Salamis: waiting to be discovered

salamis street

Salamis was a city with 100.000’s of inhabitants in ancient times. Only a small part of the city has been excavated, showing Roman and Byzantine remains. Much more is to be discovered as Salamis was founded already in the 11th century BC, ruled by Assyrians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Persians and Alexander the Great.

salamis unexcavated

Salamis lies next to the sea, at a not very proper but well accessible sand beach. As temperatures can be quite high here in the summer season, this offers a great opportunity to combine a visit to hot Salamis with a good swim to cool down. The site of Salamis is a deserted place. The first excavations here date from 1880 and all excavations stopped after the division of Cyprus in a Turkish and Greek part in 1974. The largest part of Salamis is still covered under sand and bushes. Visitors are scarce.

salamis baths
salamis statue of persephone

The part I liked most is the bathing complex from the 1st century BC, as it has several statues around it with the beautiful dark marble statue of Persephone (on the right). Salamis prospered during 15 centuries until it was destroyed by earthquakes and tidal waves in the 4th century AD. Only some Byzantine activity persevered in Salamis but Arab raids in medieval times brought islam and made an end to christian domination. Many stones from Salamis were used to build Gazimagusa (Famagusta) and other buildings all over the island. All other remains were covered under sand dunes and bushes.

salamis basilica of campanopetra

Worth your attention is also the 6th/7th century AD Basilica of Campanopetra. Cyprus was a very early christian island, as the apostle Saint Barnabas was born in Salamis from a Jewish family. There was a large Jewish community in Salamis, most probably due to its nearby location to Israel.  Saint Barnabas spent time in Israel, became a christian and an active apostle, traveling to major 1st century cities. He returned to Cyprus together with the famous apostle Saint Paul in 46 AD.

salamis mosaic basilica of campanopetra

They created a thorough basis for christianity in very early times in Cyprus. Saint Barnabas’ grave is very near to Salamis and open for visitors although rather disappointing. From the Basilica of Campanopetra site you can see the enormity of the Salamis site as well as the blue Mediterranean Sea. There is a very fine mosaic here (photo on the right), do not leave before you found it – a bit on the side of the ruins.

salamis gymnasium

The gymnasium of Salamis was among the largest of Roman era. Byzantines rebuilt it upon an older complex, destroyed in 4th century AD earthquakes. The marble columns do not match with the capitals on top, most probably the rebuilders just took pieces from elsewhere in the Salamis ruins. To be honest, the gymnasium itself is not very special to visit except for the impression of the large size; however the 44 (!) latrines where people would sit side by side in a semi-circle is a unique place to see.

salamis latrines
salamis latrines

They had good plumbing systems to secure hygiene, fortunately, that are still visible here. Note the funny sign in Turkish, Antik Tuvalet = antique toilet.

salamis the colonnade street

Particularly interesting are the roads that have been excavated. They show how well the roads were made, and also how large the city of Salamis must have been (for example in the 1st century AD it problably had 350.000 inhabitants).

Here some pictures of beautiful streets.

salamis harbour street
salamis street
salamis unexcavated

However, the best may still be uncovered here. Salamis has known Assyrian, Egyptian, Persian and Greek times: all I saw were the much more recent remains of Roman and Byzantine times. The nearby Royal Tombs and other excavations show that deep down there is more to see; much more. Salamis is waiting to be discovered.

Other blogs you may like:
* Harran, nothing to see?
* Göbeklitepe, zero point in time
* Vesunna Museum in Périgueux

Royal Tombs like Homer’s Iliad

royal tombs

Royal Tombs dating from the 8th and 7th century BC can be found in Northern Cyprus. The burial practices offer a good insight into ancient rituals just like Homer described them in the Iliad. However, it is more the knowledge about the Royal Tombs than the visit to the tombs themselves that is interesting.

royal tombs
royal tombs

Homer describes in the Iliad how kings and other noble personages were buried. His words are confirmed by the discoveries at the Royal Tombs in Northern Cyprus, although there are also archaeological theories about Homer being first to tell and invent and then the rituals on Cyprus following his epic narrative.

