Before Cyprus was divided

MY ONLY VISIT TO CYPRUS was in 1960. I was eight years old and Cyprus was all one country. We went to Kyrenia, where my father was attending a conference in the town’s best hotel, the centrally Dome Hotel. We were all put up there.

It was not my father’s first visit to Cyprus. He had gone out there for a week in the early 1950s to give advice to a large Greek industrial firm based there. When he arrived at the airport in Nicosia,  the immigration officials threatened to forbid him from entering Cyprus because he did not have a yellow fever certificate.  The company for whom he was going to work had sent people to meet Dad. Not wanting to waste my father’s time and the company’s money, the officials assured them that they would make sure they would get my father vaccinated during his stay.

After a week, it was time for my father to leave. As he had not received the yellow fever ‘jab’, he asked his hosts about it.  He was told:

“Don’t worry, we sent someone from the company to be injected instead of you. We didn’t want you to waste your time.”

By 1960, the yellow fever certificate was no longer required to enter Cyprus.  We flew from London to Athens. As we stepped out of the cool aircraft onto the steps leading down to the tarmac, my face was hit by a blast of very hot air. I thought that this was being emitted by the aircraft engines. It was not. It was that never before had I stepped out of an air-conditioned space into outside air with a temperature over 30 Celsius.

GREECE 60s HBY Athens

We stayed in Athens a few days before flying to Nicosia. It was the beginning of the Greek Easter weekend when my mother realised she had left our travellers cheques in a small shop, which had closed by the time she discovered the loss. We went to a police station to report the problem. After taking many details including the names of her four grandparents,  they recorded the loss, but did little else.

My recollections of Cyprus are but few. The Dome Hotel had a swimming pool, which none of us used. Instead, we took trips to Six Mile Beach outside Kyrenia. This was a stretch of sand that looked idyllic at first sight. However, very soon after arriving, our would be covered with small specks of sticky black tar. Thinking back on this, I am surprised that we kept on returning to that beach.

Of the food we ate, I remember little except that we ate a surplus of thick stemmed richly flavoured spring onions (scallions).

My mother found a shoemaker in Kyrenia. She ordered a pair of sandals. This required daily,  lengthy visits to the craftsman. She was quite demanding and expected perfection. I suppose that there were many adjustments she wanted before she was satisfied. I enjoyed the visits to the cobbler because he listened to a radio station, which broadcasted a children’s programme in English.

We made several car trips from Kyrenia. At least twice, we drove along a winding mountain road to Nicosia. It took well over an hour each way back in 1960. We also took a trip  to visit the picturesque ruins of the 13th century Bellapais Abbey.  Although it is only just over 3 miles from Kyrenia, the roads were so poor in 1960 that this journey proved to be quite lengthy, as was an excursion to an archaeological site near Famagusta.

From Nicosia,  we returned to Athens, where we spent a few more days. Before leaving London, I had learnt about Archimedes and his legendary bath in which he is supposed to have been inspired to derive is principle of buoyancy. I was convinced that this famous bath was in Athens. I managed to persuade my parents to hire a taxi to drive around Athens in search of the bath.

Having explained to our taxi driver the nature of our quest, he gamely drove us around the city, stopping frequently to ask locals whether they knew where we could find the bath. Eventually, the driver revealed that he was Jewish. When he discovered that we were his coreligionists, he took us not to see the bath of Archimedes but, instead, to his synagogue. Some years later, I  discovered that our quest had been in vain because, if this bath ever existed, it was likely to be in Syracuse in Sicily.

Fifteen years following our stay in Kyrenia,  Cyprus became divided into two parts: one governed by a Greek administration and the other became governed by Turkish administration.  Kyrenia, where we stayed, is now in the Turkish part of Cyprus and is called Girne. The Dome Hotel still welcomes guests. Maybe, one day after the air is clear of coronavirus particles, I will revisit Cyprus and that hotel.

Photo taken in Athens, 1960

 

Some cafés and an Ottoman princess

WE WERE ADVISED TO PAY a visit to the “new Niloufer café” in Hyderabad to try its Irani Chai. We hired an Uber taxi to take us there.

The New Niloufer Café turned out to be a rather scruffy place across the road from a newer looking place called “The Niloufer Café”.

