Paphos re-born

 

Nicosia 1

Nicosia

I have just returned from another trip to Cyprus spreading the word and distributing copies of Androula’s Kitchen to some new outlets. It’s now on sale at a traditional bakery and cafe based in an old watermill near Polis, an arts and crafts centre called Exhibit @Polis in the centre of town and in a centre called ‘The Place’ in old Paphos where it will sit very comfortably among the arts and crafts on display. This centre was opened last year in an old converted warehouse, it now houses many examples of traditional wares and demonstrations with  some of the artisans working on site on certain days. There is a display of the shadow puppets with a small theatre for occasional performances as well as a weaver, a potter and various other activities on display along with goods for sale like glass art, pottery, wine and some foodstuffs. Altogether a very attractive place to visit.It is right in the heart of the old town which when I visited  was in the grip of an upgrade in true Cypriot style. The roads and pavements torn up and no clear signs as to how you can access the shops just a sign to say ROAD CLOSED which was pretty obvious. I fear the shops will have lost a great deal of business from the passing tourists.When it is finished the area will be pedestrianised and should be a pleasing place to stroll around.

Next year, 2017  Paphos will be the city of culture so it is all systems go to get it ship shape. When it was first announced there was quite a bit of astonishment as the poor old town had seen a severe decline over recent years. Many of the traditional eateries have disappeared and shops lay empty and dusty while along the main road near the market many tourist cafes have sprung up. Paphos has two Malls on the outskirts which have played their part in taking businesses out of the old town, these mainly house the chains and clothes stores. The town gave an appearance of a shambles approaching from certain directions, with a jungle of hoardings and signs and odd extensions attached to some buildings but with a fresh approach the Mayor has been getting illegal hoardings and extensions removed with most of the businesses co-operating. This should make the whole town look neater and more coherent. I had often wondered at Cypriot planning regulations regarding buildings and  indeed if there was any city & town planning, as there are so many ugly buildings erected that do nothing to blend in with original existing buildings or add anything to the area. When I heard of the work to upgrade Paphos my immediate thoughts were that the municipality would be knocking down any old buildings and making everything the same as everywhere else i.e knocking any character out of the place. But after hearing a friend tell me that she was allowed to view an area under restoration, we were quietly hopeful that this may turn out well.This area was being reconstructed using old plans of how it was, creating a small friendly place including a bakery and cafe and an open air theatre.

Graffitti art in Paphos

There are some parts of Paphos that  have  attractive old buildings and I have noticed one or two have been renovated , if this was made a policy so as to give cohesiveness as they have done in Nicosia on the Green line , it would make a huge difference. In Nicosia many of the owners of old and in some cases derelict properties,were given an incentive to renovate which has resulted in a transformation of what was only a few years ago a run down area.This has encouraged young designers and artisan back into the newly renovated spaces, giving a good lively buzz. I was impressed by the refurbishment of the old power station in the back streets of Paphos which now houses the Cultural Centre which bodes well.

One of the saddest things that has happened with Paphos becoming such a tourist area, extending to Polis and beyond is that where the cafes and restaurants catered for the Cypriot local workers and families who love to eat out, they have now just set their sights on the tourist. Just a few years ago I remember having a great choice of eateries in the Polis area that did good local food at very good prices, sadly these have one by one disappeared. In the back streets of Paphos there is an area of workshops whose occupants, in some cases have been working there for many years,some their whole working lives, I hope these have also been given consideration in the up grade and not forced to vacate the area, taking with them the working heart of Paphos. This is a common problem not just in Cyprus, often the areas that house workshops and artists’ studios are by their nature in the cheaper end of town in old buildings, if the area gets “smartened up” it usually means the rents go up and out go the occupants.It also means much of the character goes with them.

