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November 22nd, 2010 | Cyprus

Riding in Cyprus – Apollon Hylatis

Up on the hills above Kourion, we stopped to take in the view, mindful of the warnings posted of course...!!

To the west of Limassol, a few kilometres beyond the vast archeological site of Kourion, the coastal road climbs up onto a plateau from where you can look down onto the narrow strip of farmland that runs along the seashore…

Having decided to stay in Cyprus for a few more days while the treatment on my elbow took effect, I was in no hurry to get back to Larnaca…

I finally get to see the one that I had missed on an earlier visit to the area...

I stopped at a number of lay-bys, parked the bike and walked out to the edge of the cliffs to look down onto the sea below me…I could see many pathways leading down to the shore from the heights of the plateau and imagined that people had been using them for almost 3 000 years…!!

It was from these very cliffs, that in ancient times, those found guilty of touching the sacred altar in the temple, were hurled to their deaths… It did not pay to get too close to the most sacred part of the temple in those days, and was zealously, and jealously, guarded by the priests of the Sanctuary…!!

Who wouldn't want a farm in a place like this one... Plough, swim, plant, swim, harvest, swim...!!

The entrance to the site lies a short distance off the main road, and on arrival there, I found that I was the only visitor…

Layout of the site that spans a large area on the top of the hill...

The remains of the Temple of Apollo... Impressive... Iconic... Amazing...!!

Ignoring the signs indicating where vehicles should be parked, I rode the Big Fella through the gates of the complex, and found a shady spot to leave him in…

The guard in the little office looked at me, and then looked over at the bike with a raised eyebrow… Then he smiled and said, “It is hot today, yes…?”

“Very hot…!!” I replied, “My friend needs to cool off…!!”

“Maybe you ride your friend too fast…!!” he said with a smile…

“No…not today, the roads and the weather are too good to go fast…!!” I replied, looking up into yet another clear blue sky that I had been blessed with since my arrival in Cyprus…

I walked up into the complex through what used to be known as the Kourion Gate, past the Public Baths and onto the “Sacred Street” which leads down to the entrance of the remains of the Temple of Apollon…

The entire site is dominated by the remains of the temple… No matter where you stand, your eyes are drawn to this edifice… It stands proudly on the northern edge of the complex, its two remaining columns and part of one wall looming up into the clear blue sky…

These were the most impressive ruins I had visited in Cyprus, and I spent more time wandering through them than I had in any other… Perhaps it was because it was far easier to imagine the layout in ancient times…

The site has been well preserved by successions of archaeologists, who continue to make new discoveries under the existing ruins, dating back to the 8th century B.C. …!!

Side view of the temple that was destroyed in the great earthquake of 364 A.D. ...

Sculptured sandstone and sky...

From the outside of what once was the Pafos Gate...

The colonnade leading down to Sacred Street...

There are far more columns still standing here than at Kourion itself, and these clearly show the position of the various buildings and their relation to the temple…

Apollon was the Woodland God, Protector of the city of Kourion, and in ancient times, this entire area was covered in thick forest…

The original temple dates back to the 8 th century B.C., and was used right up to the end of the Roman occupation of the island in 330 A.D. …

Pilgrims came from far and wide to worship the protector of Kourion, and the area was specifically designed to cater for them, which included the public baths, places for them to change and rest, and a garden for them to relax and reflect in…

From the outside of what once was the Pafos Gate...

The Roman Emperors Trajan and Augustus himself personally saw to the design, improvements and enlarging of the complex, which indicates the important role the complex played in the day to day lives of the people of that time…

Looking out through the doorway of the last remaining wall of one of the guest rooms in the Southern Complex...

I wandered into the Palaestra, a large open courtyard surrounding by columns, where athletes preparing for the games were housed… Sitting with my back to one of the columns, I closed my eyes and pictured the throngs of people who came here to worship Apollon, bringing gifts and offerings for the priests who were entrusted with the upkeep of the complex…

The Palaestra, built in 100 A.D. by the Emperor Augustus, consisted of an open courtyard with rooms leading off on three sides of it... Athletes trained and stayed here...

I imagined Emperor Augustus standing under the sacred trees of Daphne and Myrtle in his flowing white robes, hands on hips and saying,

“Ok boys, I want a large courtyard built here, surrounded by columns… Plant some more trees over there and erect benches underneath them for the pilgrims to sit on… And send a picnic basket down to the beach, I’m popping off for a quick dip…!!”

