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!!!

 

Mellow Yellow

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I’ve just heard it on the news today uttered by a cardiologist in fact, that butter is good for you. Yay! At last is all I can say. For years I have firmly believed that butter, a natural product has got to be better for you than margarine, a mostly synthetic and wholly unnatural product. I haven’t cooked or eaten margarine or any made up spread for nearly 30 years and only use olive oil and butter. I have long been an advocate of a little of what you fancy does you good and I certainly haven’t fancied margarine. The scientists say that even cooking with sunflower oil, an oil I considered healthy, is bad for you as apparently when heated to high temperatures it changes it into something that is not healthy http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-33675975. These days trying to navigate your way to eating a healthy diet using the ‘scientific’ evidence is like a minefield and changes all the time. It used to be that butter and all saturated fat was ‘bad’ for you and sent you on a speedy road to a heart attack. Now saturated fat is man’s best friend even cooking with lard, apparently is better than cooking at high temperatures with sunflower oil; well  bring on the beef dripping sandwiches I say.

In the same conversation with the cardiologist, now wait for this bombshell, eating full fat cheese, milk and yoghurt is far better even for slimmers than semi skimmed and low fat.

If you stick to a diet that is a close to nature as possible you can’t go far wrong, that is the less man has had a hand in producing it the better; the more opportunity he has had to tinker with the produce or animal, add or subtract, mix and match the less you know what he has actually done. It seems to me quite often the results of scientific studies lay themselves open to misinterpretation depending on who is wanting the results and for what agenda. As I get older I listen to the latest finding with a good dose of scepticism.

The mediterranean diet as we all know is one of the healthiest, particularly including a great variety of fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds into our diets, eat this and you can’t go far wrong.

Special Christmas Offer

 

santa_sleigh4Yes it is Santa time again and for the time up until Christmas I am offering my book Androula’s Kitchen Cyprus on a Plate for just £12.oo from Amazon UK. Packed with photos and information as well as scrummy recipes. Get one for yourself and friends and family.From Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0957400209

You can even look inside on the Amazon site or just check out the About the book page on this site to get more information.

Present Past Times

 

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It has been a long gap since my last post, the longest I think, since I started this blog.Since my return from my  long stay in Cyprus I have spent much time lately in reflection. Being back after six months, I realised how much I loved my home and the area in which I live. Strange that while I was away I gave it hardly any thought and didn’t really miss it? A puzzle I can’t quite explain- except that  it is best to focus all your awareness on the present moment and not regret or anticipate too much of past or future, this way the present is more fully experienced and appreciated. While away I was contemplating how it would be to live permanently in Cyprus, an idea I had always eschewed. So much has changed there recently, the thing that most appeals is that the artistic,cultural side of Cyprus is blossoming at a rapid rate which I find very exciting. I came back to the UK and committed myself to the idea by telling all my friends that I would certainly like to try living there for a trial period of two years at least and see how I felt after that. As the days have passed and I have settled back into my UK life, visiting friends and family, I am thinking more about the reality of giving up my life here. I have lived in my present house for 25 years, that is a long time, the house and garden bear testament to the energy and commitment I have given to it. But maybe now is the time to make a change onto the next chapter of my life. I am working my way through all the permutations of possibilities and   perception of my glass veers from half empty to half full on a daily basis.

I have set the wheels in motion towards some change as I have been sifting and sorting and clearing my way through,cupboards, garage, shed and loft.Trips to the tip, charity shops and much time spent on eBay with the rest have been a pattern over the past few weeks. Naturally during this process I have re-visited my past through the  papers and things I have been sorting, with memories particularly of the many years I worked in my workshop wielding paintbrush and paint, coming to the fore. I have still many brushes and minor tools and materials of my trade which  still occasionally come in handy for the odd job here and there. But also there are many things I have acquired over the years which still have use in them and need careful thought as how to dispose of them.It all takes a lot of time but I am in no hurry.

