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Cyprus – vacations

xasamboulia1On Monday i returned from my 4 days in Droushia with two friends. It’s the 3rd time in the space of 1 year that I’ve been there and there’s so much to see. It’s new to me and I’ve been to places i have not been there at all or at least it’s been many years since.

Highlights

Friday – On our way to Droushia we stopped for (expensive and awful) coffee at Petra tou Romiou. At least we enjoyed the view. We found ourselves in Latsi around lunchtime for souvlaki before heading for the hotel.

Saturday – We visited the St. Raphael church in Pomos and we had lunch in Argaka (Saint Barbara) with a wonderful sea view. Before that, we had tea and cake at the Herbal Gardens in Ano Akourdaelia. This place is truly a hidden treasure. At night we went to Polis to watch the APOEL game and then had dinner at the (expensive but excellent) Old Town restaurant for steaks and lamb chops.

Sunday – It was mostly a relaxing day for us with lunch being our only break from the (wonderful Droushia Heights) hotel as we went to Kathikas and the Farmyard restaurant. It was a surreal experience because the place was packed with British expats who live in the area. The Sunday buffet was excellent.

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Monday – This was our leaving day and we wanted to make the most of it. We headed for Agios Nikolaos and the Bridge of Tzelefos. I’ve never been there before and it was brilliant. On the way we went past Petra ton Hasampoulion which is more impressive than the photos give it credit. We then stopped at Omodos for a walk around the village and lunch. A bit disappointed with Omodos as i thought it was a bit too touristy. Finally we ended up in Platres for coffee and cake while playing two games of Hanabi. On our way back we had car trouble on the Nicosia-Limassol highway and had to abandon my car. We called for a taxi and rescue line. Even that could not ruin this trip. 🙂

A few conclusions i’ve drawn from these great vacations.

Firstly, that there is so much to see and explore in Cyprus. Secondly, holidays can be expensive in Cyprus. Although the hotel was reasonably priced, a lot of the places we visited were expensive. For example, in Platres the coffee and cake was €10 per person (Forest Park Hotel). Thirdly, i love the driving bit in spite of getting us lost in Paphos on our way back and then with our car troubles.

Finally, i want more of this in my life.

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Posted by on September 24, 2014 in Travel

 

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Essen 2013 (2)

I’m on my way back.

At least at the time of writing this. I’m sitting in gate G03 in Vienna’s airport waiting for my flight back to Larnaca. I have 4 hours until departure time so I do have some time on my hands.

So, how was the trip to the greatest annual board games exhibition in the world?

Our first day!

Well, I got an overload of new board games and the culture which exists in (and not only) Germany around this hobby. I think that’s what I’m taking back with me. This culture that I have seen here and which is missing in Cyprus. In Cyprus and many other parts of the world this is just another geek hobby. In Germany it’s also a family activity. I’ve seen families and friends sitting around a table (and even on the floor) playing board games together. Thinking,  arguing,  laughing together. Even crying! Kids’ games can be cruel sometimes.

At the exhibition there were 3 big halls divided into booths with publishers and designers promoting their board games. From Hasbro promoting the next Monopoly variant to Andre (the Dutch) with his first board game design developed in collaboration with a friend. I actually ended up buying Andre’s game after his explanation of how it plays and reading the rulebook. The last time I made such a purchase,  basically without reading or watching reviews, I ended up getting an awful game which I traded for another game. I’m not sure if it’s going to turn out any better this time but that’s not the point. The point is that you sit down with these designers and feel their passion while they are explaining their game. They are tired and anxious but the love for the hobby drives them. It’s definitely not about the money. There isn’t any. Nor fame. Apart from a couple of designers no one knows these people outside the hobby. It’s just love.

Three Little Pigs – What a lovely game. This is going to be my god daughter’s Christmas present! Shhh!

You could of course also buy games. Many people had trolleys and boxes filled with dozens of them. Yes I mean dozens and not small boxes either. This was especially evident on the first day.  I bought some games for myself and I also broke the rule of not buying new releases. 3 out of the 5 games I bought are completely new.  But games I could buy at anytime.  I did not need to come here to do it. However, I did manage to get one signed by the designer whom I greatly respect and listen to his podcasts regularly. There is an intimacy here you don’t find in video games that often.

The loot (does not include the gifts)

Of course it wasn’t all perfect. I feel exhausted. For different reasons, some which can be explained and others which cannot, I barely got 4 hours of sleep every night. Combine that with the walking and standing from 10:00 to 19:00 in the first couple of days, and until around 14:00 the other two. The crowds (especially on Saturday) and the noise. You get the picture. If you remember from my first post I don’t expect to get sleep tomorrow either since I’m heading to the office first thing in the morning. It’s a bleak picture in physical terms.

