Music Museums and Motivation

This week I managed to get to see some live music at last as I have been missing seeing any live performances since I’ve been here. In Paphos at the Technopolis 20 culture centre they have a full programme of events for June with some classical recitals as well as Jazz, the performance I went to see on Thursday evening however was rembetika the Greek blues. A group of musicians playing bass, bouzouki, guitar and fiddle entertained us for more than two hours in the garden under the stars, with a collection of nostalgic music. Many of the songs were well known to the audience who sang along and on occasions got up to dance. Some songs have a very compelling rhythm and you can’t help but want to get up and strut your stuff, I did manage to resist however as the fear of making a fool of myself was stronger than the compelling music. In true Greek style drinks and nibbles were available and the audience were seated at tables café style, often chatting throughout the performance some more loudly than others!

Unlike Sunday when I attended a Charity Garden Party arranged by Janet Robinson of Nitbats in her very own garden around the pool which had live music throughout the afternoon. Performed by a mixture of singers in different styles from rock to blues to pop this time I couldn’t resist, this was another kind of nostalgia as I was transported back to the seventies with the same footwork to match!! Janet was raising funds for a local Hospice for cancer patients as well as a cancer charity and did a terrific job organising a very entertaining event, as well as the music there was a fashion show, a raffle and several stalls selling this and that including me of course tucked away under the arch near the loos with my books. Elena of Orexi brought along some of her delicious food for sale which went in a flash and there was of course a bar. A very jolly time was had by all and so far she has managed to raise a goodly sum of 1300 euros.

I took advantage of my time over Paphos way as I stayed overnight with a friend and went to visit the church and Folk museum at Yerroskipou on Friday. I have just finished reading a book called ‘A Walk with Aphrodite written by Peter Breakwell describing a mammoth walk around the thirty seven villages of Paphos over very rough terrain, with the aim of raising money to buy a vital piece of equipment for the hospital in Paphos. He undertook this walk in the 1990’s and there have been many changes since that time but he records the churches he visited and historical landmarks nearby which made it a very interesting read as well as his encounters with the various Muktars and generous offers of a bed for the night. One of the churches he visited was the old church Ayia Paraskevi in Yerroskipou centre which has five domes. I didn’t remember ever having been inside although I probably have but took the opportunity to have another peep. Inside there are a few remains of some of the painted frescoes that once covered all the walls, evidence that they had been either plastered or painted over at some stage as there were signs of heavy chisel marks where the covering plaster had been removed. No photographs were allowed unfortunately and there was rather grumpy looking priest on guard so I couldn’t even sneak one in.

I had long wanted to visit the museum and was not disappointed. A very large house and a nice example of its kind. It was evident from the abundance of rooms and layout as well as architectural refinements that this was the house of a wealthy man. The British consul lived here from 1800 to 1864. The best part was a room where there were some very fine textile examples including a very lovely piece of Fythkiotika and a beautifully unusual runner which looked like chenille work, with vibrant colours. To top it all off I was invited to watch a short video on how olive oil was made using the huge hand press that was in an outbuilding.Very interesting and as I spoke to the attendant  in Greek when I first entered and established after enquiry that my Dad was from Cyprus I didn’t have to pay, bonus.

Saturday morning saw me take part in yet another different past time, helping a volunteer group  ACT to pick up rubbish on the beaches of the Akamas. Keith Watkins along with his wife Wendy, have so far organised 16 clean up excursions to the beaches of the Akamas over a few years, they occur every couple of months. The members number around 60 altogether. My friends took me in their truck, the roads being mostly unmade and often badly rutted so the journey itself is quite an adventure. Sitting in the back was reminiscent of a roller coaster ride, the scenery though is splendid with views of a rugged coastline. It is along this coast on one particular beach at Lara bay where the turtles come to lay their eggs every year and although it is supposed to be protected you still get ignorant people setting up their umbrellas and picnicking on these sensitive spots.

