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!!!

 

Furry Fun Photos

Continuing the animal theme from the last post I’ve posted a few photos taken on a meandering morning around Paphos with friends. As I mentioned I was taking part in  photomarathon the first of its kind to take place, organised by the Cyprus Photographic Society and with an eye on 2017 when Paphos is to be the city of culture. It started at the old electric powerhouse Pallia Ilectriki which has been beautifully converted into a cultural centre with requisite restaurant attached. There was a good number of people taking part not just locally but a whole contingent from Limassol photographic club came. We were given four themes and we could go anywhere in Paphos district to take photos. The themes were Water, People at work, Illusion and Encounter which gives you a pretty wide scope. We didn’t venture very far as it turns out and wandered around an area, I would say of about a quarter of a mile square  which proved a rich vein of subject matter from which to gather some gems. There were certainly plenty of people at work as this quarter contains the old workshops of the town. There was also a fantastic fresh fish shop with a huge array of unusual fish with wonderful names like , scorpion fish and swallow fish, pity I wasn’t going straight home because I would have loved to have bought some. I did fulfil my desire to consume something fishy later however as  I eat some delicious fish soup at the restaurant at Pallia Ilectiki. We seemed to spend quite a time in the fish shop, one of my  companions who is a professional photographer and has a serious camera wanted to get the perfect shot but eventually we made our way down the street.  Looking for some water we spotted a bucket which contained some and then noticed bales of grass outside the shop. Venturing in and asking what the shop was about we discovered a whole plethera of furry friends. There was a hare, baby turkeys,chicks and pigeons all in large boxes and cages ready to sell on. This was indeed a strange encounter. Just on the other side of the street was a small bar out of which came a man with a couple of dishes of mahalepi. This is a real treat in the heat made with rosewater and cornflour it is very refreshing, I don’t know where he was taking them but he disappeared around the corner. Next door to the bar was a small workshop with a whole stack of new chairs, traditional ‘karekles, ready to be have their seats rushed, the rushes sitting in the top half of the shop. The shop was unoccupied when we first spotted it but soon a man appeared and welcomed us and showed us how he makes the wooden spindles onto which the rush is woven.It turns out he had been doing this job for 60years and in that very shop for 50, it didn’t look like he was ready to retire any time soon either by the stack of chairs there.

We remarked at the end of the day how friendly and welcoming all the people we met were and so accepting of us taking endless photos. We all had name tags and the area had been full of photographers that day so by the time the morning was finished everyone was very laid back about it. It was a real slice of Cyprus at its best

Food Glorious Food

Here are a few of my favourite photos of food taken in Cyprus on my travels.

This was a fantastic dish of kleftico my aunt Eugenia made for us at Spitiko tou Archonta. So simple, lamb and potatoes with a few bay leaves, salt and pepper, sealed in a pot and cooked for several hours. Absolutely delish.

This is a plate of yemista or stuffed vegetables that I had started to tuck into at Scorpios’ restaurant in Paphos. A very traditional dish using a stuffing mixture of rice, meat with onions and tomatoes to stuff baby aubergines , courgettes and peppers. Truly tasty.

This is an Androula salad. Very simple with avocado tomatoes, spring onions, lettuce and cucumber dressed with oil and lemon. A great  cooling accompaniment  to those rich dishes.

Kalin Orexi…enjoy.

Lemba – Ancient and Modern

I wanted to re – visit George Georgiades at Lemba Pottery when I visited Cyprus again in September so that I could buy some of the small bowls that he makes, crafting them with such a pleasing curve to their shape.

I found him at his wheel and busy at his craft.  I was lucky that he had made two extra bowls for an order and these I purchased from him along with a mug coloured with a band of verdigris green and I left with the thought that next time I will send a commission ahead, before leaving the UK, in order to buy a set of these useful little bowls coloured in the hues of the sea and sky which are so often represented on George’s pottery. These I am sure would bring a zing into the dull days of winter at home whenever I looked at them and remind me of that deep blue sky and sea that I love so much to look at when I am in Polis or Paphos.

On my road out of  Lemba, heading towards the sea, I saw on the outskirts, a small sign pointing the way to a prehistoric Experimental Village  being curious I followed the dirt road and saw to my delight a re-creation of several round- houses painted in an exuberant geometric pattern in earth red on an archaeological site.

There is free access to view this cluster of houses with but a brief description of what they are and why they are here.  The village of Lemba has been, since 1976, a site of archaeological interest and ongoing research by the University of Edinburgh, being one of the most ancient in Cyprus. This reconstruction made in 1982, is a representation of a Chalcolithic (3800-2500BC) village and has been used to carry out a number of prehistoric activities including the making and firing of pottery as well as the use of building materials. I took great pleasure in looking at the results in the form of one of the larger houses and viewing the

spacious interior with its funky decoration and attractive construction techniques. I don’t know how authentic the painted design was but it certainly looked striking.

