I left Lisbon on the fourth thoroughly believing I'd be spending a quiet afternoon at the Grand Palais prior to embarking on a 7 day adventure across Cyprus the following day, but as I walked out of the airport into an outside temperature of 4°C I soon realised that the rest of the afternoon would almost certainly be spent at the Airport Hotel premises, once I had been naive enough not to have brought warm clothes with me, as if it were the first time I was travelling abroad.
The prospect of a warm bath and a few hours rest did appeal to my senses, especially taking into account the fact I'd be meeting the group and the "conférencier" for the circuit at five in the morning.
My first impressions on the other 9 members of the group and the "conférencier" Michel Petrossian were quite favourable, though I had no idea then how important a role Michel would play in the course of the circuit.
The Austrian airlines flight to Larnaca via Viena was uneventful and by the time we approached Cyprus it was as if the winds of history that had repeatedly ravaged the island were pushing the way.
The moment we met Androulla, the local guide, it very much felt like being at "home". There was something in her way of talking and moving about that I "identified" as being similar to ours and that initial approach might have set the scenario for the days to follow.
The sequence of visits started almost immediately as we set foot in Larnaka, on whose Southern old part the Church of St. Lazarus stood. Said to have been constructed in the early 19th century on the site of a Church dating from 900, which was built to house the Saint's tomb, the architectural style distinctively reflected the influence of both Eastern and Western trends, following the retrieval from the hands of the Turks in 1589, once the Church was used by Roman Catholic and Orthodox communities for a period of over 200 years.
I was impressed by the light and the whole involving atmosphere within the three aisle interior with bulky double pillars bearing the weight of the domes. My eyes wandered about the magnificent iconostasis section, the Rococo pulpit and several architectural details, as I tried to absorb the information imparted by Michel.
We then walked into the crypt, which housed several sarcophagi among which one bearing the Greek inscription "Lazarus, friend of Jesus" and thus supposedly housing the Saint's relics.
As I got back into the main Church interior it very much felt like I had stood there for endless hours (which turned out to be just a few minutes) whilst observing worshippers in a constant in and out movement before I wandered around once more to take the last pictures.
On our way to the seashore area of Larnaka I turned back and didn't resist taking a few more pictures.
(To be continued)