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.

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Travels Around the Island

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steni

On Sunday I made a trip to Steni, a well placed village that claws its way up the hillside on the road from Polis Chrysochous to Lysos and beyond to Stavros tis Psokas. The countryside up here is breathtaking, the village is pretty large with a good sized population. Recently the village centre has had some money spent on it like many others in Cyprus since the joining of the EU, with newly made and repaired stone walls and a new village centre with a large communal open square where a brand new museum also stands. I was very impressed by this small museum because of the variety of artefacts on display and how well laid out it is. I suppose because it is new it also lacked that dusty unkempt look that many small museums seem to convey. I have a sneaky feeling that some of the wooden items have been cleaned up and sanded down( sharp intake of breath) but hey I guess that is how they would have looked when new, right? They seemed to have lost a bit of patina in the process ‘though.

The main appeal for me was that they had  really good examples of traditional hand woven textiles. The beautiful example of sheeting  used for the hangings on the bed, reminded me of the sheets my Aunt used to weave on her loom in the village of Yerolakkos. These looked like they had silk woven in to them, very common back then as most villagers kept their own silk worms. On display was a huge cross section of implements used in every day domestic life as well as farming. Well worth a visit if you are in the area and it’s totally free. The mayor Elias Lambidis was very helpful and has taken some of my books to put on sale, so if you haven’t already got a copy here is a chance to get your hands on one. There is a list of other outlets where you can get a copy in Cyprus, on the page About the book.  

Good News Week!!!

I have the news hot off the press( ha ha) that Androula’s Kitchen is actually being printed as I write! So not long now and all those who have been waiting patiently it will be able to see it in the flesh.

The sun is shining today and it looks a beautiful autumn day out there. I was driving through a very pretty part of West Sussex yesterday and admiring some of the stunning russet colours of the leaves that are adorning the oak trees in particular in this area. I was wishing that the sun was shining on them and trying to imagine how much more beautiful they would look with dappled sunlight. I am very tempted to return with camera in hand today but I have other duties in a different direction; I might take the camera along ‘though as there are some lovely trees there too.

My ‘day job’ has been restoring furniture for 40 odd years now ( blimey is it that long…?) and over the last 8 of those years I have been a bit more unfettered as I use a bit of space in my old friends’ workshop as and when I need to, rather than having my own. It has it’s drawbacks and advantages but every day I count my blessings that they were generous enough to let me into their space and share it with me. One of the advantages is that it is surrounded by fields as it is set in the old cowsheds’ of a farm. The skyline is broad and ever changing and the site affords a grand view of distant Downs as well as fields. I haven’t had the need to spend much time there in the last year but suddenly a little flurry of commissions has seen me visiting again daily and on a fine day like today it is a pleasure to see what  the landscape has to offer.This is an old photo but I will take my camera today and hope to catch some autumn glory.

Joining up the Dots

Yes I’m riding back up  that high rise of the roller coaster again and I can almost see the top! My stomach is lurching at the thought of what it will feel like when I get there. I loved going on roller coasters when I was a kid , I couldn’t get enough of them and the thrill of coming down that long fall. I haven’t been on one for many years and I am curious to try it for real one more time but I suspect I will have different sensations this time. The roller coasters of today are much more scary than when I was a child but it will definitely go on my list of “things to do soon”  Check out this fascinating link to find out how they work here.

Back to my ‘virtual’ roller coaster; I have at last made my plans and the ‘Androula’s Kitchen – Cyprus on a Plate” is going to print at the beginning of October and all being well should be available by the middle of October. I have been beavering away at setting up a new blog using Blogger, to act as a shopping portal for a special offer. I have set up a new page with all the information on this site, just check the page titles above. Up until the 29th September the offer price from this site will be £15.00 plus postage and packing then the price will revert to the RRP of £17.99 plus postage and packing so don’t miss out. I will be setting up availability via Amazon of course but this will be at the normal price and not signed.

It is a very exciting time but also quite nerve wracking as I try and join up all the dots. Over the next few days I will be setting up the Amazon sellers account and broadcasting the news wherever I can about the imminent arrival of my baby book. It has been quite an adventure over the last few years getting to this point. When I started out I had no plan of how I would get into print and indeed I was just focusing on enjoying the ride. Little by little you travel your road, stopping to smell the air and admire the scenery, then one day there you are at the threshold of a new experience.

Check out the book page before you leave.

 

The Little Fish has Swum Back to the Pond

 World book fair

World book fair (Photo credit: Anks)

After the hustle and bustle of The London Book Fair last week I have come back to my comfort zone to reflect.

