My Rough Guide: How to avoid the chips-with-everything resorts

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Best Discovery

The Moufflon Bookstore, in south Nicosia at Sofouli 1, opposite the Chanteclair Building; this would be an amazing bookstore in London, let alone on a medium-sized Mediterranean island. An extensive stock of art, literature and general archaeology, as well as lots of material specific to Cyprus and the Middle East.

Favourite Hotels

All too many resort hotels in Cyprus are impersonal concrete behemoths more in common with a theme park than a place to rest up. Exceptions include The Park Mansion in Ktima Pafos, a rambling, 200-year-old building with tile-floored rooms and a characterful dining room; the Minerva in Platres, run by kindly botanist Yiannis Christofides, whose non-institutional rooms haven't changed (in the good sense) since 1947; and in the North, courting the wrath of Greek Cypriots, who regard all property here stolen, the 24 renovated houses of various sizes in the village of Karmi (Karaman).

Best Meal

As with hotels, so with restaurants; beware of the mainstream chips-with- everything resort stodge (constipation, not diarrhoea, is the holiday hazard here), or, worse, bogus outfits jumping on the "meze house" bandwagon. These are tavernas, mostly in rural Pafos or old Nicosia, which purport to serve genuine, vegetable-based country cooking in small portions. The "in" ones tend to change by the year, but durable ones include Dhiarizos in Kouklia, worth visiting for their baked marinated olives alone; Akis in Yeroskipou, with baby crabs, chicken livers and more olives; and the pricey Nikos Tyrimos in Pafos town, where you get wonderful fish, wild asparagus in spring and pickled kirtamo (rock samphire, mentioned in King Lear). Indigenous cuisine in the North is under threat from the influence of Anatolian settlers, but the best meyhane (Turkish equivalent of the meze house) is Dunya in Karaoglanoglu west of Kyrenia, a tiny, shack-like affair also known as Doseme Evi (Upholsterer's House) after the proprietor's day job. Meaty things predominate: grilled quail, home-made sausages and such.

Bizarre Meeting

In Kakopetria in May 1992, I made a literally nodding acquaintance with a young couple, Dhimitri, a Cypriot based in Washington State and his American girlfriend Marla. Later I bumped into them in Nicosia, and we went to a live music club together. In July I was in Northern Cyprus, having entered of necessity via Turkey, where a Turkish friend gave me an introduction to a prominent travel agent there. We hadn't been talking five minutes when it emerged that Dhimitri was his cousin. Their parents were of course brothers from the same Turkish-Cypriot village; one had fled to Nicosia at a young age and converted to Greek Orthodoxy in order to marry a Greek woman. The official party lines on both sides are that this never happens, but if I stumbled across just one instance in a brief visit, it makes you wonder just how widespread is intermarriage across ethnic lines.

Biggest Let-Down

The Fontana Amorosa, despite appearing on maps west of Polis, does not appear to exist; my diligent combing of the bushes either side of the trail turned up nothing more substantial than a tiny, murky well on a cliff overlooking the sea. All the hype surrounding this purported "fountain of love" stems from the sixteenth-century Italian traveller-poet Ludovico Ariosto confusing it with the very prominent Loutra Afrodhitis (Baths of Aphrodite) a half-hour's walk east. It's a potentially dangerous error, as I'd ventured out on this arid spur of the Akamas peninsula without enough water; fortunately I found a pure natural spring in a gully some way inland.

Essential Phrase

Cypriot Turkish specialises in weird pronunciation that is the horror of Anatolian Turks; take for example the wonderful conversational opener, Na'pan? (approximately, "Whaddya up to?" or "Whatcha doin'?") a condensation of the more grammatical Ne yaparsin? Use it, though, and people may assume you're fluent in the local dialect.

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GETTING THERE

The South: Sunvil (0181/568 4499) for quality villas and hotels, plus fly-drives; Marengo Guide Walks (01485/532710) for botanical walks in the cool season; and Exalt in Kto Pfos (0357/6/243803) for more strenuous walks and jeep safaris in the west of Cyprus. The North: Tapestry Holidays (0181/742 0077) and Cyprus Paradise (0181/343 8000) are the most discerning operators, with the best villas and self-contained resorts around Kyrenia.

GETTING ABOUT

You'll want to rent a car to reach isolated rural attractions. If you don't arrange a fly-drive in advance (wise in the summer) off-season rates in the South can fall to as little as pounds 11 sterling equivalent per day, all-in. Off-season rates in the North are comparable, but because of the breakaway state's non-recognition internationally, no multinational chain operates there - various one-off entrepreneurs fill the gap. You can arrange a fly-drive with the two operators listed above.

HOTELS

The Park Mansion, Pafos (0357/6/245645); The Minerva, Platres (0357/5/421731); Karmi Service Centre (090/392/82 22 568) for houses in Karmi.

Marc Dubin wrote 'The Rough Guide to Cyprus'. Keep up with the latest developments in travel by subscribing to the free newsletter 'Rough News', published three times yearly. Write to Rough Guides, IoS offer, 1 Mercer Street, London WC2H 9QJ. A free Rough Guide to the first three subscribers each week.

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