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.     

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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!!!

The Crafty Side of Life

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

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

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

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

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

Down but Still Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magnificent Moody Mountains

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

Wild and Wonderful

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunny Side Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Missed It!

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

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

The River of Lefkosia

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

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

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

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

 

 

A February Sunday in Arodhes

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

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

I’ve Arrived

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time to Get a-move-on

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Yes it is that time of year and everyone is asking “Are you all prepared?” and what they mean is are you ready for Christmas. This year though Christmas is just an interruption to my getting prepared for my long stay in Cyprus starting in February, so it’s sort of incidental. I have however, in between making lists and trying to work out if I have forgotten to do something vital, been busy cooking and top of my list were the kourabiedes which I made for the first time last year.=kourabiedes. I have made a few goodie boxes up for presents so they have of course included these light little almondy biscuits. Macaroons, Black Forest chocolate fudge, black pepper oatcakes and gingerbread biscuits made up the rest. I recently popped in to a wonderful little cafe/bakery Whipped and Baked where I’m presently  buying my sourdough bread and saw they too had some very snowy covered celebratory biscuits for sale. Now the owner the lovely Flour von Sponge, is from Malaysia and apparently even there they have a version of this internationally known biscuit, instead of almonds they use pistachios.

As Christmas is the time for anyone who has anything to sell to get on that marketing bandwagon I tried to do a bit myself for AK and splashed out on a bit of advertising but I have to say the results have been negligible. I have been self-employed running a one woman business for most of my working life and in all that time I have never found paid advertising to be of any benefit at all, so why I thought this would be any different I don’t know, but it was worth a try. I always found that personal recommendation and word -of- mouth from satisfied customers is by far the best way to attract custom. The best advertising is the sort that comes free I once got a very prestigious commission through a free  directory! If you can get articles written about you or interviews for TV and radio even better, I’m always on the look out for a free bit of publicity.

Soon enough I will be in Cyprus where I will be on the look- out for more outlets to sell the book and generally spreading the word. In the process I hope to come across some interesting people and things to blog about. Getting excited!

Whiskey and Walks

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Last week I went to see my good friend Rosemary Moon who is a food writer of long-standing and founder of our Community Garden in Tangmere. She has a new website  http://www.rosemarymoon.com/ on which she shares her passions of food and whiskey. Using her name to great punning effect the headings are Moonbites and Moonshine. Unfortunately as I was due to drive somewhere after my visit I couldn’t take her up on a very tempting offer of a wee dram while I was there; well before the sun was anywhere near the yardarm I might add. Lately she has been exploring her love of whiskey and combining it with food to see how the one compliments the other. There is a great podcast here on her site,http://www.rosemarymoon.com/moonbeams/where she meets a smokery owner in Scotland and discusses which whiskeys would bring out the flavours of certain of their products at Rannochs smokery. This podcast idea is a new venture for Rosemary, great page title is Moonbeams, cool huh? While I was there she took the opportunity to do another one with me all about ‘Androula’s Kitchen’ and we chatted away for half an hour.This will be coming soon on Moonbeams. I hope to emulate her and get a couple of podcast productions under my belt when in Cyprus visiting a variety of growers and producers of all kinds of stuff. She asked me if whiskey is widely drunk in Cyprus and I mentioned that actually brandy seems to be more prominent as of course Cyprus produces its own. I was about to embark on the story of how the Brandy Sour, Cyprus’ very own cocktail, was first created  but we ran out of time. On my visit to Forest Park last year however, Mr Eraclis entertained us with the story. A young King Farouk, fond of western ways and cocktails while a guest at the hotel ,which he was frequently, was wanting a thirst quenching drink and  the very imaginative  bartender created this cocktail to help the King enjoy his tipple, quench his thirst and all the while seemingly appear to be abstemious. Here Helen Smeaton of Travel Secrets gives you the full recipe http://www.cyprus-travel-secrets.com/how-to-make-a-brandy-sour.html I must try one someday, I’m not a great lover of brandy myself, I do prefer a whiskey but I can imagine this could be very refreshing.

This weekend we were very lucky with the weather as the sun blessed us with its presence and shone on the righteous…. as well as us. So we made the most of it and went in search of a couple of local churches built in the 12th century as you do! They were both quite small and the first  in Tortington just outside Arundel, had some beautiful stone carving of the Romanesque period with unusual animal heads depicted. This church was once probably part of the priory that existed here. You can read all about it here http://www.sussexchurches.co.uk/tortington.htm SAC52-173 It was tucked away down a lane in an area I hadn’t explored before, I made a mental note to return one day and explore the footpaths signposted.

The second one was much plainer but the setting was fabulous as it was perched on the side of the Downs with a vista of the Sussex countryside at its best in array before us. I do love this time of year with its smells of damp leaves and the sight of golden foliage with the sun shining through makes me feel all mellow mists. I feel very lucky to live in this part of the country, the rolling chalk and flint Downs, fields of patchwork with ploughed patterns creating so many shades of sandy brown, unbelievably rich green grass with sheep grazing, dense patches of wood of oak and hazel, beach and chestnut. Then we have the coast nearby with another kind of breathtaking beauty and serenity.

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I am drinking in the beauty and lushness. I am surely looking forward to a complete contrast when I venture to Cyprus in February for a long spell. I will be pursuing these same past times of walks and looking at Romanesque churches in a different landscape.   I hope for many photo opportunities when the beauty of Cyprus will equally enthral and enchant.