I’m not sure how long I sat there, my mind drifting from the past to the present, but I was eventually interrupted by the crunching footfalls of a small group of visitors, who trudged past me, bobbing their heads in greeting…

I got up and moved over to the western side of the site, and near the Pafos Gate, found another shady spot to sit in…

The peacefulness of this special place washed over me, causing me to forget my earlier altercation with the Liar of Limassol… Instead, I focused on the sights and sounds around me…

A lizard ran out from under the rock he had been resting under, grabbed a small insect in his mouth, and dashed back to his sanctuary to enjoy his meal in peace; a small flock of sparrows landed in a low shrub off to my left, chirping and chattering excitedly; and somewhere out in the site, a crow cawed loudly…

Standing in "Sacred Street" with the massive remains of the Temple of Apollon in the background...

I heard a low murmuring which indicated the position of the group of visitors who had passed me earlier… They had entered the covered area protecting the public baths, and were walking along the wooden walkways erected above them…

As is usual when I visit places such as these, my mind centered on the fact that I was here alone, and could not share my thoughts with any other… I thought of my girls, wondering where they were, and what they were doing, and wishing they were here with me… In my mind’s eye I pictured myself pointing out the places of interest, explaining what the ancients did here and why it was important that sites such as these are preserved to allow us a glimpse into mankind’s past…

I felt that familiar constriction in my chest, took a few deep breaths, and involuntarily sighed so deeply, that I scared the sparrows out of the shrubbery… I watched as they flew off over the ruins, drawing my eyes once again to Temple of Apollon…

A lone photographer stood on the steps leading up to the two remaining columns, dwarfed by the edifice above him… I watched as he shook his head in wonder as he walked around to view the structure from behind…

I smiled to myself, knowing exactly how he felt… It had made the same impression on me when I had stood on those same steps… I had run my hands over the smooth stone blocks of its walls, seeing how perfectly they lined up with each other; peered up at the soaring columns, and thought about how much work it had taken to convert a massive block of stone into a perfect cylindrical shape… In a word: AMAZING…!!

A large bus was pulling into the parking area as I was leaving, and watching the noisy crowd pile out of it, I was grateful that I had had the opportunity to enjoy the Sanctuary on my own for the most part…

Back in Limassol, I collected my bags, exchanging not a single word with the man who had almost come to spoil my memories of Cyprus…

I opened and closed the zips, noticing that he had not put the heavy duty zipper that I had ordered onto the duffel bag, but not wanting to argue with him anymore… The positive effect that my visit to Apollon Hylatis had had on me was still with me, and I did not want it spoiled…

Whatever it says, I agree...!!

I grudgingly counted out the fee that we had agreed upon, ignoring his babbling explanation about how difficult it had been to replace the “window” on my tank bag…

On the way back to my apartment in Larnaca, I tested the throttle control, trying to get used to riding with my left hand only… I was completely at ease riding with my right hand only, as I had for years been using my left hand to either take photographs or shoot video with, and to keep the beat of the music in my headphones, using an imaginary drumstick…!!

On a long open section of the motorway, I set the throttle at about 100 km/h, took both hands off the steering and with arms thrown wide open, knees griping the bike under me, we zoomed along, reveling in this new sensation…

It was a “Rocky” moment for me…!! You know the one, where he runs up the steps of the National History Museum in Philadelphia, turns and raises his arms… Yeah, … Who could forget that…?

I passed a large truck lumbering along in the left hand lane, saw the shocked look on the drivers face at the sight of the Big Fella barreling along, apparently “on his own”, his rider’s arms outstretched…

After a few kilometres of this, the wind drag on my right arm began sending frantic messages to my brain that this was not the best treatment for an injured elbow…

There was also another reason for discontinuing this little exercise… I didn’t want the Big Fella thinking he could take off on his own when I wasn’t around…!! I made a mental note never to leave my keys in the ignition again, just in case he got some “wise ideas”…!!

©GBWT 2010

3 comments to Riding in Cyprus – Apollon Hylatis

  • Mark Behr

    Mr Rocky, too much of that and you will end up on the rocks 🙂

    Sounds like a really worthwhile day. Good stuff !

  • “Whatever it says, I agree…!!” … it says “get charged” but i think after todays “adventure always lost everything included ride” you are dis-charged 😉

  • Åke

    Ronnie ; I was just taking a bite from a Snickers when I saw the
    picture here !! Hahahaha 🙂 ( I have unloaded goods in Hudiksvall
    here in Sweden and having a great time of reading when I’m waiting
    for a loading. )

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