My reflections have also been dwelling on this blog as I feel it has come to a point where maybe I have written most of what I want to say about Cyprus at present. The blog was initially a way of advertising the book of the same name and to present a varied selection of information on maybe some obscure subjects connected with Cyprus. The information of course remains here but I may move over to my sister blog to continue musing.  It was started at the same time but I haven’t contributed anything to it.Its title, Present Past Times is very apt to my state of mind at the moment and it only seems fitting that I use it now to ponder things past present and future. So please check it out in a few weeks if you want to follow my progress and thank you for following me so far, if you have been.presentpasttimes.wordpress.com/

A Road Less Travelled

On my road trip in July I visited some of the places I  had long wanted to see but were a bit too far to visit in a day. One of these was the botanical park at Avgoroou near Larnaca Cyherbia owned  and created by Miranda Tringis and her husband. This park rose up out of an area surrounded by potato fields. On my way to find it I was very bemused and puzzled as to why such a spot would be chosen for such an enterprise, what recommended it to the owners?  It seemed to me to be in the middle of nowhere and on a road to nowhere, almost you could say out on the prairie. Miranda answered my questions when I visited her in July.  Her husband who was the instigator as the land was bought initially for investment reasons but Mr Tringis (?) didn’t want just to sit on the land and wait for it to appreciate in value he wanted to use it and his idea was to create a herb garden. Where this idea came from I also find intriguing particularly as neither of them had any experience in growing herbs or producing herbal products but such is Cyprus. I am constantly being surprised at people’s ingenuity and imagination.

Miranda  was not in favour of the idea at first as she pointed out they had no background or knowledge of growing herbs but her husband was determined to do it and was not deterred by her protestations and procrastination. So Miranda an artist by profession, decided that she might as well work with him than leave him to do it alone and set to to learn about organic gardening and growing herbs as well as learning as much as she could about the properties and processing  of herbal products. This of course took several years and the groundwork was laid for the  design and planting while Miranda studied. Funding was applied for in the early days of the EU but most of the structure and work was funded by themselves.

Cyherbia is in fact not as in the sticks as one from the other side of the island ( me) would suppose, because Protoras and Paralimni,both very popular tourist destinations, are close by and many coach loads of visitors come from these resorts as the botanical garden is widely advertised in the hotels there. Miranda and her husband have developed a very relaxing and interesting park with a maze laid out as part of the attractions, a winner with the children as well as a wonderful chill out area on the platform overlooking the park, where hammocks and swing chairs are at your disposal. A cafe of course is a prerequisite for any such place and this serves home made cake and teas of course. The shop is stocked with all manner of essential oils distilled from the herbs and soaps and lotions.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and found Miranda a gracious hostess. There are many interesting events taking place throughout the year including, hunt the eggs at Easter of course and a fairy festival as well as events around Christmas time check out their facebook page or website for further details  cyherbia.com. 

Riding into the Sunset

riding into the sunset

Photo courtesy of Ride in Cyprus

As I sit here writing this in Tangmere Sussex it is a grey and rainy day outside with occasional thunder and lightning but thankfully it isn’t cold. This is summer 2015 in the UK, changeable and with unusually low temperatures whereas the summer in Cyprus I hear has had unusual rain in July?

The week before I returned to the UK I paid a visit along with my friend Elena, to see Caroline Penman in Lysos. Unlike today in Sussex, It was a blistering day but thankfully Lysos is fairly high up a hill on the edge of the Paphos forest and is marginally cooler than on the coastal plain. I had met Caroline originally at one of Elena’s famous supper club events and then subsequently on several occasions during my stay in Cyprus I kept bumping into her at various locations and events. Caroline owns and runs Ride in Cyprus where she offers a riding experience in the exceptionally beautiful surroundings around Lysos. This experience can be just a one hour trek or a full-blown 7 day experience or even used as a team building exercise for small group bookings. This time of year she also offers a brandy sour sundowner saunter which sounds idyllic as the sunsets can be spectacular. Ride in Cyprus is now in its eighth year and is ever evolving, voted no 1 in Cyprus on Trip advisor for 3 years is certainly an achievement and something to be proud of.

My visit was arranged by Elena so I could hear Caroline’s story, as with all the people I meet who have chosen Cyprus as their home after many years out in the world, there is always a story and I love hearing them. Many British people come to settle in Cyprus after having their first acquaintance with the island through serving with the British Forces when stationed there and this is how Caroline first arrived, stationed at Dhekelia where her husband was Garrison Commander in 2002-2005.

