Monday, 20 April 2009

Cyprus - Start of Odyssey 2

15th-23rd April 2009
Hello everyone,
First, an admission to make... our journey this time is a long way off course. Odysseus never came to Cyprus, or to the southern Aegean islands. So this year is our own odyssey. The first part, in Cyprus, is most familiar territory, and more likely to be more an everyday story of country folk than a voyage of discovery.

We Arrived in Cyprus a week ago, and stayed a couple of nights with Andreas's sister Loukia and her husband in the capital Nicosia . They live in a very attractive part of the city, close to the old walled town. Sadly, Loukia is in such poor health that she rarely leaves the house. We learn from her that although building regulations now require new buildings to be accessible to disabled people, building idiocy is still with us. The new city hospital and associated car park are great sprawling sites; walking from one department to another an impossibility for Loukia. (and the wheelchairs too small for her to sit in). I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I saw the new pavements in the neighbourhood. Blister and wayfinding paving carefully laid at all street corners, but no dropped kerbs....the builders obviously think it has a purely decorative function.

Loukia's mudbrick house in Nicosia

Loukia and Evgenios have never been DIY people. Their house remains much as it was when it was built in 1947 by Andreas and Loukia's parents. Andreas remembers helping, as a wee lad, in making the mud bricks. The rest of the neighbourhood has grown up around them, but their little house remains the same. The fact that it is still standing is proof positive that you can build out of any material that keeps its shape, as long as you have good waterproof foundations and roof.
We walked everywhere, visiting old neighbourhoods. It is now possible to walk down the old Ledra high street, have your passport stamped, walk on into the north part of the city, and visit places that Greek Cypriots (similarly Turkish Cypriots to the south) never saw for over 30 years. A strange experience, and a little discomforting. Every street has been renamed; churches have been converted into mosques, and there is a general feeling of rundown-ness. On the other hand, the lack of development may have saved old streets and buildings from 'modernisation', the fate of many in the South of the city. In the evenings the smell of orange and lemon blossom is overwhelming.
On then to our lovely village of Lysos. We open the house and look out over the mountains and sea and breath deeply. So many things in the house remind us of holidays we have taken here over the years with family and friends -Bushy's spice jars; Rachels careful entries into her flower book; Maggie and Trevor's comfy chair; Loukia's pots and pans; Alexis' billiard trophy; pictures of and by Melissa, Myron and Peter; Michael's air-conditioning machine. It is so quiet that it takes a few days to adjust. I think we just about have. It's cold at night and warm by day. The best thing is the sunlight -so bright that we have to slap on the sun glasses, even when it's cloudy. The Greek Easter w/e was the big opportunity to see all of the extended family. We joined the crowd round the traditional bonfire by the village church on the Saturday night. At midnight more crowds come out of the church; the bell in the belfry rings; fireworks go off and there's
something new......out of the darkness Christ suddenly appears, lifesize in coloured electric lights, reaching for the sky! (picture to follow!)
Maria and family crack the Easter eggs (the winner's egg cracks last)