Words and Pictures

It seems like ages ago but it was only last Friday 29th May that I gave my talk at Droushia Heights hotel about the making and publishing of Androula’s Kitchen – Cyprus on a Plate.. To say I was nervous would be an understatement but in fact I was very happy with the presentation once it was over and felt a great relief that it was no longer hanging over me. Like all these things it may seem very simple, the talk only lasted 45 minutes but it took several hours of preparation. There were 475 photos being played on the screen as I delivered my five and half thousand word talk, thereabouts. Another experience under my belt.

We had another holiday here in Cyprus this last weekend as well, it was Kataklysmos. Now this has several  connections. Like many religious festivals it is tacked onto an existing celebration that dates way back in the mists of time. In the Orthodox calendar it marks 50 days after Easter as well as marking the time of the Great Food in the Bible. So this day is celebrated by all things water related; going to the beach and possibly taking your picnic,swimming or generally playing games with water and this includes for children of course, water pistols. But this festival also relates way back to the celebration of Venus who it was said rose from the foam at Petra Tou Romiou near Limassol, the worship of Aphrodite on Cyprus was  a major cult and was an important centre with many large temples dedicated to her. Whatever the origins everyone embraces the holiday and it certainly was a very busy time around the area where I am staying which is close to the sea and saw a large influx of families and  people taking advantage of the long weekend. I myself enjoyed a very relaxing time with family and of course this involved a lot of eating as with all holidays here but definitely no water pistols!!!

This week I am doing an intensive photography course with Andrea Christofi a professional photographer who lives close by. We are covering all the basics of photography taking me back to the days when I used an analogue camera, we are learning how to get the most out of our digital cameras using many of the same techniques plus the advantages of a digital camera. The digital camera makes it very easy to be lazy and just use the auto setting which generally produces a good photo but you can get so much more out of your camera if you take a bit of trouble to use the many other options available which can help you produce more interesting photos as well as getting some more fun out of photography. Andrea also has a regular photography session with a small group of people every Wednesday when they venture out and about taking photos with a specific theme and then later looking at the pictures they have taken and discussing them. This Wednesday we went to an abandoned village nearby called Theletra. This has some lovely old houses now sadly in ruins except for one or two that have recently been renovated and lived in. The village was abandoned after an earthquake when there was a lot of movement of the surrounding rock face creating a very unstable environment. The residents moved up to the top of the hill where there is now a relatively modern village although the church in the old part has now been restored and is in use. Some of the houses still contain clothing and the whole place has quite an eerie feel to it with some great photo opportunities. I can’t wait to go back though and use some of my new learned techniques and compare the photos.

Last week we went down to the beach and played around with using a large aperture and slow shutter speed to get some interesting effects when shaking the camera about. I am now finding out the limitations of my ‘bridge’ camera compared to a proper SLR. The other participants all have much more sophisticated and in there read ‘expensive’ equipment, with extra lenses, tripods and so on so were able to get some extraordinary results that were works of art in themselves. They also were able to produce a double exposure effect which is taking two different photos on one picture so that one image is superimposed onto another, which I didn’t think was possible with digital cameras. In the days of manual or analogue cameras this was all too possible and could cause some interesting results – usually by accident.Tomorrow is our last morning and we are putting it all into practice and playing about with composition which should be fun.

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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.