It has been a whirlwind few weeks since I left New York for the “continent.” It already feels like years have passed, since I’ve been moving nearly every instant since I got off the plane in Copenhagen.
The first order of business was to see my beloved Nora in the city she’s now called home for more than two years. I arrived at the familiar and pleasant little airport and got myself some duty free wine and a metro ticket to go to Christianshavn, the cute little neighborhood where Nora lives.
The city is manageable and easy to navigate (not to mention, I’d been there before), and in two shakes I was at Nora’s place to drop off my bags and catch my breath after the transatlantic flight. She got off work and joined me, and we took a walk to nearby Christiania, where we enjoyed the blue-skied afternoon by the lake in the quirky part of Copenhagen – it was kind of squatted on by people in the 70s, making their own community, complete with schools and restaurants, a music venue or two, and the famous “Pusher Street,” where weed and hash et al are sold by men in masks behind camo shade awnings, protecting their identities, though it has been some time since the Danish government decided to just let Christiania be.
We met up with Nora’s friend, Louise (pronounced Louis-eh, Danish style) and rented a paddle boat to go out on what used to be the city’s moat. We drank wine and caught the last of the sunshine before heading back in and going off in search of sustenance (in the form of more wine – and cheese!).
The next day was Bastille Day, so Nora and I celebrated with more wine – how else? But first, we made a delicious leek tart thing for brunch and enjoyed it in the courtyard of her building (also the cutest little puppy was running around in there – adorbs!).
We had some lovely rose to celebrate French independence from the oppressive aristocracy and then we met up with a friend of Nora’s for dinner.
We had one more day in Copenhagen and we got fancy Indian food for lunch and met up with Jacob, my old financial manager from Snohetta – now on paternity leave after the birth of his second child. We had a lovely stroll around the city with him and Nora discovered that she actually knows his brother through work – Copenhagen is a small city, indeed!
We made a picnic, featuring some delish gazpacho made by Nora, but it was too windy to enjoy the out of doors, so we relocated our picnic to her apartment and a friend of hers joined us for a lovely repast.
Friday, we picked up a friend’s car and headed out of town. It was my first driving experience in Denmark, but I’d say I did well. We drove to a ferry and took it to the western part of the country – a seaside town called Aarhus.
Nora had booked us in a swanky place and there was a jazz festival happening in the city. We wandered around and found the Latin Quarter, where I had a lovely sparkling rose, which reminded me of my sissy, Erika, who was a sucker for a good glass of pink bubbles.
We tried to find the sculpture by the sea, which we’d been told was a must-see in Aarhus, but we only succeeded in finding the sea – so we had escargot (and of course more wine) from a little place in the marina.
We headed back into the downtown area and found a charming little corner bar where some fun jazz was being played and a crowd formed, people drinking local beer from plastic cups and enjoying the al fresco music.
The next day, we decided to drive down the coast instead of taking the ferry and we stopped at the Moesgaard Museum of archaeology and ethnography. We didn’t have time to see the exhibits, but the architecture of the museum was interesting and we did see the cool figures of different human ancestors, arranged on the stairs leading into the exhibitions. It was quite well done.
We drove back to the city, stopping for a quick lunch at an international food market in Odense, the hometown of Nora’s boyfriend, Anders. It was a sweet little town and we got yummy baked goods before hitting the road for Copenhagen.
My flight was that evening, so we had just the right amount of time to drop off the car and eat a little something before I got the metro back to the airport and flew off the next stage of my adventure in Cyprus!
I’d never been to Cyprus before, but it has long been on my list of places to see, and the plan was to spend a couple of weeks working on an archaeological dig in the middle of the island.
My flight was direct to Larnaca, but didn’t arrive till after 2 in the morning, so I planned to go straight to a hotel near the airport and spend the majority of the next day on the beach.
I awoke to a steamy day in Larnaca and walked up the coastal road to the city center, using the St. Lazarus Church as my guiding landmark. The city was sunbleached and rundown, but then the sun is a hard master in the summer in the Mediterranean. I found the church and peeked into the lowslung tombs, supposedly the second burial place of Lazarus – the same who was buried and raised from the dead by Jesus, according to biblical mythology.
I had a haloumi sandwich and the first of many Keo beers – the Cypriot beverage of choice – at a charming place called the Secret Garden, where I got some much needed shade.
I wandered through the winding streets of the old part of the city and saw an impromptu Greek-style dance in front of a local restaurant. I made my way to the shopping area to get some essentials for my dig and took a dip in the warm sea before heading back to my hotel at Mackenzie Beach.
I decided to have a cheese toasty at a local watering hole and a friendly kitten joined me, no doubt sensing my soft heart. I fed him bits of my sandwich and struck up conversation with a friendly English couple, who were familiar with that particular kitty, called Henry. I asked them about good places to stay in Larnaca after I finished my dig, and they invited me to stay in their spare room, which was nice of them, indeed! I got their info and gave them mine, and then I headed off in search of a taxi to Dali, where I was to spend the next couple of weeks digging up pot sherds et cetera.
