There are Grapes at the Bottom of My Garden

grapes

In Cyprus it is the grape harvesting season and even here in the UK near where I live we have vineyards. Just in the next village there is a vineyard, Tinwood, producing sparkling white wine and delicious it is too. I even have a vine at the bottom of my garden which this year is laden with ripened grapes. Last year, I guess because of the awful weather the winter before, I got very few but this year they are back to abundance. Because we had a lot of sunshine this summer, a phrase I’m sure you who live in Cyprus will puzzle over – summer surely that is always sunny? – the grapes are nearly sweet, that is to say they are certainly edible without having to screw your face up into a grimace.

grapes

So this year I have been juicing them to make a delicious drink which I am sure must be packed with goodness. In past years when they didn’t achieve optimum ripeness I used them by crushing and then cooking and straining out  the juice  then adding a little sugar and lots of garlic to make a thick sauce I could keep and use to add to stews for extra richness. I have also made chutney with them, I have used a pear and grape recipe which was very good.I always leave some for the birds as I so enjoy watching the starlings descend in a squaky,, noisy raid to gobble them up.

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In Cyprus however there is far more choice as there is a positive cornucopia of grapes and not just wine is made from them. My favourite product is soujouko or shoushouko, that strange looking string of knobbly sausage that hangs on a washing line all over the island this time of year. Do not be fooled by its appearance it doesn’t look like it but it is a delicate morsel fit for any a gourmet. When bitten into it reveals a delicate sweet fragrance with that nutty centre. In it’s purest form it has no sugar added and is as healthy a food as you could wish for. The ingredients are pure grape juice with a little added flour to thicken the juice and make it more manageable. It is my favourite sweet better than chocolate. In Omodos on my last trip, Androula took me to a shop filled with local yummy delights and there were small packets of two types of shoushouko, one was made with pomegranate juice and the other traditional grape and they were both a delight.Watch out for it next time you go.

The Wines of Cyprus- Zambartas

I know nothing about wine except i know what I like when I drink it! When I go to Cyprus there are many local wines to choose from and these days there are some excellent boutique wineries that are forging a real reputation for great wines recognised throughout the world and winning medals with them. The winemakers have  gone abroad to Continental Europe, Australia or California to learn about making the Cabernet Sauvignons and Shiraz varieties bringing back this expert knowledge to blend it with the local varieties of Xynestri and Maratheftiko .  

Winemaking in Cyprus dates back 6000 years so there is a lot of heritage there to build on. The vines are grown on the slopes of Troodos starting at 400 meters upward to 1200 metres and as you travel through Cyprus they are a familiar site dotted along the landscape. In fact on my last trip there seemed to be many smaller newer vines planted. The wine lovers of this world have plenty of choice if they want to visit a winery to taste the goods as there are wine trails taking you to several in different areas. Just take a driver with you!

Here is a very interesting blog all about Cypriot wines, Whine on the Rocks http://www.whineontherocks.com/ and below is a video of an interview with Zambartas himself talking about his wines and his vineyard. Did you know that Zambartas is an Italian name? Another piece of Venetian heritage.

 

Soup of the Day

The evenings are drawing in and soup is on my mind. I have been digging up my leeks at the community garden and so chicken and leek soup has been on the agenda. I make up a large pan of chicken stock to last me a week, using organic chicken wings cooked with carrot, celery, onion and herbs from the garden. I sauté the chopped up leek in butter and maybe a small amount of chopped up potato or maybe some butternut squash, all of which we have been growing as well. Once the leek has softened I add the chicken stock and cook for about 20 minutes. As I’m still not eating bread I had the idea to grill some halloumi and break it up over the soup. That little bit of extra saltiness is great.

 

How do we make Rose wine?

Androula's Kitchen:

Here’s an interesting article on from Fikardos winery making Rosé wine.

Originally posted on Fikardos Winery:

Rose wine consumption has increased dramatically over the years with world consumption expected to rise by 7.5% in 2015. In Cyprus rose wine consumption is also following a similar trend. All wineries are producing it and interestingly more and more Cypriot consumers are accepting it as an all-around year drink.

How do we make rose wine?

