Reactivating My The Old Olive Mill Dhoros WordPress Account

Hi, to all my followers and friends on Facebook and my very few followers on WordPress.

Some two years ago I decided to begin one or two social media forums. I chose Facebook as the current face of The Old Olive Mill Dhoros, and from small beginnings my friendship has grown to over 1,500. I have spent many hours photographing local events and items of interest to share with my friends. telling stories along the way. Later I began a page for The Old Olive Mill to differentiate between The Old Olive Mill, the house I intended to rent out in the future and my profile, which relates the more personal side of my life in Cyprus and the house next door to The Old Olive Mill that I now live in.known as To Skaripo. This is ancient Cypriot for The Cobbler’s house. Both names link back to the original uses of the two houses and use ancient forms of Greek Cypriot names. I recently hit one or two milestones on my facebook sites that I am very proud of; My page has just reached the 300 Like button, I have placed a booking app on my page and I have as of last night registered the .com address theoldolivemilldhoros. So as you can see I have been pretty busy with everything new.

The other forum I chose was WordPress. I had originally intended to tell the story of how we as a family first came to Cyprus and the journey we made to where we find ourselves today; ready to rent out The Old Olive Mill as a holiday retreat. Sadly as far as this forum was concerned I became very lazy and practically forgot it. However I intend to put this situation to rights as soon as possible. To get back into the swing of things I will begin by re-editing my previous posts so that I can pick up the thread from where I broke off, but I will also be sharing some of the mini blogs I wrote for Facebook, so that my future readers will get a flavour of what it is like to A) buy and set up a home in a totally different country to the one they are used to, on a part time basis and all the fun and problems we encountered on the way; such as the electricity finally being installed again in To Skarpariko, but not being connected for another nearly two years! We spent half the time with an electricity lead connected to The Olive Mill, and the other half of the time with the electricity meter blowing up on us! And B) currently living part time in one of the most beautiful villages in Cyprus and all the wonderful things we see and do that are so different from our lives in England.

looking forwards to resharing and then sharing future posts with all of my current and future WordPress followers. 

PS I also intend to place my booking app on this forum in the very near future to give you the chance to visit my beautiful village and second home: The Old Olive Mill Dhoros

Advertisements

Putting Down Roots

 

Having decided that Dhoros was going to be our village and become an integral part of  our lives, the next move was to find a suitable place to put down roots. We were staying in a small village house belonging to friends of ours. A small walled courtyard with a very large pitharia led to the front doors.

 

These opened into a small windowless vestibule with a fairly spacious living room beyond, which in turn led to a small kitchen and an adjoining bathroom. Upstairs was one large bedroom with a good sized balcony that looked over adjoining village roofs with their beautiful Lemasos red tiles.

Balcony steps lead back down to the front courtyard whilst sliding doors from the kitchen lead to a rear enclosed courtyard. By village standards this was a fairly large house, as people would spend most of their days outside in the summer months, only sleeping indoors, whilst children would share their parents’ bedroom, or sleep downstairs on bed settees.

However, if we looked at it as a starting point for a future home we felt that with a boy and girl there really wasn’t enough room to expand as the children grew; wanting a little more privacy or their friends to stay. Further this was our first visit to a hot country in the middle of summer with two small children, and as temperatures soared into the high 30s we found it difficult to adjust to the searing heat. The only place we found some respite was on the balcony where a slight breeze wafted through the balcony doors to the window on the other side of the bedroom.

This made us more mindful; and we began to look at the village houses with new eyes. Any future home would have to have a fairly large upstairs balcony to catch the light breeze; which tended to spring up in the afternoons and a fairly large courtyard to afford plenty of outdoor living space, with plenty of shade being another requirement!

The Gods were obviously in favour of our decision to put down roots in Dhoros as fortunately we then met the family staying in the next but one house to us. They were teachers from Ealing with two young children.  The wife however turned out to be a Greek Cypriot, whose father had been born in the village.  Like so many Greeks and Cypriots beforehim: he had moved to other lands to find his fortune

.

