Spring is the season of renewal, with nature discarding the cloak of winter decay and putting on its colourful garments of fragrant new growth. The fields are green and abundant with wild herbs and flowers, most of which can be used as food or as medicine. What a wonderfully abundant part of the world is our precious island, giving us all we need for health and wellbeing. As soon as the citrus trees have been harvested of their delicious fruit, they start to come into flower, spreading their amazing aroma all over the countryside. Bees love orange blossom and make a fantastic honey from its pollen, but the delicate white flowers of the bitter orange tree (citrus aurantium) also produce a highly aromatic essential oil: neroli. This is the oil the famous Eau de Cologne was made of. It is still a component in many expensive perfumes. The essential oil has many healing properties and is a favourite in aromatherapy treatments. The intoxicating aroma is a powerful antidepressant, aphrodisiac, tonic, digestive and cytophylactic, promoting the generation of new cells, which makes it a useful ingredient in anti-aging products.
Calendula, also known as pot marigold, is another bright example of a spring herb which does wonders for the skin, it is packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and flavonoids. The bright yellow flowers, once dried, are infused in almond oil for a month, extracting all the soothing and healing properties of the plant. This precious golden oil can then be used as is or made into salve, healing all kinds of skin problems, such as eczema, psoriasis, rashes, burns, wounds and scars, as well as inflammations and fungal infections. I have seen amazing results with calendula clearing up nasty rashes in just a few days. Used over time, it also reduces scars. The dried flowers make an excellent anti-inflammatory tea, which is soothing to the stomach, effectively fights internal fungal and viral infections and also relieves menstrual cramps. The fresh petals can be added to salads, butter or cakes.
The ultimate queen of spring flowers is undoubtedly the wild rose, Rosa Damascena. Rose yields one of the most exquisite and expensive essential oils. The oil is produced by steam distillation and is used in perfumery, cosmetics and aromatherapy. Vast quantities of freshly picked flowers are necessary for even a small quantity of oil, as many as sixty thousand roses make one ounce, which means sixty roses make just one drop! feminine and sensual, the aroma is truly breathtaking and lifts the spirits. It is rich in antioxidants and has an anti-aging effect on the skin, as it stimulates new cell growth and restores moisture balance. The dried flowers can be brewed as a relaxing and uplifting tea. Rose water, which is often used in confectionary, is also an excellent skin tonic. The village of Agros in Cyprus is known for its production of rose products and hosts an annual Rose Festival in early May, which is well worth a visit.
Cyprus enjoys an enviable worldwide sun and sea holiday destination with year-round sunshine, blue skies and warm waters. However, this fascinating island has much more to offer. Away from the tourist areas, the Cyprus countryside has a diverse wealth of its own with traditional villages, vineyards and wineries, tiny fresco-painted churches, remote forests.
Enjoy a different kind of holiday in Cyprus off the beaten track in peace and tranquillity by staying in a restored traditional house in one of the island’s many picturesque villages.
Awaken to the sound of a cock crowing, or a donkey braying, take your breakfast in the shade of a vine with the smell of jasmine or wild thyme in the air, go for a long walk in the pine-scented forest, watch how the local bread and ‘halloumi’ cheese are made and experience rural living at first hand. And when the sun goes down, just lie back and enjoy Cyprus’ magical evenings gazing at one of the starriest skies you will ever see, lulled by the gentle sounds of the night crickets.
You will be given the warmest of welcomes, as Cypriots have a reputation for being hospitable, and you will certainly end up making many good friends before you leave. Don’t be surprised if your hosts go out of their way to treat you as one of the family, lavishing a veritable feast of local delicacies upon you.
Try everything by ordering ‘mezedes’ and wash it all down with one of the local beers or wines. Cyprus’ sweet Commandaria wine is one of the oldest in the world, and if you’re brave enough, have a shot of ‘zivania’, which is almost pure alcohol and packs a neat punch.
