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Running in the city of gold
At Polis Chrysochous, tracing the footsteps of an ancient legacy
One of the most magical places in Cyprus is the village of Polis Chrysochous. Located in an eponymous bay in the southwestern end of the island, Polis borders the wild natural preserve of the Akamas Peninsula.
The village’s name translates to “city flowing with gold,” and though it is not particularly densely populated today, it was one of the earliest settled areas of Cyprus, the site of the ancient Greek city of Marion and its successor Arsinoë, the latter founded by the Macedonian rulers who controlled the area in the wake of Alexander the Great’s conquests. Arsinoë, it might be noted, was named after the wife of Ptolemy II Philadelphus, king of Egypt, who also happened to be his sister.
Before I had ever visited, I had done some research on Polis Chrysochous for a forthcoming book project with the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies at Princeton. That’s because, under the direction of Princeton archaeologist Willie Childs, Polis was excavated from 1983 to 2007. Meanwhile, Princeton geoscientists continue to lead geological field trips in the area, thanks to the rich deposits available there and in the nearby Troödos mountain range.
The Polis museum downtown is a small monument to the work of those accomplished scholars. It was thrilling to visit something I had written about from afar.
It was also in Polis that I ran my first footrace since the pandemic began. The Akamas Blossom Trail Running Festival is mostly a lineup of intense ultra trail races (68k, 38k, 24k). I wasn’t prepared to complete one of those heavy-duty courses (the shortest, at about 15 miles, is two miles longer than a half-marathon). But there was a 5k, and though it was marketed as a “fun run” it was definitely on the more challenging side—straight up, and straight down, and often going off-trail.
At Polis’ Latchi Beach, one can view the sweep of mountains coming right up against the sea. And the Aphrodite-Adonis nature trail offers a view into the “Baths of Aphrodite” and the various places where the two divine lovers apparently met up. On one visit, I picked up some Polish tourists from the trailhead who needed a ride to downtown Polis. Poles to Polis!
In Akamas, one can also find other excellent nature trails, such as that of the Kritou Terra waterfall, which, from one side of the trail, can only be seen by walking through a tunnel of cascading water.
And then there’s Val’s Place, an interesting family-run mezze (Greek tapas) restaurant open on the weekends, where Valentino, his mother the chef, and Valentino’s American wife regale their guests with a variety of delicious small plates and musical acts.
The gold of Polis Chrysochous may be metaphorical, but the region is definitely a treasure.
This is the fifteenth post in The Cyprus Files, a limited-run newsletter series from The Usonian chronicling my Fulbright experiences in Cyprus. You can read all the posts in The Cyprus Files here. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss a (free) dispatch from the island of Aphrodite!