On hearing of our wish to find a house in Dhoros, she kindly offered to introduce us to her uncle; Philipos. Philipos had lived in the village all his life and she promised us that if there were any houses for sale in the village her uncle would know. This seemed fairly simple as there seemed to be many empty and in some case derelict houses in the village.  The old stone house between us seemed fairly derelict, with chickens roosting in the house. I had already drawn up a plan on what we could do with it; as it had a fair piece of land to its rear. So saying we all trooped down the road to meet Philipos. And so began a friendship that has lasted these last twenty years, more amazingly because Philipos spoke no English and we spoke no Greek.

He was and is an incredible old man; who with his wife and four children; had farmed and managed the smallholding they owned; living off its produce. However, as with most families in the villages; the children had grown up and moved to bigger cities for brighter lights and a promise of a work and a better living.  Weekends however, saw at least one or two of the children returning to the village of their birth with their own children,  to once again become villagers; helping their ageing parents in any way they could; in the kitchen or on the land, but predominantly to share the welcome and company of their family, sitting outside under the huge grapevine; which was more like a tree, sipping Cypriot coffee, and sharing their news.

Despite tha lack of a communal language Philipos thought it a great adventure to find us a house and almost immediately took us walking around the village looking at empty and derelict houses. Despite seeing many empty lovely old village houses, it became apparent that communications were somewhat restricted and his niece was returning to England later that day.

However not to be outdone we were ushered back to his courtyard, settled under the huge vine with a village coffee; Kaloo his wife called it Cypriot coffee, but Philipos laughed and said it was Turkish coffee, its just that no one wanted to mention their one  great sadness. So Greek or Cypriot coffee it had become. We sat on a mixture of old rickety wooden village chairs, aluminium camp seats and white plastic picnic chairs. (We soon found that nothing in the village was wasted.) Leaving us with Kaloo he was of again and returned a few minutes later with a very elegant English lady whom he introduced as Miriam.

Now I could tell you Miriam’s story and maybe I will later, but if I keep on diverging from my story it will never get told, so for now suffice to say, she had helped her husband build a boat in their front garden in England  many years previously, knocked down their garden wall to move the boat to the sea, sold their house and set about roaming the seas for a good many years. They finally ended up in Larnaca marina, sold their boat,  bought a village house in Dhoros from the proceeds, and intended to spend the rest of their lives in Dhoros. Many an evening we sat on their balcony; listening to stories of far flung places and people they had met on their journeys. A nicer couple you could not wish to find, totally devoted to each other.

When I look back to those early days I often wonder how we survived and managed to end up with the beautiful home we have today, and I truly believe that without Philipos’ and Miriam’s help we wouldn’t have done. Nowadays you have TV programmes and books telling you what you need to know in a foreign country if you intend to buy property or even live there. We were young and naive and when you hear some of the horror stories that have befallen unsuspecting sun seekers in the Mediterranean, I really can’t believe how lucky we were and still are, despite all the ups and downs we have faced on our journey to the Old Olive Mill. We were truly blessed with two wonderful people who helped us through the many pitfalls and bureaucracy of living in Cyprus pre its entry into the  EU. One elderly Cypriot  farmer who in his youth had fought the British from mountain hideaways  in their fight for independence, and one English lady who had seen the world, but like us had decided that Dhoros was the village that they wanted to belong to.

So thank you Miriam and Philipos, we couldn’t have done it without you. But with their help we did do it, and my next post will tell you how we finally became land owners in Dhoros. (literally) tbc…

Information found about Dhoros on the internet.

Dhoros

The village of Dhoros is situated in the Kouris Valley, halfway between Limassol and Troodos and nestles on a plateau on the bank of the once mighty Kouris river. The area has been inhabited since early times when Greek settlers from the Peloponnese landed at Curium, before venturing further inland.

They followed the course of the river until they reached a fertile plateau above the water, close to the point where three rivers used to meet, and this is where they established the village of Dhoros.

This area has been cultivated since those times with olives, carobs and vines. Over the centuries the community grew in size and several watermills were built to harness the power of the Kouris, which in those days was far larger and more powerful than it is today. The oldest part of the village can still be seen down near the river and the winding streets are still cobbled. The village has a wealth of traditional styles of architecture so it is well worth exploring on foot!