Live auction of games!

So,once again. Was it worth it?

Yes.

Just to see that this hobby is not marginal everywhere in the world.  That there are countries where women and men of all ages play them.  That families and friends still enjoy each other’s company and are willing to spend time together by playing these games. Without having a tablet or a smartphone next to them.

Would I come back here again?

I doubt it.  I’ve seen what I came for although I did not realise what I was looking for when I left Cyprus. I came here looking for board games to play. Designers to see. To meet other board gamers from around the world.

But I have seen something greater than that.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2013 in Board games, Travel

 

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Essen 2013

I’m writing this on Wednesday, morning 23 October 2013. I’m sitting at my home desktop, drinking my coffee with a plan to visit M&S bakery later for breakfast. Mmmmmmmmm…..

However, by the time this has been published i will be back in Cyprus from Germany. In fact i will also be back at the office. My plane lands at 00:45 Tuesday morning and i have to be at work that day because we have a Human Resources assessment from the UK. It was my fault…

The good news though is that i will be returning from Essen. The Mecca of board games. The biggest board games exhibition in the world which is from 24 to 27 of October. I’m going with a friend and we are flying through Vienna and Dusseldorf and then finally to Essen by car or train.

It’s the first time that i’m traveling somewhere and spending most (basically all) of my time at a single location.

The schedule goes something like this.

Wake up
Breakfast
Travel to Exhibition Halls which open at 10:00
Leave the exhibition around 18:00 or 19:00
Grab a bite
Head back to the hotel for a shower and some rest
Then down to the ground floor of the hotel to play board games with other hotel residents

That basically sums it up. What i expect these days to be like.

I’ve already made my list of board games to check out, downloaded quite a few rulebooks (64 actually) and also left as much space as possible in my bag (half empty). I’m not planning to buy games but i have to be realistic. I will buy a few. It’s inevitable.

And that’s what’s making this trip so fantastic. A friend of mine went to Florida and to the Disney theme parks. This is something that i don’t find appealing at all.

However, i do understand the feeling. It’s the feeling of being 10 years old again and i’m loving it!

See you on Tuesday!

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2013 in Board games, Travel

 

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New Year’s Resolutions 2012/13

It’s time for the resolutions post and although i’ve not been posting as regularly as i would have liked, this is one (two actually) post i wanted to publish. It’s a brief review of how i coped with the resolutions i set myself last year. If you remember i said at the time that they were quite ambitious because they were not completely in my control to achieve. However, i believe i was and still am the decisive factor in all of them. I’m surprised. I think i did a lot better than i expected and writing this post now has lifted my mood as i’m reflecting on how the year fared.

Let’s go through these resolutions in more detail (but not too much!).

Last Year’s Resolutions (2012/13)

Travel -This has been a relative success. It could have been a lot better but i’m very satisfied with the progress. During the year i arranged my yearly vacations to Larnaca although not as many days and with no road trips this time. However, i did manage to go Kalopanayiotis and Pafos for a few days. In fact i’ve already planned another Pafos trip for this year! Pafos is especially refreshing because i have not visited the surrounding villages for a long time now and some even not at all. I loved it!

Finally, the Germany trip is all set and i’m currently making my necessary geeky preparations which i will mention in a future post. The important thing is that i’m going and i’m very very excited about it! 🙂

The only caveat is that all these trips have been done with others and there was no solo travelling which was one of the ideas i wanted to pursue. However, at the end of the day what matters is that i did more travelling than previous years and that’s enough for me right now. Achieved!

Volunteer -This has been a massive fail. Zero effort in this one all through the year and if i’m honest with myself i don’t know if i want to actually achieve this anymore. My desire has diminished significantly. I see my priorities lying elsewhere at the moment and i don’t want to spend energy on this. Maybe later or if it happens by accident. Fail and not keeping for next year.

Exercise – Fortunately this is one of the big successes of the year. I’ve managed to find a few things i can do to keep me relatively fit and happy. There’s no jogging, football or mountain biking. However, i did a lot of swimming (since beginning of June and still going) and also home exercises. The home exercises have been especially satisfying as i can do them 4 times a week and usually the after effects are manageable. I’m trying new things every month to keep things interesting (TRX trial in September!!!).

Overall i’m surprised that i’ve found a level of exercises that i can manage and importantly be happy with it. Achieved!

