To the west of Lemesos are to be found three first-rate attractions: the greatest Greco-Roman site on the island at Kourion, the best-preserved Crusader castle at Kolossi, and a fine private Wine Museum at Erimi. All are a few minutes’ drive from each other. Beyond them are some surprisingly uncrowded beaches.
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Eleven kilometres west of Lemesos, at the southern edge of the village of the same name, is Kolossi Castle a great brutalist lump of Crusader military architecture, impressive in both its dimensions and its state of preservation. Originally built by the Knights Hospitaller in 1210 AD on land granted to them by the Lusignans, it became far more important after 1291 when, following their retreat from the Holy Land, the Hospitallers made Kolossi their military headquarters. It fell into the hands of their rivals the Knights Templar in 1306, but was returned to the Hospitallers six years later when the Templar order was dissolved. Although the Hospitallers subsequently moved their main operation to Rhodes, Kolossi Castle remained their command centre in Cyprus, controlling more than forty villages in the region (still called “the Koumandaria”). In 1426 the castle was destroyed in a Mameluke attack, then rebuilt in its present form by Louis de Magnac in around 1454 – his coat of arms can be seen, together with those of Jerusalem, Cyprus and Armenia, in a recessed cross on the eastern external wall of the castle.
The castle follows the classic medieval design of a square keep. The sides are 16m long on the outside, 13.5m on the inside, and 21m tall. Accommodation inside is on three floors, and the views from the crenelated roof are worth the climb up the steep spiral steps.
As interesting as the castle itself are the ruins in its grounds. The main building, which looks for all the world like a church, is actually a sugar factory, and although there is no access for visitors, the aqueduct which brought water to the cane-crushing mill can clearly be seen. The millstone is still in situ. In 1488 the sugar factory was transferred from the Hospitallers to the Venetians, following their takeover of the island, and production continued into the seventeenth century, when competition with the West Indies finally brought Cypriot sugar production to an end.
The Cyprus Wine Museum
The Cyprus Wine Museum
Based in a lovely traditional house in Erini, some 10km west of Lemesos centre, the excellent Cyprus Wine Museum provides the lowdown on over five thousand years of wine production on the island, as well as, of course, the opportunity to sample a few vintages. With almost divine appropriateness, shortly after the museum was opened in 2004 wine flasks were discovered close to Erini village and dated to around 3500 BC, among the earliest evidence of wine production in Europe. Divided broadly into the past (upstairs) and present (downstairs), you’ll find lots of information on these discoveries and the evolution of the famous Commandaria sweet white wine under the Knights Templars. Good use is made of quotations from ancient writers and depictions in ancient mosaics, there are photographs and tableaux, an interesting audiovisual presentation and a useful pictorial wall map of the vineyards of Lemesos and Pafos districts.
- Ancient Kourion