Rose wines are often light and fruity. You can either make them dry or sweet, sparkling or still. Rose wines are always made from red grapes and mixing white with red wine to achieve a rose color is not considered the appropriate way to produce it. Any red grape variety can be used, from the international Cabernet Sauvignon to the magnificent and unique Maratheftiko.

Rose wines are treated just like white wines during their making with the main difference being the time the juice spends with the grape skins.

In rose winemaking we have…

View original 248 more words

Book Review – Cyprus a Culinary Journey

I have been anticipating receiving this book for many months, finally I received my copy yesterday and it was well worth the wait.

The photography is stunning and the book does Cyprus true justice in its presentation. This is the kind of book I would have loved to have produced if I had  had the resources. The initiators and creators of this project are a group of German creatives: one a chef who works with truly authentic and high quality ingredients Franz Keller, Rita Henss a writer, Oliver Hick – Shulz editorial designer, Astrid Zeiglmeier a sommelier, Markus Bassler a food photographer, Anja Jahn a portrait photographer and Marianne Salentin-Trãger a creative media specialist. They had expert help in sourcing the food and recipes in Cyprus from Marlena Joannides who has devoted herself to researching the simple and forgotten recipes of her homeland over many years. So the book is published in Germany but also has an English version. I first started following them on their Facebook page when they started to visit Cyprus to do their research which was about the same time I was producing my book. They visited four times in all in the four different seasons and so have managed to capture the true “feel”  of Cyprus  throughout its culinary year so to speak, which is where their Facebook page name came from ‘Feel Cyprus’.

Again like my book they haven’t produced just a recipe book here this is a journal of Cypriot life with some tales of a few of the inhabitants like the beekeeper in Engomi, the farmer and the miller in Larnaca,  the chairmaker in Strovolos and of course they had to make a visit to George the potter in Lemba. The book is dotted with interesting information on religious holidays and all things food related such as of course wine, cheese and salt. It is divided into districts: Nicosia, Larnaca, Limassol and so on and in the middle of it all are some delicious recipes both traditional with a twist and contemporary. It is all in all a beautiful book. You can feel the love and enthusiasm for their subject throughout and I will certainly enjoy trying a few of the recipes.

It has inspired me to find out even more when I visit next and this time I want to give myself time to sit and watch as well as chat and discover more. Check out their website below to view some of the fabulous photography.

http://www.feel-cyprus.com/

Zalatina

This is not for the squeamish as it features not a horse’s head but a pig’s head. I talk you through making a very traditional dish Zalatina or braun as we call it in the UK. My mum used to make this and it is extremely tasty if somewhat fiddly and time consuming. But nothing goes to waste if you keep you own pigs for food production.

Simply Delicious

P1000833Following on from my post last week I want to talk about the health benefits of a traditional Cypriot diet. Whenever I visited Cyprus in the past I was always surprised and delighted with how much better the food always tasted there. The fruit was sweeter, the chicken more flavoursome, the potatoes were like nectar and still are of course the sunshine has much to do with how the fruit and vegetables taste. But lately I have noticed things are changing, even my cousin remarked that somehow the fruit bought in supermarkets doesn’t taste  quite as sweet as it used to. This set me thinking because I know nothing of how commercial farmers operate in Cyprus I hope to investigate should the opportunity arise.

There are still  many small farmers in Cyprus and there are a growing number of organic farms, at the moment about 225, mostly these are family run farms that in order to survive had to diversify. The numbers are expected to escalate  soon as new measures are put in place to support organic farmers as set out in the new Agricultural Development Plan which should encourage more farmers to explore this way of farming, with a new generation of farmers coming along who are willing to try different methods.

sheep's yoghurt traditional fare

Fruit and vegetable export used to play a large part in the Cypriot economy but now there is huge competition from other countries and the service industry and tourism has taken the forefront of the economy since the 1970’s. A new approach is being taken to focus on quality not quantity of produce. Cyprus potatoes are still exported widely and widely appreciated and I noticed the other day our local market is selling them again. Hooray!  Halloumi is another unique Cypriot product,there are many small farmers and producers who have goat herds and produce their own halloumi  if bought from a local farmer is of high quality not to be compared with the processed mass produced variety that is more prevalent in supermarkets. I blogged about a local farmer I met when last in Cyprus here:http://androulaskitchen.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/halloumi-oh-yes/ The bread used to be made with an unbleached flour  and have a beautiful flavour, now this sort of bread is harder to find in Cypriot shops unless you know an artisan baker. The bread is whiter and much less flavoursome sadly.

