Cultural Delights of Larnaca

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

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

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.

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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.

The Arts of Kouklia

On my recent trip to Cyprus I made acquaintance with a village called Kouklia very near to Paphos airport, which I had not visited before in fact I don’t remember even hearing about it . This is odd because it is an important historical site situated in Palaipahos, ancient Paphos, which was once the capital of Cyprus. Kouklia is the site of a sanctuary dedicated to worshipping the goddess of fertility dating as far back as 12th century BC. A very interesting on-site video about the sanctuary pointed out that it is not completely understood which goddess the original site was dedicated too, possibly Ishtar and then transformed into Aphrodite by the Aegean immigrants. A massive conical piece of gabbro stone was worshipped as the representation of the goddess instead of an anthropomorphic statue, this would have been anointed with oil at the great festivals.

The site covers a large area where both an open and an enclosed hall would have stood housing several altars and votive offerings as well as monuments.    For centuries it was  an important site for worshippers from all over the mediterranean area and the site remained in use for a remarkable 1,600 years. To read more on this you might find this page of interest http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kouklia. I spent a very pleasant couple of hours wandering around the site and paying a visit to the museum. This is housed in part of the Manor House built by the Lusignans on the sanctuary site, re-using materials they gathered which would have once formed part of the original lime stone structures. Only parts of the original medieval building survived and the rest was re-constructed by the Department of Antiquities to house the museum and act as stores. The Manor House was built as the administrative and production centre for the sugar cane industry with plantations and mills next to it. Sugar Cane production was a lucrative industry for the rulers of Cyprus, brought to the island after the Crusades by the Arabs, this site provided valuable information about this activity when archaeological excavations were carried out by a Swiss- German team in 1980.

The museum houses some lovely early glass and pottery examples found on the site as well as a huge stone bath and what looks like a pottery stove but is believed to be a shrine. The wonderful vaulted Gothic Hall below, a fine example of Frankish architecture on the island, is now used for concert performances during the annual Pharos Chamber Music Festival held in Kouklia at the end of May http://www.pharosartsfoundation.org  Although a hot day when I visited, I was cooled by a refreshing breeze as the sanctuary site is on a plateau with a fantastic view of the coast.

Cyprus Place- Threads That Connect

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This could be the title of this site in a way, the title ‘though came from a road name I came across in Rye, Sussex last week. It seems I can’t go very far without coming across something that connects withCyprus.

My good friend Gill of Paisley Pedlar920675_514306348604435_2064644349_o fame who I’ve mentioned in previous posts, and I had another of our jaunts last week, this time to take a look at Rye. It is a town that has a very long and interesting history spanning over a thousand years. It is an Antient town of the Cinque Ports  which was an association of five sea port towns along the Kent and Sussex coast; set up by Edward the Confessor, its aim was to improve and fortify the  sea defences  of the English Channel against  invaders. Rye, a late addition was  an important trading harbour probably the most important of England in medieval times. Today this is difficult to visualise as the sea is two miles away due to the vagaries of weather and waterways. I don’t know why there would be a place named after Cyprus in this small coastal town, it seems like a quaint backwater now but if I sat in an old quiet spot and meditated it wouldn’t take much imagination to carry me back to those times of bustling activity with sailing ships arriving from far flung corners of the trading world.

Cyprus was under Venetian rule from 1489 −1571, the Venetians were great merchants  and at that time England had greatly expanded and was a major exporter of wool and trading with the Middle East so I’m sure there was trade between these countries, it isn’t too far fetched to connect Rye with that time and possibly ships coming from Cyprus.  I recently finished reading ‘The Venetian’ by Lena Ellena http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15701151-the-venetian  a fascinating read that covers a lot of detail of what it was like living on Cyprus at the beginning of this period of Venetian rule, certainly no picnic for the Cypriots. The Venetians were beginning  to establish cotton production on Cyprus at that time to replace the more costly production of sugar, who knows Cyprus could have sent cotton to England!

 

Towards the end of our brief sojourn in this delightful historic town,we visited an emporium selling all manner of goods connected to cloth and the sewing thereof. Quite a fitting finish to this piece as its name is Merchant & Mills and ties in nicely to the theme of trade and merchants past and present. My friend Gill is a sewista and introduced me to this company, I was right in my comfort zone as soon as I set foot over the threshold. It had in stock some really good quality cottons and linens that were just calling me like sirens to buy them; it was tough but I resisted. There were the accoutrements of dressmaking and tailoring all around and memories of my father’s tailor’s shop came drifting into mind. Card patterns hung from a nail and tape measures, tailor’s chalk and twine were all lined up neatly. I will return when I am in need of any of the above,  if not to this shop then certainly the virtual one.