Moving away from Nicosia and driving along the E903 (what we’re doing today), we ascend higher and higher into the mountains… after the monotonous Nicosian flat-plains and stunning green hills in the Klirou vicinity, our journey leads us further afield, flicking through the pages in the history of the island spots which we are going to visit. It helps us to learn more about its people, their culture and way of life — from the past to the present day.
After passing Klirou, driving towards the villages of Apliki and Palaichori, you’ll soon be able to enjoy a rapid change in scenery: the road noticeably ascends higher, leading away from the dark blue expanse of the reservoir and gradually beginning to loop around in the Troodos foothills. In place of ploughed cornfields and olive groves, more orchards and vineyards appear in the surrounding area.
Very nearby, on the right-hand side of the highway, as we were whizzing past, we saw the flicker of a half-dilapidated, arched building (the remains of an ancient hani – inn). It was once a coaching inn, where in centuries past, traders and travellers would stop and lodge for the night, letting themselves and their pack animals rest during the trip from Nicosia to Palaichori, which lasted a couple of days.
Further along the route, you will be met with restaurants and rooms for rent in traditional rural homes. Indeed, this is a favourite weekend holiday spot for many a Nicosian.
The mountains begin: the dark-red cliffs, towering along the river, channel act as a “gateway” to the Troodos. They resemble tightly pressed sandstone masses on a “pillow” of lava, lying nearby the so-called Western mine gallery, where bornite is still processed to this day . After all, Apliki and its surroundings were once an active mining region.
Without warning, the road then turns into a winding mountain path. Therefore, it’s worth keeping attentive, so you don’t miss the turning to the left. It will take you to a small square clad with the local grey stone and lined with flowers.
From the Greek — Απλικι, it is a small hamlet lying 4 km from Palaichori and 35 km to the south-west of Nicosia.
From the second half of 1400 A.D., Apliki was a region of copper mines situated 50 km from the island capital . Archaeological excavations, which were conducted nearby the village, display the remains of an ore smelting enterprise. The complex was built on the region's steep terraces. Archaeologists also uncovered four builds (likely residences) and found items inside which, no doubt, belonged to a wealthy family. Amongst the discoveries, there was an ivory cylinder, a cylindrical stamp made of talc and some gold earrings.
It must be said that in later centuries, until recently, this area was even used to mine gold and pyrite (Cyprus Mines Corp  was the owner of this deposit). Overall, for any information on the island's non-ferrous metal mines and details about the mining companies in Cyprus, please see here.
It is common knowledge that in the colonial period, as well as during the first years of the independent state’s existence, small-scale production generally predominated on the island. The mining industry of modern Cyprus is a branch which has failed to avoid decline. This includes the field of quarrying copper pyrite ore, which has been the primary resource on the island for many centuries . As used to be the case (when this happened in the past, it was on far bigger scales than today), the extraction of many natural resources takes place in the Troodos mountains (chromium, asbestos, gypsum, marble and so on).
It’s about time we got back to Apliki… A small hamlet with only several streets, it lies on the mountain spurs and is somewhat susceptible to winds. Today, it’s simply a quiet spot where the locals grow grapes, almonds and peaches, as well as raise pet birds. Around, there are some stunning vistas of green hills overgrown with forestry. Although Apliki may look like a paradise for pensioners, it also cares for its youth and the much younger generation: there’s a small stadium situated at the centre of the village.
Above it, on one of the hill summits and under a majestic pine tree, stands the Church of Saint George (also the church of Saints Reginos and Orestes). The architectural style is typical for Cyprus — a basilica with an apse and modern mosaics flanking the main entrance: the one to the left of the entrance pictures the Saints, and to the right — the miracle of Saint George’s victory over the dragon.
The square surrounding the church is lined with grey stone, providing a favourable rest spot, as well as some peace and quiet. You can also take your time to enjoy the surrounding views.
It must be noted that both Saints, Reginos and Orestes, are highly revered on the island, where they once preached and were ultimately executed by pagans. The 20th of August is celebrated in their memory. Neither of them has been officially included in the list of the canonised. Therefore, it’s worth going into more detail about them and their deeds.
