Posted by: cyprusreflections | November 15, 2017

Like horses headed for the barn who are really sheep who have gone astray

Tuesday was a long travel day. Fortunately, our plane did not leave early in the morning, which took a lot of stress off of our final push to round up and corral everything into our luggage. We flew from Larnaca to Amesterdam, changed planes with no dramatic running scenes, and were grateful we had upgraded to have extra legroom on the transatlantic flight. Since we were chasing the sun, it seemed like the day would never come to an end. Our plane landed a little before 7:30 p.m. EST. We had factored in a delay going through Customs but forgot about the shuttle trip to pick up the rental car for our three-hour drive home. Even so, if everything went as planned, we would be asleep in our own bed by midnight. We were like horses headed for the barn—point us in the right direction, and we were raring to go. The marvels of modern technology, however, had other ideas—and they were not comic (sorry, superheroes everywhere, I couldn’t help myself).

The staff at the Enterprise Rental Car desk treated us as if we were their favorite customers, and we were very pleased with how friendly and helpful they were. We had our small, older GPS in the recesses of Michael’s big suitcase, but we were tired and just wanted to be on the road home with the least amount of scrambling for technology. During the check-in we decided to pay the small extra fee for the use of one of Enterprise’s GPS systems, and the agent set it up to guide us effortlessly to our door. When we drove off the lot, the GPS system began demonstrating its newer features that guided us easily away from the hubbub of the airport.

We thought.

We had been in the car for about five minutes when Michael said he didn’t recognize the way the GPS was taking us. I commented on how it had been daylight when we drove to the airport in August but that the route probably just looked different now, at night, with the show-stopping lights of NYC. From that point on, we became increasingly concerned, as we meandered like sheep being led astray by a drunk GPS shepherd through block after block of congested traffic in the bergs of New York. We were tired, increasingly frustrated, trying to adjust to driving on what now seems like the wrong side of the street, and would have paid big money for one of those ancient paper documents known as a map.

To make a very long story short, with the help of a kind gas station attendant who knew a thing or two, we got on an interstate that would take us out of the city—we hoped. But we had lost all confidence in that garbled Garmin and didn’t really trust our direction until we could see with our own eyes the highway numbers and place names we knew beyond doubt would get us to our so-comfy bed back home.

We got there. Finally. But we were beyond tired when we arrived at about 2:30 a.m. EST. We carried our stuff in, unpacked our PJs and were soon sound asleep in the most comfortable bed in the world—at least that was what we thought once we were finally in it!

Posted by: cyprusreflections | November 13, 2017

Here and there

Tomorrow we leave Cyprus. I have been thinking of some of the small details of life here and how they compare with life there—back home. Just a few that come to mind are

Here: My top job as navigator when we first got our rental car was to remind Michael… “Stay on the left, stay on the left, stay on the left.”

There: After we get home, my navigator job will be… “Stay on the right, stay on the right, stay on the right.”

—ooooo—

Here: I can count on being offered Cyprus coffee at least once a day.

There: I will try to find some one who will say ‘yes’ to my offers of Cyprus coffee. Mostly, I will make it for myself and sip it alone, remembering those I had coffee with in Cyprus.

—ooooo—

Here: We turn on the water heater only at shower time.

There: We will forget what a good idea this is for energy conservation. *Why don’t we have the option at home to heat water only on demand?

—ooooo—

Here: Even in November, I am seldom cold and have used the sweater I brought only a few times.

There: I will wish I hadn’t had to fly home in sandals and I probably will wish I had a coat. Maybe. We’ll see.

—ooooo—

Here: I walk a couple of blocks to get to our rental car, and usually Michael and I travel together.

There: I will walk a few yards to my garage and get in my car, Michael will get in his truck, and soon we can be in two places at once.

—ooooo—

Here: I am not thrilled about driving in traffic that involves motorcycles weaving full-speed between lanes of traffic moving in two directions.

There: I will not be excited about pedestrians stepping out in front of me because they know I won’t dare hit them.

WAIT: That also happens here! All the time!

—ooooo—

Here: I use olive oil from olives grown and processed by people I know.

There: I will resume buying extra virgin olive oil from the grocery store I know—and will realize it just doesn’t taste as good.

—ooooo—

Here: I don’t feel like a tourist because I have gotten to know many people as friends and even feel I am a part of a particular Cypriot family.