Because food plays such a large part in Cypriot’s lives and is so much loved I don’t think the food quality will be allowed to deteriorate without someone creating a fuss. As with the rest of the developed world generally people are much more interested in where their food comes from and what goes into it, If you care about your food you will make an effort to find a supplier of the quality of food you want to eat. My cousin Androula  lives in the mountains away from an easily reached supermarket and because she cares about the provenance of her food, gets to know where the best eggs can be bought locally and halloumi, knows where she can get organic olive oil and honey that isn’t heat treated, good bread etc. Cherries grow everywhere near her in season, people from the cities make a special journey to pick them. You can go for a walk and find walnuts etc just lying on your path. Many of these trees are not tended anymore as the villagers have moved away so you can forage for many things.

The Cypriot diet is a simple one and because it does not rely on highly processed food is a healthy one. The staples are fruit, vegetables and pulses, nuts, fresh fish, meat and eggs,cheese, olives and bread and of course yoghurt. Yoghurt is eaten with many meals and is often brought onto the table to be added as an accompaniment, it is a great aid to digestion.

Cyprus is self-sufficient in its food production and the variety is wide. In the cities the ubiquitous fast food outlets are popping up but Cyprus has many of its own healthy fast foods to enjoy, the best ones being souvlakia with salad in a pitta or koupes. Crisps and sweets,biscuits  and highly processed snacks aren’t eaten so much. It is traditional to nibble at bits and pieces with a drink but these tend to be nuts, or salted pumpkin seeds and small pieces of grilled halloumi and olives or preserved meats. The meat in Cyprus is of a high quality and always tastes good and again if you can trace where your meat comes from all the better but when buying in a supermarket this isn’t so easy. I was happy to find some organic eggs in the supermarket last time. Luckily they were labelled in English as reading ingredients on a label in Greek does make shopping a tad harder. Well I’m off to ferment some cucumbers now. Kalin orexi.

No Bread for You Today

Last time I mentioned that I had been spending my time trying to get my garden in shape, once that was more or less achieved I have turned my attention to getting my health in shape.  I mentioned a while back that when I returned from Cyprus I succumbed to a nasty outbreak of herpes simplex on my face, this cleared up fairly quickly but afterwards I seemed to react to something in the atmosphere which gave me very sore eyelids that were swollen in the morning and very itchy throughout the day with watering eyes. After taking a different anti histamine this abated. I have been suffering with a persistent heat rash for over 10 years which despite all my efforts refused to budge and instead this year with the higher temperatures got worse. I decided that enough was enough with these niggly ailments, I was going to have to spend some time on getting to the bottom of all these seemingly minor irritations as my body was obviously not coping very well.

I have over the years visited a homeopath to try to find a remedy for the rash, initially when it seemed to break out quite alarmingly, I visited a doctor who just told me they “weren’t sure what it was a cross between heat rash or an allergic reaction” So now I was determined  I would find out what was going on in my body, onto google images I went to find similar images and descriptions of the rash. I knew it was heat rash because of how it started and how it develops It did subside in winter but never completely disappeared. After quite a lot of searching  I learnt there are two kinds of heat rash, one is called miliaria rubra which is very itchy and looks different to mine and then there is candidiasis which is the yeast based fungus variety. Sounds lovely doesn’t it? Candida for those not familiar with the word is one of the many yeasts that live in the gut but due to various reasons if the immune system is compromised it can get out of control and cause a lot of problems, one of the more serious being Cancer. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candida_(fungus) This yeast when it is overactive is the cause of Thrush from which many women suffer.