It is easy to find the Royal Tombs. If you go to the grave or the monastery of Saint Barnabas, north of Gazimagusa / Famagusta, you will see them along the road in the fields. Most objects found are in the Cyprus Museum in the South of the Island; I have not been there yet but it seems interesting as findings include chariots, a throne, incense burners, ivory objects, bronze horse bits and decorated breast plates, pottery and amphorae that contained oil and wine. Kings were buried with lots of grave goods.

royal tombs horse skeleton

On the location of the Royal Tombs however, only the stone buildings of the graves remain as well as the skeletons of horses: try to see one behind the glass on the picture (left). I am not sure if the glass ‘protection’ is helpful; most of them were so humid on the inside that it was impossible to see anything or take pictures. How can a humid glass house be protective for such old remains? My visit was December 2018; maybe it is dryer and more clear in summertime.

Burial in the era of the 8th and 7th century BC did not just come with the above mentioned grave goods but also with sacrifice of horses, donkeys and even humans. Archaeological research only started in the ’60ies here and gave a wealth of information. Whoever thought that Homer just made up his stories in the Iliad, found out that his description of burial practices was very accurate (unless you support the theory that the rituals were only shaped under the influence of Homer’s stories).

royal tombs
royal tombs
royal tombs 50

Most probably (part of) the Royal Tombs were used during many ages. Saint Catherine’s Tomb, number 50, for example, had a chapel on top that dated from the 4rd century BC. Archaeological research in the ’60ies revealed that the chapel was built on a tomb dating from a thousand years earlier than the 4th century chapel. By the way, the chapel was used for Saint Catherine’s veneration even in 1950 BC! So this location was special to many people during at least 2600 years…

cellarga graves
cellarga mezarlik

Not everybody could afford a Royal Tomb. Next to the Royal Tombs lies a necropolis of hundreds, or even thousands of graves. Just like the nearby ancient city of Salamis and the nearby Bronze Age city of Enkomi, only a minor part of the fields have been unearthed. What has been excavated, shows us tombs people could go to by steps downstairs that were cut in the rocks. Large stones sealed the entrances of the burial chambers that were used almost continuously from 700 BC until 400 AD.

Cellarka necropolis
necropolis of cellarga

The picture on the right shows the immense fields with so much left to excavate. Further on you can see the grave and monastery of Saint Barnabas between the trees. Next to the chapel of Saint Barnabas’ grave there are also findings of burial chambers. Maybe that is just ‘the other end’ of the same necropolis….

cellarga necropolis

Like the Royal Tombs, there is not so much ‘to be seen’ here. Nevertheless in the same time it is an exciting experience to stand there and oversee the place and consider that all you see might have been part of an immense necropolis, used during more than 10 centuries by hundreds of thousands of people. Neither in the nearby cities of Salamis or Enkomi nor at the Royal Tombs or Cellarga necropolis any excavation took place since 1974: the year that Cyprus was split in a Turkish and a Greek side. But nothing stops you from visiting the sites already now: you can feel the vibe of Homer’s Iliad here quite clearly!

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeological Museum

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeology Museum

The Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeological Museum in Northern (Turkish) Cyprus houses many beautiful artefacts: especially pottery dating from 2300 BC till 475 years BC. It was a pleasure to walk through the two different exposition rooms. The icon part of the museum is disappointing; rather new (19th/20th century) and mostly bad quality. But I do recommend a visit to other parts!

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeology Museum

Next to Saint Barnabas’ grave lies a (former) monastery – the last monks left in 1977. Nowadays it is the residence of the Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeological Museum: the banner above this blog notices the opening in 2017 but I remember a visit in the ’90ies when both icons and archaeological artefacts were already exposed. Most probably a more formal status was given to this place to attract more attention and thus visitors.

