Everything’s Coming up Roses

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I have been feeling a bit “under the weather” as we say here in the UK, since my return from Cyprus. It started with a sudden outbreak of cold sore eruptions ( herpes simplex) on my face starting with a mild cold but exacerbated by being exposed for several hours in the sun without shade, I suspect. Not in Cyprus but in sunny Sussex as our choir was rehearsing and then performing a concert in the middle of a field. The field was adjacent to a college so not in the middle of nowhere, just no trees. It was quite an experience as we were one of several choirs, many of them from local schools with a couple of adult choirs plus a few professional singers and a fabulous band, 500 plus people altogether. The outbreak on my face, mostly under and around my nose as well as around and on my eyelids, was very sore, my eyes itched and stung. I was wondering what I could apply that would be soothing as well as healing. I thought of Aloe Vera gel but that wouldn’t work for my eyes, maybe cucumber? Then I remembered a bottle of rosewater in my cupboard that my cousin Androula had distilled herself from her own roses in Treis Elies.

Roses are magical, the divine scent and delicate beauty have inspired poets uplifting the spirits and dazzling the senses, the heady perfume encapsulated as a perfume for eons. Roses have been used for centuries by women as a beauty treatment for the skin, rosewater is a fabulous face cleanser, cleansing the skin deeply. Rose petals sprinkled in the bath are the ultimate decadence or scattered on the bed and floor to give the ambiance of romance. But there is more to roses than just a pretty face, they have hidden depths and within those petals lie seriously effective healing properties which throughout history have been tried and tested  but now have also been scientifically proven. They are antiviral, antibacterial, antidepressant and anti-inflammatory among other things. These were the properties that I accidentally stumbled upon. I was looking for something pure and soothing which it blissfully was with the added bonus of also being curative. With the help of the rosewater my eyes were soothed and my face healed without scars, just inhaling the perfume lifted my spirits.

I wanted to boost my immune system as I felt the outbreak had sapped my strength a little so I then turned to another Cypriot prize product namely carob syrup. On my recent trip I bought a very good quality carob syrup in Omodos which has a wonderfully rich liquorice flavour that I love . This also doesn’t just taste great but is rich in calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium and phosphorus, as well as this I also started taking Sambucol which is an elderberry syrup, very rich in vitamin C with added zinc. So altogether I now smell divine and taste very fruity…….

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Treis Elies Re-visited

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

 

A Glimpse of the Past

Sugar cane worker in the rich field, vicinity ...

Sugar cane worker in the rich field, vicinity of Guanica, Puerto Rico (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

As I mentioned in my previous post Let’s talk Food I will be doing a talk/cookery demonstration  in February, my thoughts have now moved on apace and I’ve started to write down my main points of discussion. To give the participants a snippet of insight into what has influenced Cypriot food and culture to become what it is today we need to view the constant traffic of visitors over time and the fact that Cyprus has been constantly occupied by invaders throughout history up until very recently when in 1960 they gained independence.

Cyprus was  rich in natural resources, the richest was copper. The word for copper in Greek is Kupros and either the island was named  this because of the copper or the name of the island came to mean copper because of the abundance of the stuff in ancient times. In the Roman period Cyprus was the main source of copper  in the world. This is a little snippet I’ve learnt in my research for information to embellish my talk. Another fascinating snippette is that sugar was being produced on Cyprus from the 10th century.Quite remarkable really. The Arabs introduced sugar production techniques and set up sugar mills and refineries across the Levant. Sugar was an amazingly valuable resource worth more than its weight in gold. Sugar production ‘though was very labour intensive and needed a lot of irrigation and when the Venetians arrived in the mid 1400’s they decided to switch production to cotton which was just as lucrative and much less costly to produce.

From these exploits you can see that on Cyprus it was possible to cultivate most things due to its temperate climate and fertile soil.You would think with all these rich resources Cyprus would be a wealthy country but sadly the indigenous people did not enjoy any of the profits as they were no more than serfs or slaves paying heavy taxes and dues to the rulers.

When my aunt Eugenia came up to Treis Elies to share her recipes with us she made us many forms of pasta. These have been part of the traditional diet for centuries and I puzzled at this. When delving into the origins of pasta however there is no clear way of knowing where exactly it started. There is evidence now that it could have originated in ancient Greece. So either they could have brought it to Cyprus or much later the Venetians. Wherever the tradition originated  pasta in its various forms was eaten frequently:- macaronia, ravioles, trin, phides, tomachia, koulourouthkia all are made from pasta.

Well more next time now I’m on the research trail.

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up_around_copper_harbor_07_m1_screen (Photo credit: pntphoto)

Nature Trail from Treis Elies

Don’t forget you can order your copy of ‘Androula’s Kitchen- Cyprus on a Plate’ on this site at a very special price just click on the Home Page and follow the links. Why not buy it for a friend for Christmas? Read the reviews by clicking on the menu bar.