Now the NHS websites say this is not serious and can be treated with anti fungal creams, these didn’t work for me, not even mildly. As the problem stems from the gut it made sense that external treatment was not  the way to treat this but to get to the root cause.. the gut. Many years ago after a car accident I succumbed to an out break of this yeast but it manifested in a different fashion then. I went to a naturopath who recognised it and put me on a anti- candida diet. “Right” I thought “this is what I’ll do I’ll follow that diet again”. Being over twenty five years ago I didn’t remember it too clearly so I went on to good old Google again to refresh my memory. But what is this? As I researched into it I found there was a whole new thinking about candida and that is how I fell upon the GAP diet. I bought the book  Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr Natasha Campbell McBride who set up a nutrition clinic in Cambridge to treat children with autism and learning difficulties. I literally fell down a rabbit hole because this book has been a revelation. It makes perfect sense of course that if your gut isn’t healthy you are not going to be healthy, not just physically, mood will be affected and brain function.

Research has been carried out by many specialists all over the world dealing with schiizophrenia, autism, dispraxia, depression, dyslexia, and ADHD, ADD and in all case there have been seriously impaired gut flora and vastly impaired gut function leading to a very leaky gut where all sorts of toxins leach into the system poisoning and disrupting it. The main culprit is candida. It feeds on sugars and gluten. Twenty years ago autism was rarely diagnosed one child in 10,000 now one child in every 150 is diagnosed with dyslexia and other learning difficulties rife. There are several reasons for this but the biggest is the way our diet has changed. We inherit our gut flora from our parents and if they were slightly compromised the baby’s gut when born also has that deficiency, if as a baby it is bottle fed and not breast-fed the flora of the gut will not get a good balance of good bacteria and then if the diet is also poor in bio rich foods, along with immune suppressing drugs the gut gets very depleted indeed. There is a wide use of antibiotics and steroid drugs these days which suppress the immune system we all know, along with either physical or emotional stress these can seriously affect your gut flora.

Now the reason I have posted this on a website where I normally deal with crafts and food of Cyprus is because when reading about the foods that are beneficial to the gut it was quite obvious that the traditional diets of many countries of Europe and the East are rich in foods that keep the gut healthy before fast food came on the scene. Japan traditionally is highly rich in fermented foods and would be one of the healthiest countries except that these days they have succumbed to the dreaded fast food of the West, seen by so many as trendy. dsc_0554-mediumFermented foods, vegetables, cheese and yoghurts are particularly  rich in friendly bacteria and are healing of the gut wall, chicken and meat broths and fatty meats, stewed or roasted, fish baked, poached or fermented are included in the Gap diet. As is obvious plenty of vegetables raw and cooked, preferably with ghee or animal fat, extra virgin olive oil, even the odd glass of wine is included and fruit. The things not allowed are grains of any kind, potatoes or starchy vegetables, non fermented cheese, milk and of course sugar but you can use honey as it is a simple sugar and easily absorbed by the stomach. So the attack on the problem is two fold, starve the yeast of its food; starches and sugars and feed the gut with immune building, healing foods. Peace of cake -( sadly not).The proof of the pudding (oops there it is again) is in the eating and slowly but surely the rash is receding.

Halloumi Oh Yes!

I am very late posting a new blog I know. All I can say is gardening has dominated my days lately but the end is in sight I hope. My garden now is fairly mature and many of the bushes are very large and need a good purge. You turn your back for five minutes and they seem to grow exponentiallly but armed with secateurs, long-handled loppers, hedge trimmer and a tree saw I am fighting back and so is the rambling rose I might add.

On my last visit to Cyprus my friend Elena Savvides of Orexi catering fame in Droushia took me to see her friend who keeps a goat herd near her and makes her own halloumi and anari the staples of the Cypriot diet for centuries. The farmers traditionally and farm workers would take a chunk of halloumi and piece of bread with some olives for their lunch in the fields, their equivalent to our Ploughman’s  lunch in the UK. This cheese is used universally as it is the main cheese of the island and is much loved, there are other cheeses, the kefaloturi and kaskavalo, but halloumi is the most used, no house will be without it. It is delicious grilled and torn over salad. At Easter the beloved flaounes are made using a special halloumi.

