Going into the mountains is like going home for me and it was with much excitement that I drove from the beautiful birthplace of Aphrodite into the heart of the Troodos Mountain of Cyprus! Above our kitchen table, in our former home, we had a quote from our amigo John Muir:
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like Autumn leaves.”
Only the first sentence was above our kitchen table but the whole quote seems fitting in this case… as I drove up the windy mountain roads the crisp mountain air entered the car biting into my lungs… the aroma of pine trees was wafting through the air… birds were in song… a brook was babbling… and a gentle wind was whispering through the trees. It was a quite lovely and visceral experience as I dosed off to sleep surrounded by the sounds of the mountains. I felt at home!
When I woke up the next day, I was as giddy as a boy on Christmas ready to explore the Troodos mountains despite having feet full of blisters. I was staying at Edelweiss Hotel (cue the Sound of Music soundtrack – my favorite musical!) and after reviewing the guidebook I decided to do a Matt Davis link-up of 3-4 different routes. I left directly from the hotel, which is located in Pano Platres near the summit of Mt Olympus!
The hike began by winding through the town of Pano Platres, which had beautiful stone buildings.
After about 10 minutes of meandering through the narrow and steep streets, I arrived at the trailhead for Caledonian Falls. The banks of the creek (Kryos Potamos), was painted with colorful wildflowers…
Throughout the hike the forest was rich with bird song and after about 20 minutes I arrived at Caledonian Falls. It was pedestrian by California standards rising only 15 meters but was quite idyllic.
From the waterfall, I continued up the path breathing in the fresh crisp mountain air with each step and passing many pretty cascades along the way.
Eventually the path left the creek and began to slowly weave through a dense pine forest with occasional glimpses of the mountain villages far below, eventually reaching the summit of Pouziaris (The Mountain of the Entrails – nice guys!), that stretches to a height of 1508 m.
From the summit, I hiked north to the town of Troodos…
… and after 30 minutes or so I passed by this welcoming fence…
… shortly thereafter I found the proper entrance to the military barracks and a sign that said no photography (whoops). Immediately adjacent to the military barracks is the forest church of St George in the Forest, which was constructed in 1928 under the direction of the English governor at the time.
A short while later, I stumbled off the forest track and into the mountain village of Troodos. It’s a single street town and the epicenter for the Cypriot ski scene (more on that later).
From Troodos, I began my descent into the underworld along the Persephone Nature Trail (Greek Mythology aside… Persephone is “The Lady of the Underworld”, who was abducted by Hades and taken into his dark kingdom). The trail meanders through a pine forest carpeted with lovely ferns, so luckily it was a different type of underworld…
… and is dotted with more wildflowers (+ some mating insects)!!!
Eventually the trail led to a spectacular viewpoint where the whole southern half of the island unfurled beneath my feet. Unfortunately it was a cloudy day, so it was shrouded in the depths below…
From the viewpoint I continued my descent and was stunned to see this huge mining complex…
It is part of the now defunct Amiantos asbestos mine, luckily there is an effort underway to restore the area. From the mining site, it was another 6-7 km back to Pano Platres dipping and diving through pine and cedar forests… listening to the birds… mending my broken feet… and enjoying the pine scented air. Just before the trailhead there was a faint track leading off the main track, which I randomly followed and was rewarded with a lovely view of Pano Platres. During the British colonial times, it was a popular health retreat to escape the summer heat of the beaches and where they could commune with nature on the numerous forest walks, bask in the bubbling brooks, and drink gin and tonics on the stone patios of the resolute old world hotels.
Once back in town, I had my first proper “meze”, which was a sampling of vegetables, fruits, and barbecued meats from around the island. Quite tasty after a long day of hiking.
The next day I decided to scale it back and only do two moderate hikes… The first one was the Madari Circular Trail, which zig-zags to the summit of a mountain by the same name. The path begins winding through a thin pine forest, which is gradually replaced by golden oak, strawberry trees (the next wedding fad after manzanita), and juniper. After some more meanderings, the summit comes into view with the fire lookout on the summit.
After the final trail wiggles I was on the summit, which in clear weather offers fantastic views in all directions. Unfortunately it was a cloudy day (again) with thunderheads building, so the view proved illusive – next time!
From the summit I descended into the depths of the forest dancing up and down along the trail’s repeated oscillations and after a torrential downpour, some dynamic clouds, and more wildflowers I arrived back at my car.
My second hike took me along the aptly named Artemis Nature Trail which circumnavigates the mighty Mt Olympos (Greek mythology aside… Artemis is the goddess of forests). Mt Olympus was the site of a temple to the goddess Aphrodite (I swear this was not planned) and it was said to be completely invisible to women. The shady walk traverses along the same elevation and is dotted with huge pine trees, decrepit looking juniper trees, and wildflowers (my favorite!).
Mt Olympos is also the epicenter for the Cyprus ski culture, as I alluded to earlier. It boasts 4 ski lifts (3 of which are T-Bars), base elevation of 6,069 feet, a summit elevation of 6,332 feet (just under 300 feet!), and most importantly the ski runs are named after Greek Gods. Oh yes and the trail map is sponsored by Crayola.
I joke but skiing is skiing and it would be a fun experience to ski in the morning and then be lying on the beach an hour later. Also their mascot is cute!
The next day I flew back to Israel but before I could do that I had to go on one last hike to Myllomeris Falls. As one might expect, it was a bluebird day with this lovely wispy cirrus clouds.
I arrived at the falls about 30 minutes later and it was a lovely spot, I just wished I could have stayed longer to relax and read a book (Kelley: he meant to write “I just wish I could have been there with Kelley”). Alas I had to drive to the airport.
Well that was it for my first tour of Cyprus but there is still lots to see when I return with Kelley (Kelley: oh good!!)… I did not do any proper relaxing on the famed beaches of Cyprus…. nor explore any of the idyllic Barn Churches or monasteries… or the whole northern part of the island. As always, when you visit a new country you always leave with reasons to come back a second time! Yom nefla! Hebrew for “have a wonderful day”!