Feast and Frolics

The big celebration is gradually dissipating now, although it is Tuesday the holiday continues as some shops are still closed and the supermarkets are open reduced hours.The flaounes are gradually getting eaten. I went to the large church in Polis to experience the evening service on Good Friday.I was lucky to get the last seat as the church gradually filled with more and more people after the service had started they even lined the balconies. Throughout the service the congregation one by one went up to the Epitaphos to kiss it. The service lasted two hours during which time the helpers read in a chanting  voice from the scriptures, hymns were sung but in a repetitive chanting style. Some of the congregation had an order of service which they were following and joined in refrains at certain points.

I don’t follow any particular religion myself and was not able to understand what was said so this may have  effected  my perceptions but I didn’t feel any particular spiritual upliftment coming from the service as it seemed very much done by rote. There didn’t seem to be any sermon or special thoughts offered by the Bishop or priest on such a special date in the Orthodox calendar. There was more depth of feeling coming from the congregation than the men of the church although some of the congregation treat the church as a meeting house and gossip through the service.

I didn’t venture forth to witness the unveiling of the iconostasis on Saturday night or join in the lighting of a candle to usher in that “Christ is Risen – Christos Anesti“. as it was very cold on Saturday night. I instead joined in a feast at my cousin’s table on the Sunday lunchtime. I was eager to witness the lighting of the ‘fourno’ in the morning to cook the meat and potatoes and arrived at 9.30 am ready with my camera only to find that my cousin had decided to cook the meat the night before and I’d missed it. I had to make do instead with the lighting of the fire to cook yet more lamb on the spit using a type of fire that my cousin had seen when in Crete. He made his own in his garden and you can see how the meat cooks with the skewers resting on a central rod from the photos. It took 4 hours to cook and I  cannot describe to you how good that meat tasted, I have never tasted such flavour and such succulence. The whole day was a delight spending leisure time with cousins and sons and daughters of cousins and even a son of a daughter of a cousin.Food was delicious and company delightful. Christos Anesti!!!

Flowers, Flaounes and Fire

Easter is upon us in Cyprus and the decorations have come out in force in the towns and villages. Huge chickens and rabbits have sprung up everywhere some looking rather menacing, with rusty red coloured eggs dotted about all very kitsch and often looking a bit tired and in need of a make over. Here Easter is celebrated with the same zest as Christmas in the UK. The flaounes, the delicious cheese, egg and mint pies have been made by the cart load in every home on the Thursday preceding good Friday in readiness for the hoards of relatives and friends that will descend over the holidays. Large stacks of wood have been collected and assembled outside the churches in readiness for the bonfires that will take place at midnight on Saturday.

All around the island the churches are filled with busyness as young girls decorate the Holy Sepulchre – Epitaphios – with elaborate flower arrangements which will be the focus of tonight’s service. Processions will take place through the streets. I hope to catch some of this activity and look forward to taking part.

The Crafty Side of Life

I am lucky enough to know some very talented people here in Cyprus, Elena Savvides – Doghman and her husband Bassam Doghman to name but two. Elena is a the daughter of a Cypriot father from Droushia and a Finnish mother. Born in the UK she studied at Goldsmiths then at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies UCL doing a Master’s in Russian and European Culture. Her family came to Cyprus on their holidays but she was not interested in living here then and yet here she is married to Bassam who is Lebanese and they have three beautiful children. She is a woman of many talents and worked latterly  in an Italian restaurant in London where she honed her not inconsiderable talent for cooking and managing to cater for large groups of people. She has since put those skills to great use and has added to her enormous repertoire of culinary skills which she shares with a wide group of diners on her supper club evenings.These are themed and can feature Italian, Finnish, Lebanese or Greek cooking or anything else she that takes her fancy. Last week she cooked a fabulous array of Finnish dishes for a select group of diners, the dishes included, a herring dip,a very tasty raw beetroot and horseradish salad, egg butter and rye bread, stuffed cabbage leaves covered in cheese, wild Finnish mushrooms, a mashed swede dish, mashed potato with a wonderfully rich venison casserole, to round it off we had a bilberry tart made with wild bilberries picked by Bassam in Finland. In the warmer months the suppers are held in the garden and can include many more people. Elena caters for many events and also makes a wide variety of preserves and pickles which she sells along with many tasty savoury morsels  at the monthly farmer’s market in the Herb Garden at Akourdalia,

Bassam is also multi-talented and can turn his hand to most things, he is known for his stone and woodwork. From a large array of olive wood in his store he carves platters and plaques which make beautiful additions to any home or restaurant.  At the moment he is working on making a large door for a renovated mosque in Kato Arodhes. 