Stored in brine it keeps for a long time becoming saltier with age. Taken out of the brine it will harden and then is easy to grate over your ravioles which are filled with more grated halloumi and mint. In the process of making cheese you have the curds which are the lumpy bits which are collected to make into the hard cheese halloumi and the whey which is left over makes anari a much softer milder cheese very like ricotta. I remember wistfully from my time in Yerolakkos so many years ago, when my aunt made halloumi from her goat herd, she handed me a dish of warm whey curds sprinkled with sugar, delicious. It’s a lovely cheese to have with anything sweet and is used in the little parcels of delight called bourekia tis anaris

We travelled down a winding dusty track to the middle of nowhere it seemed to meet the lovely lady Koula who was in the middle of milking. Her son was helping her at the milking machine which holds eight goats at a time with the odd kid sneaking in for a feed. They have a herd of 4,000 goats so you can imagine it takes a couple of hours to complete and it’s done twice a day. Each goat doesn’t yield too much milk so that is why so many are needed if you are making halloumi on a commercial scale. Koula loves her job and loves her goats, they are a particular favourite of mine and some of these goats were beauties in my eyes. There are a few months at the end of the year when the goats are not lactating but otherwise it is a daily round of milking and making cheese. Her husband helps with the goats and goes up to the Akamas to collect salt from the rock pools to use in the making of the halloumi, so you see this is a  very organic operation. When the milking was finished I was invited to a cup of coffee and homemade biscuits in the parlour as it were, where Koula takes a break, she showed me the process of the milk being piped through from the milking ‘parlour’ straight into a huge stainless steel pan where it has rennet added and heated and stirred until the curds and whey form. When I left, Koula very generously gave me a huge piece of anari to take with me which I enjoyed  with my cousin Christina later who poured some very good carob syrup over it. What can I say, heaven on a plate! You can ring Koula on TELEPHONE 99820778 OR 99058570 TO PLACE YOUR ORDER.

Fabulous Fyti Fythkiotika

My trip to Cyprus this year had to include another trip to Fyti to meet with more of those wonderful weavers who are participating in the Voufa initiative instigated by Maura Mckee, Sarah Dixon. These two women, one a weaver in Northern Ireland and  one an artist in the UK have made  great efforts to get more attention and interest from both designers and artists, especially in Cyprus, for one of the more unique traditional crafts of Cyprus, Fythkiotika weaving. Here on their website promoting Fythkiotika, is a report of a seminar Maura presented at the Frederick University in Lefkosia last year  http://phitiotika.wordpress.com which includes a link to a video showing the process from start to finish of preparing the threads for the loom.

One of the women featured on the video, Mrs EIrini Diomidous, was working at her weaving when I arrived and I managed to have a chat with her. This was one of those occasions when I wished my Greek was a little more comprehensive as I wasn’t always able to get the finer details of what she was telling me but we managed. The large room in this restored old building was filled from floor to ceiling with fine examples of fythkiotika made by the women of the group. All the pieces were for sale,  many of the designs  were copies of old pieces, all were beautifully intricate. I of course came away with a few examples. One of them was this rather funky bag which looked like it has a silk lining in a hessian type weave, this I later parted with reluctantly as I’d bought it as a present for my sister.

Funky bagThe loom that Eirini uses has been in her family for a least a hundred years and is still going strong, with the handy use of chicken bones to hold certain things in place, this is common I’m told. Normally there would be a small wooden bobbin type mechanism .

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Although visitors come from far and wide Eirini  told me she would like to be able to sell more of the finished work as there is not enough trade at the moment  to cover all the overheads as well as give the weavers a fair reward for their efforts. I’m sure there are many people who would love to own a piece of this unique work if only they were aware of it. Fyti is a small village found up on the lower slopes of the Troodos mountains halfway between Polis and Paphos. The scenery is spectacular up here and it makes a lovely excursion. The weavers also work in silk which they cultivate themselves. Above you will see a picture of some silk worms gorging themselves on the mulberry leaves and starting to work their cocoons. I found this video of how they grow silk worms and harvest silk in China, fascinating, obviously this is on a commercial scale.