As we sat there with a gentle cooling breeze flowing over us in her living room, the story unfolded. As with many stories it included a lot of extraneous information and veered off course here and there, that’s what makes it all the more interesting.  The core essence though, it seemed to me, was that the riding stables happened almost casually you might say out of a challenge laid down by the Commander Med. who was a neighbour at that time, also a keen rider. He knew the area around the Venetian Bridges well and with a keen desire to ride there, sent Caroline a grid reference of the area to work out a route and organise a trek. At that time the Venetian bridges weren’t  widely advertised or sought out as an attraction and not many people were aware of them. Caroline’s task was not just to trace a route between the bridges but organise the horses and transportation as well as accommodation en route and to top it all some of the group would only be doing a few days and would need to have transportation to take them back to base. Caroline stepped up to the mark and carried it off triumphantly.The trek involved 8 horses and 22 riders spanning a period of six days, This request involved a year of research and preparation. In Caroline’s own words – “We started at the CBF’s house (Commander British Forces) in Troodos and rode through Foini to Tries Elies bridge then up the prettiest valley to Milikouri below Kykkos where we stayed in the old school house with the horses in the yard.  Then we rode through the forest to Kelefos Bridge, Pera Vasa and on to Vretsia and Roudios Bridge – a day ride around the almond blossomed valleys and ancient water mills and back through the forest to Troodos!” That sounds like quite a once in a lifetime experience for all those participating.

Often it seems to me, our lives are changed forever by what seems at the time, as an incidental occurrence or  a pleasant distraction which later turns into the ground work for a new way of life. So it was with Caroline. So began the search for a permanent base to set up stables and start the business which has become  very successful over its eight years, Ride in Cyprus.

Caroline took us to see the stables and the beautiful horses looking very sleek and healthy, one a magnificent shire horse of 18 hands.  My Mum had a particular liking for shire horses when she was alive and her Uncle used to breed them in the Retford area. Recently Caroline has added an extra attraction as she has bought two fabulous yurts. These are set up in fields nearby surrounded by olive and carob trees and offer all sorts of opportunities for future events and happenings. One beautifully decorated yurt is kitted out as a bridal suite and in connection with the nearby Paradisos Hills hotel  can cater for the bride and groom’s wedding night after the main event at the hotel. The couple will ride on horseback down the short way from the hotel to the yurt, their way lined with candles and torches, doesn’t that sound fabulously romantic? The yurt looks very cosy and luxurious and will come with its own toilet facilities. The second yurt can offer a space for yoga sessions or story-telling, another great idea is to build a fire pit outside and this would be a fantastic setting for story telling under the stars, I’d certainly be up for that. Many years ago I attended a storytelling evening under the stars in a very ancient Yew forest near where I live. It was magical, sitting around the fire listening to the tales, families came and the children were sitting up in the low branches of the trees,The image of these immense contorted shapes of the yew trees silhouetted against the sky with children sitting amongst the branches was unforgettable.Caroline’s dream is to eventually set the area up as a retreat and what an ideal place to have one, hence the logo ‘Healthy in Tents’. This week Ride in Cyprus has been host to some of the volunteers from the World Wide Village Project https://www.facebook.com/worldwidevillageproject/ who have been helping to lay down the paths around the tents so it may not be that long before the dream will be a reality.

I would be very tempted to even have a go at the sundowner ride but unlike Caroline, who is a rider of many years experience, my few experiences of pony trekking in the past always found me flat on my backside. I seem to have an uncanny knack of falling off things, bikes both pedal and motor, ladders and horses. I was thrown several times from a horse on Exmoor. On our first evening the owner of the stables thought as  I was the only one who had been on a horse before ,I could handle a rather nervous and frisky horse!!! She shied at mounting a very shallow verge and threw me unceremoniously on the tarmac leaving me bent double the next day. But I persevered and went out every day. One day there were just four of us on a trek across the moor led by our guide, when the same  horse promptly threw the experienced rider leader who managed to get concussion and  couldn’t remember where we were. Luckily another member of the party was also experienced and remembered how to get back. As we approached a lovely open bit the horses took off at a gallop and bang down I went again. Who knows though with a few handy hints and a docile horse I could manage an hour surely!