As readers of this blog will know my inspiration for the book Androula’s Kitchen, came after a visit to my cousin who lives in Treis Elies at To Spitiko tou Archonta http://www.spitiko3elies.com/ which she runs as a guest Lodge. Just on the edge of the village is the start of a lovely nature trail  which I have explored on a few occasions but only for a couple of miles. This is where you can access  the E4 nature trail which is a mammoth path that ends in Cyprus stretching across Europe and starting in Spain. Starting from Treis Elies it is possible to walk a large part of this trail passing through some of the most beautiful mountains and valleys that Cyprus has to offer. Outside of the village the Venetian Bridges trail can also be accessed.

I have not had the time to explore any of these walks fully but touched on a few parts here and there. The scenery is magical and if you enjoy walking in amongst shady wooded areas with frequent encounters with tinkling water running over rocks this is for you. The geology of Cyprus is unique and which many geologist come to study. A large part of Troodos is made of opheolite http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geology_of_Cyprus and dates back to a mind boggling 90 million years where it was formed in the ocean bed and literally was pushed up out of the ocean fully formed, by the colliding of the various tectonic plates,exactly like Aphrodite is said to have risen from the foam.

There are many nature trails that can be walked in Cyprus varying in length and difficulty a leaflet is available at the Tourist Information offices with all the  details.If you prefer you can also go on guided walks. Try Cyprus Walking Friends on Facebook. In October onwards  towards Spring this is a fabulous way of seeing the extremely varied flora and fauna which is prolific ,some of it unique to Cyprus.

On my last visit to Cyprus in April I attempted to video a short part of this walk to give an idea of its beauty. Please excuse the shakiness of it as it’s my first attempt at walking and filming at the same time.

Don’t forget you can order your copy of ‘Androula’s Kitchen- Cyprus on a Plate’ on this site at a very special price just click on the Home Page and follow the links. Why not buy it for a friend for Christmas? Read the reviews by clicking on the menu bar.

Food Glorious Food – it’s all in “Androula’s Kitchen”

Following my last post of pictures of lovely food, my cousin asked me if I cooked any of the dishes and my reply was of course- I have been working my way through the recipes I collected for my book “Androula’s Kitchen” . I posted on July 27th the recipe for koupebia, – stuffed vine leaves, at a time when I was picking fresh vine leaves from my garden and using some fresh and freezing some for later use in the winter months, when fresh ones would not be available.

Good meat is essential in all the recipes to get the full flavour experience and I am very lucky to live near an organic farm that has exceptionally tasty lamb which I use minced for the koupebia and yesterday for moussaka.

In Cyprus all the meat has a wonderful flavour and I guess this must be in part due to the wild herbs and grasses on which the animals graze, as honey tastes differently depending from where the bees collect the pollen.

Even chicken eaten in Cyprus has a  beautifully full flavour. Is this maybe because the chickens are all free range?  I have no evidence of this at the moment, or maybe the chicken is a little more mature before killing and cooking it which will give the meat a fuller flavour.

The chickens we have in our local community garden, are two years old and as their egg laying value  is dwindling, discussions have taken place about them possibly getting the chop to make way for a fresh lot in the spring who will hopefully lay plenty of eggs for us. Once it has been decided who will do the deed, I only know it won’t be me, the meat will be put to good use in a tasty chicken dish which we will enjoy at our Christmas get-to-gether. So I will be interested to see what kind of flavour Tangmere chicken has. For the past month they have been pecking away in the strawberry bed, clearing away all the weeds. But will this mean they’ll taste of strawberry? What an extraordinary idea.

Ahh! food glorious food.

The modern Cypriot wedding

As I mentioned before, one of the main reasons for my visit to Cyprus is to attend my relative’s wedding which took place in a very hot, humid Lefkosia on Saturday.

My cousin and friend  and I set off from a very pleasant 26 degrees in Treis Elies at 2pm to make our way down the winding roads to Lefkosia. First stop was the bride’s house, where the dressing of the bride was taking place. The house was crowded with relatives and friends as well as the wedding photographers and their lights making it even hotter in spite of  the air conditioning being was on. The bride looked very beautiful with her bridesmaids; all dressed in simple white long dresses and red sashes, with garlands of red roses around their heads, carrying little baskets of rose petals. Here we witnessed the ceremony, with musical accompaniment provided by a couple of young female musicians playing a fiddle and a bouzouki. The ceremony involved each of the close friends and relatives taking a red scarf and passing it around the bride three times and kissing her and then passing the kapnistiri  over her head. A very emotional event for the bride’s parents and brother. The bride’s father bursting with pride and the mother and brother wiping a tear from their eyes. A buffet, of course, was provided with little delicacies of pastries and sweets as well as some delicious figs brought down from the bride’s father’s garden. Small gifts were handed out as well as sugared almonds.