It was a very hot day and the hottest part of the day and I longed for a cool spot to pass away some time and rest. Outside the enclosure, a track with a row of shady pine trees offered a welcome spot to park the car and taking out my beach mat to place it under one of the trees I  sat resting my back against its trunk.The area was deserted of people and very peaceful. The air was cool here and the scent of the pine tree made it even more refreshing and as I gazed over the horizon I was content. I had seen in the space of a few hours two different parts of Lemba separated by thousands of years and yet I felt, there probably was not a lot of difference between George practising his pottery a few yards down the road and the potter who would have performed very similar skills so many millennia before him. 

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.

The Akamas – Aphrodite’s garden

Yesterday late afternoon I made a trip to Aphrodite‘s Baths up on the edge of the Akamas. It has cooled down enough now a pleasant 26 -28 degrees and  in the late afternoon there was a pleasant breeze, a perfect time to make a pilgrimage to this beautiful spot.

Cyprus is the island of Aphrodite who, legend has it rose out of the sea foam at the rock that is called Petra tou Romiou found between Paphos and Limassol. On the edge of the wilderness that is the Akamas there is a cave with a crystal clear water pool that is said to be where she bathed. Taking the road from Latchi you wind a round the coastal road with ever-changing views of the coast on your right until you come to the very edge of the Akamas.

It is some years since I have visited and the area has recently been landscaped in a very attractive way with local stone paved paths and a botanical garden laid out in its early stages.  The paths wind around up and down taking you past many indigenous bushes trees and shrubs, some have been newly planted and others have been here for many years: carob, terebinth, laurel, oleander, thyme and of course olive are just a few. The scent of the air is so good that I wished I could bottle it. There are also very tall eucalyptus trees which

must add to this heady, fragrant aroma. The Eucalyptus is not indigenous however, as it was introduced during the British rule to try to counteract the swampy areas and so reduce the mosquito population.

As I made my way down the steps to this shady, cool and tranquil grotto I heard the water trickling down into the pool. The area is completely secluded with olive, fig, eucalyptus and numerous other bushes and trees growing all around and above . The crystal clear  water in the pool is very cool I stood my foot in one of the gullies flowing from the pool and felt the tingling effects of this refreshing coolness for quite some time afterwards. Nowadays people are requested not to swim or paddle in the pool but when I first visited this was the norm. Health and safety is everywhere these days. There is close at hand however, a small rivulet running down a rock into a natural stone basin, where you can wash your hands and cool your face. From here there is the start of a nature trail that will take you on the Akamas.

Wandering back up the steps I came across a magnificent gecko who scurried away into the undergrowth before I could snap it but the young one remained quite still for some moments allowing me a shot.

I made my way around onto a high area with spectacular views over the coast and lingered for a while at this peaceful spot before making my way back as dusk was beginning to fall. Farewell until next time.

A Walk on the Wild Side


My friend Karen and I go walking together when we can, not long walks, enough to have a good stretch and get some welcome fresh air.  We live in a beautiful part of the world and  try to choose a different area  each time we trot off. We  are very fortunate to have such a variety of landscape to choose from, it varies from open fields to seashore, heavily wooded areas to hills with beautiful vistas. We have had some lovely ambles through our green and pleasant land and we thank our lucky stars every time for our beautiful surroundings.

It doesn’t matter too much if it’s raining as we try to choose a sheltered spot if we know it’s likely so we can run for cover under a convenient tree. Last week I fancied a spot of sea air and we drove down to Itchenor to park and walk along the coastal footpath towards East Head which is a well-known beauty spot. The weather did look a bit threatening but with typical  true British grit we risked it. The walk was beautiful and in many parts it looked reminiscent of the continental coast with trees bent against the wind on the foreshore.  But it was a tad windy and then came the rain. Luckily we had turned back before the heavens opened so we didn’t have too far to walk and it certainly put a spring in our step so that we arrived back in double-quick time.

This picture is on the fabulous coastline of northwesterly Cyprus but I have to say, apart from the lack of sunshine our coastal walk did look remarkably similar, only we had Hayling Island on the distant horizon.  Near where my cousin Androula lives in Treis Elies in the Troodos Mountains, there is a long nature trail that takes you through some fantastic countryside and part of the trail passes her village  taking you through a beautiful shady glade by the river. This is different again as it is so densely woody with some marvellous views down the steep bank to the rocky river bed below. You pass over an ancient Venetian bridge built-in the time of the Venetian rule of Cyprus for the pack animals taking copper from the mines. Well worth making time for if you like walking and are in the area.

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!