The Legend of Reginos and Orestes
Both of the young individuals hailed from Halcyon in Minor Asia. They later came to Cyprus, during the persecution of the Christians by the Roman powers. The two friends were possibly descendants from noble families: the only thing we know is that they were raised in Christian backgrounds.
In Latin, the name Reginos sounded like Vonomilix. After joining the Roman army, he gave all that he had to the poor so that he was without any personal duties or commitments. Even as a military man, he didn’t stop living the life of a devout Christian, following a strict diet of dry bread once a day to successfully gain virtue. For this deed, the pagans betrayed him to general Presentinos. The war-chief initially doubted Reginos’ “involvement” and deemed the accusation of him being Christian as slander. He ordered that the arrested immediately make a sacrifice to the antique gods in his presence.
Reginos refused, replying: “I will not make a sacrifice to them, but only to the true God…”. The general then ordered 9 soldiers to seize and beat him severely, after which he was committed to the turbulent flames.
However, by God’s will, the fire was extinguished, and the execution stopped. The Roman general was defeated and used flattery in an attempt to persuade Reginos to renounce Christ, offering him all kinds of gifts. Nothing, however, had an effect on the Christian and seeing he could do nothing to control this, the enraged general ordered Reginos to be put in a sack while still alive, and thrown into the deep.
Once again, by God’s will, the unfortunate soul managed to be miraculously rescued, with dolphins taking him back to shore. Many people came to the sea, wishing to witness the miracle for themselves… including Orestes, a friend of Reginos, who exclaimed: “The Christian God is Great!”
The Roman soldiers now seized Reginos together with Orestes and the other witnesses who had come to believe in the miraculous salvation of Reginos. They were all thrown into a dungeon to await their execution the following day.
While imprisoned in the dungeon, Reginos told the newly-converted Christians of the Holy Scriptures, in addition to teaching them prayers. When dawn arrived, an angel appeared and unbolted the doors. The prisoners, along with Reginos and Orestes, then fled to Cyprus, where most people, at that time, were still pagans.
Both friends began to work as missionaries, starting in Paphos and then reaching Naples (now the resort region in Limassol, where they preached Christianity.
They then came to the village of Fasoula, which was the centre point of idolatry in the region. There, they were captured, tortured and consequently beheaded. Several Christians became secret witnesses to the martyrdom and deaths of Reginos and Orestes, and under cover of night, took their bodies away to commit them to the earth.
Several years later, when Christianity was already the main religion on the island, the burial site of St. Reginos had been lost. Despite this, Reginos came to a priest of Fasoula in a dream and directed the man to his grave. After venturing there, people discovered his remains, and that very same priest then built a large church in honour of the holy pair.
No shortage of miracles has occurred at the grave of Reginos and Orestes. This includes the locals speaking of many visions where the Saints have appeared as horsemen. The remains were later transferred to the monastery of St. John the Baptist, on the Greek island of Skopelos.
As we are aware, besides Fasoula (the ancient church was destroyed, but a new one was constructed nearby, in 1981) these Saints are also revered in Apliki and the village of Tremitus, where there is a cathedral dedicated to them.
For more information, please see here.
The Mines and Wildlife: or a Little Something from the Apliki News
Very recently, as a result of the decision to resume copper extraction in the Hellenic mine (part of the Mavrouni territory of mines), it was also decided that two local bat species would be relocated. The Rhinolophus blasii and Myotis nattereri bats, which had long taken root in the earlier abandoned adits, were transferred to a new, specially constructed cave, under the observation of the Department of Ecology of the Cyprus Ministry of Agriculture.
Moreover, the revival of work in the locality led to the need for “diverting” the local mouflon population (a little more than 60 animals) to a safer area. It was also necessary to create an artificial water source for the herd, as their former spot will become to be inaccessible.
The authorities also took care of the bird species residing in this particular region. During the nesting period of the Bonelli’s eagle (Aquila fasciata), which settles in the Apliki region, all work will be carried out at a distance no closer than 2 km to the favourite habitats of the feathered beasts.
References and studies on these places can be found in the following sources:
Knapp Bernhard. The Archaeology of Community on Bronze Age Cyprus: Politiko Phorades in Context. American Journal of Archaeology, 2003.