My cousin Nicos is another multi talented man and also can turn his hand to most things. He has created a beautiful garden in his home in Goudi with a lot of stonework surrounding the garden, the paths are decorated with mosaic work. In his spare time he sculpts stone figures.He is hoping to hold an exhibition soon.

Just down the road also in Goudi Kate Fensom lives and works. An artist of only a few years she has developed her own unique style since living in Cyprus, painting magical images full of symbolism and mysticism. She has many keen followers of her work and is at present holding an exhibition in Bellapais Abbey near Kyrenia. It is many years since I have visited Bellapais and I would love to see her work in this setting as the abbey and its surrounds hold their own special enchantment. She first came to stay in  Cyprus in the North as a friend of hers invited her for a holiday, she felt very at home there and has an affinity with the place. As she lives only down the road from my cousin I paid her a visit a few weeks ago and spent a very interesting couple of hours chatting. It is always fascinating to hear people’s journey of discovery of Cyprus and once discovered it seems to somehow to hook them and they want to stay.

Some  of the things that hook me are the wide open sky with clear light and the wild and wooly landscape. On Tuesday I went for a short excursion up on a different part of the Akamas just outside Inia following the road to Lara. I parked the car on the top road and walked about a mile or so of the Lara road on foot as it is only best navigated in a four wheel drive vehicle. The road is unmade and often has deep ruts where the rain runs off so it needs careful navigation. The wild flowers are at their best here right now and the wild irises and sweet peas are out in force, dotted with vetch and mustard mixed in with poppies and daisies and the occasional hyacinth. Although it looks wild up here it is in fact cultivated in patches and it looked like wheat was growing, the wind making it move like water, swirling around the lone carob tree. The day had turned cloudy but I could see over in the distance Lara beach where the turtles come to hatch every year. There was some interesting rocks up here and not being informed enough to tell you what sort I have taken photos instead. It looked like it might have some ore in it and when I first saw it, looked strangely like it was covered in seaweed but of course this is far from the sea, unless it is fossilised? I came across a very interesting video some time ago explaining the geology of the island as it is much studied by groups of geologists from all over the world. Also on my walk I came across a whole writhing bundle of caterpillars in the road where did they come from and what will they be? Later on looking more closely at a photo I took, I saw a huge one of the same variety making its way through the flowers.There is always something to marvel at.

Down but Still Out

Even though I have been stricken down with a nasty sore throat and cough for the last week and moved down from Pano Arodhes, where I have been staying, to Prodromi a bit prematurely, I have still managed to fit in several events and all with their own spectacular views and settings.The weather is still very changeable and my last day in Pano Arodhes saw more hail stone showers and the temperature dropping which is what finally decided me, especially as I was feeling unwell, to move down to Prodromi which is several degrees warmer. Obviously as the weather warms up it is an advantage to be that much cooler in the foothills, by then ‘though I would have been moving on anyway so there was no advantage in me waiting. I am now staying in a tiny house which belongs to the family nearer the sea and with lovely views from the balcony of both sea and hills. During my stay here I am taking the opportunity to do a bit of decorating.

I attended a birthday bash in Paphos last week which was held at the Muse cafe/restaurant, a very contemporary building perched right on the edge of a promontory looking right over Paphos and out towards the sea. Apparently at night it is a favourite hang out of the young and trendy whereas at lunchtimes there is a completely different mix of people, many business lunches were going on I could see. There was a wide variety of people attending the bash made up of several different nationalities. This is a lovely spot to hang out and have a drink with friends.

The following day after a brief visit to Fyti to say hello to both Mr and Mrs Mavrelis at the museum and then Irinou at the Voufa co-operative I made my way down to Lasa to meet a friend and see her beautifully restored house which she told me had been a ruin when they bought it, now a cosy home full of interesting art work. She took me for a short walk nearby down an old donkey track to see what remains of an ancient oak woodland. These are Syrian oaks ”Quercus infectoria” to give them their Latin name, with a more delicate look to them than our English oak, the leaves being much smaller, these are indigenous to Cyprus, Turkey and eastward to Iran. They were much more abundant in days gone by, the forests in Cyprus were full of them but when the Venetians ruled Cyprus they cut many trees down to build their ships, decimating the forests and quickly the faster growing pines took their place. The scenery here was again breath-taking in the soft light of this Spring afternoon and the oaks gave it a whole different feel. The scenery is very picturesque with many ruined walls of houses now  overgrown and evidence of a long past farmed land.

At the weekend I attended a Craft Fair at the Paradisos Hills hotel, another place perched right up high in Lysos overlooking a beautiful valley with the sea beyond. Even though the weather has been changeable these events all were held on beautiful sunny days. I took part in the fair and had my book displayed on a table ready for me to sign for the willing purchaser. It was pretty slow going but the time passed and I was pleased to take a well earned small Keo and sit outside on the terrace to take in the view when it was over.

The third event was a visit to Koula’s farm near to Droushia which I have visited a few times before however I still managed to get lost, I went down every track with no luck but with the help of a very lucky meeting with a stranger when I was just about to give up being literally a minute from the farm, I met up with my friend Elena who was taking a small party of people to visit and see how the cheese is made. Koula produces her cheese, both halloumi and anari in the same way her mother and grandmother before had made it. Her equipment is more modern; a stainless steel cauldron heated electrically instead of a copper one heated by a wood burning fire, plastic baskets to strain the cheese instead of the traditional ones made of rushes and grasses, talaria, but the techniques are time-honoured. Koula runs a relatively small operation and wants to keep her methods traditional. The farm is set in some more of that spectacular scenery so prolific in Cyprus with views of fields and hills on all sides.

En route back to Elena’s for one of her delicious lunches we stopped at a small disused monastery set in the midst of olive and carob trees with the wild iris and marigolds speckled throughout the grass and further up the road a whole host of poppies were scattered in the field, it was pretty as a picture. Everywhere now the wild giant fennel is in full bright yellow bloom.

These days are the best for travelling around Cyprus as they are cool and mostly sunny. This is why I am busy doing my networking now as in not many weeks time it will be more uncomfortable to travel unless early in the morning or late afternoon. The now lush green landscape will soon become parched and brown and will have more the feel of a lunar landscape.  Then will be the time for me to relax. Back to the decorating for now.    

Steni

On Sunday I made a trip to Steni, a well placed village that claws its way up the hillside on the road from Polis Chrysochous to Lysos and beyond to Stavros tis Psokas. The countryside up here is breathtaking, the village is pretty large with a good sized population. Recently the village centre has had some money spent on it like many others in Cyprus since the joining of the EU, with newly made and repaired stone walls and a new village centre with a large communal open square where a brand new museum also stands. I was very impressed by this small museum because of the variety of artefacts on display and how well laid out it is. I suppose because it is new it also lacked that dusty unkempt look that many small museums seem to convey. I have a sneaky feeling that some of the wooden items have been cleaned up and sanded down( sharp intake of breath) but hey I guess that is how they would have looked when new, right? They seemed to have lost a bit of patina in the process ‘though.

The main appeal for me was that they had  really good examples of traditional hand woven textiles. The beautiful example of sheeting  used for the hangings on the bed, reminded me of the sheets my Aunt used to weave on her loom in the village of Yerolakkos. These looked like they had silk woven in to them, very common back then as most villagers kept their own silk worms. On display was a huge cross section of implements used in every day domestic life as well as farming. Well worth a visit if you are in the area and it’s totally free. The mayor Elias Lambidis was very helpful and has taken some of my books to put on sale, so if you haven’t already got a copy here is a chance to get your hands on one. There is a list of other outlets where you can get a copy in Cyprus, on the page About the book.  

Magnificent Moody Mountains

The great advantage of coming to Cyprus so early in the year is that you get to see the ever- present  Troodos  massif in many moods. As Cyprus has had  a lot of rain this year there have been many brooding clouds and some glimpses of snow capped peaks in the colder month of February. The rain has also created a lush landscape with wide swathes of wild mustard adding a jaunty yellow to the scene. The green is so rich it seems like, should you dive into it, it would support you like a fluffy cushion. The lovely silvery greens of the olive leaves, the delicate white blossom of the almond  and the deep bottle green of the cypress trees make up a pastoral scene of rare beauty. I never tire of looking at it, with every bend in the road there is a different scene. Many of the slopes have been terraced to grow vines or olive trees, each area has a different landscape. Some overlooking the sea and some looking inland towards the peaks. Here is a selection of my favourite pictures of the many I have taken trying to capture the beauty. They by no means do the scene justice but serve as a reminder of what I have been lucky enough to view.

Wild and Wonderful

It’s been a busy time since I last posted.  The weather has been gradually getting warmer, today it was 23 degrees in Paphos so several layers of clothing have been shed in the daytime and thinner layers are called for. Today being International Women’s Day there was an event my friend Elena of Orexi was catering for in a Anasa community Wellness centre in Paphos run by Annelie Roux. I went along to lend a hand and took some books just in case. There was a whole programme of taster sessions of about 20 minutes duration including self-defence and Chi Gong, It was a beautiful day.

I have been taking advantage of the lovely weather to get out and enjoy the glorious countryside that is around the area in which I am staying near the Akamas. Early in the week I met Elena to visit Koula at the goat farm and buy some fresh anari the delicious soft cheese made from goats milk that is very like ricotta. A favourite way of eating this is taking a slice and pouring some carob syrup over it. On the way we passed some almond blossom in full bloom and a field filled with mustard and dotted with poppies. This lush growth of Spring is exceptional this year as there has been an abundance of rain. I spent the lunchtime with a group of ladies that lunch at Droushia Heights hotel, perched high on the hill with magnificent views overlooking the sea,

On Thursday my cousin Androula came down from Treis Elies to walk the Aphrodite Trail and we set off at an easy pace stopping to admire the wild flowers, cyclamen were everywhere and as we climbed ever higher like the proverbial goats ,the panoramic scenery became more and more breath-taking and the orchids became larger, dotted about with yellow anemones, the smell of the gorse was heady. The combination of the exercise, scenery. and the fresh scented air was both invigorating and relaxing. We chose to climb up the steepest side and it seemed we would never reach the top, once the plateau was reached the scenery changed again with a lush covering on the ground and a different species of tree intermingled with the grey skeletons of dead bushes either ravaged by the harsh winter or just past their natural life span. Whereas the ascent was on a gravelly soil, the descent was on stoney ground, many in large slabs with almost natural steps  taking you down in a gentler slope. Areas where many travellers had passed were dotted with their creations of stones stacked in natural sculptures. We passed the goats feasting on the fresh lush vegetation, hearing the tinkling of their bells before coming into view looking very sleek and proud. This walk takes about three hours if you are sturdy walkers but as we stopped for various breaks and admired the scenery we took nearer four hours. It is one of the many trails you can take in this area some less strenuous and shorter, some longer.

On the Friday I did another foray into the wild, this time more of an amble along the country roads of Droushia with Elena’s foraging group. I had been looking forward to this for a long time. Elena supplied a very tasty breakfast before we set off in search of wild food to cook for lunch. The most prized food being wild asparagus which we found very difficult to find as the harsh weather had sadly brought this delicate vegetable to an early end but some of the group were successful in claiming the odd shoot. We gathered the succulent centres of wild artichoke, mallow leaves, mustard flowers, nettles, vetch and wild pea shoots along with a few other wild leaves. These Elena turned into a wonderful risotto with gorgonzola cheese and garlic, the mallow leaves were cooked with onion dressed with lemon and had a wonderful fresh flavour while the artichoke stalks were cooked with fresh louvi (a black eye bean that is a Cypriot favourite and eaten often) and dressed with oil and salt. The rare asparagus was cooked with scrambled egg. The mustard flowers and various shoots and leaves were made into a delicious salad. We sat in the garden under the mish mish tree and ate our flavoursome lunch washed down with a glass of chilled white wine. A truly relaxing and inspiring morning with good company.

Next week sees a complete contrast as I’m off to walk the mean streets of Nicosia.

 

Sunny Side Up

It’s a beautiful day in uptown Arodhes if a tad windy…a great day for drying the washing. I have been here three weeks and in that time I have been in turn: pleasantly warm in the February sun, rained on non-stop for a week, snowed in, iced out, and hailed on, freezing cold and now back as you were, pleasantly warm in the February sunshine. Such is the roller-coaster ride of early Spring weather in Cyprus. I have been told though that this winter has been exceptionally harsh and prolonged.

Yesterday I had a day planned to go to Limassol and the day was perfect, clear blue sky and the temperature hovering around 20 degrees. My first port of call… pardon the pun, was to visit a young pioneering couple, Maria and Peter in Polemidia on the outskirts of Limassol and fast becoming swallowed up in the ever-spreading town’s suburbia.They arrived in Cyprus just a year ago with a vision of setting up an organic farm on Maria’s father’s land in Polemidia. Peter is American from Long Island originally and set out to study art but somehow got side- tracked into farming after doing an internship on an organic farm in Kentucky. To quote from their website Parhelia : “He completed apprenticeships through ATTRA on organic farms in three different states in the U.S., where he learned how to grow vegetables organically, save seeds, raise healthy animals and generally live off the land in sustainable ways. His favourite Cypriot foods are and tahinopita.”