More than just for summer, Cyprus is perfect at any time of year. Blessed with an abundance of sunshine and warm year-round temperatures, it is a great place to enjoy winter sun, to avoid the crowds in the autumn and to marvel at nature’s springtime tapestry of colour. With rugged coasts and mountain peaks, sunny vineyards and cool pine forests, flat expanses of wheat fields and lush citrus orchards, the island has something for everyone.
And when you’ve had your fill of relaxing, you’ll find that in Cyprus there’s much to see and do. Play a round of golf, go cycling, or hiking round the countryside, or take up a new sport. Or wonder at spectacular Greek temples, opulent Byzantine churches and ancient artefacts that are the remnants of a civilisation going back 10,000 years.
The properties we offer are a great base from where to explore the island. Carefully renovated to maintain their distinctive character, while including all modern conveniences, they are ideal for those seeking comfort and privacy in friendly and attractive surroundings.
The Londa Beach Hotel is a unique boutique hotel located in Limassol. It's a gorgeous hotel with a design and character that makes for a fantastic getaway.
Boutique hotels are world renowned for their personalised service and intimate environment. We wanted to find out a little more about what differentiated a boutique hotel from any other and so we had a chat with Jochen Niemann, General Manager of Londa, to explain.
This is what we found out.
1. What exactly is a boutique hotel and how does it differ from any other hotel, 5 star or otherwise?
The definitions vary according to the reference source that you choose, however all agree that a boutique hotel has between 10 and 100 rooms. Recurring terms describe such a property as a lifestyle hotel which is unique in design, atmosphere and character, and offers high level of quality in its facilities, often also luxurious.
2. Is there something you would expect to find at a boutique hotel that a normal hotel would not have?
Thanks to its smaller size this would be the intimate atmosphere and highly personalised service.
3. How does the Londa maintain the quality and service required to be a boutique hotel?
Thanks to our great team of employees, we are able to maintain close guest contact and build relationships. Guest feedback is closely monitored and our service accordingly analysed and adjusted.
4. What does running your hotel involve; what’s your typical day?
The beauty of being in the hospitality industry is that there is no typical day. When dealing with guests at such a personal level the routine work is kept to the very minimum.
5. What are your biggest challenges?
Being an independent hotel, the Londa lacks the magnitude of marketing resources that member hotels of large chains can rely on. In order to overcome this situation, we recently joined the marketing alliance Small Luxury Hotels, which is internationally known as a well established and trusted luxury brand.
6. What is the general feeling about boutique hotels in Cyprus? Have Cypriots caught onto the concept of what a boutique hotel is or do they simply put it into the same category as any other hotel, 5 star or otherwise, on the island?
Cypriots are travellers and as such, have a very good understanding of what a boutique hotel stands for and what to expect. Checking into a five star boutique hotel one can and should expect at least the same level of luxury service as known from a 300 bedroom five-star property. The only difference being that due to its smaller size, the boutique hotel does not have multiple F&B outlets and can only offer a limited number of other facilities.
7. How has the recent recession affected boutique hotels? Have they been hit as hard as any other hotels in the region?
Boutique hotels usually target niche markets. The Londa caters both for couples in the leisure market as well as for the individual business traveller. We do not need to fill hundreds of rooms with families on all inclusive packages, meeting and incentive groups, wedding parties etc. In economically challenging times, niche products always have an advantage.
8. Do you expect to see more chains operating boutique brands? If yes, do you think they will be a threat to the established boutique hoteliers?
Internationally operating hotel chains have the tendency to be present in every market segment. Many have already launched their own boutique brand, the latest being Canopy by Hilton and there will be more to come. The majority of these new brands are targeting the Millennium generation, offering lean luxury, a hotel experience rich in high-tech but with fewer services and facilities. These operate on or below a classified 3 star level, similar to low cost airlines. I believe these new brands are competing with each other but not with the established full serviced luxury independent boutique properties.
