Memories are made of this...
A few weeks ago, I wrote about my first, mainly business, visit to Cyprus in 1968. I wanted to come back for a holiday, but it took three years to do so. As the tale goes, it was about 7pm on a dark and stormy night, in 1971, when we arrived. There were very few tourists on the flight and no-one else had hired a self-drive.
The car hire company, with whom I had communicated by air-mail letter, had told me a Vauxhall Viva would be waiting for us in the car park, with the ignition key under the floor mat on the driver’s side. (We paid for the three weeks’ hire when we returned it to the company near Metaxas Square – no forms or agreements had been signed).
We – my wife, her mother, and two of our children aged 6 and 8 - blundered out into the wind and rain. And there it was, some distance away, alone in the centre of the Nicosia airport car park, with its side painted with a broad white “Tourist” strip. It was not a Viva in the first flush of youth; indeed I wrote in my diary that it was “grotty”. After six goes at starting it, the battery seemed about to expire, so the family pushed hard, to turn the car down the slope, where eventually it jump started. Wet and cold, we took several wrong turnings, once going through Turkish Army lines, eventually driving “the long way round” to Kyrenia.
We had rented a good sized house in the centre of the town, but couldn’t find it. A kindly coffee shop owner, “Call me Peter”, he said, guided us. The owners had put heaters on, so we were soon warm and appreciative of provisions they had thoughtfully provided. We dined well on eggs and bacon and fresh bread. Fed and watered, we soon were warmly a-bed.
The next morning was clear, crisp and sunny. Just around the corner was one of those lovely shops you used to find in Cyprus – and indeed all over the Middle East – a store that had called Theo Papas. The owner stocked us up with vegetables, fruit and all kinds of food stuffs, and told us where to get the best lamb – we had a superb that night – and bread, from a Turkish bakery, which was warm and yeastily lovely. KEO and ETKO red and white wines in 5-litre flasks were 800 mils (Euro 0.75) and when you took back the empty Peter gave you 400 mils back. The wheels were well oiled for the duration of our stay.
The old Viva shook, rattled and rolled its away for hundreds of miles along the single track tarred roads, with gravel and stones at the sides to drive on when a local farmer came along the other way and refused to give way. We had Mezze for a Cyprus Pound a head by the sea- side, in hill villages and towns. We spent evenings at the Tree of Idleness at Bella Pais, where the cooking was simple and home-style: delicious Trachanas, kebabs (of course, but only made from lamb), and Tavvas, the like of which I have not had since. All for a little more than a Pound each, which covered expert Cypriot dancing, with water glasses (full) balanced on the swaying heads of the performers as a finale…
All this started our love affair with Cyprus and its food and wine, which culminated in taking up residence in 1992. They were good times.
One of my few regular contributors, who is not only a good business-woman and splendid cook but is good at PR, too, is Elena at Orexi Catering, Droushia. She does so much to promote our local food culture, she deserves all the success she gets and I am happy to quote her press release on her next event:
Koulla’s goat Farm
– Tuesday 24th March. This has become a much-loved event in the ‘Orexi’ diary. It’s a fabulous day out and a chance to see a traditional Cypriot farm in all its glory! The timetable is:
9.30am - Meet at Orexi HQ for breakfast – freshly baked savoury and sweet accompanied by pots of filter coffee or tea (builders’/herbal).
10.30am - Koulla’s Farm is just a short drive away – we will watch the goats being milked, then have the chance to observe the cheese-making process closely. Halloumi and the ricottalike cheese Anari. You’ll get to sample Koulla’s wonderful cheeses, have a walk round the farm and learn about rural life in Paphos.
1pm - Return to base for lunch at ‘Orexi’ HQ – enjoy our much talked-about Orexi lunch: Seabream baked and dressed with oregano, lemon and garlic and a couple of other tasty dishes to fill you up after a hard morning at the farm, accompanied by a glass of our finest local wine. The cost for the day is 30 euros which includes breakfast, lunch and the trip to the farm. Space is limited, so call Elena on 99887293 if you’d like to join the group.