The old village church of Ayios Epiphanios was built in the 9th century, but was badly damaged. Local legend tells how many of the villagers decided that they did not want to travel such a distance to the chapel so they decided to rebuild it further down the hill. Alas, it is said that the Saint did not agree, and every morning the villagers found their previous day’s work undone, so in the end they had to keep the church on the original site, and Ayios Epiphanios was happy! Originally the church had been a large one with three aisles, but when restoration work begun, it was decided to keep just the central aisle, and as the villagers discovered many old frescoes on the walls as they worked on their church. The Saint is much-loved by the villagers and well-known for the holy acts of kindness that he frequently performed. Visitors are very welcome to the church and the entrance key can usually be found at the village Commandaria factory!

In 1925 the community built a large new church just across the meadows using many of the stones from the old church. Today, the new church is shrouded in a copse of pine trees except for its cream-coloured dome and modern bell tower. This church is dedicated it to Panayia Galaktorofousa {Our Lady of Milk} and its most important icon is its famous 11th century icon of Our Lady {the Panayia} that was originally in the old church. This beautiful icon {along with several others in Cyprus} is credited with bringing the rain when it is needed, but even more importantly, for helping nursing mothers to have a plentiful supply of milk for their babies.

Dhoros was much larger in days gone by as it was on the wine route that was built in 1885 linking Limassol to Kitchener’s road leading up to Platres. Dhoros has been a Commandaria village since the Middle Ages and today the tradition is continued by Panayiotis Karseras who is the largest producer in Cyprus. His small factory {that is close to the church of the Panayia} is visited by many locals and holidaymakers alike, and there Mr Karseras and his staff make what was Richard the Lionheart’s favourite drink! Commandaria is made from grapes grown on the slopes above the village that are picked as late as possible in the autumn to ensure a high sugar content. Before crushing and fermenting, the grapes are spread out in the sunshine for 10 -15 days so that much of their moisture evaporates and their sugar content increases still further. Fermentation then takes place in traditional red clay pitharia for 3 – 4 months and the wine is then ‘aged’ in large wooden barrels for at least four years. Visitors to the factory not only learn how the Commandaria is made, but also have the chance to enjoy a tasting session!

Further up the hill a new little factory has recently been opened by another Karseras brother – Ioannis, who is producing a range of health foods from the village. He explains how their great- grandfather was the village priest, and was one of the few villagers to keep bees and became the largest honey producer in Cyprus. Since then the tradition has been passed down through the family and Ioannis is keen to continue it! Sultanas and raisins are hand-picked from the local vines and packed in the little factory. The staff also make the local speciality soujouko {strings of threaded almonds that have been dipped several times in thickened grape juice} which is a delicious natural sweet that can be enjoyed at any time of day. Teratsemelo {carob syrup} is another local speciality that is made there and is certainly a healthy alternative to chocolate sauce! . Zivania is the famous Cyprus ‘moonshine’ {often affectionately referred to as ‘ Cyprus whisky’} and visitors to the little factory are welcome to see how the Zivania is distilled in the traditional way over a log fire. All of these products can be bought in the factory which is open to the public Monday – Saturday 8.00 – 4.00 p.m.

Belonging.

On waking some hours earlier we explored the village with delight. An old rustic working stone village complete with braying donkeys, clucking chickens, crowing cockerels, barking dogs, silky goats, and because it was Sunday a tannoyed recitation from the church along with pealing of bells. As we turned down one narrow cobbled street we came across a collection of people sitting on old village wooden chairs in the middle of it. The smell of fresh Cypriot coffee was overwhelming. “Katze” they said springing up and patting chairs, before we knew it we were also sitting in the middle of the street drinking coffee, water, juice for the children and eating small biscuits and pieces of fruit which appeared alongside the drinks. Very little English was spoken or understood, but their welcome needed no translation.

If the weather and the scenery had not already made our minds up this simple gesture of welcome and acceptance  sealed our fate. We were going to come and make our second home in Cyprus. Now however a dilemma faced us! if we were going to invest our time and money in Cyprus how did we know that this was the place we wanted to spend it in?

In my own true investigative style there was nothing for it but to look at the rest of Cyprus before we made our choice. Consequently we became proper tourists and spent the next few days visiting other villages, towns and cities. The more we looked the more we liked what we were seeing and the warm and friendly people we were meeting. However, one thing became clear right from the noisy introduction to Dhoros; Nowhere else quite had the magic and romance of our first village. So without further ado we set about finding available property in Dhoros.