J. D. Muhly. The Development of Copper Metallurgy in Late Bronze Age Cyprus. In: N. H. Gale (Hrsg.), Bronze Age Trade in the Mediterranean. Jonsered, Paul Åströms Förlag, 1991.
J. D. Muhly. The Organisation of the Copper Industry in Late Bronze Age Cyprus. In E. Peltenburg (Hrsg.), Early Society in Cyprus. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1989.
Taylor Joan du Plat . A Late Bronze Age Settlement at Apliki, Cyprus. Ant Journal 32, 1952.
Tylecote Rodney. From Pot Bellows to Tuyeres. Levant, 1981.
Having marvelled at this local hamlet, we set off further for Palaichori, which a little more than 20 years ago, in Autumn 1997, celebrated the 700th year since its founding.
We were interested in getting to know the next populated settlement, which lay in the scenic expanses of the Troodos. Still, we were also keen to search for the footprints of days past — in other words, legends from a bygone era.
… We soon found what we’d been searching for…
From the Greek Παλαιχωρι, the village lies 930 metres above sea level, in the Nicosia district. Curiously, the local government runs under two municipalities: Palaichori Oreinis and Palaichori Morphou — this is all due to the river Setrachos, which geographically splits the village. The population count does not exceed 1200 people.
The first mentions of Palaichori date back to the 13th century (the era of Frankish rule in Cyprus: 1192-1489). It’s not entirely certain how the settlement originated. Still, it is considered to have been passed to the Order of the Templars, “the Poor warriors”, in October 1237. For all intents and purposes, it was in the ownership of one of the wealthiest warriors in the 12th-13th century — Henry I, the king of Cyprus (in fact, this representative of the Lusignan dynasty was the last ruler of Jerusalem to be crowned). According to historical sources, Palaichori, along with the hamlet of Esterika, which no longer exists today, was freely gifted to the knights as a fiefdom (land ownership).
Today’s Palaichori is entirely modern, while still also very traditional… naturally, in the best sense of the word.
Interestingly, many in the present make particular note of this village feature: the locals preserve the ancient customs of their village and strictly honour its traditions like nowhere else on the island.
The atmosphere in the village is everything: the village has a staunch, “medieval” impression and thus invokes a sense of austerity. This is all in spite of the modern reality and elements of somewhat urban comfort, which, naturally, happen to be here. They make Palaichori both a highly trendy and fashionable spot for Cypriots to spend their weekends.
The well-equipped cottages and villages (including those for rent) are peaceful neighbours to the remains of a medieval construct — part of a particularly large-sized hamlet for that time. You can also see ancient places of worship, breathtaking stony precipices overgrown with a stunning mass of wild grass and flowers, as well as grapevines which have long run wild , hanging down like tropical lianas. They have successfully broken free of abandoned allotments attached to semi-dilapidated shacks — here and there, all this unkempt and natural beauty makes you forget which time we’re actually in.
Meanwhile, the back alleys, side streets and pathways are all very spontaneous. They delight in their unpredictability, all of a sudden appearing from within the thickets. There is also a cross of sorts between steps and terraced gutters carved into the moss-grown cliffs. Even with the sites we plan to visit already marked out, they repeatedly make you seek adventure, with the sole aim of understanding: where does this lead and who needed it!
Besides, regardless of all the cheerful reassurances your guide may give, be prepared for the fact you’ll definitely manage to lose your way a few times in this outer-temporal world… one where the unseen, yet undoubtedly real voices of the village gossipers resound from afar; all against the backdrop of streams murmuring somewhere amongst the rocky cliffs above. These unexpectedly soothing yells — at a customarily loud decibel level — carry back and forth from the windows of the locals’ homes, as they exchange stirring news… From time to time, the roar of an old lorry engine erupts “out of nowhere”, violating the ambient idyll and splendour of the wild thickets.
Our planned route for today ran from one of the public parking spaces on Eleftheria Avenue (also Freedom Avenue; generally, there turned out to be quite a few parking spots in Palaichori). It began at the Church of Agios Luke, which we reached by walking up Giorgos Seferis street for a little while.