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeology Museum

You can enter through the gate where you pay a small entrance fee and find the church of the monastery immediately on your right hand. It houses the Icon Museum but that is not an interesting place to visit. There are no valuable old icons and the quality of the icons is poor. It looks as if the Turkish-Cypriot government didn’t know what to do with the church and some icons found and decided to combine the two into a museum.

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeology Museum

Just pass by the church to find yourself in the beautifully kept courtyard. The Archaeological Museum is housed in (several different) buildings that surround this courtyard. It is a simple museum, just showing objects as they are in showcases, with little signs for explanation in Turkish and English. The charm lies fully in the tranquillity of the place combined with the quality of the artefacts. This is not a modern, fancy museum, but a museum that you like if you like the unusual. Like in other blogs, I can only show here some highlights: there is much more to see. Some examples I liked:

Red polished double spouted bowl with plastic decoration, early bronze age, 2300 – 2075 BC, says the sign. Someone, living 4200 years earlier than us, decided to decorate a red pot with humans lying against or climbing up the sides of the bowl: how moving is that! What a brilliant artisan…

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeology Museum


And then this pottery: how can I describe it? The sign says ‘white painted ware and red-on-red flask, early bronze age 1900 – 1625 BC’. The description does not do justice to the originality and variety in shapes. Endless is my admiration for the artisans who made this in a period when they had ‘nothing’ compared to the instruments and techniques we have.

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeology Museum


Late bronze age pottery – 1450-1225 BC: amazing in its simplicity. Or is this late bronze age design? Amazing….

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeology Museum

I adore the warrior in this chariot: although he seems to be too small for the size of the chariot, he looks proud and confident. This is just one of a collection of very special terracotta figurines in this museum, from the archaic period 750-600 BC.

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeology Museum

Among a series of terracotta heads, also from the archaic period, my eye fell on this one because his eyes fell on me. A strong and in the same time quiet, confident expression. Very nice to see. I was walking out of the museum when I passed by this one and he stopped me 🙂

The Archaeological Museum is worth a visit, even though the Icon Museum is disappointing. You can combine it with a visit to Saint Barnabas’ grave at immediate walking distance, to the nearby Royal Tombs, or to the ancient city of Salamis.

You may also like these blogs:
Archaeological Museum Sanliurfa
Archaeological Museum Amman
Museum of Art and Archaeology Périgord
Icons in the Antiphonitis church

Saint Barnabas’ grave

Saint Barnabas' grave

Saint Barnabas’ grave lies on the northern (Turkish) side of Cyprus, in the cellar under a small chapel. Although this saint’s grave is a major ‘asset’ for the status of the Cypriot-Orthodox church, no signs of love or care can be found.

small Greek-Cypriot chapel
Saint Barnabas' grave

I expected to find a place with worship and deep veneration but the grave of Saint Barnabas bears hardly any signs of that. To my surprise, street dogs were walking in and out of the chapel. The grave cellar contains just a few cheep pictures and a candle here and there. Whoever saw the decorations and worshipping around the graves of for example Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint John can not believe his eyes in seeing the treatment of Saint Barnabas’ grave.

Saint Barnabas' grave
Saint Barnabas' grave

Saint Barnabas was an apostle who worked a lot with Saint Paul. He was the one who introduced Saint Paul who was converted only after having persecuted the Christians, to the apostles who still feared that man. Barnabas convinced them that Saint Paul’s conversion was truthful. Saint Paul and Barnabas traveled together from Antioch to Tarsus to Jerusalem, from Cyprus to Pamphilia. The couple spread early christianity every where, until they fell out and split. After that both went their own way.

