The above is the title of my first-ever blog in 2005 when I first came to Nicosia with IFES (international movement uniting IVCF/UCCF/GBU). And here I am again. And I have an itch to blog.
I am here to give seminars on the history of the ancient Church. My main focus will be on the Greek Fathers, but I’ll pull in Ephraim the Syrian and Ambrose of Milan as well during an excursus on ancient hymnody. How could I not? One night will be devoted entirely to the ancient Christians of Cyprus itself.
The city is much as it was, only with Makarios St being emptied by the recession. But apparently the Old City, where I’m going to stroll tomorrow, has some new developments going up. So this is good. I will see them as I poke my head into the old churches and tourist shops tucked into the Old City’s corners. A lovely walking path along the Pediaios riverway* has been added since my last visit two years ago, a very happy thing to spend time on.
Still the cats. Still the weird evangelical/charismatic fringe movements coming in with their healing missions that claim healings that never happened. Still the Orthodox as conservative as anywhere, with a politically-voiced Archbishop Chrysostomos II alongside the wax babies in the cave. Still, however, the smell of the arid eastern Mediterranean, a smell I cannot name but that makes me nostalgic for 2005-2006, the first gap in my academic CV (but very important in the CV of my self). Still the Syrian meze near Rick’s flat. Still Rick’s flat! Although now complete with Madara and wee Noah. A pleasant development!
This morning, walking to church I saw a man roasting entire animals over hot coals on the sidewalk. I kid you not. This was several steps beyond souvla let alone souvlakia! Souvlakia will be eaten. And … sheftalia (sp??). And gyros. It will be good.
Cypriots like their meat.
I am, to get back to the point, enjoying this dusty island. I like its dust. I like its souvla. I like the sound of Greek I don’t understand ringing in my ears. I like Greek signboards. I like the sorrowful view of the Kyrenia Mountains, not that far away if you don’t count the soldiers and the razor wire. And preferable when you can’t see the Turksih flag emblazoned on the side with the words ‘How happy to be a Turk!’
When I’m not leading seminars or visiting friends, I shall re-explore Nicosia, go to Famagusta, and make a trip to Machairas Monastery. And somewhere in the North the name of which escapes me; somewhere I’ve never been. I’ve been to a lot of this island, though!**
*Given how much of its existence is spent dry, I durst not call it a ‘river’.
**Castles: St. Hilarion’s Castle, Kolossi Castle, Kyrenia Castle, Paphos harbour ‘castle’; ancient sites: Salamis, Kourion, Paphos UNESCO site with the mosaics (‘House of Dionysos’); churches: various throughout Nicosia (including St. Sophia’s now a mosque — my first Gothic cathedral!!), as well as the ‘Nestorian’ church in Famagusta, Panayia Podithou, St Sozomen’s in Galata, Ayios Nikolaos tis Stigis, Ayia Kyriaki in Paphos, St Barnabas’ Monastery & Tomb, Machairas Monastery…