Keith organises these excursions with military precision, doing a recky beforehand taking many photos of the rubbish strewn about either by careless visitors or washed up from the sea. He divides the area into sections so that they work along the coast leaving each beach pristine…. until the next time. I was astounded at the amount of rubbish, between us, there were about 10 or 12 of us, we collected 65 large garden refuse bags as well as a large haul of larger items of plastic pipe, wire and large containers and cans. These are all deposited in one spot and the Forestry commission informed, always enormously grateful who then come along and dispose of it. I could have filled one sack alone with shoes of all kinds, flip-flops, sandals trainers all sizes, I even found a back pack half buried in the sand. The coast line has a lot of low-lying bushes and debris gets tangled in the branches and caught underneath, the road to the beach was particularly bad with bottles of glass as well as plastic. On the shore there were large piles where the rubbish washed in from the sea had all tangled together with seaweed, in these there were hundreds of bottle tops and disposable lighters, in one of the gullies I found a whole carton of cigarettes saturated with sea water, apparently this is a common sight, it is suspected it could be contraband discarded before the coastguard catches them.

Keith should be given a medal for his initiative and effort as he is at least saving some of this plastic from degrading even further and getting eaten by the fish as well as keeping the coastline clean. I would nominate him myself if there was such an award available in Cyprus. After a few hours we all sit down and enjoy a snack often provided by Wendy washed down with a beer supplied by Keith although each person brought their own, except me. It was a great way of seeing a part of the coast I otherwise don’t have access to and doing something worthwhile in the process.

I hope I will have the opportunity to participate again on another trip.

Rubbishrubbish 2rubbish3

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Travels Around the Island

It has been a busy and mixed time since my last post. My Uncle died very sadly on Good Friday eve and because it was Easter the funeral didn’t take place until the following Tuesday in Lefkosia. It made the Easter celebrations bitter sweet but in a strange way very apt as it’s a time of death and rebirth. Nearly all the family were at the funeral some  relatives I hadn’t seen for many years. There is a tradition of inviting the mourners to take some bread, olives, cheese and wine at the cemetery. There is a  special area set aside for the relatives to cater for this in the cemetery where my Uncle was buried but my Father was buried in a small village cemetery and we had to make do as best we could. Also food is provided for those mourners who wish to go back to the house.

When my Father died he was buried the next day which is the custom in Cyprus, being a hot country there is sense in expediency. We went to my Dad’s garden to collect flowers and leaves from his bushes to put in the coffin with him which I thought was a very nice idea, much more personal than buying them and he did love gardening.

I stayed with a cousin in Lefkosia for a few days and took the opportunity to visit a shop called Faneromeni 70 near Agia Faneromeni church in the centre. A friend had told me about this shop which features solely works by Cypriot artists or artists connected to Cyprus in some way. It is a non profit organisation run by a group of professionals among them anthropologists and geologists, and the money from the sales goes to help the unemployed. A fascinating shop full of quirky things.The shop is surrounded by cafes and as the sun was out and the weather warming up these cafes were full of young people as there are also several small colleges and universities close by. At night I can imagine that this area is very popular as a meeting place for young people to sit and chat over coffee.

I went straight from Lefkosia to visit my cousin Androula and spend some time with her in Tries Elies. People come here to walk, rest, enjoy the countryside as it is so tranquil, surrounded as it is by a variety of blossoming trees and at this time of year wild flowers, some very rare, with a river running through by the footpaths and trails all year round. Being such a tiny village in the Troodos mountains you would imagine that there is not a lot going on here. I have to tell you that the few days I spent here were some of the busiest so far in my stay, with people from many different parts of Europe crossing my path. On arrival an old friend had arrived for lunch with her partner from Greece. Then some guests arrived the following evening from Switzerland. On the Monday a Frenchman stopped by to meet the Swiss couple. Next door to Androula now live three young people, an Hungarian, a Belgian and a half Cypriot, half Irish young man; more of these and an exciting eco venture in another blog. On past visits I have met a Japanese couple, British, Russian, Turkish and American. All with interesting stories to tell.

