By Paula Manoli-Gray
I recently celebrated a ‘special’ birthday, and rather than hold a big party, or visit a glamorous destination – as per the expected way of marking this particular milestone – I opted to hide away… up in the Troodos mountains!
I have only visited the island’s mountain range a handful of times (shame on me, I know!), so discovering all the villages has been on my wish list of things to do on the island for a long time.
I was particularly excited at the prospect of doing this as ‘tourists’ with my husband and my children – who have only been up to see the snow once.
We chose Platres as our base and set off, enjoying glorious views of green all the way up. As promised, the forests offered wonderful hikes, waterfalls, fresh air and much-needed tranquillity.
Whilst we were there for three days, we visited information centres, small museums and botanical gardens, and drove through a variety of quaint villages.
I loved the opportunity to walk through forests and greenery – which we lack opportunities for in Larnaca, but what struck me most of all was the contrast in way of life between being ‘down below’ or ‘up above’ on the island.
Whilst ‘down below’ there is a fevered desire to make everything as luxurious and modern as possible; to build and rise; to move away from local character and emulate other bustling, progressive cities of the world, the mountain range is stubbornly clinging on to a Cyprus of old.
It is a strange experience when you are used to somewhere like Larnaca – and probably even more so if you live in much busier Limassol or Nicosia.
Granted, we visited during a lull season – no snow of the winter and no shade of the deep summer to entice locals – so the tranquillity and lack of hustle and bustle might have been deceptive compared to higher-season times of the year. But still, the simplicity of the place was magical.
Most restaurants and hotels are an extension of the owner’s living room; there are two ways of encountering them – either as charming and nostalgic, or as plain old-fashioned.
Regardless of this, the villagers are not going to transform their establishments into flash, trendy haunts for anyone.
It must be incredibly frustrating to have to travel ‘down below’ for modern goods and a wider variety of retail options, and I am sure that some residents may find the pace of life and lack of opportunities to be boring (particularly local teenagers, as evidenced by the large amount of graffiti in Platres…).
And I have no doubt that earning a living must be very hard for some, but what a blessing, too, it must be to live in such harmony with nature and in a way that does not focus on a lifestyle full of shopping at shiny malls and living to be seen.
Well, that is how it seemed, until upon my return back ‘down below’, I read a news report that the mountainous Limassol village Pera Pedi is potentially going to have a large, luxury development with hotel, spa, gym, tourist villas, church, tennis court and stables – “situated in a heavily-forested area in the Troodos Mountains”, as per the report.
And so it seems, there really ain’t no mountain high enough.