Amendments have been made to the original text. 15.8.2015.

Treis Elies Eco Village

I have written on many an occasion about Treis Elies the small village in the Western Troodos mountains and in the book of the same name as this site, I describe how my first trip to visit my cousin Androula  there in her guest house To Spitiko tou Archonta, inspired me to start writing the book. Androula has lived in the village for fourteen years or so after falling in love with the place after her first visit. She recognised the village and surrounding area as a little gem, its assets quietly hidden under a cloak of greenery overgrown and neglected like sleeping beauty in her bower. But there is much here that if approached sensitively could enhance the area immeasurably and supply a relaxing and attractive destination for those seeking solace from the stresses of modern day living as well as providing employment for those wishing to settle in the area.

In these modern times mountain villages all over Europe are suffering from increasingly older populations as well as decreasing ones due to the exodus of the young to find work elsewhere, lured by city lights and an easier way to earn a living. Governments are concerned to find ways to attract people back to these  rural areas and create a means by which these villages can come to life again, hence eco- tourism was born. Encouraging and assisting those who wished, to restore old buildings and use them as hotels or guest houses meant that tourism could be promoted to these places encouraging visitors to explore beyond the beaches to discover the wealth of delights that abounded in these areas. For those interested in historical buildings  and structures there are the Byzantine churches and Venetian bridges, for those interested in nature, wildlife and geology there are numerous nature trails to take one over some unique terrain where rare plants and rock formations can be found. For those in pursuit of  more strenuous leisure activities mountain bikes or horses can be hired and used over some exhilarating rides.

Apart from all these delights Treis Elies has other assets, one of them being Sulphur springs, In the past people would come to bathe here and take the waters for their health, there still remains the framework of a large bathing area and close by a small kiosk where refreshments was served on the outskirts of the village. The village at its height had a population of more than 400 people now reduced down to an ever decreasing 20 or so permanent residents. When I first visited only five years ago  there were three coffee shops now reduced to one.  All the properties have a garden,allocated which is a small plot of land on the outskirts of the village that have been terraced out of the hillside to provide an area where crops can be cultivated. Water is laid on to irrigate these areas with a river running close by. Cherry trees abound in this area as well as apples, pears, walnuts and strawberries as well as other berries grow well here due to the milder climate. Many of these terraces are overgrown now and abandoned although clearly visible as are the tracks and stone walls, albeit needing repair and maintenance. Walking around the village it is easy to imagine how this village when fully functioning could be a real paradise.

Androula had always had a vision of the village thriving once more and populated by like minded people who worked as a community to grow their own organic food and the village becoming an eco village. After so many years of nurturing this dream but having no idea how it would come into reality  amazingly in the last year it has actually started to become realised. Treis Elies Eco village is born https://www.facebook.com/EcovillageTrisElies

Many people in the present climate are looking for an alternative more self-sufficient way to live,with the world in ever more turmoil, large corporations  dictating the rules and personal freedom becoming eroded it is no wonder that many want to find a way to drop out of the system. A group of young people from different countries have heard through the ether, it almost appears that way anyway, about Treis Elies and have formed a small community whose mission is to work together with each other and the environment in a self sustaining way by using a permaculture method of cultivation. Androula has been a key part in helping them find accommodation and land to work and live as well as supporting them in any practical way she can. Already a tour operator is involved in bringing visitors to Treis Elies to learn of this project and the young group lay on a breakfast for them at the newly cleaned and painted coffee shop and tell them of their mission. They have started to cultivate the land and produce their own food following a steep learning curve about all things permaculture, in fact a permaculture course was held at Treis Elies a few days ago to pass on what has been learnt from experts in this field.  Here is a the outline of the ethos of permaculture taken from their Facebook page:-

” Ethical design
The main focus of the workshop will be to look at how to take care of your basic needs without exploiting other people, animals or our planet and its bountiful resources.

