Want a souvenir from your trip to Cyprus? Instead of an object, consider bringing back the skills to make a meal from the local cuisine. At Almyra, chef de partie Elpida Kyriacou teaches a master class in cooking meze—the small dishes that make up a meal in the traditional taverna. Guests are invited to the live cooking station in Mosaics, where they can learn how to make four or five dishes. Start with an easy dip like tzatziki by mixing shredded cucumbers, Greek yoghurt, chopped mint, crushed garlic, and salt and pepper. Then try your hand at dolmades: Elpida will teach you how to blanch the grape vine leaves and refresh them in ice water, prepare the stuffing of minced lamb, white onion, tomato, rice, and chicken stock, season the mixture with lemon juice, cinnamon, and herbs, and stuff the leaves before finishing the dish in the oven. The secret to serving grilled halloumi cheese successfully rests in creating the proper salsa; you will learn how to combine the right proportions of olive oil, tomato, red onion, parsley, and fresh mint leaves. Preparing prawns with ouzo takes some skill. Elpida will help you peel and de-vein the prawns before you sauté them halfway. After removing the prawns from the pan, you will add garlic, onion, and tomato before deglazing the pan with ouzo. Then you return the prawns for cooking and seasoning. Instruction is not limited to these dishes: you can work out a bespoke programme. Take home her recipes and memories you can savour again and again.
Pafos plays host this weekend to the Logicom Cyprus Marathon. Now in its twenty-first year, the event draws about half its participants from overseas; Almyra is hosting many runners as a hospitality partner. Although the main races occur on Sunday, 17 March, programming is planned throughout the weekend. On Friday, runners can warm up with the first ever Cyprus Wine Run, a five-kilometre jaunt through the vineyards near Vasilikon Winery. Saturday’s Cyprus Marathon Symposium runs from 9:00 at sister hotel Annabelle. Later Saturday, Almyra hosts the Pasta Dinner, where runners enjoy a delicious meal and load up on carbohydrates. Sunday sees four races running on separate routes. The full marathon begins by Petra Tou Romiou (the rock formation in the sea known as the birthplace of Aphrodite) and follows a forty-metre course along the coast to the finish line at the castle. The other three races start and end at the castle. Runners in the half-marathon skirt the edge of the harbour and wend their way through the town. The ten-kilometre run follows Poseidonos Avenue, while the five-kilometre fun run circumnavigates the archaeological park. Almyra is sponsoring a corporate team of 130 staff members raising funds for the Pancyprian Association of Cancer Patients and Friends; the company covers their entrance fees and offers a complimentary post-race lunch for runners and their families. The hotel is cheering on all the runners with a DJ station offering lemonade and olive branches. Come out and show your support!
The island of Cyprus has a rich vinicultural history—the world’s oldest named wine, Commandaria, is produced only here. The island’s mineral-rich soils and diverse micro-climates are conducive to growing a wide range of grape varieties. A list of wines currently produced in Cyprus reveals some familiar ones, such as chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and shiraz, that yield very worthy wines. Yet there will be some varieties on the list that are unfamiliar to many—indigenous grapes you can’t find anywhere else. The best-known white variety, for example, is xynisteri. It produces dry or medium dry wines with flavours of green grass, herbs, citrus, and minerals; a xynisteri is a good companion for fried calamari and a village salad. Lesser grown white varieties include the lively and herbaceous spourtiko, aromatic and well-balanced promara, and crisp, light morokanela. Of the reds, the most popular indigenous variety is maratheftiko. It yields a full-bodied, deep red wine with berry flavours that perfectly complements lamb kleftiko and pasta dishes. Another notable local red, yiannoudi, is medium-bodied and gives spicy notes of anise, vanilla, and pepper; sip it with grilled meats or pizza with sausage topping. The most-grown red grape variety, mavro, is featured (with xynisteri) in Commandaria; try the dessert wine with dried fruits and blue cheeses. Cyprus wineries also produce some very good rosés through blends. Almyra’s restaurants offer a good sampling of local wines. Identify your favourite and then head to the source: the seven Cyprus Wine Routes take you to forty-one local producers.
