I Missed It!

This weekend has been a holiday time in Cyprus. The Saturday and Sunday saw many carnivals taking place around the country the biggest being in Limassol. For various reasons I sadly missed this gaiety and a great photo opportunity if ever there was one. Instead I was enjoying a glorious day and a seafood lunch at Latchi, I even wore my sunglasses for the first time but from what I hear a good time was had by all…. even me. On the Monday generally all Cypriots gather with their families and celebrate Green (or Clean) Monday the beginning of Lent. This is marked by eating a meal based on vegetables, salad and shellfish or octopus. Often picnics are taken out to the countryside on the Monday and kites are flown. I was greatly looking forward to seeing this but sadly the weather was very wet and cold, unusually so for this time of year and most were staying indoors in the warm. I saw one brave sole trying to fly his kite in very poor conditions but bravo for the spirit of the thing..

Today I have been helping my good friend Elena of Orexi fame in her kitchen bottling up some of her delicious preserves in readiness for the monthly event of The Farmers market at the herb garden at Pano Akourdalia which should be very busy as it usually is and a great social gathering in a beautiful spot. On my way home from a productive morning I decided to travel a different route taking the long way round and went through Kato Arodhes an adjacent village to the one  in which I am staying in so doing I passed some amazing scenery looking down to the sea with lush green everywhere. I thought I’d share the pictures.

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Treis Elies Re-visited Part 2

 

I am continuing to  read Ethan Hubbard’s book “Trei Elies – A journey in Spring” and learning about the inhabitants’ daily lives. When walking around this quiet village with its ageing and fast disappearing occupants, it is easy to fall into a false sense of an idyllic life that one would lead if living here. How tranquil it seems, how wonderful to have such magnificent countryside on your doorstep with the ability to grow all your own food in this verdant and fertile garden. The reality for these villagers of course has been very different. It has been one of struggle and hardship inevitably. Day to day living took effort and stamina. There have been times of great deprivation in the earlier years of poverty. Roads were rough tracks from villages this remote, donkeys and your own two feet were the mode of transport. I can remember in the early 1970’s many of the side roads were still rough tracks very unlike today where all but a handful of very minor roads are beautifully surfaced in tarmac making driving a lot easier.

Food was grown or foraged from the countryside and houses were mainly just basic rustic dwellings no fancy kitchens and bathrooms. But the conditions produced a tough breed and even in their eighties the old women of the village go down to their gardens to weed and hoe and plant tomatoes. This of course at least keeps them active and in the fresh air rather than stuck in a stuffy room watching daytime telly!!!! The surrounding gardens provide cherries, almonds, walnuts, strawberries, there is certainly no shortage of these things.

The village today is well-connected with the good roads and four-wheel drive trucks have no trouble navigating side tracks even when heavy snow arrives. Now with modern technology nowhere is completely cut off and communication is possible from the remote corners of the world. All manner of new ways of living in these villages could be possible for a younger generation should they wish to explore an existence closer to nature. Nowhere stays the same forever and change is inevitable.

I am a great believer in remembering the past as it helps us navigate the future but we cannot keep the past preserved in aspic, life must evolve.

To buy a copy of Ethan Hubbard’s ‘A journey in Spring’ contact Androula Christou on (00)357 99527117.

Bring me Sunshine

Bring me Sunshine

Weather is on my mind at the moment as I think I’m suffering from the lack of sunlight here in the UK.

This is a problem they don’t have in Cyprus in fact they have the opposite. In the summer months, July ,August & September, the temperature soars and can vary, depending on where you are, inland or coastline, between low thirties to well into the forties in Lefkosia. In the Troodos mountains of course it is a more bearable temperature and this is where I would flee to in the summer, if I had to live in Cyprus all year round.

Here in the UK, back to reality, I like my summer to be summer with a good temperature of at least mid twenties and above. We, sadly, have had miserable temperatures this year so far on average in the mid teens if we are lucky and a very poor showing of sunshine. If it goes on like this, we will reach winter without having topped up on our much needed energy boost.

It is a proven fact that lack of sunlight affects our mood and our bodily health as it provides us with vitamin D. Many foreigners who come to live in the UK from extremely hot countries, suffer from the lack of vitamin D and have to supplement their diet to counteract this. We natives just get grumpy!

I, of course am tempting fate by writing this. It was only a few months ago that we had talk of a drought. There had been a series of very dry winters with less than average rainfall leaving our rivers and reservoirs bereft of the normal levels of water. There was talk of hose-pipe bans and the possibility that our households would be cut off from water entirely and stand pipes being erected in our streets. The result? Well we have been deluged with rain ever since and widespread flooding has occurred. The water levels surprise, surprise are now back to normal, but rather puzzlingly, we are still on drought alert!!!!!

I wonder if this little blog will have the same effect on the sun? Apparently the reason we are experiencing this rather unseasonal weather is due to the jet stream being stuck much further South than is normal, get on up here JS and behave!!

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The Venetian Bridges of Troodos Cyprus

The first part of my stay in Cyprus was with my cousin Androula in Treis Elies at her lodge Spitiko tou Archonta.  Her daughter had come over from the UK where she now lives, together with her boyfriend and his mother for the family wedding of a cousin. Androula had organised various outings and one of them was a safari trip to visit three of the remaining Venetian bridges, there is also another Venetian Bridge on the edge of Treis Elies at the start of a nature trail over the Dragon river, a beautiful tranquil spot. The plan was to follow some rough tracks through the forest together with a friend of Androula’s from the village, Yiannakis, driving his trusty Landrover which he had had for many years, this would be of great assistance when we needed to cross the river. I had arrived in time to join them on this rare adventure. We set off with a picnic of course including the most welcome inclusion of some cold Keo beer.

Our first stop was the Elias bridge a slightly smaller bridge but very well-preserved . Wild flowers can be seen growing all around this area.

Our second stop was the most visited and easily accessible Kelefos Bridge, this is a very elegant bridge, a beautiful shady area offering multi layered dappled light afforded by the mature trees nearby. This being September there was only a small amount of water in the river but it still offered a cooling effect. A paddle is almost obligatory it welcomes you so.

To view the last bridge it absolutely was obligatory to paddle across the slippery stones, not a chore on a hot day. This is the Roudia Bridge. All these bridges were built in the time of the Venetian rule in the 15th century in Cyprus to allow the pack animals, often camels, to carry the copper or any other ore they could find , across the rivers down to Paphos.

Some of the roads are just forest rack and need a sturdy 4 wheel drive vehicle to navigate. On our way through the forest we stopped at a popular picnic site with freely available mountain water to drink, and plenty of tables and cooking sites for your soulvla should you want to make a real event of it. We were headed for a different picnic site.

Yiannakis went on ahead crossing the river several times to scout out places in the river where it was deep enough for a swim and settled on a beautifully serene spot where there was not another soul to be seen. Here we parked ourselves by the river and drank our beer and chatted as the eggs were peeled and salad made . Several relaxing hours passed

and Androula and Sylvia took the plunge in the cold but beautifully refreshing river pool, while the others went off exploring. This is a side to Cyprus most visitors don’t know or get to see, I highly recommend making the effort it will not disappoint if you love the countryside. There are many indigenous plants and flowers unique to Cyprus and you will find many off them here. The routes are available on maps from the tourist information offices dotted around the island.

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.