The village of Kalopanayiotis is my father’s village. You might render it with some fancy as “Mario the Fair”. It perches precariously on the green mount Troodos. It was as hardscrabble a village as any in the area, but its sulphur springs guaranteed a stream of visitors from the towns.
Which is the most plausible reason I can find that this is the one part of Cyprus where the phonetic change x > θ has been blocked (or properly, reversed).
Like many small villages both here and in Greece, it is slowly dying out, and is being salvaged by turning into a destination for foreigners. Much of the village is being bought up piecemeal by the former mayor, and converted into part of his hotel setup.
It makes the village patchwork, with golf carts shooting past ruins, but it was the only way Kalopanayiotis was going to stay a going concern.
And Kalopanayiotis has been a destination for out of towners since they worked out there was sulphur in the springs. It’s not that new a thing here.
Much of the village of Kalopanayiotis is accessible by road with some patience, but it truly is perched on a steep hill, with old narrow streets and ongoing construction, and the drive-in was a rapidfire alternation of reminiscences and fury at poor traffic indicators.
Famagusta is in Northern Cyprus. Outer Famagusta, Varosha, was left for decades as a ghost town after the invasion, with a vague notion that it might be returned to the Republic of Cyprus eventually. That prospect was abandoned in 2019. and people are starting to move in to Varosha from the north.
Greeks are not in Famagusta nor Varosha, but they are in a suburban sprawl of the tourist centre of Ayia Napa, through what used to be affluent villages, Paralimni and Derynia, leading up to the border crossing at Derynia, a few km from Varosha. 25 years ago, two Greek Cypriots attempted to break in during protest marches, and were shot dead: Tassos Isaac, Solomos Solomou.
There is now a Famagusta cultural centre on the Republic side of the border, a shrine with exhibits commemorating the lost town, and binoculars for former residents to peer into the abandoned high rises that they have left behind.
Much closer to the border crossing, there was an apartment block with a rooftop cafe, also set up for binoculars.
Cyprus is furious at the reopening of Varosha, and is mobilising the European Union against it as best it can, but the changes on the ground already tell you that things have normalised with the passage of time, just as they have in Nicosia.
The apartment block with a binocular cafe has been taken over by border control. You can’t drive up to the crossing to mourn anymore, and then turn your back. If you drive up to the border crossing, you’re expected to drive all the way through: people can’t veer off in refusal like they use to, and accordingly we ended up having to reverse out.
There is still a dead zone, such as the abandoned factory with smashed Windows, but this too is now no longer a killing zone, but a border crossing that people routinely go through.
And if you want to mourn the loss of Varosha, the expectation now seems to be that, with the borders open, you can good and do so inside of Varosha.
Ledra St is the main drag of Nicosia, and this is Ledra St on a Saturday night.
… It’s disappointing.
Nicosia is not a big place to begin with, population of 200k. But as a capital of a sovereign state, I do still expect a bit more than the central square such as it is, and one street of bars and clothes shops that looks like it’s still in the 1930’s. It’s charmingly shabby, but it is still shabby.
There is a lot of money in Cyprus. But it hasn’t been spent on making the capital prettier. It’s gone to the coastal towns, as I am told, where all the tourists are.
The checkpoint comes abruptly as a shock, right in the middle of Ledra St, with only one building’s dead space between the two zones.
The far bigger shock now though is that this is no longer the Checkpoint Charlie DMZ that it was for so many decades. So long as you are prepared to show your passport and recognize the regime across the street (which many Cypriots still do not), you can now just keep strolling through.
A lot of people do now, both sides. For that matter, a lot of Greek Cypriots pop across the border now, because petrol there is cheaper.
On the one hand, that means much less of living under a daily fear of violence, and normalisation, which makes for people sleeping easier at night, and less demonising of their neighbours.
On the other hand, normalisation means that the irregularity/occupation in Cyprus is just going to be perpetuated for decades. It’s a stable and unfixable situation, and it’s going to stay that way.
More confirmation of how low key Nicosia city centre is. This is the most understated Masonic Hall I have seen in my days.
A bit more nightlife in Onasagoras St, but again, very low-key and old school, and sputters out quite quickly.
Liberty Square, main square of Nicosia, which after years of construction Now features an underground shelter and benches that look like surfboards.
I am told the townsfolk of Nicosia are not that impressed with the results.
I have not explored Nicosia yet, but I’ve already got a preview of the broader play of diglossia in this Country through the local James Corden knockoff, Louis Patsalidis.
I am told Patsalidis is from my ancestral village of Kalopanayiotis. I don’t know that is something for Kalopanayiotis to take pride in, he’s just about as unfunny as James Corden. And his shtick, show clips from TV, and say how silly it all is, has been done to death.
But it’s pretty noticeable that every single clip he commented on (almost all of them morning gossip TV from his own channel) are in Standard Greek. And it is utterly inevitable that his own snarking is in dialect. If he’s going to make fun of TV, he has to distance himself from its officialese voice, and buddy up to his audience as someone more authentic and cynical. The basilect is how you do that, just as you do in any true diglossia.
Here, that means dialect, complete with repeated interjections of the Venetian survival sior (Standard Italian signor, “sir”—in the case of Cypriot, think more Shakespearean English “sirrah”: sior is not meant to be respectful.)
Of course, The Louis Night Show is not subverting Alpha TV’s morning offerings; the pretend subversion is baked in to the whole package in mass media. (And usually it’s executed funnier than my fellow Kalopanayiotite’s offerings.)
TV is going to be instructive about how language play works in Cyprus. It would be more instructive, if there was more made-in-Cyprus TV here; but the Greece Greek channels that have set up shop here (including my aunt and uncle’s default of Alpha) do show a lot of their Greece Greek programming.