The Frenchman’s name is Dominique Micheletto he is a master beekeeper, he has many hives all over Cyprus and spends his time tending to them and giving talks on bees and honey, which was why the Swiss couple had come to Cyprus to meet him and learn about the bees. He won two gold medals in the Apimondia International Federation of Beekeeper’s competition in September 2009. I had wanted to meet him after reading about him in the book ‘Cyprus – a culinary journey’ and here he was without any effort on my part. The conversation between us all was in French, Greek and English, Dominique can speak all three fluently.

During my stay with Androula we also visited a friend who lives close by in Pedhoulas and she and her husband are from Israel so yet another nationality to add to the mix.

One of my days spent in this beautiful area I visited Platres which is about 20 minutes away by car, it is the largest resort of Troodos and although its origins are very old it became popular as a summer retreat away from the heat, when the British took control of the island in 1858 and quickly a network of bars and hotels to cater for their needs were established.  Here is a long established chocolate workshop. The owner John Adams, is English married to a Cypriot lady Praxi, they have lived in Platres since the early 1980s. John trained as a chocolatier in both France and Venezuela many years previously and when he moved to Cyprus found an outlet for his love of chocolate by developing unique recipes combining the flavours of Cyprus. With pure dark chocolate, very little sugar, no dairy and a little vanilla and Cyprus Royal Jelly, these chocolates not only are delicious and unique but healthy as well. The chocolates  flavours are  based around the tastes of Cyprus varying  according to season and John is always coming up with new combinations. Comanderia, kitrilomilo glyko, brandy sour, zivania these are the flavours many know as Cyprus. John together with his assistant Rocky, have come up with yet another unique range based around the herbs of Cyprus such as Lavender and lemon geranium and I can tell you that they are superb. These bespoke hand made chocolates are different , as well as unique and delicious. www.cypruschocolate.com 

On my way back from the mountains I visited the very picturesque Lofou  village on the way down to Limassol. This village must have once been quite a large and wealthy one, as there are many good size stone houses and the streets well ordered, many now deserted but being restored. All on a hilly slope, with little streets branching off it is a lovely place to explore with great views of surrounding countryside all around.  Ancient Amathus was my next stop, the archaeological site spreads over an extensive area. Amathus is one of the most significant ancient city kingdoms which dates back to1100 BC. Similar to Kouklia this site saw the important cult of Aphrodite – Astarte flourish here. This is why Cyprus is known as the island of Love.

Since I’ve been back in Prodromi I, along with many of her friends, went to cheer on my friend Elena Savvides of Orexi Cyprus fame, last night as she took on the daunting task of giving an hour long talk at Droushia Heights hotel. She was amazing and the story she told was not only full of interesting detail and mouthwatering photos of some of the food she has cooked for events and suppers but was exceptionally touching and had a few of her friends a little bit choked, with emotion I might add not the food. Elena had also prepared some delicious bits to eat so it was a very satisfying evening on all levels.

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.  

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 Book Review of another Journey into Cyprus

9780099570257Book

A few weeks ago I did a review of a cookery book called “Cyprus A Culinary Journey” this time the journey is of a different kind and a different time. Colin Thubron embarked on a 600 mile trek across the sometimes forbidding terrain of Cyprus, the majority of the time is spent  navigating his way across the mountain ranges of Troodos and the Pentadaktylos with just a compass as his guide. He undertook this colossal task in the Spring and summer of 1972 just before the Turkish invasion, imbuing many of the encounters and experiences  he recounts at a later time, with great poignancy. These experiences are now impossible to relive as the villages in many cases are no longer inhabited by the same ethnic mixture and the freedom to wander in such a way is far more restricted. To undertake such an arduous journey in such a manner was looked on by the Cypriots as lunacy, as befits an Englishmen in their eyes. At some stages I’m sure Mr Thubron must have also questioned his own sanity in deciding to pursue such a course. To wander around this often desolate landscape, making his own path along the rocky, precipices of the formidable Troodos mountains takes courage, tenacity and a sure skill of navigating with a compass. I personally can think of few things that would terrify me more apart from maybe crossing the Atlantic single-handed. Even when offered a lift for a few miles he declined ,as this might cause him to miss some minute or rare detail of beauty. Being an accomplished linguistic offered him another rare opportunity, of understanding and being understood, both by Greek and Turk and Maronite.