By studying nature, we will learn patterns for creating resilient and abundant systems, which we can apply to our lives

This will include everything from looking at how to take control of our food supply, through to designing how to create a more peaceful fulfilling stress free life.

Subjects covered will include
– A brief history of permaculture and the birth of green movements
– Successful urban and community food growing
– How to nurture and create a resilient community
– How to observe and learn from nature
– Understand and make effective use of natures patterns
– Exploring the intricate and essential connections of life (why we should value diversity)
– How to simplify complex systems, so we can understand and redesign them
– How to design effective solutions for urban and rural living
– Effective permaculture design tools and methodologies
– How to use the ethics and principles of permaculture to make abundant and resilient designs
– Reduce energy consumption, and increase quality of life by intentional design of your day to day activities

The workshop will culminate in putting all these tools and principles into action by making real designs

This 2 day course is part of a full 12 day certified permaculture design course, which will continue for the subsequent 2 weeks”

From this you can see that it is an all encompassing way of life to lead to a much lighter footprint left by man if any footprint at all. Recycling, up cycling, and inventive ways of using what is already available has been an intrinsic  way of life for Cypriots for centuries so in a way this way of living is returning to what was until very recently the norm. This group is connected to other groups around the island with a similar vision and mission so they can help, learn from and encourage each other. Peter and Maria from Parhelia organic market garden that I reported on in March here https://androulaskitchen.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/sunny-side-up/ are making ready to join the group in September permanently in fact. They have no government funding in place at present although it seems that a scheme like this should have their backing  as well as being eligible for a hefty payout from the EU to allow the framework to be put in place for the various schemes that have been draughted to revive some of the neglected parts of this village  and inject new life into the area. There are no shortage of ideas and skills in this group that can bring in money to support  as time goes on but their immediate needs are lacking funding at present. I for one am excited that such a movement has taken hold on the island as many people before me have said, if nature was respected here and its occupants lived in harmony with it, Cyprus could be a self-sufficient paradise.

Camera Lights Action

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I have been back in the UK now for a week after my long stay in Cyprus, February until Late July, it has been a bit of a shock climate wise as the temperature is virtually half it was in Cyprus when I left and it feels like Autumn if not quite Winter. At 39 degrees centigrade in Cyprus when I left it was uncomfortable for me but now back in the UK I feel like getting my boots and scarf out and turning the heating on at 17 degrees…in July? and it’s raining!

There has been a fairly long gap between posts here as I did not have the time to write the last few weeks before I left and since I have been back my priority was catching up. I now have a bit of a backlog of topics to blog about but that is good as it will keep me from focusing on the weather hopefully.

Before I left I was invited to the theatre, I am a theatre fan and in the UK live near the Chichester Festival Theatre, in fact when I returned I was invited to accompany some friends to see Mack and Mabel there which made a very nice homecoming. The theatre excursion in Cyprus was very different as firstly it was outside and secondly the play was performed in an ancient amphitheater The Odeon at Paphos, and no it’s nothing like the one on the High Street. The only similarity to Chichester Festival Theatre is the seating design as  it too has an apron stage with seating rising on five sides. Arriving in Paphos, the backdrop was pretty spectacular as the sky was alight with a glorious sunset of purples and pinks with the silhouette of the lighthouse in front. We crossed the open  stage covered in loo paper and with a toilet placed centrally on the stage, to reach our seats which were the stone steps,I had duly taken a cushion.

Every year for the past eighteen years in July the Festival of Ancient Greek Drama takes place and performances are given at three venues Curium, The Odeon and a new amphitheatre in Lefkosia, The Skali, We went to see a play called Peace by Aristophanes and performed by the  Cypriot company Yiolanta Christodoulou Theatre Group. Presented in contemporary dress with subtitles displayed on a screen above the stage, this play is a comedy that had much that was visually funny even if you couldn’t follow the fast dialogue. In true theatrical tradition some male parts were played by women and the female parts by men .Lea Maleni ,who played the lead role of Trygaeus was superb, conveying with her body language the portrait of a man even though she was a small framed woman. She very much resembled Charlie Chaplin with a small moustache attached to her upper lip. Many years ago I remember seeing Macbeth performed by an English company at Curium, a fantastic experience as the setting is so atmospheric. If you get the chance do try and see at least one production as even today these ancient plays resonate with present day situations.

