Riviera Beach Bungalows, Studios & Superior Hotel Rooms, Kyrenia, North Cyprus

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[Kyrenia] [Famagusta] [Nicosia] [Lefke] [Limassol] [Paphos] [Larnaca]

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As we round Cape Citi and steam direct for Larnaca (Larnaka / Ýskele) a scene presents itself of peculiar Oriental beauty. The coast rises in bold promontories, or retreats in russet plains to join the southern chain of mountains, while looming in the distance, half lost in vapoury haze. Mount Troodos (the Cyprian Olympus) is descried crowning the range, whose lofty spurs shoot upwards in dark, cloud-like masses against the horizon. With such a background to the picture, and in contrast to it, the brilliant domes and minarets of Larnaca rise into view at our feet. But the scene rapidly loses its proportions, and when we have once cast anchor off the Marina the town is disclosed in detail, deprived of the illusory charm of distance.

Rude jetties invade the sea, while the shore bristles with wooden piles, the wrecks of landing stages, or waterside cafes. Larnaca, indeed, looks as if it had been groping its way seawards, with a thousand antenna, in search of purer air or social reform. Nevertheless, its old-world aspect, its rich colours, its quaint architecture, and even its decay, all tend to render the place one of the most picturesque of Levantine ports.

Stone buildings and sculptured porches bear evidence of the wealth and prosperity which in some measure have outlived three centuries of Moslem rule.

During the brief interval which has elapsed since the British occupation much has already been done to improve the condition of the town, and the people, rejoicing in security, have taken heart, and prophesy that a fair city will soon rise over the debris of Citium.

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At the northern extremity of the Marina are the buildings occupied by the Commissariat, the post office, and the residences of the British Commissioner and principal European merchants. Hereabouts, also, one or two retail stores have been opened, where may be seen an array of miscellaneous wares, which in some cases find eager purchasers, but more often constitute the un-remunerative types of the future wants of a rising settlement. Side by side with household necessaries one sees modern agricultural implements of marvellous mould, on which the natives gaze with bovine wonder.  

The roadway has been cleared, the sea-wall partially repaired, and lighted, for the first time, with a row of foreign lamps.  

About the centre of the Marina stands the first English hotel, which may be set down as a sample of the Greek houses of Larnaca. The principal porch conducts to a lofty apartment paved with blocks of coarse marble, and spanned in the centre by a massive Gothic arch, on which rest the rafters of the floor above. To the rear the ground-floor is taken up with domestic offices, above which arc the sleeping-rooms, overlooking an inner court and garden. In a town so seemingly barren as Larnaca these paved marble courts and their glimpses of green leaves are very precious. In most of them we find miniature orange groves, pomegranates, myrtles, roses, and oleanders. Fragments of sculptures from the ruins of Citium may be detected in the walls, while grouped around arc classic vases unearthed from ancient tombs, or broken statues rescued from the mounds that lie beyond the settlement.  

There are now a number of hotels in the Marina, as well as Greek boarding establishments, where the traveller may be comfortably lodged at a small cost. When the island was transferred to British rule speculators flocked to Larnaca, and companies were started in London for the immediate development of Cyprus. The place was to be raised from the dust, and become an Eastern El Dorado. The result was that rents for such houses as are pictured in the photograph rose from forty to three hundred or four hundred pounds a year.  

Soon, however, an exodus commenced, and only those immigrants remained who had come to Larnaca with the settled purpose of waiting for the tide of-gradual progress, which has indeed already set in.

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LARNACA Marina is built on the shore, and the old town, or Larnaca proper, situated about a mile inland. Together, the two divisions Contain about 7000 inhabitants. The vacant space between the Marina and old Larnaca marks the site of ancient Citium, a city celebrated as the birthplace of Zeno the Stoic. On this spot one discovers evidence to show that the sea has receded. “The ancient coast-line is marked by a continuous, undulating line of rock”, while huge stones, the remains of a pier or mole of olden times, are found inland, not far from the French convent.

The photograph presents a view of the modern shore, which seems gradually to have been built up by the denudation of the rocks of the old coast-line.

The point of view selected is close to the salt ponds, south of the Marina, showing the direction in which the settlement may possibly extend.