I feel there is a gap in the market for some local producers to step in, I don’t mean traditional  either, I mean artisan. A good delicatessen type shop would be great selling all the best of local Cyprus produce , great olives and olive oil:an artisan bakery selling some organic breads using the old strain of wheat. I miss the bread of Cyprus that used to taste so good like many of their foods. An artisan cheese maker producing not just halloumi, anari and feta but some soft goats cheese, a hard sheep’s cheese or maybe even a blue cheese. In other European countries there are so many varieties of cheese produced. I love kefalotiri which is produced in Greece, but there is no reason why it could not be also produced in Cyprus. The major cheese producers in Cyprus seem to be  focused on exporting huge quantities of halloumi across the globe but in Cyprus there could be outlets for the small individual and specialist dairies.There is a growing interest in authenticity and quality, there is a definite place for it in Cyprus and more farmers should look towards growing organic which is not only where good health lies but profitability. Slowly I have seen more interest grow in this area in Cyprus and there have been several regular Farmer’s markets popping up over the island where small organic producers can sell there produce. Another need is for some organic chicken producers as much of the chicken sold has no flavour and no provenance, not long ago pork and chicken in Cyprus had a superb flavour, how are the farmers rearing their animals now? There is a wealth of old recipes that are mostly forgotten that in some small quarters are being revived by young enthusiastic chefs, I am looking forward to a renaissance in local cooking and the rejection of those ubiquitous oven chips that are creeping in. Vive la chip!!!

 

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The Arts of Kouklia Part 2

 

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When you approach Kouklia from the West, you turn off the main road and are directed to the village centre passing an intimidating fortress-like building elevated on a hill to the left. The directions take you away from the building which I was curious to investigate but as the village centre is where I also needed to be I, on this occasion, followed directions. The building turned out to be the walls of the manner house I later discovered.

Kouklia itself is a small village and the main square is full of coffee shops and tavernas which seemed to be very quiet and sleepy when I arrived at midday. The square comes alive in the evenings, particularly in the summer when the Pharos Music Festival is taking place, bringing many visitors to the area. In June the square is closed to traffic just for the evenings and the tables and chairs spill out into the road giving, I would imagine, a real relaxed party air for the guests and a safe area for children to play. At the weekends traditional dancing takes place to add to the entertainment. All the tavernas work together to make it as sociable as possible. All this I was told second-hand, I haven’t experienced it myself but it sounds a great idea and of benefit to all one would think? Of course there always has to be dissenters and someone has objected to the restricted access in the evenings and wants it lifted. As the square covers such a small area I can’t imagine that it is not possible to find alternative ways of access and surely a compromise could be reached? We have to wait the verdict from the authorities. Business will suffer and consequently people’s livelihoods.

The reason I eventually heard about Kouklia was not in fact because of its historical importance. I read a review of an art centre that had just opened on the square. Kouklia Arts is formed of two parts, the studio area where paintings are created and sold; this takes place in a lovingly restored old building that once was a coffee shop and local stores; the second part is a traditional house also restored just down the street. The house in now a shop selling every imaginable kind of gift and handicraft from candles to lace, made by local craftsmen, they even  sell some of my beloved traditional baskets.This has been the long held dream of  Angela Winstanley an artist herself, she paints, inspired by the surroundings, as she says she is “living the dream”. Here is a link to her site http://www.artworkskouklia.com/ Amongst it all Angela has taken on board some of my books, Androula’s Kitchen to display for sale, if you are in the area why not go along and have a browse, there are plenty of relaxing places to eat and spend a few hours watching the world go by.

If you are looking for historical culture the museum and temple site as mentioned in part one of this post 2014/06/30/the-arts-of-kouklia/ will certainly satisfy. In my usual fashion I bought the guide book at the end of my visit and read on my return to England that there are still remaining ancient tunnels used in the fortifications of the town. Now that I would like to see and another visit is called for.

 

Tavli

tavli

In the UK we have a lot of favourite board games that we play at home and some like darts and dominoes that are often played by the locals in pubs but we have nothing that compares to the ubiquitously played game of tavli in Cyprus.

