• Michael Christou

My home away from home.

I count myself as British, however, I have three cultures that course through my blood, one of which is my Cypriot heritage.

Being a South Londoner, I hadn't fully experienced the hospitality of this special country located just East of Greece in the Aegean. Thankfully my Yiayia (Cypriot for Grandmother) made this awe inspiring trip possible.

Yiayia is a special person who embraces her country and all its traditions. The type of loving person that if friends came round in the middle of the night she would welcome them with open arms and a beaming smile.

Yiayia is an exquisite cook; beautiful dishes were made by her every day - one being a traditional Cypriot pasta bake also known as macaroni de fornu - a favourite of mine, both for taste and sentimental reasons. Another dish is her famous keftedes. Her tasty savoury dish is the envy of the family. So much so that she has to hide them when everyone comes round till it is time to eat!

Since leaving South London and moving further south, our Cypriot traditions have become greater as our family expanded - celebrating New Year’s Day twice, through time differences and going to a Greek Orthodox church once a year for our traditional service.

So deciding to go to this beloved island that takes up half my family’s history in 2015 was a quest to discover the culture and to see if my relatives were true to their word in their wonderful descriptions of the land.

When the plane landed on the beautiful, breathtaking island, the refreshing air hit my face and I (of course) was buzzing with excitement. I couldn’t stop smiling, I’m sure beams of happiness could be felt throughout Larnaca airport, all the way through customs and out into the Cypriot paradise.

We decided to go in February for my Dad's birthday which meant the island was not as packed as usual -  with space to walk through the airport without being crushed by the stampede of antelope more commonly known as the holidaymakers.

Once out of Larnaca, we were off to the petite, warming and quaint seaside town of Zygi away from the bustling Ayia Napa.

Zygi has a homely feel as the invasion of tourism had not yet hit the town. Driving through, you could see the glowing signs of life shining from the fish meze restaurants, from the car the calming waters could be heard on the distant shoreline of Zygi Beach.

I was staying at a family farm, which was more glamorous than it sounds, trust me.

The farm was hand built by my ancestors after buying just a plot of land - it was impressive given the beauty of the building and outdoors areas. From the farmhouse the view offered a very spacious chicken coop sectioned off from a glorious garden containing four looming palm trees bonded together by a couple of hammocks. However, I didn’t care much for the smell…..

Despite the odour, the landscape and the warm sentiment that permeated the place was enough for me to call it more than beautiful.

One main image will remain embedded in me, the picture of the glowing embers which twinkled from our fire in the family room; they glistened throughout the night. I watched as the ash and dust began to settle, my Dad reached towards the unopened fuel tank. He poured the untouched liquid into the dying fire. A sudden fiery cascade of flames leapt up from the bed of coal, the burnt ash scatters itself onto the rim of the brick border. The colour floods into my wide eyes as if by magic, the fire restarts and comes alive.

I guess you could say, in that one moment - with my family around me in the glow of the sunset surrounding them, I finally felt happy and complete.

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