This was more difficult than it appeared to be; firstly there was the case of Cypriot identity and belonging that closely linked villagers with their villages even if they now lived in Australia or America. Secondly there were two set ways of looking for and buying property in the villages. The local way and the foreigners way. The latter being the most expensive.

At the time we knew none of this but we were blessed from the beginning in not only finding our village but in also meeting the right people at the right time who were able to guide us through this labyrinth of belonging to a village, because, don’t get me wrong, even when we actually decided we wanted to buy and live in the village; the village had to first of all accept us….tbc

Arrival: We Place Our feet on Cypriot Land for the 1st Time.

Its a very strange thing to arrive in a totally new country and setting; Especially one that was potentially to be our future second home. We were all exhausted from our journey, but incredibly excited to finally be in Cyprus. Safely landed the Cypriot passengers all began to clap loudly; We were to find this happened every time we touched down in Cyprus; like us they were happy to be home. Just stepping off the plane was a delight; The night air was warm and balmy with a scent of pine.Having found our car we were ready to drive off into the unknown.

larnaca airport

With roadmap and instructions we headed for Lemasos. Once in Lemasos we made our way through numerous roundabouts until we reached the one marked B8 Troodos. Up until now the roads had been pretty straightforward and in a decent state of repair. We were now on the main road to Troodos and found ourselves in pitch black; No lights apart from our car, and a road made of cobbles and pit holes! Added to this some road repairs were obviously going on, as we had to weave between big oil drums, antiquated machinery and continually change from one side of the road to another.  So much for Cyprus driving on the left. The journey was slow and exhausting as we wove our way up the mountains; crossing ravines, reservoirs, steep hills and sharp declines.

DSC04890

Finally we saw the sign for Dhoros. Taking a sharp left onto more cobbled roads we descended into the Kouris valley that the village lies in. With very few lights we could just make out a mixture of stone walls, huge pots, old stone houses, old wooden doors and gates, and raised stone clad fields with dried yellow growth. The roads became narrower until where it became almost too narrow to proceed we reached our house. We entered through an arched wall hung with two huge wooden gates into a small stone courtyard with one of the huge pots I had seen on our way in, We quickly looked around, made our beds and went to sleep absolutely shattered….tbc.

Our Journey to Cyprus Begins with Armed Guards:

Having bought our tickets we arrived at Heathrow airport in plenty of time; both children were very excited to see their plane.Tarom plane 1992

Armed with plenty of activities to keep them amused throughout the journey and our stopover in Bucharest, we boarded the plane. I can’t remember much about the plane journey, I only really remember not recognising what we were given to eat, and the plane seemed to shudder more than most that we had been on, but it was a cheap flight, so we weren’t complaining.  I found this photo on Google images from 2007 of a Tarom meal, can you imagine what we were given in 1992, 15 years earlier?

538831099_bef57e3b1a 2007

It didn’t seem long before we had landed in Bucharest: Now the fun really did begin to turn ugly: 1st we learnt before we had even disembarked, (about the only time we were given clear information the whole time we were in Bucharest airport!) that our on going plane had been delayed by 4 or 5 hours! Once in the airport; everywhere you looked there were mean looking men in outdated clothes and uniforms carrying machine guns and pistols! The arrivals hall looked like some ancient hangar from an old cold war spy movie; cold, desolate and mean

tarom romania_map

People of all descriptions and types were lying or sitting on the floor or queuing up for who knows what. (if there were any signs they were all in Romanian). At the time I was very naive and did not have the luxury of a state of the art’s computer or broadband connections to Google and Wikipedia; which we take so much for granted these days. If you want to know anything it is at the end of your fingertips. I only found out today (2014) that 1989 was the year of the massive riots which had overthrown the Communist government. According to Wiki; In 1992, the Stolojan government began an austerity plan, limiting wages and further liberalizing prices. The economic situation deteriorated and inflation as well as unemployment increased substantially.[28] The austerity measures, which by 1995 included a decrease in social spending, led to an increase in poverty. Which I think goes some way to helping me understand what I was seeing in 1992

