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Monthly Archives: May 2009

It’s not a sight you see very often in Cyprus – and it needed special approval from the authorities, but last week saw the arrival on the island of two red, open-top double-decker buses.

The Cyprus Mail reported the arrival of the buses and the enterprising activities of the Red Bus Company, which has plans to offer London-style travel for those who want to get a different view of the island when they travel around the Ayia Napa area.

The first open-top bus arrived in March 2008, after three British expats, David Williams and David and Alan Tutton came up with the idea of offering a more original version of the usual coach tours around the island. They teamed up with two Cypriots to form the Red Bus Company and put their ideas to work. The company operates in the Ayia Napa-Famagusta area offering guided tours of local sites and attractions.

The double-decker buses were not cheap – they cost around € 34,000 each and even once the company had decided to bring the open-top double deckers to Cyprus, they had to overcome a law that forbids the use of open-top buses on the island. That done, the buses arrived safe and sound last week and the Red Bus Company has high hopes that they will be worth every penny.

David Williams told the Cyprus Mail that the tours were quite popular last summer and they are hoping that the addition of two more original double-decker buses will make them more popular than ever this summer.  The bus tours take tourists and locals around the Famagusta area, the Ayia Napa coastal area, the uninhabited Achna village, Achna Dam, to Famagusta town, and along the Green Line.

Williams said, “We are getting the tourists away from the beach and the bars into the villages, to taste some of the authentic local culture. We make stops at local farms, where tourists can buy fresh fruit and vegetables, which has been helping local farmers as well. We try to support the local community.”

The double deck buses can seat up to 75 people, with 43 seats on the upper deck, but when they did their first tour, the company only had two passengers. “That didn’t deter us,” remembers Williams, “we did the whole guided tour just for them.” Since then they’ve had an increasing number of takers of this original way of travel around the island and if you’d like to join them, ticket prices are € 15 for adults, € 10 for children and € 45 for a family ticket. For more information visit www.redbuscyprus.com

Author: Anne Hall

If you’re interested in history, there is plenty of it to be found in Cyprus. Recently, the Cyprus Weekly and the Financial Mirror, along with a number of international newspapers, reported on an Italian archeological find close to Limassol.

An Italian archeologist, Maria Rosario Belgiorno, claims to have discovered Cyprus’ oldest religious site – a 4,000 year-old triangular temple which predates any other found on the island. She believes that her find confirms that that religious worship in Cyprus began much earlier than was previously thought.

The 200m2 building was discovered last year outside Pyrgos, a village near Limassol and Belgiorno said that evidence points to a temple with a sacrificial altar that resembles Canaanite places of worship described in the Bible, noting that the temple has a very unusual, rare shape.

Belgiorno said a key piece of evidence linking the site to Biblical accounts of temples in ancient Palestine is a pair of 6 metre stone "channels" extending from either side of the altar that allowed sacrificial animals' blood to flow out of the structure. Belgiorno said the temple was situated across from the industrial area in the heart of the settlement, which she estimates covered some 35 hectares (86 acres) and most of it now lies beneath village houses and holiday villas. She estimates that the settlement was home to around 500 people, who had trade links with ancient Egypt and Palestine, she said. A major earthquake destroyed the settlement in 1,850 B.C.

Belgiorno, initially disclosed the find to English-language The Cyprus Weekly, but Cyprus Antiquities Department official Maria Hadjicosti said they are unable to confirm her claim until they have carried out further study. "That the site is dated to around 2,000 B.C. is certain, but the interpretation that it's a temple or a sacred site has yet to be confirmed."

Author: Anne Hall

The Cyprus News Agency and the Financial Mirror both reported this week on a new tourism initiative between Cyprus and Russia.

Antonis Paschalides, the Cypriot Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism has been in Moscow this week for the 4th International Tourist Exhibition, known as “Intourmarket 2009”, organised by the Russian government.  The President of the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) and officials, accompanied Mr. Paschalides to Moscow, where he met his Russian counterpart to discuss the setting up of a working group on tourism, in a bid to boost tourist flows between the two countries amid the global financial crisis.

In a press release, the Russian Minister of Tourism referred to increased efforts of the two governments to encourage tourism between Cyprus and Russia and said he was happy with the levels of services which Cyprus offers Russian visitors. Paschalides responded in a similarly positive vein, saying that entry procedures for Russian citizens visiting Cyprus have been simplified so that Russian nationals can obtain a visa within 24 hours.

The meeting this weekend is just one part of the Cypriot government’s urgent plans to boost tourism by looking at new markets and capitalising on traditional ones. At a conference in February, Mr. Paschalides announced that the government had approved increased budgets to the CTO of €4.5 million in 2008 and a massive €12 million in 2009, which will be used mainly for additional advertising and promotion. The focus of the new marketing initiatives will be on new tourism markets in countries like Russia, but also the Scandinavian and Arab countries. The CTO is also working hard to retain important traditional markets such as those of the UK and Germany and the government is promoting an Open Skies policy so that Cyprus is more accessible to countries which are not members of the EU, such as Russia, the Ukraine and a range of Arab countries.

The government and the CTO are hoping to attract a whole range of new visitors and make sure that tourists make plenty of return visits. Cyprus has been a perennially popular tourist spot, particularly with visitors from the UK, but according to the Cyprus Statistical Service, tourist arrivals and revenue from tourism have been falling sharply in recent months, hence the government’s determined moves to address the problem.

Author: Anne Hall

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