The Church of Saint Luke is rather “new” (especially when compared with other developments in Palaichori). This impressive stone building, with a faceted apse and stained-glass windows, running along the drum of the dome, was built in 1918 — “only” 100 years ago. A little later, in 1926, the low-lying bell tower was attached, with richly carved decor on the upper level.
A small garden has been dug out around the church and the surrounding square. Flowers have also been planted, and paths laid down which lead to an old watermill; the millstone lying nearby the entrance is reminiscent of days gone by. Darkened from time, the mill itself stands like a watchtower above the river, roaring somewhere in the depths of the damp ravine.
Faithfully and loyally serving the villagers for long years, the mill was restored in December 1997 (part of a grand restoration plan which coincided with the 700-year jubilee to celebrate the founding of Palaichori, which we’ve already mentioned), thanks to financial support from the A. Leventis Fund. It has been active again since that time. As should be the case, the watermill grinds grain; this is in contrast to other old mills, olive oil presses or wineries, many of which have become a tourist “gimmick” or merely a decorative element. Nowadays, you can most often see a traditional restaurant or cafe nearby. Can you imagine that?
For me personally, the mill is a fascinating landmark  and an authentic symbol of ancient Palaichori. It remains to this day fully alive; preserved in several historical studies, in the cracks of the village stones and as a semi-faded imprint in the memory of its residents.
After descending the stone staircase and moving away from the church of Agios Lucas, we found ourselves on the Square of Kiprou Kotzik: a small spot at the very bottom of the ravine, surrounded by a whimsical configuration of tiny houses and mighty trees; all old, but very well-kempt. You can get very close here and observe how the mountain stream disappears somewhere into the depths of the earth.
This place also proved to be rather memorable for Cypriots: amongst the old, abandoned shacks, there appeared to be one with a memorial plaque — the first Cypriot sprinter, Panagis Konstantin (1864-19?) was born in this spot and lived here.
Soon after, I realised what it was about these places that made them so unique: aside from the apparent splendours and various monuments on display, the spirit of this “old fellow” is alive and natural, thanks to Palaichori having preserved its age-old layout. Both in the old and “new” (so to speak) quarters of Palachori, we didn’t encounter any broad or realigned streets. Just like they have been for centuries, they still loop around, escaping somewhere into the steep cliffs above, turning headlong behind the terraces of houses which have grown into the stony earth. And I’ll say again, this is regardless of that aura of contemporary comfort and all the possible conveniences available to residents and guests!
… Very soon after — I was forced to wave at my guide. He definitely didn’t have a clue about the walking distance to some places, so his statements were terribly muddled. After doing a quick scan of the local area and randomly choosing the ancient spire of some sort of bell tower, we arrived at our next destination: the ancient Church of Saint George (roughly 16th-17th century).
We were met by a whitened and rather massive building, constructed from huge, unhewn boulders under a large, wooden “tis stegis” roof, typical for a Troodos church. It was covered in flat, ceramic tiling, resemblant of wooden shingle. Later, in 1919, a local resident, Savvas Markidis, funded the attachment of a neo-Gothic bell tower to the church, which you can also see here.
Opposite the church, there is a large, old black tree. Albeit equal in age, it is seemingly on its last legs, split in two from a lightning strike, with its branches gnarled. During our visit, several pompous but very curious ravens were perched on it — a symbolic spectacle, if not even a little trite.
Agios Georgios was impressive not only because of its venerable age but its location: it stood on a hill summit surrounded by narrow alleyways and lanes clustered together, dispersing across the stony slopes.
From the shaded square, a panoramic vista of Palaichori is revealed, where you can stand for a while and observe the simple, unhurried life of the village. This is also a marvellous spot for a photo.
We once again, literally instinctively (I’m not joking), chose the correct path out of several options, and quickly found ourselves (or more accurately, almost rolled down a steep back alley taking us downwards) at the village centre — Platanov square — paved in the local grey stone. “Platanistas” — which we’ll loosely mark it as, since there’s a cafe there with this name — is a well-equipped spot for meeting up with friends and having a chat under the massive canopy of plane trees, well known to the Cypriot youth. Nearby, you can see the popular Palaichori art gallery, where various art-cultural events are held (on the corner of Elladas and Kiriyakou Matzi street).