‘Tavli‘ in Greek just means table, I learnt today, so relates to games played on a table and the familiar tavli board is used to play three games, ‘plakoto’, ‘portes’ ( backgammon) and a game of Turkish origin called ‘fevga’ http://www.bkgm.com/variants/Tavli.html.  On finding this information yesterday, it neatly answered a small query of mine; on recently starting to read a book called ‘The Venetian” by Lina Ellina partly set in the Cyprus of 1456, it mentioned a game called ‘plakoto’  which could be played for high stakes, the Cypriots love a gamble. The history of the games date back thousands of years as far back as ancient Egypt and has been played in variant forms all over the world. It  is played  with two participants each have chequers and the throw of the dice determines their moves around a board which consists of two halves. In Cyprus it verges on a national pastime and there are very few kafeneions that don’t sport a couple of men deep in concentration playing the game. I’m sure children learn to play the game at their fathers’ knee; I say father although women must play the game in Cyprus, it’s just that kafeneions are the public places where it is visible and those are the sole territory of the man commonly.

My father was no exception to this phenomenon and relished playing a usually lively game with my uncles when they visited. He would throw the dice energetically and bang down the chequers on the board to emphasise his decisive move, accompanied by loud exclamations whether winning or losing. He took up marquetry for a few years after retirement and one of the objects that he applied it to was a backgammon board. Sadly I didn’t learn how to play this absorbing game and I might find the time to learn, if I can find someone to practise with!

The board game of my choice at the moment is scrabble and a couple of friends and I enjoy an entertainingly convivial evening whenever we play. All these games ultimately are strategic if they are played in their fullest form, my two friends are extremely competitive. I don’t match up to their zeal and tactics in blocking trebles to win at all costs although I have learnt a lot from playing with them. I am a lazy player and I play mostly to enjoy the play with words , I would rather get a really good word down even though it might not get a brilliant score; I find it endlessly fascinating way the board pans out. I would rather open the board up and keep the game moving than agonise over strategy and ultimately winning; this doesn’t make me a challenging partner. Interestingly, on occasions when I tried to adopt the same tactics as my friends, we would just get stalemated as no one would move except say at a letter a time. My laissez-faire  attitude causes a wee bit of friction with my partners on occasion, as depending on who is on my left gets the advantage of my generous gift of a treble opening and consequently the points. I have also noted that even by opening up the treble my partners have not necessarily always been in the position to take advantage of it so when it came round to my turn again I could! This is a sort of gamble you could say, both ways I win as the game keeps flowing. I would say a good thirty percent if not more of the game is down to luck, depending on what letters you pick up and what letters are on the board; the skill is making the most of what you’ve got. Even so there has been the odd occasion I’ve won.

A backgammon board from Lebanon.

A backgammon board from Lebanon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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)

Lemba Pottery

My cousin Androula introduced me to Lemba Pottery. She has acquired quite a few fine pieces over the years from the gifted master potter George Georghiades who owns the pottery with his wife Sotiroula.

George’s father was a potter in the famous Lapithos region, the traditional home of pottery on the island before the Turkish invasion. George has studied both traditional and modern techniques and the shapes he utilises in his pottery reflect archaic forms of simple elegance. They have an ease and flow of line that I personally find very pleasing to the eye.

On my last visit to Cyprus I wanted to purchase some of his beautiful small bowls which I had seen on my first visit, a perfect size to use for soup. I found the colours very appealing as George uses colours that reflect the sea and the sky, so very appropriate for someone who lives a stones throw from one of the most beautiful stretches of coast in Cyprus. Whenever I use this bowl I take great pleasure in the grace of its lines, this adds another dimension to the enjoyment of my meal.

Many years ago I used to attend a pottery evening class and one of the things that fascinated me  was the glazes. Most glazes use metallic oxides and these can be a real adventure to the inexperienced as the results after firing can range widely but that was the fun of it. George uses glazes to great effect producing a richness of colour that adds yet another element to entice the senses. I love the mug I bought on my last trip as this demonstrates the metallic tones that can result, this one a verdigris colour.

He also produces some very lovely jugs, these ones a reflection of a shape used in antiquity.

The one I had to buy though has a much more utilitarian shape but one I love for its pleasing rotundity. Every detail you can see reflects the attention to detail that each piece is given lifted by the creative use of the glaze.