In a different setting but with the same gorgeous sunset as backdrop, I visited The Anassa hotel at Latchi on my last evening in Cyprus. There was much controversy when the hotel was first built as the owners managed to get permission to build on the precious Akamas, the wilderness that is supposed to be protected from development. I went with a friend to enjoy the music of a young Greek pianist  Vaya Nassi who accompanies a Greek singer Anthi. The setting was truly spectacular as the sun set lazily behind the hills in Polis bay, the sky turning from the soft mauve and peach to a fiery red as it sank into the sea, We also had the privilege of watching a sliver of moon aligned with Venus and Jupiter as that too sank behind the hills. We lounged on the sofas and chairs on the terrace enjoying our cocktails and the great musical accompaniment to the show that nature provided.

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

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

Birds and Banter

Courtesy of Cyprus Traveller website

Courtesy of Cyprus Traveller website

Well I am of a few days back in the driving seat as it were. I’ve enjoyed my break but shopping was a bit inconvenient. I’m looking forward to a trouble free stay now and want to  make the most of my time here.

During my stay so far I have been very aware of all the birds around although there are many I don’t recognise. Cyprus is a ‘birders’ heaven as there are a huge number of migratory birds come here from Europe and Africa, there are over four hundred species  either resident or passing through.  I have a family of swallows next door that have been resident since I arrived and the babies have hatched and are at the moment practising their swoops and dives, some of them very close. It has  been a real pleasure to watch their aviatory skills – and if there isn’t such a word there should be!!

My favourite bird ‘though is a permanent resident in Cyprus, the Scops owl. I heard it every night regular as clockwork as soon as it was dusk, until the warmer weather arrived. It has a rather melancholy hoot, Scops owls are not easy to  see in the day as they sit very still in tree hollows or empty buildings and are well camouflaged.  There is a belief in Cyprus apparently that the Scops owl is the oldest bird in existence, there is reference to them in a mediaeval folk song suggesting they were there at the dawn of creation. There is a story attached to this birds haunting hoot,of course there is, in Cyprus almost everything and everyone eventually gets a story to explain their existence. Cypriots love to weave tales a bit like the Irish. According to legend a man after realising that his brother was dead after sending him out on a dangerous mission, asked Artemis the goddess of hunting and the forest, to release him of his torment so she turned him into an owl to wander forever calling ‘Ghionis’ his brother’s name. A nice tale.

I plan to pootle around locally for a couple of weeks while planning a long trip over Larnaca way, where I will explore the East side of the island a bit more. and not venture too far afield as I realised I have only skimmed the surface on my own doorstep. There are many small villages with interesting features that I haven’t captured with my camera, so lots of photo opportunities and fabulous views.

On Saturday I’m going to  take part in  photomarathon as it is called, in Paphos. Organised by the Cyprus Photographic Society, we are given four themes and we have to go off and find relevant subjects to take photos of and then the best photo wins a Leica camera, sounds good to me. It will be a great opportunity to wander around Paphos and poke about in parts I haven’t seen before. I’m going with a professional photographer so there will be no hope for me winning but something like this certainly sharpens your observational skills.

Talking of which I have noticed a few things lately as I have been wandering around; why do young men with nice cars presumably with air conditioning, have the window wound down and the right arm hanging limply outside in the air? It’s an attitude thing right, driving with one hand and sometimes talking on the phone at the same time while going around a corner! Talking on the phone while driving is illegal here, but someone has to catch them first and so many young women drive holding their phone to their ears and blithely taking a right turn across busy traffic. There are many bendy roads out here in fact the only straight ones are the motorways and you invariably see Cypriots just cut off the bends and drive a straight line, does this save time, energy, clearly it’s easier than turning the steering wheel? Driving in Cyprus certainly keeps you on your toes.