In 46 AD Saint Barnabas returned to the city of Salamis in Cyprus, the Island where he was born. The Bible does not mention what happened to him after that but Christian tradition dating from the 3rd century already has it that he died as a martyr there in Salamis (c. 75 AD). His remains are buried in a small grave cellar under a chapel not far from that ancient city on the northern side of Cyprus. As said the chapel is open for everybody, even dogs. The interior contains nothing special. Just take the stairs to go down and see the coffin in the cellar.

simple church interior
stairs in the chapel to go down to the grave cellar

The fact that Cyprus ‘has’ Saint Barnabas is the main reason that the Cypriot-Orthodox church is an ‘independent’ church. Unlike what many people think, they do not belong to the Greek-Orthodox or similar orthodox churches. Of course they do have strong ties but the Cypriot-Orthodox church makes it’s own policies, can go it’s own way. This was particularly clear in the ’60s and ’70s when archbishop Makarios was president of Cyprus. Religion and politics intertwined and there was no way to stop Makarios in his policies to let Cyprus become one with Greece (‘enosis‘) and oppress the Turkish-Cypriot community.

cellar with coffin of Saint Barnabas

During 30 years it was not possible for Greek Cypriots to go to the North and for Turkish Cypriots to go to the South but there is again free access already since 2003. You’d expect an investment by Greek Cypriots to make Saint Barnabas’ grave a respectable place of veneration. Or have they gone beyond the point where that matters – how proud are the Greek Cypriots of a church that is still a major factor in blocking peace processes in north-south negotiations?

road to the chapel of Saint Barnabas
road to Saint Barnabas’ chapel

Anyway, I found it painful to see the status of Saint Barnabas’ grave. Whatever today’s politics are like, he lived in a different turbulent period and did his upmost to create something new and good he believed in. He suffered for that and deserves a better memorial.





You may also like these blogs:
Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeological Museum: the former Saint Barnabas Monastery where the last monks left in 1977.
Royal Tombs like Homer’s Iliad: not just the Royals Tombs but also the Cellarga necropolis lies here. Some graves excavated next to Saint Barnabas’ chapel seem to be part of that necropolis.

Dank aan de kiezers

heleboel kamelen die samen dicht tegen elkaar aan zitten

20 maart was de dag van de Provinciale Statenverkiezingen 2019: velen gingen naar de stembus, u en jij waarschijnlijk ook. Voor een stem op de VVD wil ik mijn dank uitspreken en in het bijzonder als ik op lijst 1, plaats 12 een voorkeursstem mocht krijgen: superdank!

25 maart kwamen de definitieve uitslagen van de verkiezingen: voor mij geen zetel nu. Wel het prachtige aantal van 2816 voorkeursstemmen: als het alleen aan de stemmen had gelegen, had ik nu in de Provinciale Staten gezeten. Voor een voorkeurszetel waren 5301 stemmen nodig, dus het was echt niet genoeg. Maar het grote aantal is wel opgevallen, dat haal je niet vaak op een plaats nummer 12. Daarmee wordt toch aangegeven dat er groot maatschappelijk draagvlak is voor mijn kandidatuur, zeker ook als je bedenkt dat de eerste 10 mensen op de lijst vanuit de VVD online-campagne actief ondersteund werden en degenen die lager stonden niet. Ik hoop dat er op een later moment kansen zijn om in te stromen en de visie waarop mijn kandidatuur rust in te kunnen brengen. Graag wil ik een ieder die hieraan heeft bijgedragen ontzettend danken voor het vertrouwen!

Stem deze Amsterdammer naar de provincie op 20 maart!

stem deze Amsterdammer naar de provincie
Stem deze Amsterdammer naar de provincie

Tijdens de campagne van de afgelopen weken heb ik veel mensen gesproken: op straat, bij mij thuis tijdens de huiskamerbijeenkomsten, online, bij debatten en andere events. Het is zo belangrijk dat mensen zich vertegenwoordigd voelen door iemand, ook in de provincie. Die persoon wil ik graag zijn.

De provincie Noord-Holland lijkt veraf te staan van bestuurlijk Amsterdam en vice versa. Ik wil de komende jaren werken aan verbinding want alleen zo verbeteren zaken als wonen, toerisme en bereikbaarheid. Ik ben de enige Amsterdamse vrouw op de VVD lijst, én een ondernemer die zich graag inzet voor doeners binnen en buiten Amsterdam.