He started his journey in the early months of the year which meant that the temperature fell quite low at night which he spent frequently under the stars with just a sleeping bag for comfort and no tent for shelter. The extraordinary kindness of shepherds and strangers he met in cafés who offered him shelter and a meal in their spartan dwellings was a humbling experience and this kindness came from Greek, Turk and Maronite equally. Through all the lyrical, erudite descriptions of landscape and experience all I could think was , “What must he have smelled and looked like, how did he wash himself and his clothes?” Even though he travelled light with just the very basics in his rucksack he had packed a pair of pyjamas, which I find infinitely amusing. The many places where he accepted the kindness of strangers afforded very little extra facility to carry out any ablutions that may have been  required, except perhaps a water pump. I guess that is a ‘man’thing to be able to rough it and go without a hot wash for weeks without worry.

These practicalities and mundane musings of mine aside, I am enjoying the rich writing of Colin Thubron, his extensive knowledge of history, architecture, mythology and painting enrich his wanderings. His journey includes many of the Byzantium gems and ancient ruins he even went diving off the coast near Amathus to discover the extensive ruins of that ancient city spreading out half a mile underwater. He made stops at monasteries along the way for shelter including Stavrovouni which nearly did for him. I found it tiring driving up there and thought I would never reach the top, how he managed to walk up I find astonishing.   He meets with the Chief engineer of the American mining company that were mining for copper still, as well as a Greek engineer who take him underground to see for himself how the mining is done and where it existed, the evidence left of the ancient mining casts. This is what makes the book so interesting as it weaves the past with the present. There are many astute observations of the Cypriot character often observed with affection. A highly recommended read.

Book Review – Cyprus a Culinary Journey

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

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

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

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

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

Gardens and Grub (food)

Well I am returned and have had to throw myself into the garden with force and grit as soon as I was able, as everything has grown to jungle proportions in my absence. I’ve hacked and chopped, cut and pulled and I think I can relax a bit now to catch my breath before I have to start again down at the community garden where my patch there also needs attention. Then it will be back to a bit of house maintenance, ahh I wish I were back in Cyprus already!!

In Cyprus also gardens of a different variety featured quite often. As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the few I managed to write while away, I was in for a few lunches al fresco. The weather was little strange for this time of year in Cyprus, usually by late May June the weather has settled into a steady pattern with the temperature rising steadily. Instead it was a little cooler than usual with some strong warm winds and more cloud than is normal. The winter has been drier as well and rain is badly needed as the reservoirs are only 75% full at the moment.

My author’s lunch at Elena’s Orexi garden was a delightful experience and I met some new people. A friend of mine was able to come with her husband as well as two friends and we spent a pleasant time together. Unnervingly Elena asked me to talk a little about the book after I had circulated to introduce myself. It was brief as I hadn’t really prepared anything but I sold eight books  so that wasn’t bad out of 20 people. They all loved it as well which was encouraging. Hopefully we can do a bigger better event next time and I’ll come better prepared.

The lunch in Peyia was not so much fun for me. There was a crooner of sorts singing along to backing tracks of oldies, the food, mostly the usual English fare you get at parties, pork pies, Scotch eggs etc. and drink were offered free, very generously I thought. Sadly for me and the shop owners, that is all the audience was interested in as I had no enquiries or interest shown. I did however get introduced to a very lovely lady Yve Brookes and we had a really good chat which passed the time beautifully. Originally from Oxford she has been a traveller all her life living a few years here and there until she gets the seven year itch and then moves on. She has been in Cyprus seven years now and the familiar urge has descended again. She has eventually come to live in a house in Argaka  which she now calls home and has made her mark restoring the surrounding area to one of calmness and order after it was neglected for ten years by the owners. The house has an intriguing story; the original owner built the house himself and a few months after he finally moved in after all his labours, he died and the family who inherited it closed it up and left it. After many attempts to rent it out the grandson, who now owns it, was resigned to it not being suitable for anyone until Yve took a liking to it and feels it only right to honour the man who built the house by caring for it and the surrounding land. I would love to see  the work she has done here but I just could not find the time this trip.