There: I will settle in to life back in my wonderful neighborhood, spending time with neighbors, friends, and especially our family.

BUT I will also really miss our Cyprus family. You know who you are. And I hope you know how much we appreciate you and care about you, and look forward to seeing you again—either here or there. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

Posted by: cyprusreflections | November 12, 2017

Last visit to the mountains

Our days here are drawing to a close, so we made one last trip up into the mountains, to spend the night in the serenely quiet village of Kalo Chorio. After dark, I stepped outside to listen to the silence. The lone cricket who sang to me back in the summer was too cold to sing. All I heard was…nothing. Actually, that’s not true. The village was so very quiet that I could hear my blood swooshing past my eardrums. We spent the evening tucked into the village house doing little but relaxing.

When we woke up, we packed, said goodbye to the Kalo Chorio house, and headed deeper into the mountains to find the Medieval church of Panagia Phorviotissa Asinou. We had heard about it and its fine frescoes but had not seen it in all our traipsing around the mountains. Today we discovered the reason we had not happened upon it. You really, really must want to go to that spot, because it’s not on the way to anywhere else! [Of course, this is not the only mountain church of Cyprus that can make that claim!]

The multi-colored stone church sits in a lovely mountainside setting and was once part of a monastery whose other buildings have long since crumbled into oblivion. The church itself was built in 1105/6 and the walls are covered with frescoes of saints and biblical scenes. Many of the frescoes were painted when the church was new; others were painted in the 14th century or as late as the 18th century. Like many of the churches with this much age on them, the churches have been damaged or undergone alterations over the years. Sometimes this was because of an earthquake, but normal aging was often the culprit.

Two of the three buttresses are visible here on the side of the church.

The church had two buttresses and a flying buttress added centuries ago, all because of weakened walls. Those changes are pretty clear to see on the outside.

One of the original doors (at left) was closed when the church was relatively new. The resulting frescoes inside give hints that they are not as old as the ones around them.

Inside, the frescoes offer so much to see that it’s easy to overlook signs of modification. But if you slow down and begin to study them, you will spot places where pieces of fresco and plaster have fallen away to reveal an even earlier fresco underneath. We also found evidence of restoration and fortification (maybe after one of those earthquakes), in which new internal buttresses and arches were added to the inside walls, covering up portions of older frescoes. These internal additions were then painted with frescoes that blend in so well with the original ones that the modifications are not obvious to the casual observer. I am not posting any photos of the inside of the church, but you can find some lovely examples of these frescoes if you scroll down on this page: https://noticketback.com/2016/08/31/painted-churches-of-cyprus-1-the-panagia-phorviotissa-tis-asinou/

People came and went while we were there, but we were in no hurry. Several artists spent thousands of hours of work in the course of the centuries to create these beautiful frescoes. The colors of the clothing, the piercing gazes of the saints, even the lettering styles vary according to artist and time period. I wonder when archaeological techniques will advance enough (perhaps they already have) so that we can have some idea of how many frescoes lie beneath the surface paintings.

After we left the church, we drove to Nicosia and had a delicious grilled seafood lunch with friends we made during our previous project in Cyprus. We had planned, then, to take the motorway from Nicosia back to our flat in Limassol. But those mountains, quiet as they are, have a clear voice that called us back. So we shunned the easy way and took instead the winding, steep, slowly-slowly way that led back to Kalo Chorio for one more night tucked away in the clear, quiet retreat of the village.

The sun was on its way down as we made our way back to Kalo Chorio for one last night in the mountains.

Posted by: cyprusreflections | November 10, 2017

Signs and wonders

Here are some more up close looks at Cyprus. Some of them are lovely; some are somber. Like the grave marker at the ransacked church in the occupied part of the island that is held by Turkey. And particularly the guard tower at the concentration camp for captured EOKA freedom fighters during the struggle for independence from Great Britain. Our weeks in Cyprus have been both exhilarating and sobering. [Click on any photo to enlarge it. And feel free to include a comment or question about any of the pictures.]

Inside the Agia Marina Monastery for nuns.

 

Kolossi Castle fresco from the 15th century.

 

Above the door. Agios Georgios in Avgarou.

 

Red-paint messages. Agios Antonios.

 

Cypro-Syllabic and Pafian Syllabary. Used in the 1st millennium BC for writing Greek language. Found and displayed at Neapafos.

 

Desecration.