Een onderwerp waar de provincie niet over gaat maar dat in veel gesprekken werd genoemd: hard werken en weinig geld overhouden door de stijgende kosten van huur, zorgverzekering, boodschappen enz. Daar moet de VVD iets mee want werken moet juist worden beloond. Gelukkig zijn er al mensen opgestaan die met dit thema aan de slag willen. Vanuit de provincie ga ik daaraan bijdragen wat ik kan!

Zie hier mijn YouTube over mijn motivatie, inspiratie van mijn betovergrootvader!
Zie hier mijn YouTube ‘Stem deze Amsterdammer naar de provincie’, met tevens beelden van de Spaarndammerbuurt waar ik woon.
Beide filmpjes heeft Martijn Koning bij Jinek met complimenten laten zien 🙂

Uitnodiging: welkom bij mijn huiskamerbijeenkomsten!

Op 10 en 17 maart organiseer ik twee huiskamerbijeenkomsten, met de Amsterdamse gemeenteraadsleden Hala Naoum Nehmé en Marianne Poot; je kunt er in alle rust praten over wat jou beweegt. Geef je nu op via deze link!

huiskamerbijeenkomsten

Hoe vaak kun je nou eens in alle rust spreken met mensen die in de politiek zitten? Meestal is het in drukke zaaltjes, aan de rand van vergaderingen, onder het oog van camera’s. Daarom organiseer ik twee huiskamerbijeenkomsten waarin je van gedachten kunt wisselen in een plezierige sfeer.
* op 10 maart: met Hala Naoum Nehmé – binnen en buiten de gemeenteraad hoor je haar over Wonen, een van de belangrijkste taken die zij vervult in de Amsterdamse politiek.
* op 17 maart: met Marianne Poot – al jaren bekend van Veiligheid, ze voert ook het woord over Schiphol en is de nieuwe fractievoorzitter van de Amsterdamse VVD.

huiskamerbijeenkomsten

De gesprekken worden begeleid door Laurent Staartjes, lid van de bestuurscommissie West. Zelf ben ik kandidaat voor de Provinciale Staten Noord-Holland, denk daarvoor aan onderwerpen als Mobiliteit, Wonen, Energietransitie, Klimaat, Cultuureducatie en Erfgoed en natuurlijk de provinciale belastingen (die zijn in Noord-Holland het laagst dankzij de VVD en wat ons betreft blijft dat zo).

Kortom, je krijgt op zo’n middag 3 voor de prijs van 1: stadsdeel, gemeenteraad en provincie! We beginnen om 15 uur en natuurlijk sluiten we af met een borrel.

Nieuwsgierig? Je bent van harte welkom, het maakt niet uit of je ervaring hebt in de politiek of zoiets gewoon een keer wilt meemaken. Je kunt alleen komen luisteren of juist je eigen mening naar voren brengen – we zijn nieuwsgierig naar wat jou beweegt. Geef je op via deze link.

Mensa Fonds veiling: doe mee!

david contori soto

Elk goed doel zoekt creatieve manieren om middelen te verwerven. Het Mensa Fonds heeft een benefietveiling, dit jaar op 5 april in Amsterdam. Iedereen is welkom (ook als je de kunst wilt afkijken… we delen graag onze geheimen).

mensa fonds koreaans eten

Mensa Fonds veiling is een plezier om mee te maken. Er zijn totaal verschillende kavels, aan het Mensa Fonds gedoneerd door mensen die het goede doel steunen: van boeken tot een heuse vliegtocht, van prachtige kunst zoals het aquarel hierboven tot een Koreaans etentje.
Het bedrag dat mensen bieden voor de kavels, komt 100% bij het Mensa Fonds terecht. Want de aanbieders doen het echt voor de goede zaak en vragen geen cent daarvoor. De locatie, restaurant I-Dock in Amsterdam (IJdok 4 aan de marinehaven, vlakbij het centraal station) stelt de ruimte als sponsor ter beschikking. Alle werk wordt door vrijwilligers gedaan. De sfeer tijdens de veiling is gezellig en soms spannend – je verveelt je zeker niet!

