Cyprus is full of surprises. For example, did you know that the first mention of this island dates back to the Neolithic period, which was six thousand years ago? Its strategically important location meant that in the Middle Ages Cyprus was constantly conquered by different empires. Its owners have included the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Crusaders and the Venetians. And each of its rulers has left his own mark in the history of the island, which has survived to this day. However, you will need quite some time to experience this entire historic heritage, unless you come to Cyprus Land.
This unique theme park, which opened in Limassol last June (12 Andronakidou street), is home to many medieval attractions. During its grand opening Cyprus president Nicos Anastasiades praised the park's ability to successfully preserve the spirit of the Middle Ages and urged both tourists and Cypriots to come and enjoy it.
As soon as you enter Cyprus Land you will find yourself in a different world. You will be surrounded by ladies and gentlemen wearing medieval attire, jesters, knights, archers, street artists and other interesting characters. With medieval music quietly playing in the back, you can't help but feel like you've traveled in time. The place is particularly magical at sunset.
The first thing you'll notice is the large chessboard that is located in the center of the park. In medieval times chess used to be played for money. To the left of the chess board there is a space to practice archery and shooting a crossbow. Everyone is offered a chance to shoot a bow a few times. On the other side of the chessboard is a guillotine — a major source of entertainment during the Middle Ages. Back in the day everyone was informed about the time and location of a prisoner's execution as well as his or her path to the guillotine. Noon was considered the best time for an execution. Authorities liked to schedule executions on market days, which ensured the greatest number of spectators, and avoided religious holidays. Town criers made public announcements inviting people to attend the event. Park visitors can take a photo next to the guillotine and, surprisingly, many do.
As you keep walking you'll come across an arena for sword fights. A sword-fighting tournament used to be a major celebration of honor and courage. Almost everyone was drawn to this event, where noble youth competed for fame and recognition. Such tournaments had their own rules and traditions. For example, knights fought one-on-one with each other and used special weapons. Spectators sat around them on benches.
If you want to get a closer look at some of the medieval paraphernalia, stop by one of the shops located behind the sword fight stage. Here you can look at and even try on different types of swords, shields, helmets, mail armor, gloves etc. I couldn't help myself and picked up a helmet, which seemed to weigh about 7 kilos, and mail armor, which felt like it weighed around 15 kilos. After I put all of it on, I could hardly pick up a sword. It was hard to fathom that people had to be able to move under such weight, let alone fight. I guess medieval men were crazy strong!
There is a carpenter's shop that sells miniature castles, animals, etc. Everything smells of wood there. Young visitors should stop by the horse stables and ride a pony, following which they should check out the medieval-style playground, located behind the stage for sword fights.
Also stop by a shop specializing in lefkara lace — an ancient Cypriot craft that is well known around the world. I was surprised to learn just how difficult this lace-making process is. You have to control every stitch you make, the angle at which you hold the thread and even how taut it is.
Cyprus Land also has a shop specializing in glass blowing and mosaics. Spend a few minutes there to see a glass blower make a vase out of hot glass. Or watch another craftsman create a mosaic using beautiful colored glass that sparkles in the sun. It will be hard to leave this place without buying a souvenir. Luckily there is plenty to choose from: cups, glasses, napkins featuring lefkara lace, tablecloths, honey, homemade wine and many other great things.
After you explore all of the craft shops, you should end up at the heart of the park. Signs should guide you towards a large hall that houses a miniature version of Cyprus with all of its attractions. This is the largest model of the island in the world, which was created by hand. It measures 30 meters in length and 12 meters in width. The scale and detail of the model are very impressive. Everything looks so realistic. We couldn't help but touch it, despite the fact that it's forbidden. All of the attractions and monuments (fortresses, monasteries, bridges) were created with great attention to detail. Rows of cavalrymen stand in front of castles and fortresses. Archers are lined along their walls. Medieval ships have docked at the ports. You can even make out the ship that brought Berengaria of Navarre to Cyprus in order to be married to King Richard the Lionheart. There is campfire burning in the woods.
In front of the Colossi Castle there is a group of soldiers lying in the grass. Their horses are munching on grass nearby. Someone is cooking dinner around the campfire. And a crow is watching over this scene from a tree.
You keep staring at this miniature world with awe as the voice of the audio-guide brings you back to reality. Many of these locations have since been modernized, changed or even permanently lost. Kyrenia castle no longer seems as large and intimidating as it once was according to various historical accounts. But it is still worth seeing it, especially its stonework, which is quite impressive. There are no more cannons or archers behind its walls, but the remaining chains, underground prison cells, embrasures and loopholes serve as testament to its past military might. The castle is also a great example of a fortification that pertains to the three periods of Cyprus' medieval history: Byzantine, Lusignan and Venetian.
All of the attractions and monuments in this model of Cyprus were created using a 3D printer. Room temperature is kept at a constant level to ensure that the model is well preserved. The glass cover is low enough to allow children to see everything. There is also a special game that they can play: any child, who can find the seven treasure chests hidden in the model, gets a present.
The history of Cyprus is projected on to a screen nearby. There are large medieval maps everywhere as well as an entire fortress that you can climb. So if you think that you know Cyprus like the back of your hand, head to Cyprus Land to see its miniature model of the island. I am sure that you will find quite a few locations that you haven't seen yet.
This article features photographs taken from Cyprus Land Facebook page.