A Tour of Kurion

This tour came to the conference schedule almost a last-minute, and I told the organizers that it was a terrific idea. As I said before, just walking around during the after-hours was not an option. When I researched “thins to do at Limassol,” I realized that the interesting stuff is outside the city. Unfortunately, all the tours you could book, even the half-day tours, were starting in the morning.

That tour gave the conference participants an excellent option to see at least some of the history of Cyprus and in a very compact way. I do not appreciate an idea of going to the conference, and then spending three-quarters of the time sightseeing, A professional conference is for your professional development. Yes, it is nice to go on some tours and see a new place, but not at the expense of the main purpose. Scheduling that tour as a separate event was great, a gift from the organizers. If I was traveling for leisure, I would spend more time on each of the sites and would research more of the history in advance.

We started at 4 PM and headed to the archeological site of Kurion. During our ride, our tour guide showed us the refugee villages, which are very well maintained. It is astonishing and sad to learn that there are still hundreds of thousands of refugees in their own country. For such a small country like Cyprus, these numbers are really striking. Once again, I have to admit that we are fast to forget the things which disappear fro the top news headlines – especially if they do not touch us directly.

Passing a stream on the way

We finally arrived at the Archeological site of the ancient state-city of Kurion. There are so many things to see there, but we had limited time, and technically speaking, we were visiting at the after-hours. We had to finish our visit before the sunset, which gave us not more than 40 minutes for everything

House of Eustolios, first private villa, then public baths
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Conference: Day Three Keynotes

On day three, we had two keynotes: one in the morning, and one after lunch, and after the second one we had a social program (a tour and a dinner)

The first keynote presented by Gunnar Klau was called “Haplotype phasing or deciphering the scrolls from the four schools of Amathus”. And if you can’t figure out what it was about, I will give you a clue: there was a Biology track at the conference, dedicated to biological and genetic applications: Algorithmic Computational Biology, and this keynote was a part of that track. Hopefully you can see from the photos below how the ancient recipe reconstruction is related to understanding the genome.

The second keynote was by Mikolaj Bojanczyk and it was called “Polyregular functions.” This one was pure programming, but I could not help myself but asking why people are so obsessed with Haskell language πŸ™‚

After that second keynote, there were no more sessions, and the social program started.

Dessert Optimization

Even if you never being to Cyprus you might have heard about Cyprus food. Although our host characterized the hotel food as “a typical hotel food,” it was delicious! The challenge was to try as many dessert as possible (they would change the main menu and the dessert menu twice a day, and it was impossible to cover even a half of the items. That’s how my typical dessert plate would look:

A Visit to the Limassol Castle

We’ve spent quite a bit of time in Limassol Castle. That is the only ancient building in the city and an old one. FIst, there was an early Christian basilica in the 4-7th centuries A.D. A bigger church was built over it in 10-11th centuries, and then at some point in the 12th century, the castle was built, incorporating different parts of the church.

Now, when you walk in the museum, you see a lot of arrows, indicating the meeting points of different buildings and epochs.


Unfortunately, there are not enough descriptions in the museum, I need to read way more to try to understand what it is all about. Also, there is not enough historical evidence regarding many of the periods. The castle was almost ruined during the first Ottoman invasion (by the city’s Venetian Governor). The Ottomans completely ruined it during recapture, and then id was turned into a prison. We ended up visiting the museum twice – by ourselves on Tuesday and with the organized tour Wednesday night, but there was still not enough information.

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Day Two and Exploring Marina

Since it was getting dark at 5 PM, we figured out that if we want to see something, we need to skip one session. And it was indeed the only session we skipped during the conference! It was on Tuesday, and that was the first sunny day.

It was almost warm in the places with no wind, and to our surprise, we saw several people getting sunbaths on the hotel deck, closer to the walls. 

I was not one of them, but I enjoyed the sun!

After lunch, I changed to gym shoes and jeans, and we headed towards the city center. It was about 5.5 km between the city center and our hotel. Since there is always a risk that I won’t be able to walk for several hours straight, we decided to take a cab from the hotel to the city center, and then walk back on our feet. 

I have to mention that there are tons of Russian tourists in Cyprus, and especially at Limassol. Most signs are dubbed in Russian, not English, or at least Russian comest first. Local organizers were talking a lot about “Russian money,” it’s influence on Limassol and on Cyprus in general, and the ways the Cyprus government tries to control the situation (mostly unsuccessfully). 

It’s funny that most of my friends and co-workers in the US reacted to my travel plans, either “what is Cyprus?” or “where is Cyprus?” The cab driver asked us where we are from, and when I said “from Chicago,” he didn’t even understand first. After I repeated more clearly, he exclaimed: Chicago?! How did you find Cyprus?!  

Although it sounds like a well-known anecdote, “How did you find Paris, Missis Astor?” he undoubtfully meant “find” in its original meaning:).

There is not much historical Limassol left. Marina, although beautiful and stylish, is very new construction. Here are some pictures:

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The Conference Overview and Day One.

The purpose of this trip was not tourism, although we took advantage of being in a new and exciting place. However, the day we arrived (Sunday) it was relatively cold, and also it started raining shortly after our arrival. 

I did not research “things to do” in advance, but I quickly found out that there are not that many tourist attractions in the Limassol itself. Sunrise and sunset are instantaneous, as it usually happens in the south. We entered a hotel in the daylight, and half an hour later, it was already completely dark. 

Monday was the first day of the conference, with a very interesting keynote, and my talk was also on Monday. 

I described everything related to my talk in my professional blog. At the moment I wish I won’t be talking on the first day! If I had an extra day, I would be able to attract more listeners. 

We ended up not leaving the hotel on Monday. There was a whole day of presentations and a welcome reception in the evening (and the weather was bad again!).

Opening session
First keynote – Erol Gelenbe

I had extremely interesting conversations during reception. Turned out, the next-day keynote speaker was listening to my preentation. I didn’t know at the moment who he was, but he was listening very attentively and asking tons of great questions. 

We continued during reception, and were joined by the first-day keynote and the forth-day keynote speakers :). You know how welcome receptions usually go: you mingle with people, not spending much time with one person, but rather trying to meet many. In that case, however, people were so interested in the conversation, that one of them asked me to wait till he will be back with refilled glass, because he didn’t want to miss anything from the story. I consider that to be the biggest possible complement πŸ™‚

A few hotel pictures, so that the story won’t get boring πŸ™‚

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Traveling to Cyprus

My birthday was on Saturday, and I spent most of it in transit. Started it with a birthday breakfast of hot-smoked salmon sandwich on rye bread at the Vantaa airport and then boarded a flight to Frankfurt. That flight and the subsequent flight to Limassol were extremely uneventful, being operated by Lufthansa :).

I didn’t know that we have to cross the border going to Cyprus. Cyprus is an EU member, but not a part of the Schengen agreement. However, they acknowledge Schengen visas, so it works at least one way :).

Upon arrival, we met our driver (we had a prearranged transportation to our hotel) and got into the car. Once again, I didn’t know that Cyprus had left-side traffic, so you have to be super careful. The highway from the airport was one-way, and the reverse route was not visible. Citing my surprise that nobody asked us at the border, how long we are going to stay, Boris joked that that’s because there is no way out anyway :).

This time of the year is off-season on Cyprus, so hotels are dirt-chip, and the first two days it was raining. We won’t do much sightseeing anyway, because it falls dark right after five. But here is the view from our room πŸ™‚

I also managed to get an hour in the gym, hence I have my usual in-the-gym birthday picture: