Paphos re-born

 

Nicosia 1

Nicosia

I have just returned from another trip to Cyprus spreading the word and distributing copies of Androula’s Kitchen to some new outlets. It’s now on sale at a traditional bakery and cafe based in an old watermill near Polis, an arts and crafts centre called Exhibit @Polis in the centre of town and in a centre called ‘The Place’ in old Paphos where it will sit very comfortably among the arts and crafts on display. This centre was opened last year in an old converted warehouse, it now houses many examples of traditional wares and demonstrations with  some of the artisans working on site on certain days. There is a display of the shadow puppets with a small theatre for occasional performances as well as a weaver, a potter and various other activities on display along with goods for sale like glass art, pottery, wine and some foodstuffs. Altogether a very attractive place to visit.It is right in the heart of the old town which when I visited  was in the grip of an upgrade in true Cypriot style. The roads and pavements torn up and no clear signs as to how you can access the shops just a sign to say ROAD CLOSED which was pretty obvious. I fear the shops will have lost a great deal of business from the passing tourists.When it is finished the area will be pedestrianised and should be a pleasing place to stroll around.

Next year, 2017  Paphos will be the city of culture so it is all systems go to get it ship shape. When it was first announced there was quite a bit of astonishment as the poor old town had seen a severe decline over recent years. Many of the traditional eateries have disappeared and shops lay empty and dusty while along the main road near the market many tourist cafes have sprung up. Paphos has two Malls on the outskirts which have played their part in taking businesses out of the old town, these mainly house the chains and clothes stores. The town gave an appearance of a shambles approaching from certain directions, with a jungle of hoardings and signs and odd extensions attached to some buildings but with a fresh approach the Mayor has been getting illegal hoardings and extensions removed with most of the businesses co-operating. This should make the whole town look neater and more coherent. I had often wondered at Cypriot planning regulations regarding buildings and  indeed if there was any city & town planning, as there are so many ugly buildings erected that do nothing to blend in with original existing buildings or add anything to the area. When I heard of the work to upgrade Paphos my immediate thoughts were that the municipality would be knocking down any old buildings and making everything the same as everywhere else i.e knocking any character out of the place. But after hearing a friend tell me that she was allowed to view an area under restoration, we were quietly hopeful that this may turn out well.This area was being reconstructed using old plans of how it was, creating a small friendly place including a bakery and cafe and an open air theatre.

Graffitti art in Paphos

There are some parts of Paphos that  have  attractive old buildings and I have noticed one or two have been renovated , if this was made a policy so as to give cohesiveness as they have done in Nicosia on the Green line , it would make a huge difference. In Nicosia many of the owners of old and in some cases derelict properties,were given an incentive to renovate which has resulted in a transformation of what was only a few years ago a run down area.This has encouraged young designers and artisan back into the newly renovated spaces, giving a good lively buzz. I was impressed by the refurbishment of the old power station in the back streets of Paphos which now houses the Cultural Centre which bodes well.

One of the saddest things that has happened with Paphos becoming such a tourist area, extending to Polis and beyond is that where the cafes and restaurants catered for the Cypriot local workers and families who love to eat out, they have now just set their sights on the tourist. Just a few years ago I remember having a great choice of eateries in the Polis area that did good local food at very good prices, sadly these have one by one disappeared. In the back streets of Paphos there is an area of workshops whose occupants, in some cases have been working there for many years,some their whole working lives, I hope these have also been given consideration in the up grade and not forced to vacate the area, taking with them the working heart of Paphos. This is a common problem not just in Cyprus, often the areas that house workshops and artists’ studios are by their nature in the cheaper end of town in old buildings, if the area gets “smartened up” it usually means the rents go up and out go the occupants.It also means much of the character goes with them.

I feel there is a gap in the market for some local producers to step in, I don’t mean traditional  either, I mean artisan. A good delicatessen type shop would be great selling all the best of local Cyprus produce , great olives and olive oil:an artisan bakery selling some organic breads using the old strain of wheat. I miss the bread of Cyprus that used to taste so good like many of their foods. An artisan cheese maker producing not just halloumi, anari and feta but some soft goats cheese, a hard sheep’s cheese or maybe even a blue cheese. In other European countries there are so many varieties of cheese produced. I love kefalotiri which is produced in Greece, but there is no reason why it could not be also produced in Cyprus. The major cheese producers in Cyprus seem to be  focused on exporting huge quantities of halloumi across the globe but in Cyprus there could be outlets for the small individual and specialist dairies.There is a growing interest in authenticity and quality, there is a definite place for it in Cyprus and more farmers should look towards growing organic which is not only where good health lies but profitability. Slowly I have seen more interest grow in this area in Cyprus and there have been several regular Farmer’s markets popping up over the island where small organic producers can sell there produce. Another need is for some organic chicken producers as much of the chicken sold has no flavour and no provenance, not long ago pork and chicken in Cyprus had a superb flavour, how are the farmers rearing their animals now? There is a wealth of old recipes that are mostly forgotten that in some small quarters are being revived by young enthusiastic chefs, I am looking forward to a renaissance in local cooking and the rejection of those ubiquitous oven chips that are creeping in. Vive la chip!!!

 

Kalavassos and Lefkara

I made my first trip to Kalavassos last Saturday 27th June. I had booked myself into a village guesthouse part of agrotourism, called The Art Deco house. Parts of this house date back 350 years and it has remained in the same family all that time which is quite impressive in itself. It is tucked away in the sleepy back streets and the only part visible from the road is the beautiful  blue hue walls and large wooden double doors which open onto an inner courtyard which surprisingly houses a jacuzzi for the guests use. I was on the first floor in the Superior suite accessed by stone steps from the courtyard which took me up onto a delightful terrace with wicker chairs under a shady vine. My little abode for four nights was a whole self – contained unit of large bedroom come sitting room small kitchen and bathroom, all furnished beautifully with many personal pictures and ornaments making it feel very much like you are staying in someone’s home. All is immaculately clean and well maintained. Fruit and wine are left as a welcome with some home-made desserts in the fridge. Breakfast which is included in the price, was plentiful and varied and in fact more than I could usually eat so part of it I kept for later in the day.The hosts George and Eleni were helpful, welcoming and truly hospitable in the very Cypriot way and yet left you to your privacy without intrusion.

The village itself I found one of the prettiest I have seen in Cyprus with all the streets paved with stone, most narrow but passable by car. The square like many at the moment was undergoing some improvement. Many narrow and steep side streets with some unusual details that I hadn’t seen before, all the houses are made from limestone. Kalavassos although easily accessible from the main Limassol /Larnaka /Nicosia road is slightly elevated at the height of about 80 metres and is not greatly developed with new housing although there is a good sized population. It has a rich history with an important Neolithic site being excavated nearby called The Tenta as it has an enormous wig – wam like construction protecting the site, this can be seen clearly from the main highway. There were five mines in the region but they are now abandoned although in their lifetimes they were  rich providers of copper and pyrite. Evidence of mining in this area dates back to Phoenician and Roman times. The Romans mined extensively on the island and their skill was remarkable as even now with modern techniques the mining companies cannot access or replicate the tunnelling techniques of the Romans who managed to reach very deep levels.

Tenta Kalavassos

On my first day I took a leisurely drive around the area and at George’s suggestion I visited the Ayios Minas  convent a very peaceful and pretty place to spend awhile with plenty of their own products on sale, then on to Lefkara village by the old road. I have visited Lefkara on many occasions but on this visit I took several hours to explore its side streets and visit the church. I stopped to have some lunch at Tasties which I had seen on Facebook and was not disappointed. Although busy I was lucky to get a space and sat to cool down with a beer while waiting for my order of oven cooked calamari. It was plentiful and well cooked but I would have preferred a little more seasoning. I was full but knew their cakes were good so ordered a slice of carrot and walnut cake for later and this was scrumptious. The decor is worth a visit by itself as it is a beautifully restored traditional house built around 1850, all the work was done by the owners Marie Cousins and her husband who were antique dealers in London in a former life which shows in the eclectic mix of furniture and knick knacks which fills the place. The atmosphere is a mixture of London town house and Victorian conservatory with a very welcoming Maria who bade me farewell like a long lost friend with ‘Yasou Agapi mou” goodbye my love and a kiss – that’s a first from a cafe owner!!!

Replenished and rested I carried on my exploration and being one for looking down side streets I saw a sign for the Alley Shop so pottered along to find the walls and exteriors of neighbouring houses adorned with pieces of embroidery and crochet along with tablecloths and  clothing but there was no visible shop. I knocked on the door of a house and asked if I could buy a couple of pieces I had seen which were a very cheap price as they had been reduced by 50% but this was a neighbour only and she kindly offered to telephone the owner who was having her midday siesta very sensibly. A few minutes later Mrs Christala appeared and opened up her shop for me. She spoke very good English and we had a lovely chat where I learned a few things about Lefkara lace I didn’t know as well as some of the technical names of the techniques used. Sadly as she explained the young people don’t want to spend hours sitting doing needlework for peanuts when they can go out into the cities and earn better money. This of course is entirely understandable but does pose the question of what will happen to the tradition of making lace in Lefkara? I hope to visit Mrs Christala again someday as we past a very pleasant half hour chatting. There was a sign close by which was for the embroidery museum and Mrs Christal recommended a visit, this took me up some very pretty side streets that were full of flowers and plants and nooks and crannies ( this has to be a Scottish word surely? ). I eventually came to the museum which was open but in true Cypriot style I was told I was not able to see anything as the electricity was off due to repairs which begs the question of why it said it was open!!! Nevertheless I saw some lovely back streets which I might not have otherwise explored.

Before regretfully leaving Kalavassos for Nicosia,  I wanted to pay a visit to an artist I had been told of by a friend, called Michael Mozaras. He is also a friend of George and Eleni so she kindly telephoned him to see if he was at home in his workshop. Unfortunately I had timed it badly as he was in Limassol that day but told Eleni she could take me to his garden where he has his workshop so that I could take photos. Michael Mozaras is a musician as well as an artist and is well-known in the area, he writes and performs his own songs and Eleni tells me his voice has a soporific effect. He has also opened a small gallery in the village square with some of his work for sale but the garden was far more interesting to me as  it was full of stones he has collected from the beach over time. Some he sculpts and creates pieces of art many into angel sculptures and is known locally as the Stone angel man. Many were just laid out into probably future creations and some were already constructed, it was a fascinating visit, I will obviously have to return at a later date to meet and talk with the man himself and hopefully hear him sing.

 

 

Cultural Delights of Larnaca

I’m on my travels and Monday I paid a visit to Larnaca. One of the many places I had wanted to see was the Hala Sultan Tekke a famous and important pilgrimage sight for Muslims. It is said that it was built over the tomb of Mohammed’s foster mother. I had seen it many times from afar across the salt lakes coming from the airport, it is one of the iconic scenes of Cyprus. On Monday I got up close and personal. The surrounding area looks very lush with Palm trees and greenery and looks very much like an oasis set as it is in the flat landscape with salt lakes around. There isn’t much to see inside as with most mosques it is very plain with no decorative adornment, there were however a few bids flying around the ceiling, swallows and pigeons and an immaculate fitted carpet throughout.The scenery around the mosque is unique  and spectacular set as it is amongst water with the crusty salt deposits gathering on the shores where the water laps into the grasses.

From there I continued on into Larnaca town where I was to meet up with my sister-in-law for lunch, as she had just popped over from the UK for a brief visit. After a leisurely and delicious lunch at Militzis looking out to the sea, we sauntered along the sea front in search of the Municipal Art Gallery. This we found near  Finikoudes opposite the wooden pier, A group of old warehouses built in the time of British rule have been turned into a very contemporary space and serving as Larnaca’s cultural centre. There is a very interesting ceramics exhibition showing until the end of July with 22 Cypriot ceramicist’s work on display which intrigued and delighted us in turn. We also had the extra entertainment of the attendant as he kept popping in and out with remarks and comments on the exhibits. He was clearly delighted with them and finds inspiring the artist’s excursions into fantasy . These cultural gems which I am often delighted by are not very well advertised or shouted about enough in my opinion. George Georghiadhes of Lemba pottery  told me  that he was exhibiting here and that is how I knew of it.The gallery is not well signposted and there were no posters nearby that I saw telling you of this exhibition. It must cost money to put on so why not spend a little more for a few posters or a little effort to put a list of events online? I couldn’t find any exhibitions listed on any site mentioning the gallery only where it was why is this?   In a conversation with a friend who lives in the Paphos area he remarked that a leaflet is regularly produced with the list of events for the month but that half the month is gone before the list gets circulated. Clearly there is a detrimental time lapse which means that those who want to know and possibly attend events are getting missed. There are few enough cultural events in the area so those that take place should be better organised with their networking which in turn will make them more profitable.On looking through the photos I took it appears I didn’t take many of the exhibits which is a shame as they were varied and unusual it seems I was enjoying myself so much I forgot.

Words and Pictures

It seems like ages ago but it was only last Friday 29th May that I gave my talk at Droushia Heights hotel about the making and publishing of Androula’s Kitchen – Cyprus on a Plate.. To say I was nervous would be an understatement but in fact I was very happy with the presentation once it was over and felt a great relief that it was no longer hanging over me. Like all these things it may seem very simple, the talk only lasted 45 minutes but it took several hours of preparation. There were 475 photos being played on the screen as I delivered my five and half thousand word talk, thereabouts. Another experience under my belt.

We had another holiday here in Cyprus this last weekend as well, it was Kataklysmos. Now this has several  connections. Like many religious festivals it is tacked onto an existing celebration that dates way back in the mists of time. In the Orthodox calendar it marks 50 days after Easter as well as marking the time of the Great Food in the Bible. So this day is celebrated by all things water related; going to the beach and possibly taking your picnic,swimming or generally playing games with water and this includes for children of course, water pistols. But this festival also relates way back to the celebration of Venus who it was said rose from the foam at Petra Tou Romiou near Limassol, the worship of Aphrodite on Cyprus was  a major cult and was an important centre with many large temples dedicated to her. Whatever the origins everyone embraces the holiday and it certainly was a very busy time around the area where I am staying which is close to the sea and saw a large influx of families and  people taking advantage of the long weekend. I myself enjoyed a very relaxing time with family and of course this involved a lot of eating as with all holidays here but definitely no water pistols!!!

This week I am doing an intensive photography course with Andrea Christofi a professional photographer who lives close by. We are covering all the basics of photography taking me back to the days when I used an analogue camera, we are learning how to get the most out of our digital cameras using many of the same techniques plus the advantages of a digital camera. The digital camera makes it very easy to be lazy and just use the auto setting which generally produces a good photo but you can get so much more out of your camera if you take a bit of trouble to use the many other options available which can help you produce more interesting photos as well as getting some more fun out of photography. Andrea also has a regular photography session with a small group of people every Wednesday when they venture out and about taking photos with a specific theme and then later looking at the pictures they have taken and discussing them. This Wednesday we went to an abandoned village nearby called Theletra. This has some lovely old houses now sadly in ruins except for one or two that have recently been renovated and lived in. The village was abandoned after an earthquake when there was a lot of movement of the surrounding rock face creating a very unstable environment. The residents moved up to the top of the hill where there is now a relatively modern village although the church in the old part has now been restored and is in use. Some of the houses still contain clothing and the whole place has quite an eerie feel to it with some great photo opportunities. I can’t wait to go back though and use some of my new learned techniques and compare the photos.

Last week we went down to the beach and played around with using a large aperture and slow shutter speed to get some interesting effects when shaking the camera about. I am now finding out the limitations of my ‘bridge’ camera compared to a proper SLR. The other participants all have much more sophisticated and in there read ‘expensive’ equipment, with extra lenses, tripods and so on so were able to get some extraordinary results that were works of art in themselves. They also were able to produce a double exposure effect which is taking two different photos on one picture so that one image is superimposed onto another, which I didn’t think was possible with digital cameras. In the days of manual or analogue cameras this was all too possible and could cause some interesting results – usually by accident.Tomorrow is our last morning and we are putting it all into practice and playing about with composition which should be fun.

Furry Fun Photos

Continuing the animal theme from the last post I’ve posted a few photos taken on a meandering morning around Paphos with friends. As I mentioned I was taking part in  photomarathon the first of its kind to take place, organised by the Cyprus Photographic Society and with an eye on 2017 when Paphos is to be the city of culture. It started at the old electric powerhouse Pallia Ilectriki which has been beautifully converted into a cultural centre with requisite restaurant attached. There was a good number of people taking part not just locally but a whole contingent from Limassol photographic club came. We were given four themes and we could go anywhere in Paphos district to take photos. The themes were Water, People at work, Illusion and Encounter which gives you a pretty wide scope. We didn’t venture very far as it turns out and wandered around an area, I would say of about a quarter of a mile square  which proved a rich vein of subject matter from which to gather some gems. There were certainly plenty of people at work as this quarter contains the old workshops of the town. There was also a fantastic fresh fish shop with a huge array of unusual fish with wonderful names like , scorpion fish and swallow fish, pity I wasn’t going straight home because I would have loved to have bought some. I did fulfil my desire to consume something fishy later however as  I eat some delicious fish soup at the restaurant at Pallia Ilectiki. We seemed to spend quite a time in the fish shop, one of my  companions who is a professional photographer and has a serious camera wanted to get the perfect shot but eventually we made our way down the street.  Looking for some water we spotted a bucket which contained some and then noticed bales of grass outside the shop. Venturing in and asking what the shop was about we discovered a whole plethera of furry friends. There was a hare, baby turkeys,chicks and pigeons all in large boxes and cages ready to sell on. This was indeed a strange encounter. Just on the other side of the street was a small bar out of which came a man with a couple of dishes of mahalepi. This is a real treat in the heat made with rosewater and cornflour it is very refreshing, I don’t know where he was taking them but he disappeared around the corner. Next door to the bar was a small workshop with a whole stack of new chairs, traditional ‘karekles, ready to be have their seats rushed, the rushes sitting in the top half of the shop. The shop was unoccupied when we first spotted it but soon a man appeared and welcomed us and showed us how he makes the wooden spindles onto which the rush is woven.It turns out he had been doing this job for 60years and in that very shop for 50, it didn’t look like he was ready to retire any time soon either by the stack of chairs there.

We remarked at the end of the day how friendly and welcoming all the people we met were and so accepting of us taking endless photos. We all had name tags and the area had been full of photographers that day so by the time the morning was finished everyone was very laid back about it. It was a real slice of Cyprus at its best

Life’s Ups and Downs

There has been a bit of a lull in my blog posts as last week I had an unfortunate accident that has left me in a state of musing and shaken but nothing is broken except the car. Being without a car temporarily is rather relaxing and I have discovered the joys of getting around on foot and by bus. There is a bus stop very close which has a small minibus that runs between Polis, the nearest town about 5 minutes away, and Latchi which is further down the road. It runs every hour so very like my home village in the UK. It is possible to get around the island between the main towns by bus now, as the government in an attempt to get the Cypriots from behind the wheels of their beloved cars, set up a public transport network much needed on the island, there are no railways. It is mostly used by foreigners ‘though as even in Nicosia my relatives prefer to use their cars, most Cypriots find it strange if you want to walk anywhere rather than going by car. The buses are also very cheap compared to my local buses in the UK  as to go from Polis to Paphos a 40 minute journey it cost 5 euros. I have local shops close by where I can get most things and one is even in reasonable walking distance. In thirty minutes I can also walk to a very nice beach with facilities of a cafe and showers on a lovely quiet road through the fields with plenty of interesting things to look at on the way. In fact it is one of the nicest beaches in the area as it is  sandy. Of course as everyone else has a car I have had plenty of kind offers of lifts and assistance in shopping etc but I am by nature an independent person I always like to find out what I can do for myself.

I took the bus into Polis on Saturday and walked to the supermarket and while walking around town. I passed the museum a rather pleasant looking building which I had never visited and always wanted too so this was my opportunity. Needless to say there was no one else there, it was small but well presented and there were some interesting pottery pieces. There was no restriction on photographs so I snapped away happily. The best exhibit for me was a massive pottery figure that was found close by to Polis. It had been made in sections the torso parts being thrown on a potter’s wheel which then slotted together. It had a very contemporary look to me the way it had been exhibited like some modern installation piece. I find that these ancient pieces can be very inspirational especially the pottery designs and decoration. I read a very interesting article recently by a fellow blogger on WordPress  Anna Reeve who is a student of classics, a resident in Leeds who is very interested in ancient Cypriot pottery. She had just received a copy of an article published by the National Museum of Denmark which she had been wanting to read for some time which compares some of the ceramic work of artists such as Picasso with ancient Cypriot pottery pieces. It turns out Picasso worked with a fellow artist for a period Suzanne Ramíé and she derived a great deal of inspiration from Ancient Cypriot ceramics , some of her pieces echo the shapes of specific pieces exactly. Here is the article well worth a read.  

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.

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 

A Little Trip Out

I have been wanting to visit Bath again for a while now. Bath is a beautiful  Georgian city with many attractions but the main one  for me is The American Museum http://americanmuseum.org/  on the outskirts right next to the University.  I have visited the museum a couple of times before and I can’t remember how I first heard of it. It is the only museum of its kind outside America and houses a good deal of painted furniture dating  from  the time of the early American settlers, which of course is one of my main interest in the place. It is a charming museum with room sets of the period composed of original panelling and furniture. My memories were also  of a fabulous collection of patchwork bedspreads as well as beautiful grounds. When I checked online to see if there were any events taking place I was thrilled to see there was an exhibition of Kaffe Fassett’s work. It is not the nearest place for me to visit for a day trip (2½hrs on the train) or the cheapest but I was in need of a shot of creative and colourful adrenalin and Kaffe Fassett can be relied on to deliver both. The reason The American Museum was hosting this exhibition, apart from the fact that Kaffe is American by birth, is that it was 50 years ago this year that he arrived in the UK and to be more specific in Bath. The museum’s collection of colourful quilts  was one of the main influences in Mr Fassett’s change of direction in his art from working purely in pen and ink to  working in riotous colour, later moving more towards the crafts of needlepoint and knitting.   The exhibition certainly delivered on the colour front,  all the walls painted a deep pink were the backdrop to  knitting, quilts and needlepoint all displaying a wild  exuberance . Even the lamp-posts outside had been ‘crochet bombed’. The shuttle bus driver who took visitors from central Bath to the Museum, was a chattering vestibule of information which he generously imparted in a stream to us while we waited to depart. During those few minutes we learned of the museum’s history, the story behind the exhibition and where he goes when the season is over which it turned out was Vietnam. So then we learned a little of the history of that country.

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The visit will keep me topped up with inspiration for a while. Meanwhile I’m getting excited by the thought of my little adventure in Cyprus  which I’m taking next February and instead of a rushed three weeks I’m staying a whole 6 months ( well minus a few weeks) . I plan to get to know a few more crafts people and interview them for the blog, take a few videos, as well as visit anything that grabs my  interest to blog about. Of course my camera will be on hand to take as many photos as I can.If anyone has any suggestions of unusual places to visit I would be pleased to hear from you. I have installed a donate button on the site in case anyone fancies contributing to my trip, anyone donating £5.00 or over, gets a PDF copy of Androula’s Kitchen – Cyprus on a Plate which is great viewed on an iPad. Thank you.

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.

 

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 Leventis Gallery Re- visited

Now I am happily re-united with my trusty lap- top I can expand a bit on my visit to The superb  Leventis Gallery in Lefkosia. Fielden Clegg and Bradley Studios certainly has done Lefkosia proud. The very contemporary glass and stone design fits well in this part of town nestling as it does  amongst both old and modern buildings. Inside is very sleek and cool, in both senses of the word, with comfortable size galleries, although the Greek section did feel a bit too crowded possibly. The views afforded by the various windows onto the outside world offer pictorial delights in themselves as they frame some interesting scenes.

As I said previously in my earlier post https://androulaskitchen.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/out-and-about/ it was a treat to be able to see a good selection of Cypriot painters in one area particularly the commanding mural by Adamantios Diamantis of a village scene all in greys, blacks  and whites. In close up this is disappointingly sketchy but from a distance is certainly impressive, more in the style of a theatre backdrop. There are some charming pencil studies of local villagers also by him. In a separate gallery there are some early watercolours of landscape and town that were interesting to see as well as work by some more contemporary  Cypriot painters.

 

The first floor houses the collection of paintings by Greek  artists. There are a few wonderful paintings here and all the artists were unknown to me up to this point so I was happily enlightened. This painting of a girl looking out of the window I found particularly enchanting, called “Waiting”  by Apostolos Geralis the light is wonderfully depicted. In Greek the title is Anamonoi , my cousin Michael explained that this word is imbued with a much more poetic meaning than simply waiting, it is more an anticipation or expectancy.  Also this fabulous depiction of a griselled old man in his Greek costume of fustanella by Ioannis Economou I really enjoyed.

The final floor houses the Leventis collection of French impressionists amongst them several of my favourite artist Dufy. Many of the usual suspects here including Pissaro, and Chagal  as well as the re-constructed  interior of Mr Leventis’ salon in his Paris apartment and some of the furniture is also on display. Well worth further visits to become better acquainted  with the Greek artists particularly.

For further information on the Leventis Gallery and its conception please read an earlier post here:- https://androulaskitchen.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/a-little-bit-of-this-that/ or visit the Leventis site here:- http://www.leventisgallery-.org/

All images courtesy of The Leventis Gallery.

Out and About

I have been a bit lost without my trusty lap top but today I am at my cousin’s house and familiarising myself with his trusty lap top. I am in Lefkosia now and visited the  Leventis gallery  yesterday to see for myself this new building that I wrote about a few months ago. I was not disappointed, it was as good as I thought and really interesting to see the work of these Cypriot artists in the flesh.There are three galleries on three floors all very spaciously laid out. The gallery was built as a private enterprise by the Leventis foundation and no expense has been spared  in the beautifully contemporary design. The ground floor houses the Cypriot collection and the artist I was most eager to see was Diamantis who created an impressive mural depicting village life in the centre featuring two characterful men one looks like a Turkish merchant or some such. I will write more about the artists and the pictures later. I just wanted to share with you some of the paintings today.

Images courtesy of The Leventis Gallery.

Fythkiotika for the Future

My cousin Michael did a bit of scouting for me this week, he spotted an article in the Phileftherios paper, about a young designer Othonos Charalambous using Fythkiotika in his designs. He very kindly posted it to me and as it was all in Greek I cheated and looked him up online to find his website. My Greek is limited and although I can read Greek, it takes a lot of dictionary searching and time to get the meaning of articles.

This young designer is a Cypriot born in Cyprus but studied here in the UK and after gaining a Masters in menswear at the London college of Fashion has just launched his first full-scale collection. I was thrilled to read about this designer using such a traditional and well – loved weaving technique in his designs, through reading his short bio it’s clear he has great appreciation of the heritage and skill involved. http://www.othonascharalambous.com.

When researching online for ‘Androula’s Kitchen’ I came across a website called Phitiotika http://phitiotika.wordpress.com set up by two young British artists, Maura a weaver from Ireland and Sarah an artist. These two women felt  great empathy for the weavers of Fyti the beautifully situated village high up on the hills near Paphos, a dwindling community like so many with no new generation coming along behind them to carry on their skills. Maura and Sarah set out on a quest to raise awareness and engagement in this dilemma. They worked in co-operation with the Laona Foundation http://www.conservation.org.cy to set up an umbrella association called Voufa under which the weavers could co-operate. Their greatest wish was to engage the interest of artists around the world as well as Cyprus and also to get a training scheme of some sort off the ground before these techniques become lost.

Fythkiotika is a well-known and well-loved weaving technique in Cyprus. In times, not that long ago, every woman would own a loom and know how to weave, this way of life has passed and will not return but there surely must still be young women who would like to learn these skills. The Handicraft Services in Nicosia have many weavers who practise this technique and teach so there is still a tentative continuation. It is refreshing to see a new generation of Cypriots taking an interest in these ancient skills wherein lies so much of the unique Cypriot identity. One of the ways to ensure the continuation of these skills is to find new ways of applying and promoting them. Bravo Othonos.

Friendship Through Art

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I had the great pleasure last week of meeting Sarah Zoutewella of Art Calling  for the first time.  She lives in Holland but was having a short break in the UK. We have got to know each other via our respective blogs, Sarah is an artist and among her many talents , paints soundboards on harpsichords, which is how I found her through the WordPress blog search. We met at Brighton station as she was staying in the Lewes area and had never visited Brighton before, she was very surprised at how large and sprawling a town it is. We meandered down the hill to the Museum, a favourite haunt of mine made all the more appealing because of the great little gallery cafe overlooking the furniture section below. We chatted amiably for an hour or so and got a bit more acquainted, it is a delight to meet someone with whom you know you have certain mutual interests. What an amazing tool the internet can be, to be able to chat to someone possibly on the other side of the world about stuff you like, and then meet them face to face.

Sarah was one of the very first people to buy my book when I first published and very generously wrote a great review which she posted on her blog, I was so touched by this thoughtfulness and when I met her I saw that this quiet contemplative energy shines out.

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Before we headed down to the seafront where Sarah wanted to enjoy the smell of the salty brine, we wandered into another cafe area in the Dome where she wanted to show me something. I was intrigued when the ‘something’ turned out to be some fabulous little crafted gifts. Sarah is an enthusiastic crafter, crocheting and making objects with her artistic skill. She carries these little hand-made gems with her on he travels to generously give to those she encounters who show helpfulness or kindness on her journey. I thought this was a wonderful idea and intend to adopt it as I think this small gesture can show the recipient how much you appreciate that kindness, it certainly made my day as I was the lucky recipient of three such gems which I will treasure. The little folding book I particularly like and I’m planning to dust off my batik wax pot  in the near future to make some abstract swirlings to cover some of my own little booklets. So it has served three purposes, a lovely reminder of our meeting, an inspiration for a  future  project as well as a spark of joy at receiving them. Thank you Sarah.