Miranda Tringis is an amazing woman to speak with. Her story is one about the perseverance in establishing a sustainable business like CyHerbia and a testament to how with a lot of patience and creative foresight, just about anything is possible. Even an environmental park consisting of 9 different herb gardens, a maze and a woodland.
1. What made you open up a herb garden in the middle of nowhere?
We had bought that piece of land as an investment, not with the intention to do anything with it initially. About nine months after we'd purchased it, my husband said: 'It's not good to have that land just sitting there doing nothing. We should cultivate it. You're good with herbs, let's make a herb garden!'
The idea took some more months to take shape with the help of a fantastic landscape designer, Andy Alldis, who has been instrumental in the creation of Cyherbia, and so we ended up creating an environmental park, consisting of nine different herb gardens, a maze and a woodland area shaped in the outline of the island, where you can literally walk around Cyprus in 15 minutes.
Actually we're not in the middle of nowhere, we're just 15 minutes away from Ayia Napa and 20 minutes from Larnaca.
2. Do you encounter resistance in the use of herbs in Cyprus?
Cyprus has a very long history in the use of herbs for health which has been passed on for many generations, in fact Cypriots didn't turn to chemical medicines en masse until the 50s and 60s. The older people of the island still know some of the basic herbal remedies and they know how valuable herbs are. I don't find any 'resistance' to speak of, as people here know that herbs contribute greatly to our health.
3. Is the younger generation interested in the use of herbs for health purposes or do they prefer conventional medication?
Our generation has sadly become completely alienated from nature and its treasures. We want a quick fix, in line with our fast lives. It's so much easier to pop a pill than to take 10 minutes to brew a herbal tea or cook a nourishing soup in order to take care of our health. That said, this is also the first generation to question conventional healthcare.
Doctors are no longer seen as demi-gods and young people do their own research, especially as in many cases they feel let down by conventional medicine, which, often addresses the symptom rather than the cause. In my work I see a lot of young people who are health conscious, who opt for natural healthcare and a natural lifestyle.
More and more people are coming to realize that good old uncle Hippocrates was right when he said -2500 year ago!-: Let our food be our medicine and our medicine be our food.
4. Does it really work or is it all mumbo jumbo?
If you expect to be cured of an illness by drinking one or two cups of tea and then stop, you'll be disappointed. Herbs are milder in action and generally work slower than chemical drugs, so you have to stick with a remedy over some period of time. The wonderful thing about herbs is that they strengthen and augment the body's own defenses, so the body is better able to fight whatever it is that is ailing it.
Herbal medicine is used to treat a range of disorders including arthritis, anxiety, depression, insomnia, hormonal imbalances migraine, skin problems and many other health problems. We can also effectively regulate our blood pressure, blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels with herbs and proper nutrition.
5. One of the main attractions at CyHerbia is the maze. Whatever possessed you to grow a maze?
We wanted the park to be a place where families can spend the day in nature, learning about herbs in the herb gardens, experiencing the tranquility of the woodland with the endemic trees and shrubs of the island, and test their skills in the maze. It is so much fun to challenge each other in the maze: who will find all the hidden items and who will find the way out first?
It's a way to stimulate families to spend more time in nature, in the clean air and green environment which is so vital to our well-being. This is the only maze on the island and a very popular feature.
6. Does the medical profession in Cyprus back herbal remedies or are they just interested in the latest profit making pill?
I have no doubt that doctors have their patient's best interest at heart and act to the best of their knowledge. The sad thing is that medical schools don't teach their students about nutrition and herbs anymore, so doctors have no knowledge about herbal and other natural medicines. A surgeon friend of mine once said to me: 'Nowadays we doctors are merely pawns of the pharmaceutical industry. Their representatives come into our office with the latest drugs, saying for such-and-such a diagnosis, you should prescribe such-and-such a drug.'