The following day it was the Farmer’s market at the Pano Akoudalia herb garden run by the very talented herbalist Caroline Evans http://www.heavenonearthherbals.com/. On my way to the garden I passed many cars lining the approach roads, it turned out to be a very popular event as well as celebrating its first anniversary. There were crafters as well as food producers there this month. Another delightful spot and I passed several hours chatting to people, making new friends and enjoying a delicious slice of raw carrot cake and herb tea. A truly relaxing atmosphere and one I was sad to leave but I departed with a bag of goodies bought from Elena which I took great pleasure in eating for my meal later. The olive bread was to die for.

I came back from my trip this time with a yearning to stay a lot longer. Over my last few trips I have made friends and uncovered rare delights that tug at my heart and call to me to return.

 

The Ladies that Lunch

Today I’m trying an internet cafe in sunny, hot Polis to do a short post sadly without any of the new photos I have to show you…they will have to wait until I get back to the UK.

Last week  was busy catching up with relatives in Nicosia and there were couple of places I wanted to visit including the lovely Inga’s veggie Heaven, where I met two cousins to sit and chat and enjoy the beautifully tasty food, I had a wonderful cold rice pudding for afters. Later this week I have a couple of different kind of lunches but hopefully equally as tasty in their own ways. On Friday the wonderful Elena Savvides is hosting an author’s lunch for me and the guests will sample some of her fabulous cooking, hopefully I’ll also be able to sell some more books. On Saturday I’m winding my way to Pegyia over the  hills from Polis with fantastic dramatic scenery of the kind that I love about this Westerly side of the island . The road drops at a giddying rate to Peyia close to the coast where Sue of Hearn’s bookshop is also holding a lunch and she has invited me to attend and do a bit of signing of the book variety if requested, let’s hope there will be several opportunities.

Sunday will see a slightly different pace but again food is still involved, it is Cyprus after all! This time it will be at a farmer’s market held the first Sunday of every month when local suppliers and growers sell their wares at the very beautiful Pano Akourdalia herb garden.This one will also be a crafters market. Elena will be attending with a stall groaning under the weight of some delicious cooked morsels as well as  jams and chutneys that she makes. There may be more sales opportunities who knows but I surely will be busy looking and tasting  what is on offer.Landscape near Kritou Terra

Techno Challenge

 

 

I’m off to sunny Cyprus on Sunday and in preparation I have been trying to get co-ordinated technology wise. I usually take my trusty mac with me so I can load and edit photos and write my blog etc. This in itself ‘though can be a bit of a challenge if travelling on Easy Jet, as now only one piece of hand luggage is allowed either handbag or lap top case what is a girl to do? I solved this knotty problem last year by buying a soft canvas back pack which my mac just slotted into nicely with pockets and room to spare. The only problem is Easy Jet’s landing bay is on the very edge of the airport, it feels like you are actually walking half way to Cyprus before you arrive at the gate. The bag gets heavier with each step particularly on the return journey when it’s late and you are tired after a long day travelling.

This year I don’t have such a problem as I’m using BA for a change and 2 pieces of hand luggage are  allowed as well as a shorter walk to the gate ( I hope). My dilemma this year is do I take the lap top or not? My generous brother-in-law has lent me a superfluous ; to him; iPad for holiday use, I can catch up with emails and blog and it weighs very little, neat in fact. Last year while waiting in the departure lounge every one seemed to be using an iPad or similar even the children. What happened to books? “So where’s the dilemma?” you ask.Call me ungrateful but it isn’t so easy to type on an iPad  and I can’t load and view my photos without getting an extra gismo. Having my lap-top is like carrying my filing cabinet with me and I can do so much more.