It was exactly as I thought it would be: very busy, very hot, very large and not particularly author friendly. But I found it valuable as the few conversations I had with some of the exhibitors, was constructive. I came away with a different perspective and the task of sharpening my focus on how I want to present “Androula’s Kitchen” to the world.

When I started collating and writing “Androula’s Kitchen – Cyprus on a Plate ” it was from my enthusiasm to find out bite size snippets of information about the cuisine and culture of the everyday. I revelled in gathering the information and the photos of course. My thoughts were ‘If this interests me then it must be of interest to others.” But what I never thought of doing was writing it from a publisher’s viewpoint of how to maximise its commerciality. I vaguely thought about where it would fit into the book shop categories. Is it a book on Arts & Crafts, Food or a journal? No, it’s all of these.

I’ve never exactly gone along with the main stream in life, I guess I’ve always been a bit of a rebel at heart and want to go my own way. Running true to form, I have come up with a book that doesn’t fit into a nice tidy slot.

When I came up with the “Cyprus on a Plate” part of the title  it wasn’t because I wanted to present it as a recipe book, although it does have some recipes in it. I wanted to give a ‘flavour’ of Cyprus not just its food but its culture. It doesn’t just have recipes it has information about the food. It give background and information on not just traditional weaving, basket making, pottery and The Arts  but on the contemporary. I’m proud of my little creation as you would expect but will anyone else want to buy it is the question? If so how am I going to tempt them to explore the content between the covers? I thought I could say “this is a meze of Cypriot culture from Arts & crafts to food. A feast for the eyes as well as the stomach” Does that sum it up do you think? Let me know.

Information

Information (Photo credit: heathbrandon)

Fast Forward

The cover

What do you think of the cover?

Well the week has arrived and I must pack up my old kit bag and get myself to the city, forsooth! It is the week of the London Book Fair and I’m visiting on Tuesday and Wednesday along with thousands of others no doubt.

I have been to Earl’s Court quite a few times, both as an exhibitor and visitor, not at the Book Fair I hasten to add, this is a first. It is huge and not a particularly pleasant environment. As an exhibitor I seem to remember the air conditioning plays havoc with your skin and sinuses! Quite often you are too cold and the sea of faces and constant movement of people is very tiring so I don’t envy the participants. As a visitor a comfy pair of shoes is definitely a must and a lot of water to drink.

I have bought an iPad on eBay especially so I can show the pages of Androula’s Kitchen to prospective publishers. Such is my optimism that they will even have time to speak to a mere author! ha! The book designer, Andrew has been doing a great job of revamping my amateurish first attempts and the pages he has finished (about three quarters of the book)  are loaded in PDF format. I will have it fully charged and ready to flash at the least opportunity.Excuse me madam, you can’t do that in here. I now have to work up my charisma levels and project myself. (Oh Dear! do I have to?)

 

I will look on it as another new experience and just relax as much as possible because by relaxing I will be in a more receptive state for those nudges of intuition that help us throughout life in making the right choices…should we choose to listen!

Little fish in the Ocean

Ελληνικά:

Ελληνικά: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It seems to me that there are two ways of going about writing books. One is when you have something inside you that makes you want to write; it could be about experiences or ideas or a story that just pops into your head fully formed. I’ve heard this method of instigation is a common one for many writers and composers. Often the most brilliant stories and pieces of music and even ideas for paintings, have come to the artist in the night when they have had the sense to keep a piece of paper by their bedside on which to write down these nocturnal inspirations.

The second way is when the author is approached by an editor or publisher to write a book. Which, for the author, on the one hand must be a comfort to know that there is an advance to spur them on and on the other if no inspiration is forthcoming, a curse.

The idea for “Androula’s Kitchen” was not a nocturnal inspiration but did come to me out of the blue.

I was musing upon my recent holiday with my cousin Androula, who I had met again for the first time in more than twenty years when visiting her home in the Troodos Mountains. She had spent sometime restoring a traditional house which now offers guests a secluded, restful environment from which to explore the surrounding countryside and the many beautiful monasteries in the vicinity. She has a love of the antique and articles produced by the artisan. This combination of surroundings, a traditional house and the eclectic mix of objects within triggered in me a curiosity to investigate and explore the crafts of Cyprus both old and new. I am a crafts-person myself and have spent many years practising my craft in the seclusion of my workshop and I took a great deal of pleasure visiting craftsmen in Cyprus and discovering a side of Cyprus that I don’t usually get the opportunity to see.