The square is also at the centre point of some picturesque living quarters — a magnificent spot for a rest or a stroll with the whole family. You could feast your eyes on the almost city views, the bridges and river embankments twined all over with blooming plants, as well as the disappearing terraces of mountain alleyways which we’d just come down from. There’s also a park: pedestrian paths have been laid out along the river-canal, and nearby a small garden has been planted. It is equipped with a play area, as well as a fountain.
A word of advice: if coming to Palaichori for the first time, you get so carried away that you end up getting lost in the back streets, choose a direction which roughly leads to the centre and downwards. After exiting onto any tarmac street large enough for two cars to pass (an essential sign), and turning to the village centre, you’ll definitely (one day :)) come out to people, cafes, banks and other things of joy. You'll also find one of the municipal parking spaces nearby, where you left your car.
And so, after feeling more cheerful from encountering the concept of civilisation we’re used to, we decided to at least broaden our horizons a tad more. Thus, we went on a little further to the memorial of the local ЭОКА heroes . These men were ruthlessly executed by the British or died during the fighting which ensued.
The Museum of the 1955-1959 Freedom Struggle is nearby the memorial site: on one of the usual-looking houses standing on the neighbouring street, a commemorative plaque is hanging with the following message written: the ЭОКА fighters hid here from the British authorities.
Amongst such fighters, there was the renowned Kyriakos Matsis — as you may have noticed, streets carrying his name are not only present in all the island’s cities but are also the central streets in many populated areas. They are equal in greatness even to those named in honour of Archbishop Makarios III.
Let’s speak about Matsis and other natives to Palaichori, who became heroes to their land and whose memory is honoured across the whole of Cyprus. We can also spend a little time recollecting the events from of times
Kyriakos Matsis (1926-1958) was a guerrilla-fighter for ЭОКА. Having graduated from the Famagusta gymnasium, he studied agriculture at the University of Thessaloniki. In 1955, when the Cypriot war for independence had already begun, he became one of the organisation’s first members. The following year, he was captured by colonial authorities and imprisoned. After managing to escape, he fled and hid in the Pendadactylos mountains, where he set traps and continued to fight. This was the moment when the people nicknamed him «αετός Πενταδαχτύλου του», in Greek meaning “the eagle of Pendadactylos”.
On the 19th of October 1958, the English used the advice of an informant to discover a hideout in Dikomo, in the home of Kyriakos Diakos. There they found Matsis and his comrades-in-arms, Andreas Sotiropoulos and Costas Christodoulou, taking shelter. While the British surrounded the house, Kyriakos Matsis burnt letters and papers connected to the ЭОКА members, afterwards ordering both of his friends to surrender. When his turn came to lay down his arms, he shouted to the enemy: “If I come out, then I’m coming out shooting!” — And he opened fire…
Matsis was killed in the firefight which ensued and later buried on the territory of the Central Jail of Nicosia.
Michalis Karaolis (1933-1956) was a civil servant and ЭОКА fighter. He became one of the first patriots to be executed by the English, on the 10th of May 1956.
Polycarpos Georkadjis (1932-1970) was a politician and the First Minister of internal affairs of the young Republic of Cyprus. He also held the temporary post of executive Minister of labour in the period which preceded the declaration of Cyprus as an independent state. Before appearing on the political stage, he fought on the side of ЭОКА, over time becoming one of the main political rivals to Archbishop Makarios. He was assassinated.
However, that isn’t all for today…
After going higher, onto the spacious square behind the memorial, you will end up by the medieval Church of Panagia Chrysopantanassa (16th century), which is also renowned for its frescoes, influenced by both western styles and those of the East.
Like in many of Palaichori’s churches, as well as those in other populated areas across Cyprus, the old churches, expanding and transforming over time, have obtained bell towers or belfries (often for much later builds). This is very evident in the architectural ensemble of Panagia Chrysopantanassa.