I recently bought a new phone and decided on an android smart phone, a little Samsung which I am just getting to grips with. This also allows me to use wi fi and get emails etc on a much smaller screen but again very neat. All this is wonderful of course gosh I’m connected on all fronts. But am I?  Everything depends on you getting a wi fi connection and where I’m staying doesn’t have broadband so last time I went to an internet cafe. Because I have a smart phone and use O2 BT let you sign up for a free app that shows you the nearest hot spots for wifi which is an advantage. So I spent another couple of hours working out how and where to get this for the phone and then had to go on iTunes to get the app for the iPad. Of course I now realise I only needed the one app to find out as where I go my phone goes. Hey Ho.

I spent several hours over the past few days working out what I need to load on the iPad  and signing up and signing in and downloading. It all takes up too much time I have a good mind to just switch off and zone out.

I do have a nice thick book to take with me as well as my sketch pad and paints. I plan to chill and just sit, let my mind go blank for a bit , so if you don’t hear from me for a few weeks you’ll know I’m in another zone, literally!!!

A Recipe for Contentment

easter-egg1

Fittingly, as it’s Palm Sunday today, my thoughts turned to cake, of course, not just any old cake but Easter cake. In the UK Simnel cake is associated with Easter this is basically a Christmas cake with a seam of marzipan running through the middle. Decorated with another layer of marzipan on top, it has 11 marzipan balls around the edge representing the disciples of Jesus minus Judas who did the dastardly deed. Mainly a rich fruit cake it is quite heavy and although I like a good fruit cake I wanted to celebrate Easter with something a little lighter so my thoughts turned to Greek Easter and the cake that is cooked there to celebrate.  I knew of tsoureki which is the Easter plaited sweet loaf baked with a red egg poking out the top, but I didn’t know the name of the Easter cake.

Looking for a recipe online surprisingly I discovered a delightful blog written by Anne Zouroudi an English author married to a Greek fisherman, writing detective stories based in Greece. I have never heard of her before but from what I have seen I can’t wait to get reading  as the books look right up my street.  She has put a familiar sounding recipe for orange and almond cake on her blog and it sounds delicious so I’ll be giving that a try. here is the link to the recipe http://www.annezouroudi.com/greek-winter-food/

I like a good detective novel and have read quite a few in my time. Rebus is the well crafted Scottish detective of Ian Rankin full of grit and grim dark Scottishness, then there is the Aurelio Zen series by Michael Dibdin with the magical Venice as background which I devoured one by one. I did the same with the No1 Ladies Detective agency series by Alexander McCall Smith which I found absolutely delightful, I could almost smell Botswana from some of the descriptions. After seeing the Inspector Montalbano series on TV. set in Sicily based closely on the novels written by Andrea Camilleri, I ventured to the library again to order these books  in sequence,  I had to stop after 13 as the most recent haven’t been translated yet. The fact these are all  set in a foreign country; you could count Scotland as a foreign country to some; makes them all the more appealing to me as I glean so much more information about customs, food, language and so on. So I was thrilled to find a new series of foreign sleuth stories to keep me occupied and I am eagerly awaiting the two I have ordered on Amazon as I was too impatient to try the library this time.

It seems I’m not the only one to be attracted by books set in foreign parts as I have been approached by a new on line book club that specialises in such books, more of this in another blog.

Treis Elies Re-visited Part 2

 

I am continuing to  read Ethan Hubbard’s book “Trei Elies – A journey in Spring” and learning about the inhabitants’ daily lives. When walking around this quiet village with its ageing and fast disappearing occupants, it is easy to fall into a false sense of an idyllic life that one would lead if living here. How tranquil it seems, how wonderful to have such magnificent countryside on your doorstep with the ability to grow all your own food in this verdant and fertile garden. The reality for these villagers of course has been very different. It has been one of struggle and hardship inevitably. Day to day living took effort and stamina. There have been times of great deprivation in the earlier years of poverty. Roads were rough tracks from villages this remote, donkeys and your own two feet were the mode of transport. I can remember in the early 1970’s many of the side roads were still rough tracks very unlike today where all but a handful of very minor roads are beautifully surfaced in tarmac making driving a lot easier.