Traditional potters in Cyprus would use the local earthenware clay which chips very easily,  George uses a stoneware clay from Europe which results in a much more durable article. Traditionally potters would use a low kick wheel, where you sit low on the ground and use your knees or feet to turn it. George uses a modern electric wheel and a huge gas kiln to fire his pots.

If you are in or near Lemba or plan to visit in future please pay George a visit, he is just around the corner from the fantastic Lemba Art College, more of which next time. Meanwhile enjoy the virtual tour of some of his wonderful pots here.

Nordic Connections to the Bearded Goddess of Cyprus

I have recently been contacted, through the blog, by the archaeologist Marie-Louise Winbladh who was the  curator of the Cyprus Collections in Stockholm for 30 years. Apparently Sweden has the largest collection of Cypriot antiquities in the world, who would have guessed that?

She has written many books on Cyprus’ ancient history and a new one is due out shortly, “The Bearded Goddess”. Which is why she was drawn to my site. In search of photographs of the experimental Chalcolithic village built in 1982 just outside Lemba; she stumbled upon my site in much the same way as I stumbled upon the delightful recreation of these pre-historic buildings, I would imagine.

This spot is  an oasis surrounded by cooling pine trees. In the centre are some very funkily painted round houses and the beautifully elegant, nodding spikes of asphodel are  dotted all over the scrubby ground.

Marie Louise is including some of my photos in her new book which is very pleasing. She will be visiting Cyprus in March to promote the book and give a couple of lectures on Cyprus’ bearded goddess as well as androgynes and monsters in ancient Cyprus; sounds like a fascinating subject, I’m only sorry I won’t be there to hear it. This will take place in Limassol at the Amathus Beach Hotel  as part of a Nordic Trade Fair  on March 3rd and 4th

Books by Marie-Louise

Cyprus – a Cultural Melting Pot, Stockholm 1992. Swedish only.

The Cyprus Collections in Medelhavsmuseet, Stockholm 1994.

Ancient Cults in Cyprus, Stockholm 1995. Swedish only.

An Archaeological Adventure in Cyprus. The Swedish Cyprus Expedition 1927-1931, Stockholm 1997. Picture-book in English, Swedish and Greek.

Minoans and Mycenaeans in west Crete. The Greek-Swedish Excavations at Chaniá, Stockholm 2000. Swedish & English.

Crete. Myths and Food in the Minoan World, Stockholm 2004. Swedish only.

Cyprus: Love, cult and war, Lund 2011. Swedish only.

 

Also Read:

http://armidabooks.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/the-bearded-goddess/

Petra tou Romiou – Aphrodite’s Birthplace

After visiting the Baths of Aphrodite I wanted to pay a visit to the birthplace of the Goddess of Love . Where the beauteous Venus rose from amongst the surf, legend has it, was at a spot called Petra tou Romiou . This spot is to be found along the old Paphos to Limassol road, the B6. The coastline is quite spectacular on this stretch of  road and I used to enjoy driving along it. There is now a major motorway which will take you all the way from Paphos to Lefkosia and Larnaka  if you wish for speed and  it has to be said this does reduce the travel time but my, is it tedious and much of the coastal views are lost behind the safety barriers.So as I was to journey from Polis to Larnaka I chose the scenic route and I wasn’t disappointed. You have to have your wits about you though, as the signs are determined to get you onto the A1, the motorway, at every opportunity. But stick with the B6 and you’ll be rewarded with a varied and interesting , if somewhat longer drive.

The coastline where the Petra tou Romiou lies is scattered with large rocky outposts and coves there is now a tourist pavilion on the opposite side of the road where you can park and walk through a tunnel which will take you under the road and onto the beach. I was very surprised to see how busy it was, the last time I visited, many years ago, it was almost deserted.

Now it was a busy beach with bathers and sightseers alike. The really touching site, everywhere you looked, was where visitors had left their mark by placing pebbles in the shape of hearts with messages of love. This brought to mind my recent visit to Hambis o’Haractis whose latest works are screen prints on the theme of Petra tou Romiou and the goddess of LOVE with references to these tokens left by all the lovers and possibly would be lovers, who had visited the site. He has worked many variations on the theme and all are delightfully colourful using yellows, pinks, blues and greens.

