This week I was lucky enough to receive my copy of ‘Treis Elies A journey in Spring’ by Ethan Hubbard. Ethan Hubbard who lives in Vermont is a writer and photographer who for more than thirty years has been visiting remote parts of the world to observe the daily lives of indigenous people. By observing the inhabitants as they go about their daily lives , he learns about himself. The subject of his thirteenth and latest book is Treis Elies where he arrived during his search for “European peasants” whose way of life would not have changed much for centuries. He wasn’t hopeful, after travelling all over Northern Cyprus and then exploring Troodos he feared there would be no vestige of such a life left in existence until he happened upon this remote village tucked up in the West corner of Troodos.
As I started to read about the various villagers he meets and over his many weeks stay gets to know as friends, I realised that a third of these people no longer live in the village, as the numbers have decreased from nearly 60 souls to just over twenty. It is a community of old people on the whole, although many visitors come at weekends to visit their family homes and since Androula has been living there, renovating them.
I live in a village in West Sussex and by contrast, today I have just attended a meeting about the future of our village. The concerns here are that due to government directives our village could double in size in a few years as there is a plan to build 1,000 more homes here. This will put an enormous strain on our infrastructure and is in danger of swallowing up surrounding fields and green spaces leaving us with an urban jungle. The Parish council is being pro-active by getting the community involved in developing a plan whereby we lay out what shape we want the village to be, what facilities we believe we need to have in place for the village to work as a community, making it a desirable place to live not just a jumble of houses plopped down in various pockets of land with no overall consideration as to how it all works or looks. We at the moment have two food shops a church and a petrol station together with a health centre, village hall and a school. This plan, If put together correctly and goes through the correct channels and is approved could turn out to be a blueprint for further development and showing that the community is behind it.
It is a sad state of affairs that so many remote mountain villages are gradually shrinking to virtual non-existence and one the Cypriot government has tried to address by getting regeneration schemes off the ground. Who knows what the future may hold for this particular community, what I find extraordinary is that this tiny village has inspired not only two people to write about it but many more to visit through Androula’s efforts to promote the attractions that can be found in this beautiful and tranquil spot.http://www.spitiko3elies.com/
Reading Ethan’s book prompted me to re-visit my photos of Treis Elies and I have posted a small selection above. I hope you enjoy them.
Here is a bit of information about the history of the village. http://www.thevillagexpress.com/cyprusvillage/profile/253
Tomorrow 10th August sees a special event in Treis Elies. For those of you who are not familiar with Treis Elies it is where it all started for ‘Androula’s Kitchen” indeed it started in Androula’s kitchen if that’s not too confusing! Androula Christou is a cousin of mine, she lives in To Spitiko tou Archonta; translated it means “the house of the gentleman”; now run as a guest house it sits on the higher levels of this small remote village in the Troodos mountains. I first visited in late 2009 and it was this visit that inspired me to write the book. Androula had lived most of her life in the city but after a series of synchronicities led her to Treis Elies she immediately felt this was where she wanted to be, she craved the cooler air as the heat had always disagreed with her. After the renovations had been completed she was thrilled to finally be living there.
The original part of the house where Androula lives has a timeless feeling of authenticity, eclectically furnished with both contemporary and antique it exudes a feeling of solidity and calm. One of the previous tenants had been a healer and it is interesting that Androula too has these qualities; she gathers herbs to make various teas to suit how she feels and uses essential oils to combat ailments. In a 21st century world she continues to live in many ways as villagers have always lived. All the villagers own a plot of land on the edge of the village which is used to grow vegetables and fruit which is abundant in this area, yielding walnuts, cherries, strawberries and oranges to name a few. Androula is a one woman band so she spreads herself thin on many occasions when too many things demand her attention.
The Guest house over the years has attracted a varied and interesting selection of guests from all over the world, indeed when I stayed there last, a Japanese couple had booked for a couple of nights. In 2007 one of Androula’s early guests was an American author and photographer Ethan Hubbard, he was quite unusual in as much as he stayed for several months at a time as he was studying the inhabitants of Treis Elies for a book. Ethan had already spent thirty years travelling to more than 40 countries to study indigenous peoples in remote communities, when he finally landed in Treis Elies. How he chose this destination I’m uncertain but the resulting book is the reason for the special event taking place tomorrow. Ethan Hubbard studied how the villagers spent their time and lived, taking photographs and writing in lyrical prose descriptions of the minutiae of daily village life. The resulting book is beautiful with evocative black and white photos and a joy to those who view it, it has been translated into Greek for this first edition. A special presentation of the book is to be held at 7.15pm at the school at Treis Elies after which there will be a theatrical performance and all are invited to share in this unique occasion. I wish I could be there but alas I’m unable
On reflection, there must be something quite special about this slowly dwindling village to have inspired two people to write books about it, maybe it is the fact that it is so tucked away and in the midst of such lush surroundings. Many of these villages flourished when the islanders fled the coast and the marauding Turks in the Middle ages, you could survive undetected by casual traveller up in the windy looming mountains of Troodos.
Ethan Hubbard’s book is called A journey in Spring.