Monday, 4 May 2009
Cyprus still - 24th April to 3rd May 09
Sleeping in our upstairs bedroom is like being in a nest. It's a single room perched on a flat roof; a door or a window on each of the four walls. Sitting in bed this morning we listened to thunder rolling round the mountain side. The sea was lost in mist, and sun rays were shining thru' clouds like a biblical picture. Water pours off the flat roof when it rains, and we collected it in buckets to water the lemon tree and vine.
There was a desperate water shortage in Cyprus last year. Millions of gallons of the stuff had to be bought from Greece, transported in ships. No Cypriot houses have drainpipes, or any way of storing domestic waste water; and it is now illegal to use hoses for washing cars or watering plants. Add to that the modern trappings of life -washing and washing up machines, swimming pools etc-and it's not hard to work out the odds for water starvation. Of course we're still in the dark ages, with interesting original house features ..such as the rusting oil drum that serves as a chimney...and no water guzzlers, all muscle!
We spent the last few days in the company of Aydin Mehmet-Ali, and some of her very hospitable friends. Aydin is an old friend of Andeas' from the Hackney Cypriot Association. She repatriated to Cyprus five years ago. She likes to live in both the North and South of the island, and resolutely refuses to recognise the division into Turkish and Greek administrations. She has a cotton bag which carries the slogan 'WHERE THERE'S A WILL THERE'S A WAY' and this pretty much describes Aydin -she makes good things happen.
Aydin's flat in Famagusta, on the North side, is on the beach, and as close as you can be to the 'DEAD ZONE'. This is the area fenced off by the Turkish army after the 1974 invasion and left to rot. It is an extraordinary sight. From her beach, which is a gorgeous natural lagoon, but deserted, you look down 3km of 'dead zone' coastline. At first glance it looks like any seaside city -full of big hotels and other high-rise buildings. But there's been nobody there for 35 years, and soon you notice,in the nearest buildings, that there's no glass in the windows, and the lift shafts have collapsed. We stayed for 3 days, exploring old Famagusta and travelling some. The election in the North two weeks ago brought in a right wing government, and a settlement between North and South now looks as far away as ever. The 'dead zone will continue its decay.
Famagusta was for centuries the main port of Cyprus, and very wealthy. The old town is surrounded by huge fortified walls, originally built in the 12th century by the French (Lusignans). When the Venetians took over, they had Leonardo da Vinci over to advise on design for further fortification. The city is famous for its myriad of sand stone churches dating from the Byzantine times, but unfortunately all are at various stages of ruin. We spent the day cycling all round the city with Aydin as our guide. Othello castle gave us an inside to the Shakespeare play in a very dramatic way. Its chambers, high high ceiling halls and secretive fortified tunnels became a vivid reminder of the intrigues and treachery of the story.
Some 100km east of Famagusta is the monastery of Apostolos Andreas, our visit on the 3rd day. The monastery has some significance to Andreas' life. He last visited the place when he was sick with whooping cough at the age of 6, carrying a candle as tall as him, with the hope that the Apostle would cure his illness. In the end what cured him was the daily milk of a donkey in Limassol! The Karpasia region is the long slither of land from Famagusta to the Cape; the monastery is at the very tip -really dramatic and remote. The terrain, the light, the red sandy beaches are as gorgeous and impressive as they are bright and empty. Swimming naked in a beach as long as the eye can see, with its surrounded hills inhabited by just birds and wild donkeys, is something to relish for ever!
Back in Lysos, we take refuge this evening, from the rain and dust storms that have plagued the day, at the house of Michael (Andreas' brother), Jane (his wife) and their 5 little white dogs. We haven't worked out how to transfer photos on their computer, so these will have to wait until next time. We will leave Cyprus on 8th May, on a boat bound for Rhodes. Because Aydin is coming with us, we have changed our original iterary; spending less time on the Greek islands, and more time travelling up through the Aegean coastal region of Turkey. Aydin, Jane and Michael (and many thousands of retiring Brits) have made their home here in Cyprus, but we could not. We would so miss our friends and family. This blog is a way of saying 'ello, and hoping that you're all blooming.
xxxxS and A