The Ottoman Turks ruled Cyprus for over three hundred years, from 1571 to 1878. During this period, Cypriots gradually moved away from a rural, agricultural life as trading in the coastal cities fostered urbanisation. If you look carefully, you can find architectural remnants of the Ottoman presence in Pafos. At the main archaeological site of Kato Pafos, for example, rest the remains of the Hamam at Agia Kyriaki. The bath complex includes two domed chambers for warm and hot bathing and two cool chambers under a barrel-vaulted roof; it was first built in the medieval period and later modified by the Ottomans. The Ottomans transformed another structure, likely of Frankish origin, into a hamam near the current Municipal Market; the building has been restored and includes an historical exhibit along with a coffee shop. The bathhouse served Christian and Muslim residents alike up to the 1950s. Near the northern entrance to the market sits the Camii-Kebir—the grand mosque. It, too, represents an Ottoman conversion of an older structure, in this case the Byzantine era church of Agia Sofia. Its minaret is currently under conservation by the UN and the EU. The most visible evidence of the Ottoman intervention into the town’s architecture is hiding in plain sight: the medieval castle of Pafos Harbour. Built by the Franks in the 13th century, it was later modified and then destroyed by the Venetians before the Ottomans restored it in 1592. Now it stands as a prime example of the layers of history revealed in Pafos.
Just three kilometres from the centre of Pafos sits the town of Geroskipou, where you can become quickly immersed in the arts and crafts of Cyprus. A good first stop is the Folk Art Museum. Housed in an eighteenth-century dwelling, the museum will introduce you to beautiful specimens of pottery and woven goods like kilims and scarves. Next head to the central Geroskipou Square and its adjoining shops. Several are devoted to the production of loukoumia—commonly known in English as Cyprus Delight. See how this and other Cypriot sweets are made as you pass from shop to shop. You’ll also find handmade crafts (colourful baskets, clay pots) for purchase from their artisans. Look for Avgoustinos Pottery, where proprietor Avgoustinos Michael offers pottery classes as well as a selection of his own wares—it is just across the street from the Myth and Sculpture Park. Geroskipou has a history that stretches back to antiquity—its very name is a corruption of the ancient Greek for ‘sacred garden’, as a forest dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite was sited here. The ancient geographer Strabo described the annual procession to the Sanctuary of Aphrodite in Palaipafos passing through its grounds. More recently, the Byzantines built the Agia Paraskevi church in the ninth century on what is now the central square. Icons, frescoes, and other objects of veneration feature in the nearby Ecclesiastical Museum. A morning walk through Geroskipou is recommended, as the museums and shops have irregular afternoon hours.
How does an artist reflect on the immediate past? As Almyra launches its 2019 season of art exhibitions, this question is brought front and centre in a show opening on 23 February. The group exhibition ‘#recalling 2018’, curated by artists Katerina Fukara and Arsentiy Lysenko, prompts artists to choose any event from 2018—political or economic, private or public, global or local, major or minor—and make it the focus of an artistic expression. Artists were invited to use any medium or aesthetic practice to express themselves—including drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, video art, collage, poetry, music, or even a multimedia installation. The result is a collaborative reflection on 2018 for 2019—and one in a sequence of annual ‘#recalling’ exhibitions at Almyra. Fifty-two artists are included in the exhibition—one for each week of the year, coincidentally. The roster of contributors includes potter Avgoustinos Michael, conceptual artist Rinos Stefani, painter Susan Vargas, printmaker Hambis Tsangaris, poet Davoud Safdarian, and the curators themselves. The 23 February opening party starts at 19:00 in the Lobby. Many of the artists are likely to be on hand, and works are available for sale. The exhibition continues through 17 March.