Some of the many varied pebbles to be found on the shores of Aphrodite's Birthplace.
You can make your journey; your way around the world; your world any shape you want. A personal composition of many directions, dimensions and angles, corners and turns. The full and final shape of that journey is never visible of course until it is complete. When the journey ends. Completion requires return, I guess? Or points of return at least. More often than not in life those points of return will relate to family and familiarity. You will have made a literal, personal revolution. Around the globe. Or some parts of it. There and back again. Back home. Home is where the heart is after all we are told. Cyprus for me is one such recurrent ‘point of return’. And I have family of a sort here too.
Waves and Rocks at 'Petra Tou Romiou' or Aphrodite's Birthplace.
My ‘Second’ or ‘Cypriot Family’, as I have mentioned previously.
When here I always try to make a point of pilgrimage to return to ‘Petra Tou Romiou’ ( ‘The Rock of the Roman’ ) better known as Aphrodite’s Birthplace. The Greek goddess of Love. This is where once again you find me sat here thinking now. With the sun high above stranded alone in an endless sea of cloudless blue sky, sending down his blazing rays to win our attentions and company. The breeze in my hair and the waves washing in and out and in again, breathing beautiful colours into the recumbant lungs of the many sun-bleached stones that carpet the shoreline hereabout. The water brings life to them. The stones. Revealing their seeming infinite colours crafted by countless geological histories.
One of the standing rocks at Aphrodite's birthplace.
A myriad hues of green, brown, yellow, orange, pink, grey, red and white. Often mixed together. Often laced with delicate crystal white vein-traces of quartz. Quite beautiful. All smoothed at the edges over time by water and wind. If you look long and hard enough you will likely find one shaped like a heart. Aphrodite’s mark. I think I did once? Yes, I am happy to be here once again. My personal point of return. For now, for the time being and just for one moment only I have come full circle. My world as a circle. A round trip.
[ For some (minor) insight into the myths attached to Aphrodite’s Birthplace please refer to my previous visit here dated 15 October 2008 ]
The world wasn’t always round of course.
For countless centuries it was considered to be flat by the best minds of Men and anyone else who cared to have an opinion. Flat. Implying finite distances, corners and edges. Careful not to fall off the sides folks! I was reminded of this fact by my ‘Cypriot Dad’ Kyriakos on my first evening back in Cyprus, when whilst sat on my favourite summer-cool veranda discussing my journey-making he introduced me to the Greek word ‘Tetraperatos’. Kyriakos explained : “Tetraperatos is a word we use to refer to someone who is very clever. They have become very clever through travelling; by becoming someone who has travelled to the four ends, or edges of the world. This word exists from when the world was still believed to be flat… to be a… a?… what do you call?”.
Aphrodite's Rock is the one (I think?) to the far right of this photo in the water.
“A square?”. “Ye-es, a square. Ulysses…”
Kyriakos continues curiously opting to use the later Romanised name for the hero of Greek legend Odysseus “Ulysses is the most famous of Greek travellers. The first man to visit the four edges of the Earth and so he is tetraperatos. A wise man. He visited many cities of many peoples and observed their cultures and their ways of thinking. This is how we learn about the world. By seeing things; by seeing people you get wise”.
And so the adjective was born. To be tetraperatos.
I like this thought. Tetraperatos. Tetraperatos. To become wise, or wiser; through interaction with the worlds peoples.
Five threaded bands given me in Sapa, North Vietnam.
The act of travel as a means of acquiring knowledge. Wisdom. I am reminded of the thought of one of the characters in Salman Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s Children’
that ‘To understand just one life, you have to swallow the world’
Kyriakos, warming to his theme, expands (he is a teacher after all) : “Yes, the ancient Greeks travelled around the world and would cherry-pick [my choice of phrase, not his] elements, the best elements of other peoples’ cultures and civilisations, bring them home and combine them. Refine them into a new, maybe stronger civilisation. This is why we Greeks we say “Ouden kenon ypo ton helion”… there is nothing new under the sun.
You have this saying too I think?”. “Yes we do”. Apparently it more literally translates as ‘nothing can be hidden from the sun’. And I like this thought too. The free admission that cultures and civilisations (even before the advents of mass-travel and communication) were composite things. Even in antiquity. A long continuing process of cultural interaction, assimilation, imitation, cross-pollination to make our own ongoing cultures and civilisations more enlivened and enriched. Stronger one would hope. With travel as a chief motivating force in this process.
Stevie and Aphrodite's bush :)
So why in this wonderfully modern ultra-interactive world we have today are we not all tetraperatos as a consequence of this process of mutual ‘understanding’, exploration, interaction and exchange and still largely at one anothers throats be it politically, militarily or financially (or all of the above)? Well who knows, and not something I wish to dwell or debate upon today.
Corinthian (?) pillared Tombs.
Probably a lack of love somewhere in the equation I guess? Which thought - namely ’love’ (and not the lack of it I hasten to add) - brings me nicely back full circle again. Yep, there’s that circle, that round trip once more. I am sat at the foamy birthplace of the Goddess of said virtue after all. Yes I am sat upon the pebbled shore. The milky-turquoise waves of the sea between Limossol and Paphos are washing in and crashing against the small collection of rocks that sit here in the Mediterranean shallows and from whom the myths were born.
My fourth or fifth trip here today and I make it the first time that I actually go out for a little swim into the sea. The waters from which Aphrodite once arose, or so the story goes, offer a cool and refreshing embrace.
Roman columns from the time of the Roman governate of Cyprus.
Careful not to go too near the rocks though. Back on shore and drying in the 0.2 seconds it takes to do so in the Cyprus sun I commence one final obeisance. My own little ritual whenever I return here. To leave a message; a note; an offering of sorts. A thought offered to family and friends by tying a little memento around the bushes that sit back on the beach line here at Petra Tou Romiou. This is commonly done as an offering to the Goddess of Love although, dispiritingly I notice that few such gestures populate the bushes on this particular visit. I cut five of the six rainbow-coloured, embroidery bracelets that were given to me by the various Hmong ethnic minority children of Sapa town, North Vietnam and have remained tied around the neck-strap of my camera these 2 months past.
Sunset and gold besides the Larnaca salt lake.
I retain just one white and blue band given me by ‘Sky’ ‘cos I need my travel threads and ‘cos she was nuts and I like to remember her. The rest though are cut and retied upon (I believe?) an olive branch. One for the memory of my father. One for the memory of my mother. One for the love of my sister. One for the protection of my wider family and one of course for Aphrodite from me; a little plea to continue to guard me on my journey I guess. She’s done a fine job so far. Maybe she loves me ;D
And there you have it. The journey must continue for now. And who knows what shape it will take. Plans are subject to change. The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs have declined my visa application whilst I have been here (somewhat to the relief of friends and family, things being as they are over there at the time of writing) so new plans, a new shape for my journey is being forged even as you read this now.
Farewell to Little Baby C. You'll be a lot bigger next time I see ya chap!
Watch this space. Watch this shape, the pattern of my journey unfold. Stevie’s Odyssey must go on. An Odyssey. Definition : (a story of) a long journey containing a series of adventures and vicissitudes. Sounds like fun huh?! And how long did it take Odysseus to return home to his family? To come full circle and return tetraperatos? Ten years!!! “Yipes!”.
Please don’t tell my nan that or else she’ll hire a hitman to come out here and take my passport out with a bullet!
...oh and one last thing. My 'Cypriot Family' surname? Telemachou. As in Telemachus. The son of Odysseus :)