 

Everything’s Coming up Roses

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I have been feeling a bit “under the weather” as we say here in the UK, since my return from Cyprus. It started with a sudden outbreak of cold sore eruptions ( herpes simplex) on my face starting with a mild cold but exacerbated by being exposed for several hours in the sun without shade, I suspect. Not in Cyprus but in sunny Sussex as our choir was rehearsing and then performing a concert in the middle of a field. The field was adjacent to a college so not in the middle of nowhere, just no trees. It was quite an experience as we were one of several choirs, many of them from local schools with a couple of adult choirs plus a few professional singers and a fabulous band, 500 plus people altogether. The outbreak on my face, mostly under and around my nose as well as around and on my eyelids, was very sore, my eyes itched and stung. I was wondering what I could apply that would be soothing as well as healing. I thought of Aloe Vera gel but that wouldn’t work for my eyes, maybe cucumber? Then I remembered a bottle of rosewater in my cupboard that my cousin Androula had distilled herself from her own roses in Treis Elies.

Roses are magical, the divine scent and delicate beauty have inspired poets uplifting the spirits and dazzling the senses, the heady perfume encapsulated as a perfume for eons. Roses have been used for centuries by women as a beauty treatment for the skin, rosewater is a fabulous face cleanser, cleansing the skin deeply. Rose petals sprinkled in the bath are the ultimate decadence or scattered on the bed and floor to give the ambiance of romance. But there is more to roses than just a pretty face, they have hidden depths and within those petals lie seriously effective healing properties which throughout history have been tried and tested  but now have also been scientifically proven. They are antiviral, antibacterial, antidepressant and anti-inflammatory among other things. These were the properties that I accidentally stumbled upon. I was looking for something pure and soothing which it blissfully was with the added bonus of also being curative. With the help of the rosewater my eyes were soothed and my face healed without scars, just inhaling the perfume lifted my spirits.

I wanted to boost my immune system as I felt the outbreak had sapped my strength a little so I then turned to another Cypriot prize product namely carob syrup. On my recent trip I bought a very good quality carob syrup in Omodos which has a wonderfully rich liquorice flavour that I love . This also doesn’t just taste great but is rich in calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium and phosphorus, as well as this I also started taking Sambucol which is an elderberry syrup, very rich in vitamin C with added zinc. So altogether I now smell divine and taste very fruity…….

Rebetiko in the Heart of Chichester

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Poster courtesy Federatzione L’Arca

Now it isn’t often I get to say that, Chichester and rebetiko on the surface are as different as South Down’s chalk and feta cheese but it is the time of the Festival of Chichester when we have many diverse musical and cultural events in town, hooray! I  look forward to this short span of time on the cultural calendar as you can guarantee there will be a few unusual world music concerts taking place. For a couple of years there was a barren space where this event should have been as the old Chichester Festivities ground to a halt and was buried under a mound of debt. But you can’t keep a good idea down for long and independently the various organisations that had taken part before regrouped and run the event on a much smaller scale and under their own steam without the large corporate sponsors of before.

Last night I visited St John’s Chapel where ‘Plastikes Karekles’ were performing. St John’s is a rare surviving example of a Georgian proprietary chapel  “Although a proprietary chapel was firmly part of the Church of England it was built and run as a commercial venture. The money to build and run it – including paying the minister’s salary – came from share issues and the sale and rent of pews; some of the original box pews in the gallery of St John’s still have paper labels offering them for rent.” to quote from the St.John’s own website http://www.stjohnschapelchichester.co.uk. The chapel is delightful and I have enjoyed visiting on the odd occasion and observing the stages of its restoration. The box pews I find particularly endearing. They chapel often host concerts, I had seen ‘Plastikes Karekles’ perform here a few years ago and remembered enjoying them so of course when I saw they were returning I booked my seat, not in a box pew sadly as they are in the gallery which isn’t open. I think this would make a fine viewpoint though at concerts, maybe I could rent one?

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The group Plastikes Karekles www.plastikeskarekles.com ( plastic chairs) consists of  a variable number of young  musicians of both classical and folk backgrounds  ranging at any one time from 2 to 17 in number. Last night there were only six including :-Marina Deligianni performing some beautiful and evocative vocals in a true rebetiko style: Pavlos Carvalho playing bouzouki and giving us some history behind the music and instruments in the segues from one section of music to another: Stelios Katsatsidis on harmonic (bayan) accordion: Sarah Carvalho-Dubost on cello and guitar: Maria Tsirodimitri on guitar: Alexandros Koustason violin. The concert started with the haunting sound of the accordion playing out of sight heralding the arrival of the other musicians as they walked up the aisle singing what sounded like a lament. Much of Greek Rebetiko  has this flavour of longing and lament, it’s what reaches out and touches me, in the same vein as some Irish and Scottish folk songs do. On hearing the accordion I couldn’t quite place the instrument out of sight, it had the sound of a harmonium.