mensa fonds antieke lamp

De opbrengsten van de veiling zorgen ervoor dat het Mensa Fonds zijn werk kan blijven doen: denk aan de jaarlijkse Awards uitreiking waar het Mensa Fonds prijzen uitreikt aan mensen die bijzondere prestaties hebben geleverd als of voor hoogbegaafden. Het Mensa Fonds wil dat hoogbegaafd talent beter benut wordt; daar profiteert de hele samenleving van. Documentaires en boeken worden ondersteund zodat er meer inzicht in hoogbegaafdheid ontstaat en steeds meer mensen weten hoe ze ermee om kunnen gaan. Lees meer over de lopende projecten en de plannen waaraan gewerkt wordt in het meerjarenbeleidsplan op de site. Maar boven alles zou ik zeggen: kom gewoon langs, dat is de beste kennismaking!

mensa fonds vliegtocht

Wanneer?
Vrijdagavond 5 april vanaf 19 uur (duur 1 à 1,5 uur)

Waar?
Restaurant I-Dock, IJdok 4, Amsterdam (nabij CS).

Toegang
Aanmelden via info@mensafonds.nl. Toegang gratis.

Niet komen maar wel bieden? Dat kan! Lees hoe en wat in de FAQ op de website.

Lees meer over de Mensa Fonds Awards in deze blog, en over de oprichting van het Mensa Fonds in 2013 in deze blog.

Huis van Hilde – Hilde’s House

Huis van Hilde

Huis van Hilde, in english Hilde’s House, ‘is home to a spectacular exhibition of the archaeology and human history of Noord-Holland’: thus the introduction of the museum website. Nothing in these words is exagerated. Huis van Hilde is a fascinating museum where old findings are combined with new technologies in a way I didn’t see before in archaeological museums. That makes your visit a high quality experience!

Heavy fighting of the people of Holland with the people of Westfrisia in 1297 has left traces in bones that were found in the medieval village of Vronen, close to actual Alkmaar. They prove that the fighting was not just about winning but also about setting an example, learning the Westfrisians a lesson once and for all. Traces of stabbing with swords show the cruelties committed.

Huis van Hilde - slag bij Vronen

That history is the first thing you see when you enter the museum part of Huis van Hilde. It is intriguing to learn that in the 13th century there were both women and men in the fight. Every artefact shown in Huis van Hilde can easily be looked up in the tablets: this really opens a complete collection without being boring (if you’re not interested, you just don’t look into it).

huis van hilde

Screens on the walls show videos with more historic background or archaeological research. Findings of skeletons are used to bring people back to life, like the Archaeological Museum of Haarlem had done. The skeleton on the left here belonged to a man from the stone age (2500BC). The picture below shows the man as he must have looked in real life.

huis van hilde man uit steentijd


Models of farms show how people lived during different ages. And so on. Huis van Hilde is a very rich museum and very capable too: they know how to show you their treasures.
Languages used are Dutch, English and German; the tablets are Dutch only but very clear, you might be able to understand stuff.
I can only show some of the artefacts I liked here: there is a lot more to see. Artefacts I liked:

Two wooden canoes
Found in the soil of Noord-Holland.

On top is a canoe from Uitgeest 600 BC

Below is a canoe from the Wieringermeer polder 3300 BC.

huis van hilde sacrifice and ritual

Sacrifice and ritual
Very interesting objects found in a sacrificial site at Velserbroek.
During ages, starting at Iron Age, people threw objects in the bog such as jewelry, human bones, coins and pots.
The presence of animal skulls – horses and dogs – and spearheads indicate worship of the Germanic god Wodan.