Further along this road you can access Kolossi castle and ancient Kourion as well as driving through the British Sovereign base of Akrotiri.

I lost the  road  completely, unfortunately, when I reached Limassol, it seemed to disappear without a trace and I wound my way around the streets of old Limassol where there were many quite impressive old buildings to distract me,  finding my way to the seafront where I was sure I would eventually pick it up again once I had fought my way through the traffic and crowds. But by then time and energy was disappearing fast and I decided to give in and follow the A1.

Fyti Finally

Although I have known about Fyti and Fythiotika for a long time I have never visited Fyti until this week. I was keen to see Mr & Mrs Mavrellis who run the Folk museum. I had read about them and the weavers of Fyti on the Phytiotika web site and Maura McKee and Sara Dixon’s passion to get Fythkiotika weaving practised more widely again, as it’s in danger of disappearing. Traditionally the craft would be handed down from mother to daughter but now this chain is broken, as with so many other small villages, the young move away to find work elsewhere and the population is diminishing.

As I’m staying in Polis I didn’t have a very long journey to get there winding up the hillside after taking the E712 road to Simou and Lasa  turning off the main Polis road. Passing the Evretou Dam I arrived at this attractive, peaceful village with some very good traditional stone buildings some of which have been restored. One that particularly took my fancy was a large house on the edge which has impressive views of the valley below from its upper doorway. Now in a state of dilapidation and housing chickens in the lower rooms, it looks as if it was a substantial residence at one time with evidence of the stone arches that would have opened onto the courtyard and my imagination was set to work envisaging it being restored into a very fine house indeed. Although many houses are abandoned and in various stages of dereliction there has been a lot or restoration work undertaken of some of the main buildings and more still is planned and the village has a prosperous well cared feel to it, in its past  it was a centre for learning in the 19th century.

On the edge of the main square where you will find the church and the tavernas there is the Folk museum run by Mr. Mavrellis a former schoolteacher. His wife sits at the loom most days quietly weaving the traditional Fythkiotika a speciality of this village. There are many original patterns that are still copied with examples lining the walls and some of the older ones  which are very intricate and dense, taking many days to complete are no longer made.

Mrs Mavrellis at her work.P1010761

Mr Mavrellis took me round the exhibits in the museum, implements used in farming and clothing of a bygone era as well as some lovely examples of the Fythkiotika of course. Lessons are available for those wishing to take this up and plenty of space available for accommodation in the new Voufa centre in the village. Sadly this was closed when I visited.

On my wander around  the village I visited a small art workshop where I met a young British artist Gemma Plant at work making jewellery and promptly bought a very reasonably priced pair of earrings. She has lived in Cyprus for 6 years since doing a post-graduate course at the Lemba Art college.  As I was reluctantly  leaving the village I came across a large herd of sheep being herded across the road and stopped to take some photos and chat to the shepherdess, it made my day.

Kapnistiri

The kapnistiri is used in many Cypriot traditional ceremonies.

Made of silver, it has two round containers shaped like apples with the top half  hinged to open up, one for charcoal and one for olive leaves. With it is the merecha, a container in the shape of a pear for rosewater or bitter orange water. Traditionally the guests were welcomed in a Cypriot house by burning the olive leaves in the container and  passing them over the guest’s head three times and the water is sprinkled on the palms. The olive leaves have been taken to the church on Palm Sunday, blessed by the priest and collected again on Ascension day.

In a wedding ceremony the kapnistiri is used in the ceremony of dressing the bride and groom before the wedding this is a ritual that takes place  in their separate houses. Again the olive leaves are burnt and passed over the head three times. The three represents the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

Often the kapnistiri is bought for the wedding and kept on display in the couple’s home together with the stefana used in the wedding ceremony in the church. The stefana are silver garlands fashioned to represent  olive leaves, which are attached by a ribbon and passed above the heads of the bride and groom by the priest to  signify union.