Secret ResolutionFail and keeping for next year

Health – This has been more good than bad. I have now settled into a routine with my ups and downs. Physically and mentally. Sometimes it’s almost as if everything is perfect whereas other times things do seem to take me back to those “dark nights”. However, i’ve made considerable effort for this one and i’m happy about that. I do need to keep this going because things are still fragile. The fact that exercise wise things have been going well was a considerable boost to my morale. Relatively satisfied with this but still a lot of work to be done. Achieved! (keeping for next year because this is the big one)

I’m now working on the resolutions for 2013/14.

 
 

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Cypriot Tourist in Cyprus (2)

When travelling by car, great music is critical as it makes the journey from just a chore to being a pleasure instead. Sometimes i wished i could drive a while longer just so that i could finish the track.

Dire Straits ‘ first album kept me company most of the time on the road.

Every single song in this album is magical but my favourites are Down To The Waterline, Water for Love, Sultans of Swing and Wild West End.

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2012 in Antidote, Music, Travel

 

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A Cypriot tourist in Cyprus (1)

If you’d like to be made self-conscious of what you are doing then you should try being a tourist in Cyprus. The reaction you will receive can be as follows:

“I thought you were one of the teachers.” – The polite person in charge at the Larnaca Medieval Fort. While i was visiting the fort there were about 3-4 classes of elementary school kids.

“Mastre” – Monk at the entrance of the Stavrovouni Monastery. He wanted me to leave the camera in the car. It’s a place of worship not a tourist attraction. Hmm….Just wait a few hundred years…

“Are you a bus driver or a visitor?” – The seller at the Kourion canteen while i was paying for my croissant and bottle of water. I admitted to being the latter but i think i would have got a discount had i said bus driver.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2012 in Antidote, Travel

 

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Vacations at Treis Elies

One of my new year’s resolutions is to travel more, either by myself, with friends or family. I finally took the first, small step towards achieving it last week. I spent two nights in the Treis Elies village together with my father, uncle and aunt who were visiting from Austria.

Treis Elies is a village with a population of 25 according to the latest census, which took place last year. Most of them over 70 years old.

Kalws ta kopellia”, a sort of a “hello boys”, was the greeting from the 85 year old (i estimate) lady, who i think owns one of the two the village coffeshops, to my dad and uncle (both in their 60s).

Being greeted by everyone you come across, whether on foot or by car, is standard there which is something i found quite appealing and uncomfortable at the same time.

We stayed at The Spitiko tou Archonta which is basically an old, renovated house split into flats but has kept its character and personality. The place has a beautiful overview of the whole village, as you can see from the photo below.

Photos of To Spitiko toy Archonta, Treis Elies
This photo of To Spitiko toy Archonta is courtesy of TripAdvisor

It’s a quiet and peaceful village with barely any traffic. At night you can hear the nearby stream. The morning however was the best part for me. Watching and listening to the small village slowly coming to life. The birds waking up, the old lady cleaning the coffeshop, the few good mornings being exchanged here and there.

There is a 2.5km trail there with a Venetian bridge which ends near Ayios Nikolaos. I walked around half of it. You can even walk the roads on foot, as cars are a rare sight.

The lady (owner) of The Spitiko tou Archonta, Androulla, also prepares breakfast and dinner on request. We had chicken with plums and gemista on the first night and trout on the second. This was perfect as we usually made our excursions during the day to Platres, Troodos, Platania and a couple of monasteries but went back to the village in the afternoon to relax and eat dinner. I especially enjoyed our stop on the way to Treis Elies at the coffeshop of the Department of Forests at Platania. Gorgeous place, which i had not visited in many, many years.

The only negative was the mosquitoes which i did not realise were biting me until after i was already bitten 4-5 times. Other than that it was a fantastic place to spend a few days.I t’s definitely a place i would love to revisit, particularly between September and Maybe, and also the wider area around Troodos.

Verdict of belongings i took with me:

Kindle – Superb! FT delivered on time plus A Game of Thrones now at 25%.
Nintendo DS
– Zero useage. Given up on both the DS and the Radiant Historia.
Ipod
– The only noise being the birds and the stream. Too beautiful to block with music.
AKG headphones
– See ipod.
Destiny Quest – Too busy with Kindle book and newspaper.
Onirim – See above.
High Society card game – Did not even come up. In the day we were too busy with the trips around Troodos and the nights were all about the dinner, the tea, the dessert and the conversations while watching over peaceful Treis Elies.

Once again, i took too many things with me. Something i want to work on.

 

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