Food was grown or foraged from the countryside and houses were mainly just basic rustic dwellings no fancy kitchens and bathrooms. But the conditions produced a tough breed and even in their eighties the old women of the village go down to their gardens to weed and hoe and plant tomatoes. This of course at least keeps them active and in the fresh air rather than stuck in a stuffy room watching daytime telly!!!! The surrounding gardens provide cherries, almonds, walnuts, strawberries, there is certainly no shortage of these things.

The village today is well-connected with the good roads and four-wheel drive trucks have no trouble navigating side tracks even when heavy snow arrives. Now with modern technology nowhere is completely cut off and communication is possible from the remote corners of the world. All manner of new ways of living in these villages could be possible for a younger generation should they wish to explore an existence closer to nature. Nowhere stays the same forever and change is inevitable.

I am a great believer in remembering the past as it helps us navigate the future but we cannot keep the past preserved in aspic, life must evolve.

To buy a copy of Ethan Hubbard’s ‘A journey in Spring’ contact Androula Christou on (00)357 99527117.

Treis Elies Re-visited

This week I was lucky enough to receive my copy of ‘Treis Elies A journey in Spring’  by Ethan Hubbard. Ethan Hubbard who lives in Vermont is a writer and photographer who for more than thirty years has been visiting remote parts of the world to observe the daily lives of indigenous people. By observing the inhabitants as they go about their daily lives , he learns about himself. The subject of his thirteenth and latest book is Treis Elies where he arrived during his search for “European peasants” whose way of life would not have changed much for centuries. He wasn’t hopeful, after travelling all over Northern  Cyprus and then exploring Troodos he feared there would be no vestige of such a life left in existence until he happened upon this remote village tucked up in the West corner of Troodos.

As I started to read about the various villagers he meets and over his many weeks stay gets to know as friends, I realised that a third of these people no longer live in the village, as the numbers have decreased from nearly 60 souls to just over twenty. It is a community of old people on the whole, although many visitors come at weekends to visit their family homes and since Androula has been living there, renovating them.

I live in a village in West Sussex and by contrast, today I have just attended a meeting about the future of our village. The concerns here are that due to  government  directives our village could double in size in a few years as there is a plan to build 1,000 more homes here. This will put an enormous strain on our infrastructure and is in danger of swallowing up surrounding fields and green spaces leaving us with an urban jungle.  The Parish council is being pro-active by getting the community involved in developing a plan whereby we lay out what shape  we want  the village to be, what facilities we believe we need to have in place for the village to work as a community, making it a desirable place to live not just a jumble of houses plopped down in various pockets of land with no overall consideration as to how it all works or looks. We at the moment have two food shops a church and a petrol station together with a health centre, village hall and a school. This plan, If put together correctly and goes through the correct channels and is approved could turn out to be a blueprint for further development and showing that the community is behind it.

It is a sad state of affairs that so many remote mountain villages are gradually shrinking to virtual non-existence and one the Cypriot government has tried to address by getting regeneration schemes off the ground. Who knows what the future may hold for this particular community, what I find extraordinary is that this tiny village has inspired not only two people to write about it but many more to visit through Androula’s efforts to promote the attractions that can be found in this beautiful and tranquil spot.http://www.spitiko3elies.com/

Reading Ethan’s book prompted me to re-visit my photos of Treis Elies and I have posted a small selection above. I hope you enjoy them.

Here is a bit of information about the history of the village. http://www.thevillagexpress.com/cyprusvillage/profile/253

 

Santa’s Little Helper

santa_sleigh4

I’m sorry to introduce the big C word at the beginning of December but marketing tactics demand that I think well ahead about these things. Marketing isn’t one of my favourite things and I find myself procrastinating rather than getting stuck in. Everywhere you look there are craft fairs and markets and I feel a bit like Cinderella. I have been half -heartedly planning an advert on Facebook but find the details a bit daunting (if not downright boring).