Romanian_Revolution_1989_1

Back to our arrival at Bucharest International airport; 1st stop toilets; no soap or paper in the Men’s; and very little in the Ladies, but we were lucky; later there was none in ours either. Uncertain of what was happening we decided to look for our departure gate and check out the new departure time; in order to ensure that we didn’t miss our connecting flight and spend any longer than was necessary in Bucharest airport. Up until then I had assumed all international airports would have notices of departures and arrivals; not only were there no notices, you couldn’t ask either as no one spoke English. When I did try to approach anyone official like the uniformed ladies sitting behind bullet proof glass for directions, I was motioned to go away with the butt of a gun. I think we were both beginning to panic, alone in a strange hostile airport with two small children.

Finally with the help of other passengers, we found the huge queue for ongoing flights. This in itself was a nightmare; Bucharest airport at that time was the main flight hub for second and third class citizens entering the Middle East. Very few of the ongoing passengers adhered to any law of western courtesy; men and women were continually pushing in so that we and our two young children kept being pushed further and further back down the queue. Finally having had more than one run in with arrogant Middle Eastern males, who believed that a woman’s place was behind them; we finally made it to the desk and were herded into the next waiting hall. This hall was even bleaker than the arrivals. This time there seemed to be more American students sitting around on the floor than anyone else.

article-1340146-0C8AB1B6000005DC-1000_634x395

We spoke to one or two of them, who kindly shared their own meagre food with our children. Some had been there for days and didn’t know when the next flight out for them would be. Next minute there was a kerfuffle, as plain clothed police or soldiers came through the crowds demanding all the American passports,which were then forcibly taken from them.

scan0011

It was all getting a bit too scary! We decided to try and get a drink in the small cafe area to settle our nerves and gain a little reality. As it was we ended up sharing a table with a most beautiful dark haired girl. She was flying out to the Middle East in order to recommence her position as a ‘Belly Dancer’. She had been born, bred and trained in Birmingham.  According to our Belly Dancer; the majority of the dancers in the Middle East at that time were born and trained in the UK, as local women were  forbidden from following this ancient tradition in public.

belly-dancers-face

We were all getting pretty tired by this time, and realised that we still had no idea of where or when we were departing . Once again I braved the guns, determined to find someone who could help us. Finally I managed to with a guard in a  mixture of languages. The next thing we knew, we were all roughly rushed and pushed out of the airport hangar and shoved into some sort of Jeep, again with armed gunmen! We had no idea where we were going; it was the middle of the night and dark. We screamed out across the aerodrome, swerving around large obstacles. Next minute we slammed to a halt, throwing us all off our precarious balance, the children looking as petrified as we felt.

APTOPIX Ukraine

We pulled up alongside an aeroplane revving up and ready to go, we were hauled out of the Jeep and  pushed up the steps with very little ceremony, onto our ongoing plane! Within 5 minutes we were airborne.

What would have happened if I hadn’t made that last attempt I’m not sure. We thought we were seasoned travellers and knew the ropes; assuming that one way or another we would be informed of our plane’s due departure. However, with no VDUs or tanoys and the complete absence of the use of the international English language; there was in reality very little we could have done other than what we did. I’m still not sure what happened and why

plane

I can only believe that someone out there was looking out for us; we could have ended up like those poor American students and erstwhile travellers; on an airport floor for who knows how many days. Luckily the return flight was a lot less hazardous and we did finally get to Cyprus and return safely back to England; But we learnt a very important lesson on that 1st flight. Whereas as a student and traveller I had been in all sorts of strange situations myself, we were not prepared to put our own children at this sort of risk again, so I can confidently say we have never flown with Tarom airlines, or visited Bucharest or Romania since that time. I am quite sure that some people will read this and throw their hands up and say how much it has changed and I am sure it has, we have certainly seen many changes in Cyprus over the last twenty years, but that place scared us, not for ourselve,s but for our children and somehow that feeling of helplessness in a foreign country, that at the time didn’t particularly like Western Europe, has sadly stayed with me.

larnaca

We did however, finally arrive in Cyprus; dirty, scared and tired, but we had a lot more to fathom out  before we could get to our destination in the village of Dhoros….tbc