Saturday, 5 August 2017

Spilia part two...

At the hottest part of the day, so probably not the best time to appreciate our surroundings, we set off on foot to explore Spilia.  Once a thriving village due to the local and lethal asbestos mine nearby it is now, like many small villages only really active in the main summer months when people return to their family homes like Lakis and Argy (and mum).  This is a village of steep ups and downs with no shop, a coffee shop which was closed, a small hotel (more of which later) and a 'good' restaurant which is only open in August apparently.  There is a hospital reasonably nearby and Kekopetria has shops and supermarkets and is about 15 minutes by car but this means to live and survive in a village like this you must have transport so no idea what happens to the old and infirm.

Lakis' father was clearly a hugely influential man and very well known in the area.  He was instrumental in getting the 'new' church built by tapping up everyone he could to contribute towards he costs.  The family also built a small amphitheatre opposite the church where the local children could hold performances (when the village school was still operational).    Lakis' father is mentioned on a commemorative stone set into the side of the amphitheatre although Lakis is quick to point out that his father actually died in 1982 and not 1984 as etched onto the plaque.

The village is fertile, we passed trees that had borne fruit, were bearing fruit or would bear fruit shortly - ranging from pistachio to plums.  Argy is a forager or as John would call it scrounger and likes nothing better than to 'cut' herbs or fruit or nuts which cross her path and is disappointed if the owners aren't happy about it!  This seems to be commonplace in Cyprus as we often see people 'on the scrounge'.

At a deserted house which seemed to have been the subject of a fire at some point we came across some heavily laden cherry-plum trees which were so delicious we couldn't resist doing a bit of 'cutting' for ourselves.  Argy was delighted producing a carried bag in readiness.  We also managed to find some sticky sweet honey figs that were ready and they quickly got snaffled away too.

We walked through the village with Lakis pointing out the homes and shops and buildings that had been or were still in his family ownership.

One of the buildings in the village had previously been a butchers - it still had the sign on the side showing that lamb and goat had been for sale at 12 shillings!  I am guessing there hadn't been any trade done in that establishment for many years.

We were drawn to the gardens of a neat little hotel called the Marjay Inn.  This was just the sort of hidden away family run establishment that Mum and Dad would have found and stayed in when they were younger.  It was run by Eleni who spoke good English and took us in for a guided tour.

It transpired that Eleni's daughter lived just outside Taunton and having married was remaining in Somerset which meant that Eleni was planning on selling the hotel because there was no-one left to hand it on to.  It was charming, traditional but with some modernisation so that it had ensuite showers to all rooms.

One wonders exactly how much trade a small hotel like that had because it would appear the village had very little to offer a traveller unless you stayed in the height of the season when the coffee shop and the restaurant would be open.  It was a shame really because this was a lovely place and she was a lovely lady.  Eleni said that recently she had worked with a photographic club who had based themselves at the hotel and she had organised for them to photograph people making baskets and bread etc and that it had been very successful and the photographers had loved it - this is clearly the way ahead as traditional villages like this are photogenic as are the characters living there.

We passed by some wonderful old traditional doors and shuttered windows.  I love them and am wondering whether I might use one or other of the photographs for my next art project and maybe give the completed work to Lakis as a reminder of his village and our trip there.

We had planned to grab a Skerto coffee in the coffee shop but it was closed (well it was Wednesday afternoon) and so we made do with our water which was by now lukewarm!

In the centre of the village is an impressive memorial to four young local men who killed themselves making bombs during the EOKA struggles of the 1950s in an incident which was part of the Holocaust of Kourdali.  Spilia (meaning caves) provided hideouts for the EOKA freedom fighters and the Battle of Spilia was one of abject failure for the British Troops.

On a lighter note we returned to the cool of Lakis' home to eat a leisurely lunch which was absolutely fabulous.  Argy had prepared Cypriot ravioli and salad to start, followed by succulent roast lamb with Cyprus roast potatoes and vegetables then a huge bowl of mixed fresh fruit - some of which I guess she had 'cut' on her travels!!

John was driving so I joined Lakis in a bottle of wine I had not had before from Keo.  This was d'Ahera and very nice it was too.  I then had to help my meal down with not one but two glasses of the local firewater Zivania before we packed up the antique pot, checked the way home with Lakis and our ancient map and said our goodbyes.

We had a lovely day - really enjoyed the location, company, food and wine and felt honoured to have been invited.  They had said we are to go again next time they are up there staying and we will, we will get up earlier, ignore the sat-nav, make sure we have plenty of water and go go go.

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