I got to the accommodations for the dig, the Idalion Lyceum or Lykiou Idaliou, as the Greeks have it. We were staying in a gymnasium, which is usually part of a school, but in the summer becomes dig central for the team.
I settled in that night and erected my army cot. A girl called Erika – spelled just like my sister Erika – gave me the run down of the place and how things worked. The next day was my first day on the site and also the first time in ages that I voluntarily set an alarm for 5 am, as we had to get to the site early in order to have time to make progress before the sun became unbearable.
I was in a square that contained some of the oldest parts of what had once been a goddess temple. We troweled until it was time for breakfast, stopping for frequent water breaks.
At 11, we retreated to our shady gymnasium digs to wash our finds and have lunch before siesta time. Though I’ not normally a napper, I did get to the point where I would pass out at siesta time, if for no other reason than that the heat did seem to put me into a stupor and my attempts at writing were stymied by my sluggishness.
The two weeks passed quickly, though each day seemed more like two, especially with the nap in the middle. We went out in the little town, called Dali, where a surprisingly western-themed restaurant called Bonanza was the main attraction. That weekend, we took a trip to Amathous, one of the most famous goddess temple sites on the island, and one of the highlights of the trip, for me.
After, we went to Kition, another goddess temple left over from the Phoenicians. We had a visit to the Larnaca Museum and then went out to lunch on Mackenzie Beach.
We had a quick swim in the sea before setting off for the north of Cyprus – the Turkish side – where a group of us planned to spend the night on the farthest point of the island, where it’s quite close to Syria to the east and Turkey to the north.
We crossed the border at Nicosia and made it to Burhan’s by just before 10 pm – just in time to order food, which was desperately needed. We feasted on yummy nummins and drank cold Keos and then went back to our bungalows, where we managed to attracted some English boys and stayed up late into the night, bathing in water with bioluminescent plankton and stars shooting above us, through the Milky Way.
The next day we went to the farthest extent of the point, driving through the donkey sanctuary to the end of the island before turning around to cover nearly half of the island in search of the castle at Kyrenia, which had been built by both Venetian colonizers and later Lucignans (i.e. Frenchies). There was an amazing shipwreck which had been found in the 60’s near the ancient harbor, dating from the 4th century BCE.
We checked out the castle’s odd mannequins depicting medieval torture (fun!) before grabbing a bite at the picturesque harbor.
Then it was back to Dali to prepare for the next week of digging.
We had another fun trip the following weekend, this time to Paphos, the cultic center for Aphrodite and the home of the so-called Tombs of the Kings – Ptolemaic tombs dating from the time after Alexander the Great’s death, when the Mediterranean was up for grabs.
We saw some fabulous mosaics and visited a Folk Museum before the rest of the group went off to the beach and I went to Paleapaphos to visit the Sanctuary of Aphrodite.
It was a hot day, but I was enthralled by the site, much like Amathous, which were the two sites that felt the most sacred to me. I saw the large baetyl stone there, most likely revered as the goddess herself, as the worship of “Aphrodite” on Cyprus was aniconic until the Hellenistic period, when figures depicting the gods became common.
The bus driver picked me up and I had time for a quick dip at Aphrodite’s birthplace, Petra tou Romiou, before heading back to Dali.
That night a group was going to Agia Napa, a party town in the far east of the island, only about 45 minutes from Dali. They had room for one more in the car, so I went along, since I’d heard the beaches were amazing. We had a wild night out on the town and then a day recovering on the beach (and getting burned through the crystal clear water).
We made it back to the Lykiou in the early evening and I had one more dinner out with my Australian friend, Kellie, before packing up the next morning to return to Larnaca and my friends there.
I said my farewells that morning at breakfast and then got my taxi to Larnaca. Andrew and Julie, the English couple I met at Mackenzie Beach, welcomed me into their spacious apartment and we spent the day chatting and then doing some light drinking at a pub or two before heading home to make dinner.
Today, they were planning to go to Paphos for dinner with friends, so they drove me as far as Kourion, which I’d heard was a great site, but we arrived there in the head of midday and just after they dropped me off, I realized I didn’t have my cell phone – I’d left it in their car! I got a ride down the hill from a sympathetic French couple and caught up with them, fortunately, at a beach club where they’d stopped to hydrate.
In the end we went to the Kourion Museum and then they drove me to nearby Limassol to catch a service taxi back to Larnaca, and they continued on to Paphos.
Tomorrow, I plan to go to Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, in order to see the extensive Cyprus Museum and do some shopping before I catch an evening flight to Crete!
Not sure how long I’ll be there before continuing on to other Greek islands and Turkey, but the next stage of the journey will certainly involve less hard labor – at least until I make my way to Lesvos where I hope to be of assistance to some of the refugees from the Syrian crisis who arrive on the island daily.
Well, more to come! Love and miss,