From Larnaka, the drive east towards Lemesos was quick and featureless in the way that motorway drives often are, but it perked up our spirits immeasurably, because for the first time since the start of our holiday, the sun came out and stayed out. Even in February a week without seeing the sun is unusual in Cyprus, but as people never tired of telling us, we'd managed to pick the wettest and coldest February on record to explore the island, a fact that had wormed its way into my subconscious like a precocious child screaming, 'I told you so!' On the way I idly wondered if Pissouri would live up to its name; I didn't realise it would excel.
However, just past Lemesos the clouds started piling up in the west, and we decided to shelve our plans to visit the archaeological site of Kourion for the next day, just in case the clouds turned into rain. We needn't have worried, because these clouds weren't rain clouds. They were snow clouds.
Snow at 1700m in the Troodos Mountains is one thing, but snow in a village that looks out over the coastal plains of southern Cyprus is another thing altogether. As we drove up the hill to the little town of Pissouri, the heavens opened and Christmas descended, the thick flakes landing on the car and having the cheek to settle there. To add insult to injury, everything in the small village of Pissouri seemed to be shut; we tracked down one hotel, but it was completely dead, and even though there were people in the second one, that too was shut for the winter. Meanwhile the snow leaked through the hole in my walking boots, the wind blew flakes up my nose, and the one-way system made it a considerable challenge to follow the directions we'd been given to a hotel that might be brave enough to be open at this time of year.
Luckily the Pissouriana Hotel was not only open, it was centrally heated, warmly lit, and apparently had a fantastic view over its swimming pool to the plains below, though we could see nothing except grey mist. Snow lay on the sun loungers out by the pool, and the lady behind the bar said she'd been living here for nine years, and she'd never seen it snow in Pissouri before. 'We've been out taking pictures,' she said as she handed us the keys.
'Well, it is the coldest and wettest February on record,' I pointed out before she managed to get in there.
'And it was so lovely last year,' she sighed after us, as we shuffled up to our room to thaw out.
Put Another Vine on the Fire
By evening the snow was still pounding down, smothering the cars and trees in a fine layer of powder that had absolutely no right to be there, so Peta decided we should pick a restaurant not by whether it had good food, but by whether it had smoke coming out of its chimney. As luck would have it this strategy bagged us an evening in a restaurant that had both.
Perry's Restaurant, owned and run by the friendly local chap in the restaurant's name, was as cosy as it's possible to be in a country that builds its buildings for hot weather. Despite the thin windows and cold tiled floor, Perry had built a massive fireplace into the wall of his restaurant, and throughout the evening he piled on twisted bits of vine that crackled and spat, and gently roared into the kind of embers that keep the chilliest nights at bay. Apparently there is a surfeit of wine in Cyprus and it's forcing the price down too low, so the government is currently subsidising farmers to pull up their vines and keep goats instead; therefore we decided to send a small but heartfelt thank you to the government for the resulting surfeit of fire fodder, by ploughing through a couple of bottles of local plonk to keep the night at bay.
Meanwhile, locals drifted in and out of Perry's, no doubt attracted by the smoke piling out of the chimney and the increasingly boisterous conversation bubbling away behind the steamed windows. One particularly charismatic chap called Stavros said he'd lived in this area for nigh on 46 years, and he'd never seen it snow here before, which probably explained why the rest of the locals kept leaping out of the restaurant and jumping around in the snow as if they'd never seen the stuff before. I think at this point someone else chipped in that it was the coldest and wettest February on record, but by this time Perry had plied us with so much complimentary brandy that I was way past caring. Besides, there's nothing quite like good food, good wine, good brandy and a good vine fire to blow the weather blues away.