Traveling Back to Helsinki from Cyprus

The last day of the conference was very busy. There were lots of interesting talks during all the four sessions. I was attending all the SE sessions and had tones of productive conversations. Since we had a very early flight onFriday, we decided against exploring the city one more time and had dinner at the hotel. 

Friday was exhausting. We had to get up at 4 AM, and the cab arrived to pick us up at 5-15. It takes a whole hour to reach the airport, and our flight was at 8 AM. 

An interesting thing happened at the airport. At some point, we heard an announcement that “the accident occured” in the building, and that everybody has to leave immediately. The announcement was repeated multiple times, and … nothing happened!!!

Another funny thing was at the entrance to the passport control lines. Remember I mentioned that there lots of Russian tourists in Cyprus? There were two directions signs, one – “EU ad CH passports” and another – “All other passports.” They were repeated in English, Greek, and Russian, and for the latter one the sing said: “Русские паспорта,” which means “Russian passports.” By the way, in Athens, a tourist from China try to go to the first of these two lines, because she thought that CH means “China.” 🙂 :):)

The flight back was exhausting, we had two connections, in Athens and in Munich. The first one was not bad, we had plenty of time, I even shopped for souvenirs and bought some Greek wine for Vlad.

Actually, after being in Cyprus for five days, I somehow started to miss Greece. We were walking along the aport in search of our gate, and the exits to the city were visible on the left. I asked Boris: can we step outside for just a brief moment? I want to be in Greece! SO we did. It was crisp outside, but sunny, and I saw the mountains :). And I thought I need to come to Greece again :). 

It was 7-30 PM when we came back home in Helsinki, so it was a very long day! 

Dinner Conversations

At the dinner, we sat together with the local organizers. It became very cold while we were walking around the city, so when we reach the tavern, I announced that they made a Chicagoan getting froze in Cyprus! That was a good conversation starter, for sure :).
Then I started my usual prizing Chicago speech, and that everybody should visit. Along the lines, it came that Vlad is a director of a bar (I even remember the context: we talked about the PG Day). I told the local organizer that Vlad makes cocktails inspired by different cultures and that his Greek cocktail has mustika. The gentleman was impressed and told me that Vlad must know his stuff.

Since I knew that Vlad won’t be asleep yet, I texted him right away. For which Vlad replied: We also have tsiopouro in the same cocktail from Argo!

When I presented this text, the gentleman’s brows start to raise and the jar dropped. He was like: this is so local! How does he know?! Did he travel to Greece? I said – yes, and he loved it.

Then the gentleman looked at me and asked how old is my son, and how many children I have. And I proudly told: three children, one grandchild, and one more on the way! And showed a group picture on the phone. And I said that I am 57, and my birthday was on Sunday, And he was: never tell that! You do not look like it! And I was – that’s precisely why I tell that! And he looked at me again and said emphatically: your husband is so lucky!

At that point, I didn’t have other options except to turn to my left and poke Boris into his elbow :). If people do not know us, they can’t tell, because we have different last names and different countries on our badges:). So it was all quite amusing:)

Dining in Cyprus

Back to the conference, back to Cyprus. After the amazing tour of Kurion, we headed back to Limassol. Once again, we learned a lot about Cyprus’ history from our tour guide. In Old Town, we disembarked the bus and had a walking tour. We had one more option to visit Limassol Castle. I posted al the pictures in this post, and I think it was worth visiting the Castle twice, in the daylight and the evening. After walking around and seeing more old streets, we finally arrived at the place of the conference dinner. Mezedopagida tavern.

If you do not know what “meze” means in Cyprus (and in some other countries), let,e tell you! That is a never-ending appearance of amazing dishes, and when you think that’s it, three more appear at the table. You have to sample them all, because it is impossible not to!

I was somewhat prepared by Boris and by hints from the local organizers. so I had a light breakfast and light lunch (both were quite challenging to achieve, having all the buffet options available! 

And then there was meze. We sat at the table with local organizers, which made our navigation through different foods somewhat easier. There was also very nice local wine. And now I will stop talking and start showing 🙂

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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 🙂

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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