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Paphos: Greek for ‘Never Mind’

March 5th, 2015 · No Comments · tourism, Travel

You visit a country you like, that you find interesting, one that doesn’t seem too expensive, with a decent climate …

What do you do?

You consider living there. Especially if you are of a certain age.

Such has been the case here in Cyprus after four days. Sun shining, hundreds of miles of seashore, cost of living not too crazy, part of Europe but at the same time something of a backwater …

So, after passing through Larnaca, walking around the Old Town of Limassol, while staying on the outskirts; seeing Nicosia, the capital and not being wild about UN peacekeepers being needed to keep things cool on a tense border; we had conceived a positive notion of the city of Paphos, which is located on the western end of Cyprus.

And we would spend much of our last day in the country on a road trip from Limassol to Paphos, to check out the place, and see if we could perhaps identify a desirable place to live, for a time, in the ancient and not-too-big (33,000 population) town.

And how did that turn out?


What is wrong with Paphos?

Nearly everything.

Let’s enumerate.

1. The old part of the city is depressing. Rundown, much of it vacant. Narrow, confusing streets. Decrepit buildings. Very few humans. Grungy. Tatty, as the Brits would say. Someplace you would not want to spend 10 minutes in.

2. The other part of town is called the “tourist” area. Note to civic boosters: Even if foreigners are congregating in your town, don’t put it on street signs. Make believe your place is “authentic — more Cypriot than any place on the island!” Paphos fails spectacularly here. They have all sorts of signage indicating “Tourist area this way!” and you get to a couple of overpriced cafes at the port.

3. The town seems to be expanding with absolutely no plan. At all. You have your old town, which is Cypriot but sad and depressing and old and struggling to survive. Then you have the area around the port that is full of kitsch and bars and sandwich shops and pet grooming places and soul-crushing tourist-baiting shops. And a few miles from the city are modern (and very Western) housing tracts that have sprouted in the hills around town, sometimes cheek by jowl with old housing stock and rusting industrial parks. And in the new housing stock, away from any amenities, are thousands of Brits who have retired to Cyprus with their overvalued pounds sterling, who are in the process of changing the zeitgeist of the city — unless the Russian condo buyers, who also are moving in, beat them to it.

So, to be clear: Heart of city, falling-down old town. Down at the port, touristy schlock. In the suburbs, British sixtysomethings who have to walk an hour to reach a grocery store. It’s a planning nightmare. In that it appears to be completely unplanned.

Another downside for Paphos? It has an international airport with daily flights from Britain. Which means it is a Ground Zero (like Larnaca, 100 miles away) for teens who want to party in a warm, dry place and can get there nonstop from London.

This is not a good thing for someone thinking of spending time in your town. Take Limassol, near where we are staying. Bigger city, no international airport. But a thriving example of careful growth, compared to crumbling Paphos.

So, great disappointment in Paphos. It had appeared in my mind as a small, authentic, Cypriot city, still true to its history with a smattering of foreigners.

In the light of day, it is a failing city, with foreign retirees doing their best to ignore the grit of the place while living in sprawling developments catering to the Seizure World set 10-15 minutes from a downtown they will rarely visit.

And the reality of expats retirement sites?

You don’t want to get to a place a few years after it has been discovered, and Paphos has already been discovered and is well on its way to being ruined.

We were happy to get out of town.


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