Friday, September 21, 2007

An idle thought...

If a parent gives a kid a mobile phone (cell phone) then that is the last communication you will have with them.

Unless the kid wants you to pay the bill of course.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Epistle from Cyprus XIV - 24th July 2007

Incredibly as it may seem it is now a year since I started my time here in Cyprus. The landscape has turned from dry and parched through to fresh and green during the winter and spring and back to the arid dry. The first fresh crop of dead cats decorates the roadsides and the red numbers plates of the tourists' hire cars seem to outnumber the local cars.

Later today I will disappear over the internet event horizon when my telephone is disconnected and I was going to make this entry a final one with reflections over the year. I have decided to leave that until I have have had a little time to think about it a little and instead share one Cyprus' best kept secrets.

Several months back I was making one of my many sorties around the mountain villages. I had visited a large dam called Evretou and noticed tourists signs for something called the Skarfos Bridge. I decided to have a look and after a short drive and walk found a small arched stone bridge. The bridge no longer has water running under it because over hundreds of years the river has diverted and now runs by what would have been the northern approachway to the bridge.

Skarfos Bridge

The location was so quiet I stayed around quite a while. The bridge is not near any of the more modern roadways and was part of an old trading network that ran to the heart of mountains in the centre of the island. The trade was in the copper ore that gives Cyprus its name. It was so peaceful I decided that when I got back home I would use the internet to look up any other mediaval bridges in Cyprus and then try and visit them. This proved a lot more difficult than I imagined.

Purely by coincidence in the following days I read an article in the local paper about some people who tried to visit some of these bridges that are located in the mountains and forests of central Cyprus and gave up without seeing any believing the bridges to be a myth.
I found a map with a series of three 'Venetian Bridges' marked on it and took the road to the nearest point a small town called Arminou. Now just because point A appears near point B on a map does not mean it is easy to get from A to B. The road became a loose dirt one which became a forest track which became a rutted nightmare.
If the hire car company ever find out I am sure I will be in big trouble. Eventually I was forced to turn back from finding one of the bridges and try in the opposite direction.

The view from the mountain track approaching Kelefos

Here I had more success and was rewarded when I drove the car through a small ford and found the Kelefos Bridge (Tzelefos Bridge). This is a much larger bridge than Skarfos and has a small stream running under it. The water has been dammed to deepen it and wonder of wonders there are fish and small fresh water crabs. It is picnic area and on Sunday is popular with Cypriots which started me thinking how did they all get there. I found out when I continued on the road to the next bridge. The road was a good all weather surface which I should have used in the first place. The problem is you cannot see that on a tourist map where all the mountain roads appear as a yellow line of equal significance.

Kelefos Bridge

The road lead to Elaia Bridge which is another impressive span over a riverbed that has been gouged out of solid rock over the millenia. Here the river was drying up in the intense summer heat. The last few pools of water were a veritable bouillabaisse filled with small fish struggling for oxygen. Seeing the mountain terrain over which traders with their caravans of camels would pass cannot fail to impress. Finding these places with a car and modern roads is difficult enough.
Elaia Bridge

I had now almost completed my task of seeing the bridges but one remained ellusive and would have to wait to another day.

The final bridge is called Roudias and was by far the most difficult to locate. The fact that most of the internet references to Roudias referred to it because it is famous for its vultures and that I could not find a picture of it should have given me a clue. Having failed to find it from the most obvious direction on the map I tried the the opposite direction.

Once again the road ran out. I came to a deserted Turkish village which on the map is called Vretsia but is known to locals as Vrecha. You do start to worry a bit in these deserted villages when you can see that the minaret in the mosque has bullet holes in it. By a stroke of luck I ran into a forest ranger who told me that although I was only 2 kilometers from the bridge it was impossible to go directly there and I would have to double back on another route for about 5 kilometers. I will never know what the 2 kilometer road was like but the 5 kilometers seemed like 50. I had only 2 liters of water and apple and some dried apricots and was beginning to wonder how they would find my dental records out here in Cyprus.

Then I was there in the middle of it. I had found Cyprus's hidden heart. If Aphrodite lived and bathed anywhere in Cyprus it was here. Towering pine trees at the bottom of a mountain valley. The breeze is cool and the sound of cicadas fills the air. Butterflies are drinking by the river bank. As I walk down by the water's edge lizards dart back into the undergrowth and frogs leap into the safety of the water. Small fish hide in the depths as I approach and insects scoot across the surface.

And here too is the Roudias Bridge. Built against a natural rock outcrop it is the most beautiful and most impressive of them all. The river runs against the base of the rock and sweeps under the arch of the bridge. I was the only person there. I was the only person for miles. I had my own personal paradise. I basked in the dappled sunshine under the trees. I stripped and swam in the river and hoped that Aphrodite was not watching. Never did water and dried apricots taste so good. I found a coin on the riverbank and threw it back into the river for luck and for someone else to find.

Roudias Bridge
Apologies for the poor quality of this picture which does not do it justice. I had dropped my digital camera and lost the memory card!

