle

As my parents were visiting for a few days, we decided to go and see some of the sights and because of our close proximity to Limassol, we decided to see the Kolossi Castle. We combined the trip with a visit to Kourion ruins which are just west of Limassol on Cyprus.  

The original castle was built in 1210 by the Frankish military and was given by King Hugh I to the Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. The castle served as a strategic stronghold throughout the Middle Ages and during the Crusades. In the early 1300s, the castle briefly changed hands between the Knights Templar and the Hospitallers.

Castle Flower

The present castle was built in 1454 by the Hospitallers. It stands a single three-story keep within an attached rectangular enclosure. The compound also has a sugar processing bullding just outside the enclosure, that is mostly in ruins, but during its time would process cane sugar, which was a major crop of Limassol.

Sugar Mill

The region was an important (and to this day remains) region for the production of Commandaria Wine. Considered to be the oldest named wine in history, with documented evidence extending back millennia, it was commended by King Richard the Lionheart’s marriage as the King of Wines. Whether it is truly the oldest wine is debatable, but it does seem certain to be the oldest dessert wine in existence.

Coat Of Arms

When we arrived, the castle was basically deserted, and we enjoyed a run of the castle primarily to ourselves. Although simple, it was still quite grand in it’s construction and featured all the basic tenets one would expect of a castle from a drawbridge and dungeon, to feasting hall, ramparts, and portico. It was actually more impressive than we expected. 

Murder Hole
Courtyard

The exterior had a courtyard with some arches to explore, as well as ruins from the various buildings immediately surrounding the Keep, and a small garden.

Outside Courtyard
Ruins

The interior was made up of three floors, each of which was divided into two primary rooms, bisecting the castle.

Enter Main Room
Info Plaque
Briana in a Food Nook

The interior also housed some form of a local art museum with an exhibit called the Falcons of Kolossi. It appeared to be art from local schools and artist with a common theme of falcons depicting scenes from Cyprus’s medieval history. Most likely this was just a temporary thing, but nevertheless, it was there while we were there. Each floor could be reached via a spiral staircase.

Interior Art Display
Falcon Exhibit
Falcon Exhibit

At the very top, was a flat roof with ramparts along all edges. From up here we had great views of the surrounding Kolossi village as well as the somewhat distant Limassol.

Roof Ramparts
Briana looking out From the Ramaparts
View From the Ramparts

If you want to visit, admission is 2.50 Euro. Hours are:

April – Sept: 8:00am – 7:30pm

Oct – March: 8:00am – 5:30 pm

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Kykkos Monastery of Cyprus

~K~

The Holy Monastery of the Virgin of Kykkos was founded between 1081 and 1118, and remains to this day one of the wealthiest and best-known monasteries in Cyprus to this day. It is also one of the top destinations during one’s visit to Cyprus, so we of course put it on the itinerary list.

Kykkos Mural

The monastery is located at an altitude of 1318 meters (4085 feet) on the north west face of the Troodos Mountains. You can reach the monastery via a tour bus or by car if you have access. Because of our money issues, regarding having all our cards and cash stolen, we had to wait until my parents arrived with my new cards (so I could withdraw some cash for gas) before we went.

The drive to the monastery was very scenic and long, winding through the snake-like roads of the Troodos mountains. It was here that you could see the lush greenery that lacked on the rest of Cyprus during the summer months. We made a stop on our way at the Agios Nikolas church, but that’s another post. We also passed by a few of the ski lifts present on Mount Olympus – yes, there is indeed skiing during the winter months here on Cyprus.

After nearly two hours of driving, we finally pulled up to the famed Monastery. I was afraid that the Kykkos Monastery might disappoint us, but it was obvious right from the start that it would not. The complex was quite large and would provide us with plenty of opportunity to explore. However, due to the time we left the house earlier, and the detour on the way up, we were quite hungry and decided to look for the restaurant that we knew the monastery had.

Walking Up To The Monastery

What we did not know though, was that the restaurant was actually just a little down the hill. This was of no issue though, it was easily within walking distance, and it was a great opportunity to stretch our legs. The restaurant had two options: a sit-down, waiter-style; and an a-la carte garden style. We opted for the a-la carte. We all had a nice meal.

Kykkos Restaurant

In the area where the restaurant is, you’ll also find a dozen or so shops and stalls from which you can purchase souvenirs and snacks.

Kykkos Shops

Having finished our meal, we finally made our way back towards the monastery. When entering, you’re expected to be dressed appropriately, which means shoulders and knees covered. If you don’t have the proper attire, then you will be given robes that will cover you (as my dad discovered).

Kykkos Entrance Briana
Dad In Robes

The interior stone courtyard is pretty expansive, and here you’ll find numerous mosaics depicting various stories from the bible and saints. The art and architecture is really intricate and impressive.

Kykkos Courtyard
Kyle With Parents

Off of this main courtyard you’ll find a gift shop as well as the entrance to the museum. The museum costs 5 Euro each, and despite its relatively small size, it’s actually a pretty good deal.

Kykkos Museum Entrance

The museum takes about an hour to make your way through and primarily contains various religious relics from the monastery’s history. You’ll find a lot of books, chalices, crosses, paintings, and clothing.

As well, we were presented with the story of how the monastery came to be: It is said that a hermit named Esaias was living in a cave in a mountain. The Byzantine governor came to Cyprus and on a hunting trip lost his way, eventually come upon the hermit and asked for help who did not respond. Angry, the governor insulted and beat the hermit and left. Years later, the king came down with an incurable sickness called lethargia. While sick, the governor remembered how poorly he treated the hermit, and prayed to God to heal him so that he could apologize.

The governor was healed and went to apologize, meanwhile God appeared before the hermit and told him what had happened and instructed him to tell the king that in order to apologize he must bring the icon of the Virgin to the Troodos Mountains of Cyprus, which resided in the imperial palace in Constantinople. The governor thought that request to be impossible, but agreed to try if the hermit would accompany him.

Upon arriving to Constantinople, they pleaded their case to the king, whose daughter was suffering from lethargia as well. He agreed, hoping that it would cure the daughter of her illness. He sought to create a duplicate and give the duplicate to them, while keeping the original. In the evening, the Mother of God appeared before the king and instructed him to keep the duplicate but give the original to the hermit.

The following day, the king complied and had a royal boat take the icon to Cyprus. There under the patronage of emperor Alexios Komnenos, he commissioned the construction of Kykkos Monastery to house the icon.

To this day, the icon remains at Kykkos, though remains covered and unseen most times. It uncovered, but not looked at during times of stress, to which it is then prayed to.

Once we finished the museum, we continued through the grounds. You can wander through the dormitories for the monks (not in their actual rooms though). As well, there is a large and extravagant church on the grounds.

Kykkos Murals
Kykkos Terrace
Kykkos Dorm Hall
Kykkos Mural
Kykkos Dorm Hall
Kykkos Mosaic
Kykkos Entrance
Kykkos Mosaic

The Kykkos Monastery is a beautiful place on Cyprus to see, and despite it’s difficult to reach location is well worth the visit.

The monastery is open year round every day.

November – May: 10:00 – 4:00

June – October 10:00 – 6:00

 

 

 

Kykkos Mosaic

 

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