If there’s one place in the world where I wasn’t expecting to see snow, it was in Cyprus – a sun-soaked island in the Mediterranean where summer temperatures regularly top 40°C.
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to a wedding in the resort of Protaras, on the south east coast of Cyprus. Although it was early April, it was hot enough (at around 25°C) to spend most of my time lazing by the pool.
After a week of doing nothing much, I thought I’d go in search of a bit of culture, and booked myself on an island-tour excursion. The next morning, I was picked up from my hotel and driven inland to see the best of this country which is also the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.
First off was an all too brief visit to the capital city, Nicosia, which is sometimes known as the last divided capital city in the world. In 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus and claimed the northern part of the whole island for themselves. No other nation recognises Northern Cyprus as an official country, but the Turks see it that way – it has a different language, religion and currency to the Republic of Cyprus (the official name for the south part of the island).
Nicosia lies on the “Green Line” which separates the two nations, and is the capital city of both. We parked up in the south of the city (the Republic of Cyprus’ part) and walked to the border crossing point in the city-centre. Upon showing our passports, we were allowed into Northern Cyprus but had to return to our coach almost straight away.
Our coach then headed towards the forested Troodos Mountains in the Republic of Cyprus, passing a mountain with the Northern Cyprus flag provocatively drawn onto it. Once we’d got to the Troodos Mountains, at close to 2,000 metres high, I was glad I’d worn long trousers for the first time that week. Although the sun was shining brightly, it was definitely not speedos weather up here.
What I wasn’t expecting was to witness snowball fights as the coach dropped us all off. The remaining snow was melting quickly in the sun, but a couple of months before our visit skiing and snowboarding would have been possible at resorts near the highest peak, Mount Olympus (1,952 metres). The winter sports season in Cyprus is a short one, and is hit and miss. Worldsnowboardguide.com only gives Cyprus a 2/10 rating, but says at least you can snowboard in the morning and be on a beach in the afternoon here.
The villages around the Troodos Mountains are known as the wine villages, and we had time to spend in a couple of the prettiest ones before getting back to the coast. The area is famous for its sweet desert wine Commandaria. I’m not a big fan of desert wine, so am ashamed to say I didn’t try it, although I did stop for a glass of local dry white wine in Omodos.
If the Greek Cypriots need another reason to hate the Turks, they’ve got one – they claim that what we know as Turkish Delight is really from Cyprus, and should be known as Cypriot Delight. As well as trying to flog you overpriced bottles of wine, shops in the wine villages sell their own versions of Cypriot Delight (a bit nuttier and chewier than the stuff we know) to the coachloads of tourists that come to the mountains to escape the heat of the coastal resorts.
I enjoyed my day in the mountains – the views from the coach window, and my big bag of Cypriot Delight, kept me busy as I returned to Protaras.