Archive for the ‘Cyprus’ Category

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A Christmas ramble

December 27, 2011

While these days are so short we try and get out and about before the early winter light fades. The weather is likely to be cold and wet in January and February so it makes sense to capitalise on the clear and bright days when they appear.

Yesterday we wandered around our little village for a while enjoying the sunshine, chatting to tourists and taking a photo or two. Whilst it was glorious at middday, by 3pm the sun was starting to drop behind the hill and it wasn’t long before discussions about lighting the fire started.

On our wandering we stopped by the village spring; the spring water is always beautifully clear, if very cold, but we’d never noticed before that the tap is in the shape of a dragon’s head.

Nearby somebody had placed a whole run of pots of poinsettias which looked pretty against the local limestone wall.

Back home we grabbed a photo of one of our Christmas wreaths, suspended from the huge lintel above the front door.

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Merry Christmas

December 25, 2011

’tis snowing at the top of the island.  Anyone fancy a day skiing on Troodos?

The webcam on Troodos, found here on SkiCyprus.com, had this image yesterday afternoon.

Season’s Greetings from us.

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Christmas post …

December 23, 2011

… is AWOL.

This year there seems to be an island-wide issue with post from the UK and continental Europe.  90% of the Christmas cards that we’d expect to receive haven’t appeared; orders placed online in early December, intended as presents for each other, are missing; presents from family and friends in the UK have not arrived.

This isn’t an isolated problem: many of the Cyprus online forums have ongoing discussions about missing post.

Our lovely, if slimline, local tree bought courtesy of the local Forestry Commission, looks really rather lost without any parcels underneath.  Our best guess is that we might expect to see things arrive in the second week of January, after the Christmas and New Year and Epiphany holidays.

On the positive side we have a beautiful rib of beef ready to cook and piles of books to read and enough logs to see us through to the new year.  Not the holiday we’d planned but we’ll make the most of it and throw another log or two on the fire and perhaps in time we can chuckle about 2011 being the Christmas-of-no-presents.

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Legal to vote

December 14, 2011

Village elections are taking place this month and in a village of little more than 100 adults our two votes could be important. Or so claimed the mukhtar of the village some months ago when he asked if we were registered to vote. Ummm, no, never felt the need before, was our answer, and anyway it’s not a straightforward process for us expats. As a man seeking re-election, in turbulent village times, he offered to help. He, he said, would personally deal with all the paperwork and arrange for our voting cards to be issued.

A day or two later he appeared at the gate with a handful of forms to complete and a request to see passports and for a handful of passport-type photos. He took the forms, copies of the passports, the photos and a copy of our house purchase contract and our title deeds, and headed off to the appropriate office.

A day or two later he re-appeared. The office, he said, wants more information. Did we perhaps have our pink/yellow slips handy? We did so copied them both and handed them over.

A week later he was back again. The office wanted to see our yellow/pink forms rather than pink/yellow forms. Did we have those? We didn’t. For a moment he looked deflated. The only other thing they will accept is birth certificates and I know you won’t have those, he said. Hah! There’s a man who doesn’t know our filing system; two minutes later he had two photocopied birth certificates in his hand.

Armed with more paperwork than a competent identify fraudster reasonably needs he headed off down the hill to wherever the voting-card-office was and that was the last we saw of him for several weeks. As the election approached and he didn’t re-appear with the voting cards we decided that either he’d found the process too tiresome to continue or that he’d realised that he didn’t need our votes.

How wrong could we be? Last Sunday morning the phone rang. Were we up and dressed and decent? The mukhtar asked. If so he was outside our gate with the voting cards in hand. The question about us being up fit to receive company was reasonable: we have a reputation for being sleepyheads.

Being suitably attired, Ian headed down to meet him and collect the cards. From the look of sheer delight on the mukhtar’s face we can only assume that locals find the bureaucracy wearing at times too. And this in a week when a piece of research established that Cypriots know that getting things done depends more on who you know rather than being able to meet published criteria.

So, we’re good to vote which puts us a tiny majority compared to other expats. Very few expats go through the process of getting voting cards, though there’s only anecdotal information why. Too difficult, uninterested, too bureaucratic? Who knows.

What we now know is that, even before our voting cards were issued, we unwittingly changed the face of this village election. The mukhtar is standing unopposed: his rival decided not to run when he heard that we were going to be eligible to vote. Since we don’t even know who he is we are baffled, but then that isn’t an entirely unusual state of affairs for us in this village!

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Flawed logic

December 8, 2011

Life here is rarely dull (although we do occasionally drop off the radar from time to time!) but there are times when the Cypriot logic defies belief.  This is often the case when politicians are involved.  This week has seen two glorious examples so far.

Exhibit #1

Yesterday Standard & Poors threatened to downgrade the entire Eurozone.  Cyprus is already sitting on a rating that is little above junk status.  This should be a concern and yet the president is untroubled.  It will not matter, he says, that no one reputable will lend us money; we’ll just borrow some more from the Russians!