Eventually my time ran out. The real world was calling me back it's voice sifting through the forest. It was shouting. 'Money' it shouted. 'Work' it bellowed. 'Responsibility' it roared. I dried myself with my floppy hat and heeded the call.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Clock is Ticking - 18th July 2007

Many people will know Cyprus as a holiday island and may even have been here to one of the holiday resorts by the sea. Our local town of Paphos is one such holiday destination and is pretty much indistinguishable from a thousand other tourist destinations here in Cyprus and in Greece, Spain and all around the Mediterreanean Sea.
Paphos is slightly different in that it is split into two distinct areas. There is Kato Paphos (Lower Paphos) which is the tourist area with its hotels, bars, restaurants and beaches. In its favour I have to say they have a great ice cream shop on along the sea front which I would recommend to anyone who visits the island.
Then there is the old town area called Pano Paphos (Upper Paphos) which is the former Turkish town centre complete with its mosque. This is the part of Paphos that I particularly like. The area still has a Turkish feel to it with many small workshops, trademen and artisans all of which are open to the street for the passerby to see. Before I finish with this blog I wanted to give some idea of what this area is like and so this entry is merely a series of photographs showing a little of everyday life in Pano Paphos.

Pano Paphos has a central open market area that is now used as a carpark, a covered public market that has many small stalls selling linen and other tourist goods and nearby is the mosque that is now closed. The area is surrounded by a series of small streets with 2 storey buildings usually with a workshop at the street level.

Apologies in advance for the poor quality of some of the pictures.

One of the small side streets with its small workshops

Peering into a workshop were they make chairs. Just chairs!

Customized exhausts.

A tailor at work outside his shop.

A furniture shop preparing the tall church pews typical of the Greek Orthodox Church

Looking inside the covered public market

Notice that amid the traditional Cyprus lace there are the racks of pirate DVDs

A selection of DVDs easily available at many of the market stalls

Tin Pan Alley

Busy at work welding in the street

Something completely illegal anywhere else due to the possibility of 'arc eye', damage to the eye caused by looking at arc welding without protecting the eyes

The mosque near the central market

A workshop doing heaven knows what

Outside one of the furniture workshops

A clothes repair shop

Bicycle repairs

And the motorcycle repair shop

Upholstery made to measure

Another furniture workshop

The entrance to my favourite watering hole in town 'Timothy's Bar'

Bar and coffee shop and art dealer and antiques and you name it.

The beautiful tiled floor in Timothy's bar

More tiled floors in Timothy's

I am not a foot fetishist honest.

The band warms up at Timothy's

Letting down your hair at Timothy's

Notice the old chap on the right who is too far gone to get up and shake his stuff.

And finally....

Everyone should take their sheep to town now and then.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Lightning sometimes strikes twice here.

As chance would have it we had another fire to the north of the village on 10th July 2007 and the fire helicopters were in action again. Usually they collect water from the sea but this time they were using a small purpose built reservoir which is about 500 meters outside the village. We had 'rainfall' for the first time in months as the helicopters went over the house. I managed to get a close up of one of them picking up water.

During the summer months there is nothing on the island that evenly vaguely resembles a river. This is due to a combination of the hot dry weather and government policy that 'no drop of water to the sea'. The idea was that any rain water that fell on the land should be saved for drinking and irrigation. However I recently attended a lecture given by the Cyprus Marine Protection Agency (CYMEPA) where it was stated that this policy was now acknowledged to be one which damages the sea environment because the usual flow of river water no longer nourishes the seas. A much greater emphasis is now placed on water recycling and minimizing usage.

The sight of a fire helicopter is quite novel for English people as we do not have them at home but I promise no more helicopter movies from now on.

(Unless I get requests for the "let's burn down McDonald's" fire were the helicopters came to the rescue!)

Monday, July 09, 2007

Excitement comes to Tremithousa

Cyprus is a little bit off the beat track by anybody's standards and Tremithousa even more so. Imagine the excitement when we had our very own fire in one of the ravines that separates the village from the main road to the town. The ravine is next to the village cemetery.

When the fire helicopters arrived the whole village turned out to watch. Better than TV.

Friday, July 06, 2007

A Bug's Life - 6th July 2007

One thing that has become more and more apparent during my time here is a lack of decorum and propriety. There is a lack of order here that extends from highest to the lowest orders of society.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the breakdown in the unspoken entente that exists in the UK between the human and insect populations. At home insects know where they belong. There is strict dividing line between human habitat inside the household and insect habitat outside the household. At home neither party would dream of infringing on the other's privacy and breaking what is a most satisfactory arrangement.

Here there is no such sense of correctness. Insects simply do not know there place.
Ants march freely and brazenly across the kitchen threshold. Millipedes constantly barge their way under the door jams and arrange themselves around the living room, up the walls and on the curtains even going as far as attempting to copulate with the spiral telephone cord. Woodlice do likewise and then fall in small armoured balls at the base of the walls. These require daily sweeping from the house and back outside. There appears to be no end to their varieties. Ants range from something that could mug a rottweiler to those that are microscopic.

Their memories are disappointingly short. Only days after a ceasefire is declared in one of my numerous chemical warefare battles with them than they have breached the defenses again and are encamped around the refridgerator or front door trying to establish new territory. They are not happy with the entire garden and surrounding areas. Their colonial ambitions appear to know no bounds.

Houdini-esque mosquitos, an insect rarely seen in the UK, find invisible holes in the fly screens to torment us at night. And why is it that a creature that was one second buzzing sweet nothings around your ears determined to stop you sleeping in the dark should suddenly become so shy when the light is switched on. I am awaiting the kiss of the benchuca to complete the experience.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Tremithousa School Crossing

Not see this piece of graffiti previously. I thought it quite appropriate.

Little angels.