 

Kokkinotrimithias Concentration Camp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: cyprusreflections | November 9, 2017

A picture’s worth

A few days ago, we visited several small towns in the southeastern section of Cyprus. As usual, I was drawn to the churches. And the doors & windows. And the sunlight. And….

Above the door. Agia Marina Monastery for Nuns.

 

The oldest archaeological evidence of a village here dates back into the 10th millennium B.C. But many of today’s villages and towns have been inhabited continually for more than 500 hundreds of years. Nicosia, for instance, has been the capital since the twelfth century. Even villages, such as Kato Drys and Lagoudera, have been around since the 1100s. And Kyrenia, an ancient port city on the northern coast, was mentioned by Ptolemy in the second century A.D. If you are at all intrigued with places, buildings, or everyday items that have some age on them, you can understand my captivation.

We will be on the road a good bit between now and the day of our departure from the island, so I am posting some of my recent favorites here. I hope you enjoy them. If you have any questions about any of the pictures, use the comment option below.

I know a picture is worth a thousand words, but it’s still not the same as actually being present to see for yourself. Maybe in the future, you will have the opportunity to see some of this beautiful place for yourself.

 

Posted by: cyprusreflections | November 1, 2017

Bits and pieces

Just up the road from the archaeological site of ancient Kurion stands a castle that has seen many of Cyprus’s conquerors come and go. Kolossi Castle was built initially in 1210, but that part is now in ruins around the present castle, which was built in 1454.

The sun was beginning to dip low in the sky, giving us lovely shadows. Ruins always entice me to imagine what used to be. In this part of the world, many a city fell into ruin from earthquakes, as well as battles. Whatever the cause, the resulting jumble of perfectly good building materials often ended up getting carted away for use in building a new castle or church or city.

Again, I focused on both the big picture and the details. This post is not so much about my thoughts as about the stones, the geological and human history they represent. Stones are everywhere on this island of stone. I have picked up stones all over Cyprus—from the waters of the Mediterranean, from paths in the mountain villages, from the park in Limassol. White stones, black ones, red stones, stones with stripes, green ones that remind me of the copper that is here. I have photographed buildings and ruins whenever I have my camera with me. And I will tuck some stones in my suitcase when I pack to leave this place—only very small ones that will not push me over my weight limit with the airline! And when I get home, I will put these bits and pieces into a little dish in our hallway to remind me of this place that captivates me so.

Old walls in the shadows of the present castle.

Coats of arms of the Kingdom of Cyprus and three key rulers

 

 

 

 

 

Stone spiral stairs meant for small feet. Oh!—and watch your head!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My nephew and I have lost our heads.

Stone fleur-de-lis of the Lusignan period found on the side of one of the huge fireplaces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: cyprusreflections | October 31, 2017

The forest and the trees

We went to ancient Kurion last week, traveling the old road to get there, past hectare upon hectare of citrus trees, pomegranate hedges, olive groves, and giant fig trees. I have been to Kurion on several other occasions, enjoying the archaeological site each time, photographing it each time—the early Byzantine basilica, the public bath area, the agora, panoramas that include the deep blue Mediterranean in the background.

This time, I almost left my camera in the car, but that just didn’t seem right. I’ve seen Kurion before, but this was another day. The sun hadn’t gotten very high in the sky, so the light was different. Maybe I would see things I hadn’t noticed before. Maybe I would just see things differently.

That’s what turned out to be the case, part of the time, at least. I saw things differently. It started because I noticed how the lower morning light cast strong shadows on the seating in the Odeon (the small theater). Soon I was finding new ways to see things I had seen before.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m fond of this old saying—and fond of rearranging it: I can’t see the forest for the trees. Sometimes I get too accustomed to the rhythms of my days or so caught up in the details of life that I can’t see the big picture, the longer perspective. Then there are other times when I am so overcome by the magnitude of a situation that I can’t see the details in it—I can’t see the trees for the forest.