Although simple in its elements the scene is one of the most attractive in the neighbourhood of Larnaca. The rich green thickets of cacti harmonize well with the warm hue of the shore, the undulating, ever-changing line of clear blue sea; while the mid-space is dotted with pale green shrubs, and distant groves of date-palms wave over the gardens of the Marina.

The salt ponds, situated about a mile south of the town, although placid and picturesque, are nothing more than malarious swamps. The sooner they are drained or placed in circulation with the sea the better for the health of the island. The revenue arising out of the manufacture of bay-salt has fallen to insignificant proportions, but the land reclaimed by the drainage of the marshes might be turned to profitable account.

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The most remarkable church in the Marina is that dedicated to St. Lazarus, and built some time in the tenth or eleventh centuries.

When that distinguished traveller Pocock visited the edifice, more than a hundred years ago, the sepulchre of the saint was pointed out to him, and the following tradition, which is still recounted, was related: “The body of Lazarus was placed in a boat at Joppa, carried to this place by wind and wave, rescued and consigned to the tomb” over which the church was erected.

The remains of St. Lazarus were afterwards conveyed to Marseilles, where it is believed that the boat from Joppa, with its precious burden, was driven into port. But, apart from the legends of hagiology, the church has a peculiar national interest, for in a small burial-ground adjoining may be seen a number of finely-sculptured marble sarcophagi, which have escaped in a wonderful manner the ravages of Turks and of time. Some of these contain the remains of English families, who had found a home in Larnaca about two centuries ago. The inscription on one of the group shown in the photograph runs thus :— “Here lieth the body of ION. KEN, eldest son of M. ION. KEN. of London, Merchant, who was born the 6th February, 1672, and died the 12th July, 16__”

It is gratifying to know that two centuries of unremitting care have been bestowed on the preservation of these relics. The graveyard is encompassed on three sides by a high stone wall, and railed off from the church on the fourth. Within the church itself are some ancient paintings, either portraits of saints or representations of notable events in their lives.

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The streets of Larnaca are narrow, and, as a rule, devoid of pavement, recalling in their general aspect the older quarters of Alexandria, or Cairo. The houses, how ever, are more European in style than those of Egypt, a peculiarity which they possibly owe to the period of the Lusignan kings of Cyprus. In front., over the central doorway, projects a verandah, closed in around, and so fitted with Venetian shutters as to admit the breeze, but to exclude the sunlight.

The better class of houses have glass windows within the jalousies, and these arc invariably kept closed at night, even during the hottest months of the year, for exposure to the night air is accounted one of the chief causes of fever in the island.

In some streets the upper-floors project so far as to afford accommodation for an open bazaar beneath the protruding floors supported from below by pointed Gothic arches of stone.

The ground-floors of the houses are generally built of limestone, or sandstone, collected from the ruins of Citium, or quarried in the adjoining hills. The arched doorways are adorned with graceful mouldings, or sculptured tracery, while the upper stories are frequently built of sun-dried bricks. These sun-dried bricks are made of clay and chopped straw, and plastered with talc, a substance for which Cyprus is noted.

At evening the people may be seen seated at the doorways, or enjoying a repast in the open court within, shaded by orange-trees, and inhaling the fragrance of the myrtle and the rose.

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The bullock cart of Cyprus is a conveyance restricted in its use to a very limited area. It may be encountered on the dusty road to the capital, or to Famagosta, wending its way along to the rusty music of its wheels. We meet it also crossing the fertile plain of Mesorea (between the mountain ranges), labouring, produce-laden, down towards the coast, or hooded and transformed into a slow-paced jaunting car, conveying a family to some favourite resort. It is as picturesque in appearance as it is incomprehensible in construction. Why should its rude wheels weakly dip towards the axle, seeing that, were the wheels flat, greater strength would be obtained, as we1l as increased space in the carts? It may be that the diagonal strain of the spokes tends to keep the fellies together, and is a relic of a wooden age, when tires of iron were unknown. An intelligent wheelwright of Cyprus, when questioned on the subject, solved the mystery of the skeleton cone and short axle-trees, by stating that, to the best of his belief, wheels were always conical and axle-trees short. The bodies of these carts are constructed of a hard, fibrous wood, found in the island, of a kind admirably fitted to resist the strain and jolting on the rough roads traversed. The Cyprian ox is a finely-formed, clean-limbed animal, fleet of foot when not overburdened or underfed. It is used in ploughing and in treading out grain, and, as in India1 is held in reverence by the natives, who, as a rule, abstain from eating its flesh.