We then all made our way to the church, a short drive away with car horns blaring to announce her arrival. At the church the musicians led the bride and her parents to the church; a modern equivalent of the village wedding where the musicians and the whole village accompanied the bride and groom to the ceremony .

The groom was waiting to meet her with all the guests outside on the steps and a huge smile full of warmth, spread across his face as she approached, he was so pleased to see her.

Inside the church were all the guests and I met relatives I hadn’t seen for many years. The ceremony full of symbolism involving the Service of Betrothal and the Ceremony of the Sacrament of Marriage lasted an hour with the exchange of rings . Towards the end the stefana, two white garlands attached by a ribbon and blessed by the priest, are passed over the bride and groom’s heads three times by the priest and they circle around the altar again three times, led by the priest. The three represents the Holy Trinity.

We all congregated outside the church where rose petals and crackers were thrown and a mingling of guests exchanged greetings. The  girls all lined up ready to catch the bouquet as it was thrown and caught by a small girl. The next step was the reception at a venue in Lefkosia which would last two hours after which a dinner was attended by a number of guests. My cousin Androula and I were invited to visit another relatives house to refresh ourselves and relax for a while after the ceremony and to wait for the crush at the reception to die down.

Not all the guests attend every part of the wedding and a lot just go to the reception where the bride and groom stand on a dais or raised platform at the end of the room and guests line up to congratulate and greet them and give them their gift of money in an envelope, which are placed in a box behind them. Altogether 4,000 guests were invited. Around the room were a couple of bars where drinks could be ordered and more food  was available but this was informal so people mingled and chatted to old friends. Then a selected number of guests went upstairs to a more formal setting with large tables and  as instructed, each table then went to help ourselves to more food. Then the dancing commenced. the women joining in a large circle to dance the traditional dances. Dancing goes on well into the early hours but I had to take my leave about midnight to drive back to Larnaca.

A lovely day and I will remember it often, I was so pleased to be able to attend.

Hambis o’ Haractis

I have been in Cyprus a week now and it has been a very busy time indeed as well as very hot and humid. It is a tad too hot for me and I don’t do as well as I used to in the heat and humidity but it is a few degrees cooler here down in Polis where I have come for some rest and relaxation. I have been to Larnaca, Nicosia and  Treis Elies, in the Troodos mountains, there it is the  most comfortable temperatures for me, where it is at least  ten degrees cooler than anywhere else.

Yesterday I was very fortunate to meet Hambis o’ Haractis the engraver-printmaker or to give him his proper name Hambis Tsangaris. My first introduction to his work was when on visiting a house with my sister-in-law Angela I saw a print of his on the wall which I thought was very beautiful and asked the owner who the artists was. She kindly wrote down his name and village for me and when I visited my cousin Androula later I asked her if she knew of him. Not only did she know of him she knew him very well and even had a collection of his prints which he had given her some years earlier. There was no time to organise a visit at that time but this visit Androula very kindly made arrangements for me to meet him at his house. So on my way from Larnaca to Polis I met her just after Limassol where she directed me to Platanisteia. Here we were welcomed into a beautifully relaxing garden on several levels with paving made from the local stone throughout and shade provided by lemon and pomegranate trees and a pergola covered in  gently perfumed jasmine shaded us while we chatted. Hambis comes from the Famagusta area and is a refugee after the Turkish invasion and now rents a house that is in an area that was exclusively Turkish before the invasion.

Hambis graciously welcomed us and showed us around the complex of buildings that house a museum of prints of all kinds through the ages, his own and other printmakers from around the world as well as the tools used. There is also a workshop of course and every year in August he holds a summer school for whoever wants to come and learn printmaking. He teaches the students free of charge in memory of his  Greek teacher and master printer A. Tassos.

Hambis started with wood cuts but he now prefers to do screenprints but has practised many forms of printmaking including lino cut, etching and lithograph. After his studies with Tassos in Greece he went to  The Sourikov  Institute in Moscow for six years to study Graphic Art with a special interest in printmaking. On his return to Cyprus he taught Graphic Art for many years until 2008. His works include many styles and subjects, including  illustrations of Cypriot life and folk traditions as well as the struggles of the people. He has exhibited in solo exhibitions around the world and produced several illustrated books one of which I am lucky enough to now own with many delightful images of goblins, it tells the folkloric tales of these little devils and their mischief-making.

 I really enjoyed my visit to meet this most interesting and gentle artist and learn of his work. Printmaking is not a common art form in Cyprus but with the help of Hambis’ summer school, young Cypriot artists are becoming acquainted with it and recently a link has been formed with the Larnaca School of Art to enable their students to have instruction in printmaking.

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.