A visit to Aphrodite’s birthplace and a fish mezze at Pissouri Beach, Cyprus.
The road across Cyprus to Aphrodite’s birth place curves through wattle specked hills and is flanked by signs for discounted three bedroom villas and warnings to watch for goats.
The Greek portion of Cyprus occupies nearly three quarters of the island. We came south in search of sun. On a day when they sky threatens grey we’ve driven from one side to the other, in search of something real. Protaras and Fig Tree Bay where we’re staying may have some of the clearest water on the island.
But it’s also best known as where British folk (and Australians like us searching for sand beaches) go for for two pound novelty cocktails (no, please heavens, no). The closest thing to real Cyprus I’ve found is the cheese on the breakfast buffet. And let’s be honest, I’ve eaten enough halloumi in three days here to last me a life time.
Another confession while I’m on them; I’ve always had a thing for Greek mythology. I got a particular kick out of eating fava overlooking the Acropolis last year. I had a little skip in my step booking a flight on ‘Pegasus’ up to Istanbul, where I’m writing this. And on a grim day the promise of seeing the rocks where Aphrodite emerged (also captured in Botticelli – and Baron Münchhausen -‘s ‘Birth of Venus’) shone for me.
As it turns out, Petra tou Romiou is a collection of rocks on the west coast, near Pafos. It reminds me strongly of the rock formations on Australia’s Great Ocean Road. On days when the weather conditions are right, the water is said to surge and plume, spraying upwards. It’s from this that Aphrodite was said to emerge.
Across the road from the pebbled beach is a dubious cafe and shop. After two and a half hours in a car from the other side of the island you’ll probably be pleased to discover there’s a bathroom there. But if you’re after somewhere to eat, drive ten minutes south to Pissouri Beach.
It’s an effort to find your way down to the beach; the road from the village is well hidden on the downward slope and twists and turns toward the coast. But when you do luck onto it, you’ll be rewarded by finding a few of the fish tavernas that you secretly hoped you’d find in Cyprus.
Pissouri Beach is a black sand and pebble beach, with gentle breezes that waft up from the gem coloured water.
Sit at a white chair on a table covered by red checked cloth. Order a large Keo beer, or a glass of local white wine. Bully everyone at the table with you (or at least one other person) to share the fish mezze with you. It’s around 20 euro per person. From there, this is what you’ll eat.
Dips: four of them; coral pink taramasalta, hummous, tahihi and tzatziki . A large village salad, of cucumber, tomato, crumbled feta and olives.
A cairn of white bait, crisp and lightly salted. If you’re lucky, like me, then the idea of eating a whole fish, head and all will trouble your dining companions. All the more for you. Dunk them in the tzatziki for a special treat.
Dessert is additional. You may be tempted by the option of ‘Cyprus Sweets’- it’s a curious bowl of pale yellow lumps. It’s got a shell that gives like honeycomb casing and the taste of rosewater and melon. It’s sticky like a lollypop that’s been abandoned by a four year old.
What you don’t want to miss is the splayed diamond of baklava. It’s perfect balance of sweet and crunch, filled with hazelnuts and pistachios and served with puddling vanilla ice cream and a honey drizzle.
Sit, relax and be full. Then take a walk on the pebbled beach before driving back to the other side of the island through herds of nimble goats and fat dozing sheep. Take comfort in the fact that unlike Greek Goddesses, you have no need to emerge buoyant and beautiful from the sea foam. It’s just fine for mere mortals like us to spend a little more time sitting sated on the sand.