I personally know a few doctors who take a positive view of natural remedies. The pharmaceutical industry however is not interested in creating cures, but in creating and keeping customers. You cannot patent herbs so there's no million dollar profit to be made out of herbs. This is why the industry goes out of its way to malign herbal remedies and even try to outlaw them.
7. What does it take to maintain a herb garden the size of CyHerbia?
It takes devotion, good planning and programming of jobs to be done, and a whole lotta love! If you don't love it then forget it, the hard work will make you give up sooner or later.
8. Do you drink coffee or are you strictly tea only?
Haha, I have yet to meet a herbalist who doesn't drink coffee!
Coffee is a herb too you know, it's a wonderfully aromatic stimulant packed with antioxidants, it improves brain function and physical performance. I tend to drink 2 cups of good Dutch coffee a day and numerous glasses of herbal iced tea.
Well, in all fairness, it wasn’t through Cyprus per se. It was more like a discovery of Limassol. And then Paphos and its surrounds.
Here’s the thing though. I’ve been living here for 11 years and in all that time, I never once thought to experience even a little facet of Cyprus as a tourist does. Because that’s how I felt, truth be said. A tourist in my own home.
And it’s when I came to the realisation that I was one of many individuals living here who had never actually thought to take a road trip. Like a tourist would. To discover a side of Cyprus that was exponentially more than just about the sun, sea and sand.
You see. I think this is where we have gone wrong. Why Cyprus hardly ever seems to appear on a bucket list of places to go in any international travel publication. Anywhere.
Because we simply have very little appreciation for everything that this island actually HAS to offer.
My 75 year old father-in-law acted as my tour guide for those days in Limassol. And then in Paphos. And the surrounds. And it was through his eyes, a man who loves this island unlike many of my generation do, that I became absorbed in the culturally rich history that we as a people possess.
He described the tales of the ancient relics that abound here and which we went to see. Amazing stories that could fill the pages of a very big thick book.
And it was at that point that I started questioning, for a country that has a history that is the history of many cultures aside from our own, why do we only present to the world the sun? And the sea. And the sand.
It’s not to say that our natural architecture isn’t mind-blowing. It is. And yes, I’m no fool. These are all great assets that Cyprus has to drive tourism here. But at some point, the cliché island experience becomes stale. And other avenues for bringing international travellers here need to be explored.
It was recently said by Elena Tanou, Vice President of Top Kinisis Travel Plc, in Gold News that Cyprus needs to once again become a year-long destination. I couldn’t agree more. But this means then that we need to take a holistic approach to how we promote not just some of what we have, but all of what we possess. We need to captivate the world’s imagination with our archaeology, our mythology and our legends. We need to give them a tantalizing peek into the history of our people that inevitably includes the history of theirs taking into account the many that have passed by through the centuries. So that they are enticed to then come here and learn not only about us but also the impact that a host of other cultures have had here and that still resonate everywhere.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s not only what lies on Cyprus’ coastline that should serve as the go to draw card to driving tourism.
We need to look within. To the archaeological ruins that dot our terrain, a treasure trove of world heritage sites and fascinating ancient relics. To the landscape that exists on the slopes of our mountains. To the agrotourism eco-retreats who have managed to restore hundred year old houses into spectacular sanctuaries. To the quaint and quirky old stone villages and towns with their cobbled streets that seem to take you further back in time with every step you take. To the local wineries who are trying their damndest to put Cyprus wine on the global map. To a local cuisine that can satisfy the fussiest of culinary palettes.
And we need to look to the past and make it fashionable to bring it back to the now.
Because our past is our story.
And let me tell you. It’s an enthralling story to be told!
The island is a magical place of myth and legend; the birthplace of the goddess of love; the battleground of the Venetians; the place where Richard the Lionheart married his queen Berengaria; the stopping off point for the crusaders on their way to fight the Saracens in the Middle East. Ever stone and ancient column has a story to tell – who knows what secrets they may reveal, what enchanting mysteries of past eras?