Irani chai is prepared by boiling tea leaves continuously in a large kettle. This produces a strong decoction, which is poured through a muslin filter and then added to boiling milk before being served in cups.

As the New Niloufer did not serve milk without sugar, we crossed the road to the Niloufer Café, which did. This café was very crowded. In addition to tea, it sold a wide range of biscuits, cakes, and breads. One of the breads looked like an oversized bagel or an obese Turkish simit.

After taking tea at this café, we walked past several Hindu temples, mostly dedicated to Hanuman, and many medical clinics until we spotted yet another Niloufer Café. This one is newer and more luxurious than the previous café but belongs to the same company. It described itself as the “Niloufer Café Premier Lounge”.

On reflection, we realised that it was the new Premier Lounge, rather than the unrelated New Niloufer Café, that had been recommended to us.

By the way, Princess Niloufer (1916-89) was one of the princesses of the Ottoman Empire. She married the second son of the last Nizam of Hyderabad, Moazam Jah. He died in 1952 and then she married an American, Edward Julius Pope in 1963.

Photo shows kettle for boiling tea to prepare decoction

Directions

directions

 

I travel a great deal and sometimes get lost. It is then that I might ask a passer-by for directions. Generalising a bit, the kind of answer you get tends to vary from country to country.

During trips to the USA, I have either been told that the person I asked has absolutely no idea at all or I have been given very precise, accurate directions. 

In the UK, if you ask directions from the average person you meet by chance, several things might happen. First of all, you might be given accurate directions. More likely, you will recieve a vaguer reply like:

“I think it’s somewhere in that direction. Follow that road, and then ask again.”

Because most British people want to be helpful, you might be told:

“I think I’ve heard of it. You could try going that way, but I’m not sure.”

But, it is very rare that you will be told:

“I’ve absolutely no idea.”

In India, asking directions can result in a small conference taking place. People within earshot of the person you first asked will join in the discussion. Often each person will point in a different diection in an attempt to be helpful and also to have the chance to meet a stranger. Like the Americans, who will happily admit ignorance of places that do not have any importance in their lives , many Indians also only know how to reach places where they need to be but not others. But, unlike the Americans, Indians do not want to disappoint visitors to their country by not supplying some kind of answer.

Of course, all of the above is highly generalised. But, here is one specific example, which occurred in Istanbul, Turkey. We were looking for some place of interest, but could not find it. We entered a shop. Without having any knowledge of Turkish, we managed to make it clear what we were looking for. Without hesitation, the shop keeper abandoned what he was doing, becckoned us to follow him, and then walked with us through the area until we reached our desired destination.

 

 

Two heads, two cities

 

Ever since my interest in Albania began in the 1960s, I have had a fascination with the use of the double-headed eagle as a symbol. It appears in many places including the Albanian flag. Far less commonly used than single-headed eagle, the symbol has been found on ancient Babylonian archaeological remains dating from roughly 3000 to 2000 BC.

A few days ago, while I was visiting an exhibion (of works by Ruskin) in London, I spotted a man carrying a bag with the badge and letters in the photo above. I suspected that the letters above the double-headed eagle were Greek, but I did not know what they stood for. I asked the man, who turned out to be a Greek from Thessaloniki (Salonika). He told me that the badge and letters were the logo of a football team based in Thessaloniki.

PAOK stands for ‘Panthessaloníkios Athlitikós Ómilos Konstantinopolitón ‘, which means ‘Pan-Thessalonian  Athletic Club of Constantinopolitans’.   The club was founded  in 1926 by Greeks who had fled from Istanbul (Constaninople) following the tragic population exchange that began in 1923 after the Greco-Turkish War (1919-22). During this exchange, Turks living in Greece were deported to Turkey, and Greeks living in Turkey were deported to Greece. Over 160,000 ethnic Greeks from Turkey were resettled in Thessaloniki.

Some of the Greeks who had been evacuated from Istanbul established the PAOK in 1926. The team has two nicknames, translated as ‘The Black-Whites’ and ‘The double-headed eagle of the North’. Why did PAOK choose the double-headed eagle? The answer might lie in the fact that since the early Middle Ages this symbol was used occasionally by the Byzantine Empire, which had its headquarters in Constantinople, from where the founders of the team originated.