Maria also studied art in the States after gaining a Fulbright scholarship which stipulates she must return to Cyprus after her studies for a set length of time to work in her chosen field of study.”She is a visual artist, educator and food lover. She has worked in an art museum, a university, an organic dairy farm and a farm-to-table restaurant, among other places. Having grown up in Cyprus, she recalls summers eating under the grapevine, chickens, and other living things her grandfather used to tend to.” So between them they worked out a plan for the future to combine both their loves of food and the land and have after a lot of hard work established the beginning of their dream. Such a project will take time to establish and develop into a thriving business of course but the enthusiasm and perseverance are there. It will take time to get to know both literally and metaphorically, how the land lies, what crops work best which crops take too much labour and which just grow themselves. Already they have discovered that the climate and soil of Cyprus enables most crops to grow vigorously and well, a walk around the plot showed evidence of this with some huge cabbages and cauliflowers that would do well in any garden produce show in the UK.

The land is divided up into two sections one where the crops are grown and one that is ear-marked to be more of an orchard. At the moment it has olive trees and some young fruit trees with many roaming chickens and a few clutches of young chicks. A magnificent white cockerel was showing whose boss and strutting his stuff. Amongst the many crops grown and planned to be grown, the crops available to harvest at the moment are :- cabbages, cauliflowers, chard, Cavalo Nero or Tuscan cabbage, some beautiful tender stem  broccoli, enormous fennel, kale, parsley, radichio and eggs. Every Saturday morning they open their doors to the public to allow them to come and buy this great produce. Check out their website Parhelia for details of where they are and times they are open.

As my regular readers will know, in the UK I belong to a community garden and whilst talking to Peter as we walked around the vegetable plots, I realised how much I had learned during my time there. Happily chatting about using liquid nettle feed and natural ways of deterring pests, recognising the crops common and not so common. We sat happily chatting in the sunshine talking of their plans and eating the delicious kataifi made by Maria’s mother as part of the Green Monday celebrations.

In Cyprus now there are quite a few small groups of people who are keen to move in a different direction to the focus of the majority and in a way go back to the roots of a way of living that, until very recently, was the norm all over Cyprus. In so doing they bring with them techniques and knowledge which will enable a better, healthier way of life without the hardship of previous generations and a much more environmentally and ecologically sound way of living on the land and working in harmony with nature. This island has so much potential in terms of its younger generation and riches of the land, I believe the future is very bright. I hope in my own very small way I can show examples of what is happening and showcase the people I get to know about and meet and in so doing promote Cyprus.

Pater and Maria admit is isn’t easy but they knew it would be a challenge maybe the reality was harder than they imagined but they are here and doing it. Please support them by visiting on a Saturday morning to buy their beautiful bounty, the crops are ever changing, broad beans, peas and artichokes are on their way as well as many more crops when in season.

I Missed It!

This weekend has been a holiday time in Cyprus. The Saturday and Sunday saw many carnivals taking place around the country the biggest being in Limassol. For various reasons I sadly missed this gaiety and a great photo opportunity if ever there was one. Instead I was enjoying a glorious day and a seafood lunch at Latchi, I even wore my sunglasses for the first time but from what I hear a good time was had by all…. even me. On the Monday generally all Cypriots gather with their families and celebrate Green (or Clean) Monday the beginning of Lent. This is marked by eating a meal based on vegetables, salad and shellfish or octopus. Often picnics are taken out to the countryside on the Monday and kites are flown. I was greatly looking forward to seeing this but sadly the weather was very wet and cold, unusually so for this time of year and most were staying indoors in the warm. I saw one brave sole trying to fly his kite in very poor conditions but bravo for the spirit of the thing..

Today I have been helping my good friend Elena of Orexi fame in her kitchen bottling up some of her delicious preserves in readiness for the monthly event of The Farmers market at the herb garden at Pano Akourdalia which should be very busy as it usually is and a great social gathering in a beautiful spot. On my way home from a productive morning I decided to travel a different route taking the long way round and went through Kato Arodhes an adjacent village to the one  in which I am staying in so doing I passed some amazing scenery looking down to the sea with lush green everywhere. I thought I’d share the pictures.

