Cyprus Place- Threads That Connect


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  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.

Goats and Gardenias

I’ve recently been working with a professional book designer on “Androula’s Kitchen – Cyprus on a Plate” getting it ready to self-publish as an e-book, should I be unsuccessful in finding a publisher to produce a print version. Last week the designer asked me to provide some more photos to illustrate the introduction. So it set me rummaging among my old photo albums.

It was 1965 when I made my first visit to Cyprus with my parents at the age of 17 and I took a Kodak Instamatic with me to record my holiday. The photos were all in black and white and not very high quality but just looking at the photo above is enough to evoke strong memories of that first trip to my Dad’s homeland. It was taken in my Dad’s village Yerolakkos and my Uncle and cousin are discreetly keeping to the side as I was more interested in capturing the door!

It was the month of August and the heat was intense. I can feel the heat and dust and catch the unfamiliar scents and smells of gardenias and goats every time I look at it.

I have just read and article on Armida Books in which the author is talking about a beach of her childhood that set me thinking. Whenever I visit Cyprus I am subconsciously searching for that Cyprus of 1965 that  I hold in my memory, I will never be able to visit that place again as that way of life is long gone. Yerolakkos is now in the Turkish sector and very different apparently. I don’t even know if my relatives’ houses are still standing and I have no inclination to find out. why would I – when they are forever encapsulated in my memory?

The photographs act like a pebble thrown into the pool of my mind and the memories ripple out. The Cyprus of today is very familiar and yet there is something I feel I am missing, like a glimpse of an image in the corner of your eye and yet when you turn your head to look – it has gone!

The place might be different but the smells are just the same, all I have to do is close my eyes and breathe deeply. There are the goats, the souvlakia and the gardenias just as I remember them.

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.


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Turkish Delight at the Med Fest

At the weekend I went to join in the fun that was Med Fest  at West Dean. It was the first time for this event and is a celebration of all that is Mediterranean. There was a lot of food of course and music. West Dean is very local to me and is shorthand for West Dean College and Gardens. A large Edwardian mansion converted into a college which runs not only foundation courses in restoration and tapestry but many short courses on all manner of arts and crafts in a beautiful setting nestling in the South Downs.

Med Fest was held in the grounds and in between the many delightful cookery demonstrations, there was a demonstration on how to make Turkish Delight. Who would have thought? The herbalist Steve Taylor, who gave the demonstration brought along a typical copper distiller which is used throughout homes in the Middle East  to extract oils and essences from all manner of herbs and flowers by passing steam through them. So the steam teases out from the rose petals  their essence miraculously and  carries it  through the droplets to end up as rosewater or orange blossom into orange water etc.etc.

He then produced some rosewater which was made earlier and gave us all a treat by spraying the cooling & calming liquid amongst the crowd. We all swooned…of course.

One of the many Greek myths around the creation of roses, Steve told us, is that Aphrodite or Venus, wept over the wounds her lover Adonis suffered and her tears mingled with his blood and created the red rose. This is where the connection between red roses and love stems, if you’ll excuse the pun. The best roses grow in high altitudes he told us, and the mountainous regions of Troodos area in Cyprus for example do indeed,  yield very good roses. What has all this to do with Turkish Delight you might ask?  well this little morsel of delight is made up simply by mixing a sugar syrup together with cornflour and water and adding rosewater. The little cubes of this refreshing sweet,  which we were offered to us at the end of the demo.  known in Cyprus as loukoumia, were the lightest and most delicious morsels I have ever tasted. These can often be offered at the end of a meal with coffee, the stickiness lines the oesophagus and the rosewater calms and soothes to aid digestion.

Now, when I get that sugar thermometer, I’m going to try making some of my own delight right here in my English kitchen.

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.


Doors of Character

Here are just a few lovely old doorways in Cyprus. There are so many different types you could make a photo book on them. Maybe my next project.