Saturday, January 27, 2018

Cyprus | Paphos | Moon | Aphrodite

Carnival begins in Venice on Jan. 27 but people start celebrating early. When I saw the first people in masks in Campo St. Bartholomew I hurried back to my hotel room and booked the next flight to Athens via Istanbul. Took the 7:32 am water bus to the airport the next morning. The Visa Flap with Turkey is over. All they did was raise the prices. Before an electronic visa was $20; now they are $70. I had a five hour layover in Istanbul so I took the Metro downtown to change money. The exchange rates in Venice are nothing short of larcenous. On Divan Yolu in Istanbul there are at least a dozen currency exchanges all competing against one another. Asking at half a dozen places the best offer I got for $1000 was 810 Euros. This was very close to the official exchange rate on the internet. The best offer I had in Venice was 750 Euros for $1000. And in Venice you have to present your passport and fill out a form which even asks for your address in the States. Like I have an address in the States! On Divan Yolu, of course, no one asks to see anything but your money.

I was going to stroll around the Sultanahmet area for awhile, but it was raining and a chill wind was blowing off the Sea of Marmara. I was wearing only a Mongolian cashmere sweater and no hat. So I took the Metro back to the airport and spent the rest of the layover in the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge, which as business lounges go is quite luxurious. Unlimited baklava! Actually I am flying economy, since on Turkish Airlines you can buy an exit row seat and the extra space was all I needed. But I am a Turkish Airlines Miles and Smiles Elite Gold Card holder so I get to use the Business Lounge even when flying economy. This is just one of the perks. Also priority check-in, priority boarding, and in Istanbul a special express lane through immigration, which is really handy. I have flown over 200,000 miles on Turkish Airlines the last four years, which is how I got the Gold Card. Those round-trip Ulaanbaatar-Istanbul miles—the equivalent of half-way around the world—add up fast.

Arrived in Athens around 9:00 pm local time. My portmanteau came out first on the luggage carousel—another Gold Card perk!—and I caught the Metro downtown.  Back once again at my Favorite Hotel literally in the shadow of the Acropolis. This place is a bit of a mystery. I would proffer that it was the best location of any hotel in Athens. The back entrance to the Acropolis is only a couple hundred feet away. A few hundred feet in the opposite direction is a square lined with restaurants. Monastery Square, a big shopping hub, is only a ten minute walk away. But this hotel always seems to have rooms. Admittedly the place is a bit down at the heels and the rooms are tiny. Couples might find them a bit cramped, unless they intend to spend their entire stay in bed, but for misanthropes like myself there is no problem. And the bathroom is even tinier; it also serves as a shower. There is a shower drain in the floor. But the luggage platform and the dresser have gorgeous white marble tops that many people would die for. I like to think it is the same marble they used for the Parthenon.

Next morning I took the Metro back out to the airport and caught the flight to Cyprus. In Larnaka flowers are in bloom, there are oranges and lemons on the trees, and the famous pink flamingos are back in the lake by the side of the road from the airport. I stopped by my Armenian tailor to have new shirts made. He has my measurements on file but he took them again to see if there were any changes. It turns out my waistline is four inches less than three years ago. And I have been consciously eating more in an attempt to keep my weight up to fighting trim. To no avail, it appears. It is a constant struggle to keep body and soul together. 

The following morning I took the bus to Paphos, at the western end of Cyprus Island. Paphos is, of course, the birthplace of Aphrodite. While in Paphos I hope to celebrate the Super Blue Full Blood Moon happening on January 31. Fasten your seat belts, people, it’s going to be a wild ride!
My hotel in Paphos

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