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In the features of this old dame who earns her living by selling bread in Larnaca, there still linger traces of youthful comeliness. Her thin locks are silvered with age, and the years, as they dragged heavily along, have furrowed her brow. Yet her eye is clear and bright, and wears a look of calm contentment; it is the blue eye met with among Cypriotes of European origin. She might, indeed, pass for an old Scotch crone, or the decent owner of an apple-stall at the corner of some London street. With her modest earnings, probably amounting to no more in a week than a London huckster makes in a day, she is respectably clothed and housed; but it must be borne in mind that food and raiment are cheap in our newly-leased island, and that in the absence of palatial almshouse the poorer classes are constrained to adopt thrifty habits, and somehow contrive without difficulty to find shelter for themselves.

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The accompanying illustration may be taken as an ordinary type of the women of Cyprus. Martini, who travelled in the island, remarks that, but for their lustrous eyes, the women would be devoid of beauty. It may be added that they dress modestly, and many of them follow the Turkish fashion in keeping the greater portion of the face covered. Their complexions are generally fair, though bronzed by exposure, their features regular, and the colour of their hair varies from light brown to black. Some of them, notably those living in the mountainous districts of the island, are not unworthy descendants of the Cypriote maids of classic fame. The native beauty of the race is, however, seen at its best in the children, for the women, before they have reached maturity, are sent out to work in the fields, and are thus early trained to a life of toil. The result is that they lack much of that grace that comes of gentle nurture; they are, indeed, among the lower orders, little more than domestic servants, taking their full share of out-door labour as well as doing the drudgery of the household. Toil-worn as many of the women appear, there yet survives among them an aptitude for the arts that belong to a by-gone civilization. Thus, they are skilled in spinning and in weaving fabrics of cotton or silk, which they adorn with tasteful designs. Although their houses are rude, and seem to boast of nothing beyond the bare necessaries of existence, yet, stowed away in chests and ancient cupboards, they have stores of fine linen and holiday attire.

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Although it has been stated on high authority that in Cyprus aged parents are often treated harshly by their children, yet, in travelling through the island, one happily meets with examples of the tenderest filial affection. General Cesnola, describing a patriarchal custom which prevails among the peasants, tells us that when a man becomes too old to work in the fields, and has sons able to replace him, he voluntarily despoils himself sometimes of his whole fortune; and the gallant author goes on to say that in many instances this sacrifice is ill-requited, and the father is reduced to beggary. But such is not always the case. There are daughters in Cyprus, unblessed by parental endowments, who spend their days in sedentary toil in order to make life pleasant for their aged relations. The solicitude bestowed on the old folks in some, at least, of the Cyprian houses affords a pleasing sight. Their toilets are carefully attended to, their arm-chairs are set out in the shadiest nooks in the courtyard, and here we may see them taking their rest, or, staff in hand, wandering about at will.

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In the language of Lithgow, who visited Cyprus more than two hundred years ago, “The people are strong and nimble”. Again, he says of them, “They are civil, courteous, and affable, and notwithstanding of their delicious and delicate fare they are much subject to melancholy; of a robust nature, and good warriors if they might carry arms”. It is evident from the above summary, and from what may be gleaned from the works of Pocock and other early travellers, that the modern Cypriote has inherited the attributes of his ancestors. He is strong and nimble, affable and courteous, and has a frame whose power and development would adorn the ranks of the finest regiment. The two men represented in this picture were selected at random from a throng of peasants, such as may be seen any day in the streets of Larnaca. The man on the right, standing erect in his native attire, as a powerful and picturesque specimen of his race. He was tall enough for a life-guardsman, and had the broad chest and muscular frame that belong mainly to the mountaineers of the interior. He was a native of an inland village, and had been down to Larnaca with produce. He had a fine, open, expressive countenance, and nothing would have afforded him greater pleasure than to have acted as the guide and protector of any stranger who desired to visit his country home.

The earnings of the peasantry vary. Men are paid according to the labour that is likely to be got out of them. Their scale of wages depends upon the season of the year and the demand for labour. The average earnings throughout the year may be set down as one shilling and sixpence a day for field labour to a male, and half that amount to a female.

[Kyrenia] [Famagusta] [Nicosia] [Lefke] [Limassol] [Paphos] [Larnaca]

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