The first half contained many familiar rebetiko songs dating back to possibly 40’s and 50’s followed by the more recent Theodorakis numbers which were the result of a revival of Greek music by the composer in the 60’s. Mikis Theodorakis is probably the best known Greek composer of today, who is not familiar with his songs ‘Zorba the Greek’ or ‘Never on a Sunday’? He started his career though as a  classical composer and gained international acclaim, creating several works for ballet as well as symphonies and chamber music. He left all this behind in 1960 to answer the call from within to return to his roots in Greece and Greek music and contributed by so doing, to a cultural revolution in his homeland. He felt that the music of Greece had strayed from its authenticity and wanted to get it back to the roots. Many of the songs that sprang from this time are the ones that I remember first hearing when my dad started to buy Greek music albums. Just hearing the first few notes of bouzouki on a track conjures up blue, open skies, the smell of the sea and souvla and a sense of release and relaxation, as if I had been keeping myself locked up before.  I recognised and hummed along to the familiar tunes I recognised, I was sitting at the back well out of earshot.

Much early traditional Greek folk music from the islands, tells tales often in a repetitive dirge like manner reflecting the ecclesiastic chants of the Orthodox church. The true rebetiko is a more urban folk music, the Greek equivalent to blues music stemming from 1920’s and 30’s and originating in Smyrna but influenced by both Byzantine music as well as Turkish influences among many others, some 50’s Rebetika even has Latin and swing influences. This music has its roots in the expulsion of the Christian Ottoman Greek population from central Anatolia to Greece in the First World war. It was a time of ethnic cleansing and genocide. The music had the same associations in society that Tango music had in Argentina at its beginnings, with the same connections to slightly dark, underground, cafe/ bar society. These bars were places not of merriment  but where you went to forget your troubles by smoking a few pipefuls of hashish, the music was of melancholy and hardship. The music of these songs and the emotion in the voice of the singer conveys all the sorrows of the world very much like Portuguese Fado music which I also love.

One of the most interesting little snippets we were given during the concert was that Jimmy Hendrix was a great admirer of the composer and bazouki player Hiotis and thought he was the fastest player in the world, even faster than Hendrix himself.

I get a regular newsletter from a site called Eugreeka www.eugreeka.com that has news of all events of interest to  Greek speaking people or lovers of all things Greek. A few weeks ago I read of a rembetiko carnival taking place in London featuring several rembetiko performances and I was wishing I lived nearer to see them. Instead they came to me because Plastikes Karekles www.plastikeskarekles.com were also performing at the carnival. At the end of the performance they got many of the audience to join in a Greek line dance a bit like the Greek version of the conga, and they danced around the ailes. A very enjoyable evening altogether and if they ever are playing in a town near you pop along and get an earful of rebetiko .

The Arts of Kouklia Part 2

 

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When you approach Kouklia from the West, you turn off the main road and are directed to the village centre passing an intimidating fortress-like building elevated on a hill to the left. The directions take you away from the building which I was curious to investigate but as the village centre is where I also needed to be I, on this occasion, followed directions. The building turned out to be the walls of the manner house I later discovered.

Kouklia itself is a small village and the main square is full of coffee shops and tavernas which seemed to be very quiet and sleepy when I arrived at midday. The square comes alive in the evenings, particularly in the summer when the Pharos Music Festival is taking place, bringing many visitors to the area. In June the square is closed to traffic just for the evenings and the tables and chairs spill out into the road giving, I would imagine, a real relaxed party air for the guests and a safe area for children to play. At the weekends traditional dancing takes place to add to the entertainment. All the tavernas work together to make it as sociable as possible. All this I was told second-hand, I haven’t experienced it myself but it sounds a great idea and of benefit to all one would think? Of course there always has to be dissenters and someone has objected to the restricted access in the evenings and wants it lifted. As the square covers such a small area I can’t imagine that it is not possible to find alternative ways of access and surely a compromise could be reached? We have to wait the verdict from the authorities. Business will suffer and consequently people’s livelihoods.