Talking turkey

Until I was about fifteen, our family usually ate Christmas lunch at my aunt’s home with other relatives and friends. The centrepiece of the meal was often roast goose. My mother’s brother Felix used to try to entertain us youngsters with a story about Turkey Lurkey and his chums Goosey Loosey, Ducky Lucky, and Chicken Licken. He meant well, but his story, repeated annually, elicited groans from young and old alike.

One year, 1963, I was in Manhattan with my sister and parents on Christmas Day. That Christmas, I ate sirloin steak for lunch.

Many times during my late twenties and throughout my thirties, I spent Christmas in the English countryside with my PhD supervisor, his wife, and family. They served turkey for evening dinner on Christmas Day. They used to cook enormous birds capable of generously feeding twenty or more folk, yet there was never more than about ten or eleven of us around the festive table.

Everyone except me preferred white meat. One year, when I was asked my preference, I chose brown meat. My host cut off and then placed a whole turkey leg on my plate. It looked like an enormous club, such as might have been used by Fred Flintstone.

After 1994, I often spent Christmas in India. One Christmas Day, I fancied French onion soup rather than festive fare. A couple of years running, we ate Christmas lunch at Sunnies restaurant, which blazed the trail for fine dining with European food in Bangalore. The Christmas menu included the best turkeys I have ever eaten; they were juicy and very tasty. The turkeys at Sunnies were Butterballs specially imported from the USA.

Finally, I will tell you about an unusual Christmas Day ingredient, which I encountered at a place in Bangalore , which I will not name to save causing embarrassment. Several large roasted turkeys were being served at a buffet lunch. After I had enjoyed a serving of turkey, a friend of mine brought me his daughter’s plate, which contained a sizeable piece of uneaten Turkey meat and … a perfectly roasted large cockroach.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL!

Chewing gum

 

It was in Turkey that I first tried chewing gum. I was ten years old. It was 1962, and we were staying at the Hotel Çınar at Yesiliköy on the Marmara Sea just west of Istanbul. We walked from the hotel into the nearby village, where my parents bought me a small pack of chewing gum. The pieces of gum were coated with a hard, sugary outer layer. I thought that this layer extended right through the piece, and I was surprised to find when I bit into it that it contained a soft gooey substance. I was not impressed.

GUM 1

Source: wikipedia

A year later, the family spent the last three months of 1963 in Chicago, Illinois. It was while we lived in the USA that I became very keen on chewing gum and its close relative bubble gum (specially the Bazooka brand). Between arriving in America and leaving Turkey, I had learned how to enjoy chewing gum. In America, the range of flavours of gum was huge compared with what was available in the UK. I used to chew a piece of gum and when its flavour had weakened, I added another piece, and then another, and so on until there was a huge mass of gum in my mouth. This ever-growing glob of gum would remain in my mouth for several hours.

I attended school while we were in Chicago. In each class room there were desks with swivelling desk-tops for writing on. I soon discovered that the undersides of these desks were covered with soft blobs. After touching these blobs, I discovered that the tips of my fingers acquired different pleasant odours. Naïve as it may sound, I only discovered after returning to England that these ‘perfumed’ squishy mounds were bits of discarded chewing gum.

In the late 1960s and the following decade, we used to visit Greece almost every year. In those days, Greek cities and towns had numerous kiosks selling newspapers, magazines, and … chewing gum. The most commonly found brand of gum was ‘Chiclets’. This trade name, established in 1900 in the USA is derived from the Spanish word chicle, which means ‘chewing gum’. The range of flavours available at these kiosks was much greater than what was available in the UK at the time.

We took many flights during my childhood. In the 1960s and ‘70s, many ‘planes were not as well pressurised as modern aircraft. During take-off and landing, there was a risk of much ear-popping. Sucking sweets or chewing gum was recommended to reduce the unpleasantness of the ear popping.

I was happily chewing gum as was usual on a flight when a thought occurred to me. The endless chewing of gum brought the rumination of cattle to mind. Suddenly, I compared myself to cattle chewing the cud. Although I have no objection to cattle moving their jaws endlessly, I felt that it was inappropriate that I should be doing the same. Since then, I have rarely chewed gum, and when I have done so I have found that my jaw muscles tire easily.

 

GUM 2

Source: CollectingCandy.com