Today I have

The River of Lefkosia

Yesterday I accompanied my brother to Lefkosia ( Nicosia) for a lightning trip to see to some official  business there. One of the ports of call was near access to the river called Pedieos  which runs through the city, or at least it used to; during the lifetime of the city’s occupation, some 4,500 years or so it has been diverted to the outskirts and some has even been covered over. There are places where it has been made into a park like area where footpaths have been created and you can walk, run, cycle along shady,pleasant paths dotted with very old eucalyptus and palm trees mingled with wild foliage and bushes. Eucalyptus are not native to Cyprus but during the British occupation they planted many all over the island to combat the mosquitos in the swampy lowland areas. Eucalyptus soak up the water and now could be considered to be a hindrance in times of low rain fall.

The last time I visited this area it was late April and it was warm and sunny,the winter had been drier so there was no water at all in the river-bed. This year there was a fast flowing body of water, sure it is no River Thames but it created a very pleasant, fresh space to gently amble along. To Quote Wikipedia :-

“The Pedieos (also  or Pediaeus or Pithkias; Greek: Πεδιαίος/Πηθκιάς, Turkish: Kanlı Dere) is the longest river in Cyprus. The river originates in the Troodos Mountains close to Machairas Monasteryand flows northeast across the Mesaoria plains, through the capital city Nicosia. It then steers east, meeting the sea at Famagusta Bay close to the ancient Greek city of Salamis.

The river has a total length of 98 km. An 18 km stretch of the river banks, in and around Nicosia, has been turned into pedestrian walkways.[1] There are two dams constructed along the river, the largest one at Tamassos built in 2002.[2]

 

 

Smoke Gets in your Eyes on Thursday

I can’t believe that nearly a week has gone by since my last post. To borrow a phrase from a well known Christmas song “The weather outside is frightful” and we have had everything this week from dramatic thunderstorms to buckets full of hail  and even snow here and there. The sun, thank goodness came out on Thursday and this afternoon just to show us that it is still there, so hopefully things can only get better. The countryside is looking tremendous at the moment with very green lush fields, the trees foliage is all very fresh in their greys and greens with the dramatic contrast of huge wet ochre coloured boulders of rock striated with black  thrusting out up the hillside road.

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Even though to me it seems like Easter is a long way off the preparations are beginning now with the run up to Lent and Green Monday when everyone starts the 50 day fast, celebrations and frivolity pave the way. Starting with tzuknopempti which roughly translated  means ‘Thursday when the air is filled with the smell of meat cooking over charcoal’. I was lucky enough to be invited to a big extended family gathering where the sheftelies and souvlakia were cooked in abundance by the men, local mushrooms which grow at this wet time of year were picked and cooked with onions by the women and bowls of salad, laid out together with lountza a smoked loin of pork. Pittas were toasted on the charcoal along with some local halloumi and a truly delicious meal was followed by sweet pastries and cakes. Brandy, beer and wine were drunk along with the usual Coke for the children. Much animated discussion took place during the course of the meal, the focus being politics as Cypriots have been following closely the Greek elections and post election discussions concerning the European Union.

Then it was time for the singing, at the head of the table was the patriarch, father and grandfather of the family who was looking very smart and well groomed for the occasion. He started off the proceedings with renditions of what sounded like very melancholy songs that could have dated back hundreds of years. There is also a tradition unique to Cyprus I am told, whereby two people sing a two line verse they make up as they go  and the second person answers it with another two line verse, a bit like a rapping duo I guess. The mother and father gave a grand rendition of this art and were greatly appreciated by the gathering and even though I may not have understood the sentiments I too appreciated the performance. Then it was the turn of the daughters to sing some traditional Laiko songs with everyone clapping along in that off beat rhythm that is so distinctive. Next of course it was the turn of the children and a young girl produced her guitar and music stand and gave us a touchingly beautiful rendition of a traditional song, her brother followed suit in a brave attempt to match his sister. Finally they turned their attention to some pop songs of the moment including ‘Wrecking Ball’ the hit of Miley Cyrus which seemed to go on forever but was very funny to watch how much they enjoyed  themselves particularly with the chorus when they could let rip.