Dialects in Greece are dead, unless you know where to go looking, and even when you do, you’re not going to find much any more. And the centralising Greek state is spreading Standard Greek further; Mariupol is now Standard Greek-speaking as well.
Cyprus is not Greece, and that has not happened here. What has happened is a genuine diglossia, as opposed to the politicised Mexican Standoff that characterised Greece in the mid 20th century. With Standard Greek as the acrolect (the posh variant), rural Cypriot as the basilect (the street variant), and a spectrum between the two, as people modulate their language according to circumstance.
Including if Penpushers are present. (Penpushers, Καλαμαράες, being what Cypriots call Greece Greeks, since they speak Standard Greek, and Standard Greek is a formal language to them.) My aunt and uncle are clearly modulating their language in speaking to me, and they’re aware of it: they’re not dropping fricatives (iðen > ien), they’re not fortitioning glides (xorjon > xorkon), they are generally undoing their phonological changes, and avoiding some local vocabulary.
Which makes me feel bad, I don’t want to make my relatives feel self-conscious around me, and speaking what is to them fancy. Especially as Cypriots have internalised notions that their dialect is crap and Standard Greek is brainier. (Much like Americans with British English.)
… But I appreciate it, not gonna lie. Even with their modulated Cypriot, I am having to pay attention to understand what is going on, I do miss the occasional phrase, and I find it even harder when they speak among themselves. There is still plenty of non-standard vocabulary and syntax in what they do produce, and my studies have come in handy. (Including my study of Asterix in Cypriot, pictured, from which I had already learned the Turkic word for “village mayor”, muhtar > muxtaris. That’s what Vitalstastistix is called there.)
But it’s the articulation that’s getting me. Athens Greek is staccato and choppy, even when it’s delivered at machine-gun pace. Cypriot Greek is more flowing, with voiceless stops voiced (p > b) for extra fluidity, and somewhat monotone compared to the rollercoaster intonation of Cretan. It’s kind of like Standard French. And like French, I find it very hard to extract words out of the flowing stream of syllables. A stream delivered at a brisk pace—again, just like French.
I’ve had a rather ambivalent time of it being in Athens, but I’m more than happy to be spending my last night of it here, in the Roman theater of Herodes Atticus, right under the Acropolis (see first picture). Verdi’s Requiem playing.
It’s pretty awesome. And the seats are a welcome touch.
So that was my first time hearing Verdi’s Requiem. Yes, it was all very operatic, and there was lots of thrills, and both Mozart and Britten are still probably greater, but I was astounded. The drama works, and there was a lot of intimate songwork. And a good deal of depth there.
I’m still crying after the last Libera Me. And yes. I think I did need that.
And that brings to a close my time in Greece. I am now going to Cyprus for a week, to reconnect with my father’s family that I have not seen in almost 35 years.
Given my father’s passing at the start of the year, this is going to be emotional for me. But there is also going to be a lot for me to rediscover.
There is a prehistory to bouzouki music, that we really don’t know much about. The conventional narrative is that the music came to Greece with refugees from Turkey in the 1920s. But we know that bouzouki-like instruments were being played in Greece throughout the 19th century (the tambouras specifically), and this picture is only one of the more lusty portrayals of it.
What we don’t know is what music they were playing. Greek scholars were slow to transcribe music, and were picky about what they chose to transcribe.
Given what we know about Muslim Cretan music (currently being revived, and which also featured bouzouki-like instruments), I don’t think it’s too hard to work out why no one transcribed those 19th century songs played on instruments that looked like bouzoukis. The reaction of scholars in the 19th century would have been just as dismissive as that of scholars in the early 20th century. “That music isn’t Greek, it’s Turkish.”
Never mind that a disproportionate number of fighters in the Greek war of independence were pictured playing it. (And in the case of Makriyannis, wrote about it.)
Occasionally among the jumble of artifacts in a museum, something pops up out of nowhere with huge symbolic meaning, and you wonder just how the hell the museum even got hold of it, and why it doesn’t have a room to itself.
In the museum of folk instruments, that was the lyra of Nikos Xilouris, Crete’s greatest folk musician. It was a polished, much recorded instrument in among random crude instruments collected in the field. It was a big deal to behold, and also completely out of place.
For anyone that has studied in Old school Greek education, and imbibed its folk ballads in school (long after they stopped being sung), this manuscript is comparable. It is The ballad of the dead brother (Του Νεκρού Αδερφού), in an original manuscript by the scholar who published it, Nikolaos Politis, in the first collection of folk songs by a Greek researcher, 1914.
We know that Politis edited his published ballad based on lots of local variants, so seeing this polished final version in manuscript raises a lot more questions than it answers. I guess I would have preferred to see his field notes. But I was certainly not expecting to find it here, let alone to find it under a different title, “Nighttime Visit”.
Mid-19th century sketches of ruins in the Peloponnese by Edward Lear.
Yes, that Edward Lear. Mr Limerick had another career as a painter, with a particular affinity with Greece. His manservant was a Suliote. Lear even visited the Greek colony in Corsica, but was disappointed that the locals had long abandoned traditional Greek dress, which ruined his plans for a really nice painting.
(The Greeks there had abandoned traditional dress to prevent them being too obvious a target for reprisals by Corsicans. I’ve written a bit about them in my time…)
A 19th century take on the Corfu Esplanade, and on Governor Maitland’s mansion, a bit before it turned into the museum of Asian Art.
As I found on my own visit, Corfu is a lot more built up now. In fact, I would have thought it was a lot more built up even in the early 19th century.