I hope to remember what I learned from this latest trip to Kurion. If I look intently at what lies before me, I may be able to see the forest and the trees.

~~~~~

Don’t forget: you can click on any image to make it larger.

 

 

 

 

Posted by: cyprusreflections | October 27, 2017

Message from an octogenarian

A certain almost nonagenarian sent me an email message today, with this subject: Cyprus Reflections. The message read as follows:

Lynne, you are falling behind. Try to catch up.

He sent his email at 5:43, but I didn’t check my email until almost four hours later. Here is my response:

Dafnis—You are very right. I AM falling behind. I blame my sister! 

Rachel and Austin have been here since Sunday, and we have been on the go every day: Monday (Hilarion’s Castle, Kyrenia, Belapais Abbey, Famagusta), Tuesday (Aphrodite’s Rock, Paphos area archaeological sites, and lunch by the sea), Wednesday (mountain villages and monasteries, as well as Kelefos Bridge), Thursday (a lovely luncheon with family and friends in the village of Kalo Chorio), Friday (ancient Kurion and Kolossi Castle). Tomorrow we plan to descend on (or I should say ascend to) one of my favorite villages (Lefkara) before joining more family and more friends for the birthday celebration of the aforementioned octogenarian’s brother—now an octogenarian himself! Then it’s off to the Larnaka airport to say goodbye to this sister and nephew who have kept me away from my computer, put thousands of extra steps on my exercise watch each day, made us laugh, and given us rich memories of this week together in Cyprus.

Posted by: cyprusreflections | October 21, 2017

Call of the goats

Hints of what used to be.

Our little party of six headed off in two cars from our hotel in Drousia in search of Agios Katerina in Kritou Terra. This lovely multi-domed church has three vaults running the length of the nave, representing the trinity. Built in the 15th century, it fell into disrepair at some point. It has recently been restored, although the frescoes were damaged beyond restoration.

Then we were off over the hills and farmland for a brief visit to the village of Steni and its very fine Museum of Village Life. We were there just long enough to stretch our legs and then away we went again. The farmland was striking in its beauty, as well as its isolation; we saw very few houses. I had to wonder how far the tenders of this land must travel to do the labor required for such productive fields.

Click the image to see the goats better.

I somehow missed or forgot that a Venetian bridge was in our itinerary, so I received a pleasant surprise when our two cars stopped and I realized I was staring across a dry meadow at the Skarfos bridge. Built in 1618 over the Stavros tis Psokas River—which is bone dry this time of year—the bridge made a lovely foreground subject with the hills and pasture land in the background. A big plus was the herd of 50–75 goats in the fields across from the bridge, their bells tinkling as they stretched as high up into the trees as they could for some lunch.

Our lunch had to wait until we reached a certain picnic area deep in the Paphos Forest. It really was a lovely spot for lunch—even though it didn’t happen until 3 p.m. I looked in vain for a sighting of the mouflon sheep that live in the area. Apparently, they were having their lunch elsewhere.

After stopping in the forlorn location of the abandoned village of Agios Merkuris, we made our way out of Paphos Forest toward the sea. The dirt road led us past mile after mile of forest that had been destroyed recently by fire. I hate to see one tree dead or cut down. But I found it ominous to see hundreds upon hundreds of acres blackened and bare.

Finally, and abruptly, the land turned green again and we were soon in the port villate of Latchi, where we stopped to sip coffee or milkshakes by the port. After our drinks we hit the road one last time, heading back to Drousia Heights hotel for rest and supper at 8pm up in the village of Drousia.

Michael and I had walked through the village the day before and had seen several tavernas. So as our group made our way up the narrow windy road into the village, he and I walked ahead to find out which taverna looked best. We certainly didn’t want to go to the one that had no customers. And we did not want to go to the one that had only foreigners for customers. Then we saw the one that was just right: locals eating in a setting that was comfortable and unassuming. Our hosts were a Greek Cypriot man and his Bulgarian wife. They did not give us menus, but rather talked with us about what they were serving and how they prepared it and waited patiently as we decided what we would like to have. We ended up sharing several dishes, and everything was delicious, particularly the lamb kleftiko and a beef dish that had been cooked for hours in a sealed oven along with caramelized onions. After a day exploring this area of the island, we were all very happy to have a relaxing dinner together in a cozy and friendly spot.

The day was long and extremely interesting. As I think back on it, I remember all those goats across from the Skarfos bridge. I can’t explain it, but I had a strong urge to march through the weeds and join those goats in their field. Would they have let me join them? Think of all the close-up photos I might have gotten. The next time we encounter another herd of goats, I think the urge to join them might be irresistible.

Posted by: cyprusreflections | October 18, 2017

Day of stones

Today was a day of stones in the Akamas Peninsula of Cyprus. We will be spending several days in this area, and I will tell you more about what we discover. But for today, I hope these stones will speak to you.

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