A February Sunday in Arodhes

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It’s a cold, cloudy and windy February day here in Pano Arodhes and I decided today I would just stay put and catch up with myself and get some chores done in spite of a very tempting offer of a Lebanese breakfast from Elena in the morning, with the prospect of a pleasant walk around the village to familiarise myself with the layout later on. As I set off it started to spit with rain but it didn’t come to anything. I didn’t meet a soul needless to say as they were all tucked up indoors, there was a strong smell of wood smoke on the breeze. I thought I would say hello at the Kafeneon and get myself a coffee it was sure to be cosy and warm in there. Indeed it was, a very attractive Kafeneon. However as most of you know village Kafeneons, indeed any Kafeneons in Cyprus are the domain of the male of the species and they are not quite the same as a Cafe Nero or Starbucks. But I was assured by my hosts that they would be interested to meet me as they were curious and would be happy to get to know me. I didn’t get further than a few steps inside the door. It was fairly full of men and they all were very curious, the owner came to open the door but for all the welcome on his lips, I didn’t  see any welcoming smile in his eyes or feel they were very keen for me to stay  or was that me feeling  rather intimidated in that alien environment  among that mass of older Cypriot men? I introduced myself and asked for the mail as it also doubles as the post office and left rather swiftly as I lost my bottle to go inside and ask for the ‘cafe skerto’ that I had been looking forward to. I will return and have another go when my courage returns…maybe.

I took a turn around the village and took some photos of the rather wintry landscape with a few signs of the promise of Spring around the corner. I decided that it definitely was a day to get the fire lit, the music on and get cooking. I planned to make colocassi, a recipe that’s in my book which my cousin Christina had given me. I danced around the kitchen to the music as I went from sink to cooker, then the fire then back again, it was a very jolly affair and while I was at it I got a bit of chicken stock on the go to make some soup tomorrow. Just like being back in Blighty.

I’ve Arrived

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After much anticipation I have finally arrived in Cyprus. The days are definitely warmer than the temperature I left behind in England but the nights take some adapting to as the house was so very cold after being unoccupied for several months. The floors particularly are like walking on icebergs and of course no cosy fitted carpets to take off the chill! I’m staying in Arodhes which is up the hills of the Akamas, it’s all looking very green and the cyclamen are in flower all over my cousin’s garden who lives further down where it is a few degrees warmer, so pretty.

I had a few dramas on the journey, as the taxi which took me to the airport passed the end of my road where I had parked the car for the duration, I saw the cover which I had  put on the day before had blown off so a call to my neighbour was in order to ask if she could gather it up and store it for me. The airport part went smoothly enough and the flight was very comfortable as unusually there were only 30 passengers on board so we could spread out.  Arriving in very good time after landing I paid the loos a visit en route to the carousel for the baggage where I found everyone had gone already and only four bags were left. It is always a relief when you see your bags have arrived in one piece or at least two of them,  my third case wasn’t there. Instead there was a case similar but clearly not mine, cursing quietly to myself I asked at the BA desk and they gathered up the other case to check the label and contacted the owner who was half way up the motorway blithely on their way home. Luckily they returned the case safe and sound after only 30 minutes and I considered myself very fortunate to have it returned so quickly.

The car hire exchange was all very helpful and efficient and I made good time on the motorway from Larnaca to Polis where I stopped to get a few essentials from the small supermarket which I knew would be open. I had been to Arodhes before and in the daytime so was a little bit apprehensive as now it was dark, going the route I thought I had travelled before I promptly got very lost and seemed to be on a very rutted dirt road going to the back of beyond. Very gingerly I turned the car round and went around in circles a few times all roads lead to Paphos it seemed but none to Arodhes. By this time it was getting late and I had been up since 5.30m so was a bit frayed round the edges and on the point of giving up and going back to Polis to stay at my brother’s house. I persevered and I eventually worked out my way to get here a bit travel weary and hungry but in one piece. But the cold house did feel a bit of a shock and as it was a house I had only visited once before I had to familiarise myself with getting out bedlinen and making the bed. I knew there would be an electric blanket but I couldn’t seem to make that work so it took several hours to get the bed warm. Laying there in the middle of the night I wondered what had I done? The house is an oldish stone building with an outside staircase which also takes a bit of getting used to and of course everything is geared to hot weather and keeping cool and not so friendly in the winter months.

The day dawned and of course the sun came out and beautiful it was to see the surrounding countryside. After a couple of days the house is getting warmer after getting the heating organised. This evening I lit a fire in the open grate and got a good blaze going which should get some heat back into the place. I managed to work out the electric blanket and it was bliss last night.