Of course once I got thinking, I had to include information about the food! Cyprus is an island that revolves around food. They say an army marches on its stomach and the same could be said of Cyprus.

There were many foodstuffs and recipes I had wanted to know about and this was an ideal opportunity for me to discover how the food was prepared and my favourite foods were cooked.

Now after spending a couple of years compiling, writing and re-writing the text and taking and organising photographs I want to see it in print. I have had discussions with a couple of publishers in Cyprus but nothing has come of these. It is the London Book Fair in April and I have bought my ticket. I feel like a minute piece of plankton about to float into the ocean. It is an overwhelming prospect and I will be feeling very out of my comfort zone. But needs must…….

Food Glorious Food – it’s all in “Androula’s Kitchen”

Following my last post of pictures of lovely food, my cousin asked me if I cooked any of the dishes and my reply was of course- I have been working my way through the recipes I collected for my book “Androula’s Kitchen” . I posted on July 27th the recipe for koupebia, – stuffed vine leaves, at a time when I was picking fresh vine leaves from my garden and using some fresh and freezing some for later use in the winter months, when fresh ones would not be available.

Good meat is essential in all the recipes to get the full flavour experience and I am very lucky to live near an organic farm that has exceptionally tasty lamb which I use minced for the koupebia and yesterday for moussaka.

In Cyprus all the meat has a wonderful flavour and I guess this must be in part due to the wild herbs and grasses on which the animals graze, as honey tastes differently depending from where the bees collect the pollen.

Even chicken eaten in Cyprus has a  beautifully full flavour. Is this maybe because the chickens are all free range?  I have no evidence of this at the moment, or maybe the chicken is a little more mature before killing and cooking it which will give the meat a fuller flavour.

The chickens we have in our local community garden, are two years old and as their egg laying value  is dwindling, discussions have taken place about them possibly getting the chop to make way for a fresh lot in the spring who will hopefully lay plenty of eggs for us. Once it has been decided who will do the deed, I only know it won’t be me, the meat will be put to good use in a tasty chicken dish which we will enjoy at our Christmas get-to-gether. So I will be interested to see what kind of flavour Tangmere chicken has. For the past month they have been pecking away in the strawberry bed, clearing away all the weeds. But will this mean they’ll taste of strawberry? What an extraordinary idea.

Ahh! food glorious food.

Weavers Unite!- Cyprus on a Plate

Weavers at the Handicraft Centre weaving fythkiotika

I’m very excited …it doesn’t take much.

Today, while searching WordPress for other blogs relating to topics I cover in my book ‘Androula’s Kitchen’, I came across Phitiotika. It is a site set up by two British artists Maura McKee and Sarah Dixon, they both have connections with Cyprus and had a strong empathy with the weavers of Fyti who are struggling to keep their weaving traditions alive in a dwindling village. They, like myself, feel there should be a way to carry on the strong traditions and heritage of weaving in  Cyprus, through the younger generations by encouraging innovation and diversity.

Throughout the centuries Cyprus has had a reputation for fine weaving. Each region had their own specialities and styles. At one time their was an abundance of silk and silk weaving was commonplace. Each family would own a loom and the women of the household wove all the  linen needed for everyday life  including their clothing and bedding. Silk worms were cultivated, cotton grown and there were plenty of sheep to supply wool.  Silk is no longer cultivated and the weaving of silk has not been practised in Cyprus since the 1960s. Life has changed rapidly and people live different lives where there is no necessity to make everything themselves with mass production and cheap imports.

Fyti, in the Paphos region of Cyprus, has a very particular style of weaving which incorporates patterns of coloured wools. The patterns are mostly geometric and each weaver would make their own patterns usually telling a story. Maura McKee and Sarah Dixon are working together with The Laona Foundation to come up with a plan for conserving and recording the weaving practises of Fyti while setting in place  initiatives which will encourage Cypriot artists to embrace and improvise on this valuable heritage as well as academics, artists, textile collectors and weavers internationally, with the help of the internet. Sarah has experience of working on cultural and conservation projects in several countries. Their aim:

“The aim of this proposed project is to reinvigorate and recontextualise Phiti weaving, and to support Phiti weavers in their practice. We are setting out to catalyse a process of conserving and adapting tradition.”

You can find out more on their blog, the link is on the blogroll and join their Facebook page.

I wish them both every success in this endeavour as this issue is close to my heart.

WEAVERS UNITE!