Springtime in Cyprus

It has been an exceptionally wet winter here in Cyprus this year from December up till the beginning of March we have had some extremely noisy  thunderstorms and heavy rain which has filled the dams to overflowing; a novelty here where water shortages are the norm. It is always a subject under discussion in winter as to how full or not the dams are depending on rainfall, last year some dams barely reached 50%  others much less than that by the end of the winter. Flooding has been a problem in some towns and villages and the fields around Paphos were water-logged ruining some crops. Looking from the shoreline at the sea, brown patches were visible where the run-off from the fields had flowed into the sea via watercourses giving the fish some extra nutrients.In some areas heavy hail has damaged delicate fruit trees.

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The positive side to this is that now in early March we have the huge pleasure of seeing this beautiful island of ours covered in green where green is rarely seen. Where in summer the ground is parched and dusty and the hills and mountainsides looking like a barren moonscapes all is now verdant and lush.The trees have received a good soaking right down to their root tips giving them a good start into the run up to  a scorching summer.

 

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a field of wild anemones on the Akamas

Wild flowers are in profusion, wild anemones and rare orchids, birds and wild life can only thrive in such circumstances.The sheep and goats are certainly enjoying a feast and we in turn will benefit when we buy our locally produced halloumi and yoghurt.

Yesterday I took a short trip to one of my favourite spots near Droushia, the ruined monastery of Ayios Nikoxilitis. Here the grove of almond blossom is just about to burst into flower and a variety of  broom is in its full yellow flowered glory lending a delicate scent to the air. The scene was sublimely peaceful.

 

 

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I’m not sure who the chair is for~?

 

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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.

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.