Today I have been visiting and my first stop was to see my friend Elena Savvides of Orexi fame, the time just flew by as we caught up and started discussing plans for  visiting a few places together. Elena is my guru when it comes to sourcing good food. Next stop was my cousin Nicos in Goudi for lunch and I thought I would take the short cut across the top of the hills down to the main road via a village called Kritou Terra. Here was another little adventure as so often happens to me in Cyprus. I took a wrong turn in the village and ended up, after a very windy road and a bad encounter with a large stone in the middle of the track, in the middle of a field. OOps. Another seven point turn was in order to re-trace my steps and find the right road equally as windy but better made and beautiful views. Not really a short cut in the end and I arrived a bit later than expected.

My cousin is rotivating his large garden to make ready for planting all kinds of vegetables so of course I had to take some photos of him on his tractor. Every day a new adventure awaits. Tomorrow I’m off to Paphos and visiting another friend but that road is more familiar, ahh famous last words.

The Aphrodite Inheritance

A visit to my optician this week sent me rushing to view a video on You Tube, not just one but a series of eight. The reason – he was reminiscing about an old TV series from 1979 that was set on Cyprus called “The Aphrodite Inheritance”. I think the real reason he remembered it so well was because the leading lady cast for the role of Aphrodite (Eleni) was Alexandra Bastedo a real beauty ,as you would expect no less for her to be, cast to play Venus herself. Alexander Bastedo lived locally and was married to Patrick Garland who for many years was the  Director of The Chichester Festival Theatre which is local to where I live.

My optician whetted my appetite for viewing this old serial by describing it as a tale of mystery and intrigue involving treasure, myth and history all set on Cyprus. The quality of the You Tube offering was very poor sadly a bit like viewing through a glass of water but the story certainly was  entertaining. It seemed to have been shot entirely on location and gave an authentic feel using not only scenes incorporating local  colour like tavernas, coffee shops, historical sites and at one point a real festival running through the streets but many of the actors were Cypriot as well as many local extras. Where it was disappointing was the serious under use of one of Cyprus’ main assets – the scenery. The last episode had some good scenes in the Tombs of the Kings and the amphitheatre at Curium as well as the shores around Petra to Romiou but many early scenes which, if it was shot today I feel sure would include some fabulous panoramic shots, just seemed to show a lot of very scrubby, dusty landscape by the side of the roads. I’m sure they shot it late in the year when everything looked parched to extinction.

In stark contrast I went to see the film “Mr Turner” this week about the renowned painter William Turner 1775 – 1851, ( Timothy Spall) famous for his impressionistic land and seascapes. In this film the scenery is at its  most breathtaking, giving us the vivid beauty of sunsets and scenery showing us the very scenes in all their magnificence, that Turner depicted in his paintings.  The technology involved in film making has advanced so much. These days  we are so lucky to be able to view films that give us incredibly clear high definition images, particularly when viewing  scenery, they make us fee we are there,we can almost smell the fresh air see every blade of grass , smell the ozone as well as feel the spray of the sea.

There is a DVD available of the whole “The Aphrodite Inheritance” series and I’m sure that has to be of much better quality, I would certainly hope so anyway.

If you want to remain in ignorance of the story as you will be viewing the series yourself, don’t read any further. The storyline revolved around a hidden tomb of Aphrodite being discovered accidentally, containing a hoard  of fabulous treasure. The three gods Dionysos, Pan and Aphrodite appear in human form and manipulate the proceedings so that the treasure remains where it has for thousands of years. The baddies get their just desserts and the good are rewarded. Peter McEnery plays the lead male role and Brian Blessed appears as a wonderfully larger than life Dionysos. I recommend it.

New Year New Horizons

Happy 2015 to one and all and may it bring you joy.

Now that Christmas and New year are out of the way I am getting nervous about my arrangements for “The Big Trip” so forgive me readers if I seem a little distracted in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile my friend and fellow community gardener Rosemary Moon, has been busy recording podcasts for her new website Rosemary Moon featuring whiskey and food. She invited me to taste a dram with her over a kolokoppitta which she made for the first time from “Androula’s Kitchen-Cyprus on a Plate”. The whiskey she chose to go with it was called Monkey Shoulder, an unusual name for a whiskey, at least it wasn’t monkey’s armpit??? A blended whiskey it was light and fruity and went down well with the crispy little pies. Rosemary is lucky enough to have an Aga cooker so the cooked results are a little closer to a wood fired oven than say cooking with gas or electric.

We talked about cooking and food of course but the main drift of conversation tended towards the process of self publishing. This idea has set me thinking of doing a few podcasts while I’m away so watch out in future. Here is a link to the podcast.

downloadhttp://www.rosemarymoon.com/moonbeams/2015/he-kolokopittas