The church of Panagia Chrysopantanassa is one of the most well-known places of worship in the Troodos and being of the same age is on equal footing with another church in Palaichori — the Transfiguration of the Saviour (Μεταμόρφωση του Σωτήρος). Towering on a tall hill over Palaichori, the church of the Transfiguration also features some impressive wall paintings. They date back to the late Byzantine period in Cyprus (here we can clearly discern influence from the age of the Palaiologs — the rule of the last and mightiest dynasty of emperors. Nowadays, this period is associated amongst specialists with a significant rise in Byzantine art, the so-called “Palaiologan Renaissance”, on the background of the final defeat of the empire. Like many places of worship in the Troodos, the church is a single-nave basilica, built in the Byzantine “tis stegis” style, with a semi-circular apse and frescoes. It was restored in the 17th century when the impressive wall paintings we can see today also appeared. Besides, an antichurch was attached to the southern and western wings. The church’s wooden iconostasis dates back to the first half of the 18th century.
This architectural monument has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001 (as part of the “general” list concerning painted churches in the Troodos region, number 351.
Palaichori also has its own Byzantine Heritage Museum, possessing a representative collection of Byzantine artworks from the 12th-17th century, which have originated both from the churches and chapels of Palaichori and the villages surrounding it.
What else is worth seeing
Nearby the Church of Transfiguration, on a hill summit overlooking the village, stands the famous Monument of the Cypriot mother, with steps leading to it…
The statue was constructed in 1961 and now stands as a tribute to all the Cypriot mothers whose children, having come of age, gave their lives in the fight for liberation from British rule.
It’s a monumental figure — the collective image of a Cypriot woman sitting dignified and somewhat sternly on a pedestal. Three bronze medallions, picturing the local heroes of the Liberation, have been fixed into a small stone wall close to the statue (we saw them at the church of Panagia).
Where to Have a Rest and Stop for Lunch
On one of the central streets, close to the public parking space, you can find hotel “Escape” (an ultra-modern building with metallic constructions which “soar” over the deep and shady ravine).
Address: 23 Eleftherias Avenue
Tel.: +357 22642300
Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Another suitable option for a place to spend the weekend in Palaichori is the traditional stone house “Isminis Petroktisto”. Rooms are available for rent.
Address: 9 Olimpiou Street
Tel: +357 99438681
The restaurant-tavern “Serrachis”, situated above the river, will offer you a traditional menu and pleasant atmosphere.
Address: 73 Eleftherias Street
Tel: +357 22643251
How to get there: Apliki – Palaichori
From Nicosia (a 50 and 58-minute journey respectively) — first head along the A9-B9 highway, then go onto the E903 (Griva Digeni street), which connects many of the villages in this direction (See: On the Road to Klirou part 1 and part 2).
До новых встреч и открытий!
 Bornite — a common sulphide mineral, which used to be referred to as “chalcopyrite”. See here for more details.
 For those interested in the Cypriot realia of the antiquity, please refer to “Mining Landscaped of Prehistoric Cyprus” (by Vasiliki Kassianidou).
 The Cyprus Mines Corporation was an American mining company founded in Cyprus, in 1916, by Seeley W. Mudd and his son, Harvey Seeley Mudd. The idea was the brainchild of Charles G. Gunther, who had been inspired by the knowledge he had obtained from ancient sources about the territory of Skouriotissa (or Σκουριώτισσα — once not only a village but a centre for mining resources in the Nicosia region). The American enterprise even supplied fascist Germany with Cypriot copper — right until the beginning of the Second World War. The corporation itself existed until the mid-1970s. For more detail, see Wikipedia.
 The process of mining the deposits, as well as smelting the copper, roughly dates back to the middle of 3 A.D. What’s interesting is that relatively recently, in the 1960s, the amount of copper in already-prospected deposits was estimated at 200 thousand tonnes.
 While working on the article, I learnt something interesting: it turns out that climbing grapevines were planted in Palaichori so that the shade of their green weaves both sheltered courtyards in the hot summer and protected houses from heat.
 Regarding the many sights in Cyprus, please don’t forget that they are occasionally closed to visitors, or only open in the first half of the day — usually from 10:00 till 13:00. If there’s a sign with this information attached to the doors, then, as a rule, there will be a contact telephone below… If there’s nothing — well then you’re in luck, as you’ll be having some personal contact with the locals!
 ЭОКА (Εθνική Οργάνωσις Κυπρίων Αγωνιστών) — a Greco-Cypriot underground organisation which fought for the liberation of Cyprus from British colonial rule in the years 1955-59.