On a more enjoyable side I have been reflecting on some of the contacts I made when I was in Cyprus to do my promotion in April.These have turned out to be good outlets for the book and  interestingly they all are related to food but I suppose not surprisingly. One is a caterer and supplier of home made preserves etc. another is a baker and  a couple are cafes. The book seems to sell well in these environs. I find myself wishing I could be there in person to attend various craft markets and do my own selling, far more enjoyable than working out an online strategy. The most fun thing was playing around with  images to give them a personal appeal like Santa’s sleigh above. Also Santa’s little helper below.

Screen shot 2013-11-29 at 10.58.50

 

My Television Debut

As I recorded in September, I was visited by the roving cameraman Doros Partisides from CyBc based in London for Cyprus television, to do a short profile of me and the book and yesterday evening it was televised. I was naturally very apprehensive and didn’t watch it until I had a couple of messages from relatives congratulating me. I was relieved that in fact I seemed quite coherent and the editing was very well done. So a big sigh all round and a big thank you to Doros for asking me the questions and putting me at my ease. Here is a link to the programme, I am in the last third:-

http://www.cybc-media.com/video/index.php/video-on-demand?task=play&id=7229&sl=cats

Bitter Sweet

English: Bellapais Monastery inner court, Kyre...

English: Bellapais Monastery inner court, Kyrenia, North Cyprus. Author: Atak Kara (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have just finished reading that great classic ‘Bitter Lemons of Cyprus’  by Lawrence Durrell. I have managed to go all this time without reading it and  suddenly, inexplicably I was gripped with the desire. My sister had a copy with this very same cover on her bookshelves which I looked at for many years and vaguely felt that I should one day pick it up and read but resisted thinking it would be a bit too intellectual for me and dusty; not from lack of attention to the domestic chores but in its writing. I had read Gerald Durrell’s book ‘My family and other Animals’ about the Durrell’s lives on Corfu when Gerald was young which I enjoyed immensely, GD writes in a very light and humorous way, I somehow felt his brother would be a bit more heavy going. About a year ago I was given the talking book version on tape which made a long car journey seem to pass in a flash.  bitter-lemons1It was time to get the real thing in my grasp and read it, I finally retrieved a copy from the library a few weeks ago. To my delight it was full of the most beautifully poetic descriptions of the scenery and people around Bellapais near Kyrenia in a time when the island was still a sleepy backwater. Written in 1952 when Cyprus was a British protectorate after the Turks had relinquished power as part of an agreement  in 1878, it gives a picture of an island woefully neglected by its rulers, lacking in many modern amenities and infrastructure as well as a very limited education system. It conjures up a time of innocent  and welcoming hospitality. Cyprus was just starting to get regular tourists and Durrell expresses his distaste at seeing these incongruous foreigners trespassing into his idyll. A sentiment I think a lot of us will sympathise with but ironic when we are indeed the tourist as well.

The descriptions of the magical area around the Abbey perched high up on the Pentadaktylos range of mountains with spectacular scenery, brought back memories of my visit there many years ago pre 1974. My family like many visitors fell in love with that region particularly Lapithos. Kyrenia was always a particular favourite of the British who frequented its picturesque horseshoe-shaped harbour, surrounded by ancient buildings and dominated by the castle with its origins dating back to Roman times. Being so close to the capital it was also a very popular haunt of the Cypriots to spend some leisure time. There is no other place like it on the island and this made it even more of a tragedy when it was out of reach after the invasion. Now at least it is possible to visit and I’m eagerly looking forward to the day when I can see it once again after the book has whetted my appetite.

English: Bellapais Abbey

English: Bellapais Abbey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The book also has a darker side as it relates the rumbling times leading up to the organisation of EOKA stemming from the rising tide of public outcry for ENOSIS and the lack of early constructive response from the British which might have saved a whole lot of trouble. Easy to see in hindsight of course. Durrell’s employment within the local British government offices at the time gives a valuable insight into the painfully slow machinations between Westminster and Nicosia and lack of up to date intelligence and thus awareness. The book ends with Durrell’s departure from the island as things get more entrenched and progressively uglier as all conflicts inevitably do.