It was dark, damp and surprisingly chilly considering the sizzling heat on the streets of Paphos just above my head. But then I was inside a tomb – a catacomb to be exact which I later read was “an underground cemetery with a subterranean gallery with recesses for tombs”. Agia Solomoni and her seven sons were horribly tortured and martyred for refusing to denounce their religious beliefs and apparently these catacombs are their final resting place. Records of the torturous practices speak of boiling oil, scalping and indiscriminate chopping. How did people endure such pain? Did they have a higher threshold (perhaps mentally?) I couldn’t help thinking of my dear, old dad who maintained that “We were made of sterner stuff in my day. God help us if we have a war now”. I know it’s not PC but he’d got to that age where he’d say “what I bloody well like”.
The sunlight filtered through the scraps of fabric draped on a terebinth tree on the street above. Tradition has it that folks tie these offerings here in the hope of attaining lasting health.
A slap of hot sun hit me as I emerged on to the street. A few metres away were more rock cut chambers and tombs. This area must have been a real no-go area a few thousand years ago.
The 13th century Paphos fort stands at the end of the harbour and I’d circled it many times and scrambled on the rocks playing ‘catch me if you can’ with the breaking waves in winter but I’d never climbed to the top. Heading towards it, my son worked hard to convince me that he could be put to much better use by visiting the bar and getting the drinks in rather than scrambling around the fort with me. “I’ve done it all before” he groaned. That was undoubtedly true; but he was eight years old at the time and hell bent on shooting tourists from the ramparts rather than appreciating the historical and aesthetic aspects. My son rapidly disappeared into the depths of a harbourside bar and I went to play in the fort. Shouldn’t that be the other way round? Don’t tell social services.
Inside the fort is…nothing. Except for a board describing the history of the building and plenty of brick walls, obviously. Access to the top is via a staircase and past an attendant collecting payment for the privilege. It’s not expensive though at €1.70 so I went up to take some photographs.
Now-is that my waiting beer I see down there?