Indebted and beholden to the Russians, again.  Fantastic gameplan.  Obviously borrowing another couple of billion euro from them is a much, much better than actually doing something about the economic crisis.

Exhibit #2

In other news drilling and exploration of the new gas field, Block 12, continues.  Some folks are excited at the prospect of the untold wealth to come; others are sanguine about anything of use being found at all.  Some have wondered just where and how the spoils, estimated at $450bn this week, might be brought ashore if anything is found.  It seems we needn’t worry on that score, there is a plan.  Sadly the plan centres on piping the oil and gas ashore next to the Vasilikon power station.

You may have heard of the power station: it made the news in the summer when 90 or so containers of munitions, stored at the main naval base and next door to the power station, exploded.  13 people, including the head of the Navy, were killed, dozens were injured and over 50% of the electricity capacity of the island was destroyed.  You’d think they could find somewhere better, wouldn’t you?

This image shows two satellite images of the Vasilikon station. The left half is before the explosion, the right is after.

For the full ‘before vs after’ image see here.

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Geographical challenges

June 18, 2011

It feels clichéd to comment on Americans knowledge of world geography but sometimes, just sometimes, a tale must be retold.

A year or so ago we were on a holiday, a vacation, where a goodly proportion of our fellow travelers were from the US.  Early in the trip we fell into conversation with another couple who happened to be from the States.  They were lovely: well read and well-travelled, interested in their surroundings and their traveling companions.  They heard us chatting about our plans for the day and quickly struck up a conversation.  Lovely accents, they said.  Were we from Australia?  It wasn’t the first time we’ve been asked so we smiled and said no.  English, but not living in England we said.  We live in Cyprus, in the south-eastern corner of the Mediterranean.

That bit about the south-east corner of the Med is important, we’ve found it heads off other confusing conversations.  Not any of the north American cities called Cyprus in north America. Not the Cyprus off the coast of Italy (no, there isn’t one).  Just the island of Cyprus snuggled down in the corner of the Med.  Occasionally we mention that we’re only 70 miles from Syria but not often, it depends on the person.

Map courtesy of d-maps.com/carte.php?num_car=13606〈=en

Anyway, having established that it was the country of Cyprus our fellow travelers looked excited.  What an amazing co-incidence, they said.  Someone they knew, a family member, was in the process of buying a newly built property in Cyprus right now.  Perhaps we knew the development?  Or the developers?  Sadly we didn’t recognise the name of either.  When they mentioned the price of the property, a seven figure sum, that wasn’t so surprising.  Not so many properties like that round our way.

But we were curious: roughly where was the property?  They hummed and hawed and consulted each other but weren’t entirely sure. On the eastern coast they thought, perhaps along a big peninsular or promontory.  They thought the nearest airport began with an E or an H.  Our hearts fell and we exchanged concerned glances; the only place in eastern Cyprus that fits that category is the Karpaz peninsular, known colloquially as the panhandle.  It is in the North, the area occupied by Turkey since 1974.  Buying property there is fraught with difficulty, even for those who understand the issues and the pitfalls.

There are some people, many of them English we’re sorry to say, who have made fortunes by selling land that isn’t theirs to sell.  When the events of ’74 took place many, many people were forced to abandon their homes.  Almost 40 years later they haven’t been able to return and some people have taken the opportunity to sell the houses or the land on which they stand or the olive or citrus groves that they owned to developers.

It is possible to buy land in the North at a 30% discount to that in the south, but to do so is risky at best.  There have been well documented cases of people buying land only for the original owners to come along later and demand their property back.

Carefully we explored just how much of this they knew.  Not an awful lot it turned out.  They had a vague recollection that the history of the island was troubled but not that it was still divided or that there was an ongoing UN peace-keeping force.

They knew nothing of challenges of buying property in the disputed north but were quick to understand that the transaction that their relative was considering might be at risk.  We suggested some research that they might want to do once they were back at home and we gave them details of a lawyer who had a reputation for being honest, unbiased and experienced in difficult property transactions.

They took copious notes and thanked us for our concern and the information we’d provided.  As we left to start our day of exploring they were deep in discussion and both looking troubled.  Throughout the day we returned to the subject.  Imagine being on the cusp of buying an expensive property thousands of miles from home and finding out that the whole thing might be at risk!

That evening they spotted us as we were heading to dinner.  They rushed over to speak to us but with large smiles on their faces in place of the looks of concern when we had parted earlier.

We spoke with our relative, they said, and it’s going to be ok!

Well, how can you be so sure, we asked.

Well it turns out that the villa is in Crete, not Cyprus, they said.

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Festival of the Flood

June 14, 2011

This past weekend saw the celebration of Kataklysmos, the Festival of the Flood.

The weather saw fit to contribute which, considering it’s almost half way through June, was fairly unusual.