Cyprus is a veritable treasure of trove of archaeological sites. The ruins of the well known city kingdoms on the island give a captivating glimpse of life in ancient times.
One of these ancient city kingdoms is that of Amathus. It stands proudly atop a hill, just a short walk westwards along the coast from the St. Raphael resort, offering spectacular views of the surrounding area.
Excavations have revealed that the area was populated at least 3000 years ago and inscriptions in the local Cypriot script of the time have been uncovered. These first inhabitants chose the spot for their settlement extremely well. A steep cliff on the land side makes the site easily defendable from attack from the north; while on the southern sea side the land slopes down to a natural harbour. In C1st BC, the Phoenicians constructed a port here. Trade with the Greeks – evidenced by the vast amount of pottery from Rhodes, Corinth and Attica found on site – and with the Levantines flourished and so Amathus became on the wealthiest of the city kingdoms.
The city is said to have been named after Amathisa the mother of King Kinyrar of Paphos. According to local mythology, Kinyrar fathered Adonis. The goddess Aphrodite was so impressed by the baby’s beauty that she played a major role in raising him. While out hunting one day he was attacked by a wild boar and subsequently died. Aphrodite was grief stricken and she caused red anemones to spring up from the blood shed by Antonis. From that day on the ancient kingdom held the Adonia festival, a celebration in honour of Adonis with singing, dancing and athletic events.
Legend also has it that Theseus broke his journet at Amatghus. He had fled from Crete with Adriade, the king’s daughter, which has helped him to defeat the minotaur, Afriadne was heavily pregnant and unable to continue their voyage, so Theseus left her at Amathus with promises to soon return. However, they were not to see each other again for Ariadnes died in childbirth. The Amathusians buried her and built a shrine named after her in a sacred grove nearby.
In C1st AD the Apostles Paul and Barnabas travelled to Amathis in an attempt to spread Christianity. In later years the son of a baker was ordained bishop of Amathus. He was called Tychon, hence the name of the nearby village, Ayios (saint) Tychonas. Tychon, in turn, tried unsuccessfully to convert the locals. In his frustration he destroyed the idols in the template of Artemis. When the high priestess prevented him. Tychon pushed her away with such force, she believed he was using the strength of god. As a result, the high priestess allowed herself to be baptised with the Christian name, Eyethia.
The earliest remains on the site covering a total area of about 5km2, dates back to the early Iron Age. Excavations have uncovered the ‘lower town’ with what is probably part of the Roman market; the east necropolis with a small basilica; city walls; public and private buildings; many ancient tombs; the port; and the acropolis on high with a great template to Aphrodite. In keeping with the custom of the time, there are also two more templates here – one dedicated to Adonis and one to Hercules.
The department of Antiquities have fenced off the lower site and have erected display boards showing the layout of the buildings and outlining the tumultuous happenings throughout the ages.
The local authority is also planning the construction of a raised walkway in the sea over the remains of the port, which will be floodlit at night.
Archaeological findings have been cast. Many exquisite examples of ancient Cyprus art, of pottery and sculpture decorate museums all over Europe and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. One of the most exceptional pieces, dating back to C6th BC, is an enormous limestone pot, nearly 2m in height and weighing 14 tons, now standing in the Musee du Louve in Paris. It is believed to have been made from a single stone and has four handles each bearing the carving of the bull’s head. Two replicas have been made – one stands high up on the acropolis, while the other can be seen on the coast road going towards Limassol.
The Ancient Kingdom of Amathus is certainly worth a visit; but please remember to take the necessary precautions – it is all too easy to be enchanted by the magical mix of mythology and archaeology present on the site!
Local specialist knowledge for the East coast of Cyprus. Ayia Napa, Protaras, Kapparis and Paralimni. Airport LCA transfers. Also Northern trips to Famagusta resorts and city of Nicosia.
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