Coffee Cake and Cattle

Tuesday 28th April

Today saw the arrival of Summer after April teased us with showery days followed by sunny ones and temperatures rising and falling, today it reached 28 degrees. Gone are the gentler cooler days with fluffy white clouds, socks and vest were discarded in favour of sandals and short sleeved tops. I had a very relaxed afternoon, my morning’s work completed I headed into Polis and Tina’s Art cafe for a frappé and a piece of her delicious strawberry yoghurt cake. Tina is German and a wizard with cakes, I go there when in need and she never disappoints. It is a very pleasant shady corner to pass the time and chill, newspapers and magazines at hand to catch up on the local news. Lots of plants and trees and a picturesque ruin next door as a backdrop to some metal art work. Tina and I it turned out are vaguely related we discovered a while ago; now you have to pay attention here as it gets complicated; her husband is a cousin to my cousin’s wife. This is how it goes in Cyprus with large families.

Feeling nicely chilled I then headed out to a little village called Giolou close by, to wander around and take some photos and after I headed on up another hill in the golden light of the afternoon to Lasa. The air is thick with the scent or orange blossom and Jasmine now as the heat intensifies all the aromas, flowers are blooming everywhere creating a vibrant contrast of purples,scarlets, pinks and reds. I passed through Drymou and stopped as the scene was like paradise unfolding. The rich landscape of trees and fields stretching out before me on the hillside; harvesting has begun leaving a patchwork of golden yellow and green, the early Spring grasses gradually turning pale although the poppies and yellow daisies are still everywhere.

As I parked the car below the church to take some photos I saw what looked like a wild man disappearing around the corner with very long hair and unruly beard, stopping briefly to see who the stranger was that had parked probably outside his house. As I gazed at the scene and drank it in I noticed some cows grazing just below, a rare sight in Cyprus and to me they looked like Jersey cows with that lovely soft caramel colour hide, most cows are kept under cover as there is not enough fresh pasture for them to feed on.  As I was taking the photo I heard someone approach and guessed it was the ‘wild man’. He greeted me in Greek and we chatted, it turned out the cows were his but they weren’t Jersey cows but an old village breed, probably oxen, as he said they were used in the fields to work. After he had ascertained I was alone had no family, meaning husband and children in Greek speak, he invited me for coffee but I declined. In Cyprus it is common hospitality to invite strangers for coffee,but call me suspicious, that line of conversation always makes me nervous. A single woman travelling alone I sadly sometimes miss the opportunity to talk to strangers, well men anyway, as coming from London originally I have an in built caution. Under all the hair he was a relatively young man, relative to me that is, and pleasant enough but my Greek is limited and conversation can get difficult. It was time to make my exit.     

The Avakas Gorge

Yesterday I went with a friend to visit the Avakas Gorge on the Akamas. It is a spectacular place to visit with huge pock marked  rock formations on your approach to the gorge and beautiful panoramic views  of cultivated land with a variety of trees in various shades of grey green and greens and the beach behind you. The approach is gentle enough once you get near the trail and very shady so extremely pleasant when the sun is fierce. As you go further along the rocks get higher and higher on either side reaching as high as 30 meters and start to close in over the top. The  pathway runs alongside and sometimes requires crossing the river bed which in the high summer is often dry but this time of year has water and the stones get slippery. As you travel along the river bed the boulders get larger  and more difficult to navigate as you get nearer the exit it is more challenging. This limestone gorge was hewn by a torrent of water over aeons but the water that runs through it now is barely a trickle although about a foot deep in places. There was maiden hair fern growing from the rock face and many large lizards scurrying past as we approached. This area is said to hold  a multitude of flora and fauna and a particularly rare specimen called the Centauria Akamandis with purple flowers, sadly we didn’t notice any as we were too busy chatting.There are several benches dotted along the way to sit and take in the atmosphere. If you are visiting in the summer it would be advisable to go early in the day as the approach is very open and dusty and when the sun is high it is relentless. High up on top of the cliff top sits a cafe called The Last Castle that does spit roasted kebabs over charcoal  either lamb or chicken. You have to book in high season as it is so popular and has marvellous views from its high spot, over the sea. You can sit under a shady vine on stone seats and sip a cool beer while admiring the view after your arduous adventure. We went back along the road to The Searays cafe to have a drink and relax while admiring the view.

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.

Feast and Frolics

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

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

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