Photo courtesy of the Cyprus Mail

The Cyprus Mail reported:

TORRENTIAL rain and flooding in Nicosia and Larnaca districts yesterday trapped people in their cars and brought traffic to a standstill as thousands returned home at the end of the three-day, and aptly named, Kataklysmos (Festival of the Flood) weekend.

Some of the worst hit areas were many of the villages between Larnaca and Nicosia, including Lympia, Kornos, Pera Horio, Latsia, Alambra, Ayia Varvara, the GSZ area in Larnaca and Aradippou with some of them also experiencing heavy hail storms.

Drivers on the Larnaca-Nicosia highway crawled along at 30km per hour due to heavy traffic jams and visibility problems, with huge amounts of water gathering in some areas such as the Dekhelia road up to the Rizoelia roundabout.

As well as flooding some flights were diverted as the conditions at Larnaca airport were unsafe.

The weather this year continues to be unsettled: winter was long and wet, spring was late coming and saw severe hailstorms and then suddenly the temperatures went into overdrive.  Instead of being unseasonably cool it switched to being unseasonably hot.  That all ended with the storms of yesterday which, according to forecasts, are due to continue for several days to come.

Meanwhile we left home, where it was warm and sunny, to drive towards Larnaca not realising all this was going on.  It would be fair to say that we were ill-prepared for the weather we encountered and got absolutely soaked to the skin.  Such are the microclimates of Cyprus.

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New toys!

June 9, 2011

This blog post comes to you courtesy of the latest addition to the AradippouTales household.

It is gorgeous! Why did we wait so long?

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Final vinyl, at last!

June 7, 2011

Like many millions of people around the world the arrival of iPods or similar music players led to us utilising iTunes (or similar) to rip our CD collection into our chosen computers. The convenience made it well worth while, and ripping CDs was easy and quick, we did most of ours before we retired to Cyprus.  However, the elephant in the room in Cyprus was our legacy of music still on vinyl.

Ian had little in the way of vinyl, but Mands had a significant number of LPs and EPs and a small collection of limited releases all linked to loads of growing up memories.  Three years ago we decided to attack this problem, aided by the timely offer of an old but perfectly useable stacking stereo system complete with record deck.  There have been numerous interruptions to the process including moving house and the like but finally it is done!

It’s not a straightforward or a quick process; albums must be played at normal speed and the sound collected in digital form into the mac.  Then some form of audio software (Wire Tap Studio worked for us) is used to chop the continuous sound file into the individual tracks.  Then the metadata, including song titles and album art, were added.  Then into iTunes and onto an iPod near you.  All told it worked out at about 2-3 hours per album, all of which needed to be monitored.

So, it’s taken time but we are finally there.  The final count is: 58 albums, 645 tracks, 2.4 gigabytes of nostalgia.

As Ian has learned the hard way some of this music is very significant.  Playing The Levellers leads to Mands demanding cider and much more volume and the Stones Sympathy with the Devil leads to dancing on the furniture, perhaps best not to ask to much more.  Of course there’s been some real one hit wonders, particularly on the hits of yestayear compilations.  Who remembers Boxerbeat by the Joboxers  from 1983?  Sadly its burnt into the brain here and we may never, ever forget it.

For his sins Ian had to listen to all of this as it was recorded.  Fortunately the really good stuff seriously outweighed all the not-so-classic so he is not scarred for life.

To ensure that he left a true classic to finish on.  Meet the Beatles,  12 tracks from 1964 recorded in Stereo the album notes proudly announce.  Readers under the age of 35 or so will need to find an older music-lover to explain why this was a big deal!  On that note there was just one album in mono: a very early, and subsequently withdrawn, Rolling Stones album.  That caused a storm when it was first released and eventually Decca gave into pressure and withdrew the original and re-released it.  And the language that caused such controversy?

If you don’t have the bread, see that blind man knock him on the head, steel his wallet and low and behold you have loot, if you put in the boot, good, another one sold!

For those of a curious mind the images that top and tail this piece are artwork from our current iTunes library.  It includes the vinyl that’s been ripped, assorted CDs and logos from podcasts that we subscribe to.   

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Taxi drivers demand higher bus fares

June 1, 2011

There are some local news stories that benefit from some additional reporting, and others that just don’t.  Welcome to the slightly mad logic of Cypriot taxi drivers.

FAMAGUSTA taxi drivers yesterday demanded publicly-run buses raise their fares and reduce their frequency of operation, among others things, to save themselves from going bust, irrespective of what was best for the consumer.

The taxi drivers blocked the Ayia Triada roundabout, in Protaras, for five minutes to protest the “dire financial situation they have been in for years”.

And they warned of “stronger measures” if their demands were not met.

Union representative Kyriacos Moustakas, said the taxi sector’s problems were chronic, adding that the operation of buses further worsened the bad financial conditions of taxi drivers in the area.

He said that the new bus system, “the frequency and cheap fares, became the reason taxi drivers were unable to earn a day’s wage.”

The full story is here at the Cyprus Mail.