The reason I eventually heard about Kouklia was not in fact because of its historical importance. I read a review of an art centre that had just opened on the square. Kouklia Arts is formed of two parts, the studio area where paintings are created and sold; this takes place in a lovingly restored old building that once was a coffee shop and local stores; the second part is a traditional house also restored just down the street. The house in now a shop selling every imaginable kind of gift and handicraft from candles to lace, made by local craftsmen, they even  sell some of my beloved traditional baskets.This has been the long held dream of  Angela Winstanley an artist herself, she paints, inspired by the surroundings, as she says she is “living the dream”. Here is a link to her site http://www.artworkskouklia.com/ Amongst it all Angela has taken on board some of my books, Androula’s Kitchen to display for sale, if you are in the area why not go along and have a browse, there are plenty of relaxing places to eat and spend a few hours watching the world go by.

If you are looking for historical culture the museum and temple site as mentioned in part one of this post 2014/06/30/the-arts-of-kouklia/ will certainly satisfy. In my usual fashion I bought the guide book at the end of my visit and read on my return to England that there are still remaining ancient tunnels used in the fortifications of the town. Now that I would like to see and another visit is called for.

 

The Arts of Kouklia

On my recent trip to Cyprus I made acquaintance with a village called Kouklia very near to Paphos airport, which I had not visited before in fact I don’t remember even hearing about it . This is odd because it is an important historical site situated in Palaipahos, ancient Paphos, which was once the capital of Cyprus. Kouklia is the site of a sanctuary dedicated to worshipping the goddess of fertility dating as far back as 12th century BC. A very interesting on-site video about the sanctuary pointed out that it is not completely understood which goddess the original site was dedicated too, possibly Ishtar and then transformed into Aphrodite by the Aegean immigrants. A massive conical piece of gabbro stone was worshipped as the representation of the goddess instead of an anthropomorphic statue, this would have been anointed with oil at the great festivals.

The site covers a large area where both an open and an enclosed hall would have stood housing several altars and votive offerings as well as monuments.    For centuries it was  an important site for worshippers from all over the mediterranean area and the site remained in use for a remarkable 1,600 years. To read more on this you might find this page of interest http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kouklia. I spent a very pleasant couple of hours wandering around the site and paying a visit to the museum. This is housed in part of the Manor House built by the Lusignans on the sanctuary site, re-using materials they gathered which would have once formed part of the original lime stone structures. Only parts of the original medieval building survived and the rest was re-constructed by the Department of Antiquities to house the museum and act as stores. The Manor House was built as the administrative and production centre for the sugar cane industry with plantations and mills next to it. Sugar Cane production was a lucrative industry for the rulers of Cyprus, brought to the island after the Crusades by the Arabs, this site provided valuable information about this activity when archaeological excavations were carried out by a Swiss- German team in 1980.

The museum houses some lovely early glass and pottery examples found on the site as well as a huge stone bath and what looks like a pottery stove but is believed to be a shrine. The wonderful vaulted Gothic Hall below, a fine example of Frankish architecture on the island, is now used for concert performances during the annual Pharos Chamber Music Festival held in Kouklia at the end of May http://www.pharosartsfoundation.org  Although a hot day when I visited, I was cooled by a refreshing breeze as the sanctuary site is on a plateau with a fantastic view of the coast.

Cyprus College of Art

Androula's Kitchen:

A beautifully written blog about a short stay at Lemba summer school.

Originally posted on ANIMA RISING BLOG:

23rd June, 2014.

I’ve been staying at the Cyprus College of Art for almost a week. I share my days and nights here with nine artists, fast becoming new friends. We are mostly lonesome travellers, shuffled up and backpacked, with stories to tell. I like that I’m not the only person making this journey alone.

The College was set up by the late Stass Paraskos in the Seventies – a wonderful man who has created a mad monument of mod-roc animals, mosaics, and colour popping sculpture. The place has a freedom about it that only comes with the absence of grades, exams, and extortionate fees. We have little agenda here – just a desk space, a shed to sleep in, and encouragement to create. Margaret, daughter of Stass, is now in charge, and her attitude is so impressively laid-back I should congratulate her.

I share my whitewashed shed with a…

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