Huis van Hilde - flutes

Flutes
Amazing to find a flute and a pan flute in the vitrines. The flute was found in Broek op Langedijk. It was made out of the ulnar of a crane. Information in the tablet says that flutes in this part of Europe go back to 36.000 years, but this one is from 0-300AD. The pan flute is made out of boxwood. Only 4 pan flutes were found in Europe and this one from Uitgeest is in the best condition. It was probably imported from the Mediterranean 150-250AD.

A simple beauty, this bell from 450 – 750 AD
huis van hilde - boot
Women’s boot, goat leather, 13nd century
Two great sarcophagi 1100-1200 AD from a city lost in the water – and the story of their finding and lifting from the water on video
huis van hilde dagger
And what about this stone dagger

How to get there
Huis van Hilde in the village of Castricum has easy access. Officially coming by car is not encouraged but you can find enough parking spots at walking distance from the museum. Coming by train is indeed very easy: Huis van Hilde lies right next to the trainstation of Castricum. From Amsterdam Central Station, a train leaves every 20 minutes; traveling time is 25 minutes (from Alkmaar, trains also leave every 20 minutes and traveling time is 10 minutes).

Huis van Hilde
huis van hilde depot figures
The depot in figures: impressive!

You may like other blogs I wrote about archaeological museums:

Archaeological Museum Haarlem
Archaeological Museum Amman
Archaeological Museum Gaziantep
Archaeological Museum Şanlıurfa
Museum of Art and Archaeology of the Périgord

Shoplifters: movie about purity

shoplifters

Shoplifters is a movie about purity of characters and personalities. I didn’t know I like Japanese movies but now I know. Shoplifters is a wonderful work of art. If you do not know whether you like Japanese movies, go there – because you do like them. You certainly like Shoplifters.

Shoplifters starts with the ‘finding’ of a little girl, a 4 or 5 year old kid that is suffering from violence in her family. She is happy to go with her finders and live in their place. It is an environment of love and respect. In her new family, people are careful in handling each other’s feelings. Her new grandmother takes care of her food and clothing. A boy, maybe 8 or 10 years old, is there to do games with her, to show her around in her new world and indeed… to teach her how to work in shoplifting.

Nobody in the little girl’s new family is really family – as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that every family member has its own history – and its own grief and failure. Very strong in this movie are the images shown: feelings are not explained but filmed. The emotion derives from what you see. With shortcoming and weakness comes nevertheless a transcendent purity. The characters are not perfect but very honest and absolutely fair in their behaviour; much more than in the world of the average.

When the movie ends, it is the little girl that pays the price. The officials find her and bring her back to her original family, where she was treated badly. She is unhappy and very lonely in the end of the movie. She pays the price of the general myth that a girl needs her mother and that she is best off in her ‘own’ family, much better than in a family of shoplifters. Japanese society is ruthless towards kids in order to uphold the myth of nice families who are the cornerstone of society. It has a certain, idealist, perception of a family and is blind towards the true meaning families can have. Is that only Japanese society or also yours?

Go see this movie. It is something completely else. Uncomparable to other movies. A combination of art, beauty, emotion, societal relevance, love and excellent story-telling.

You may also like the blogs about these movies:
Dheepan
Banana pancakes and the children of the sticky rice


Panagia Tochniou Monastery – Northern Cyprus Heritage (23)

panagia toxniou

Panagia Tochniou Monastery or in Turkish, the Bulușa Manastırı lies in a beautiful spot of the Kyrenia mountains in Northern Cyprus. An high Cypress Tree that is 500 years old serves as a wishing tree. The place is deserted and peaceful when I arrive there.

panagia toxniou

Panagia Tochniou Monastery is in a better state than I expected when the locals of the village Agıllar (in Greek: Mandres) showed me the way, complaining that heritage is left abandoned and that nobody takes care of it. Panagia Tochniou Monastery lies at only 3 kilometers distance of Agıllar; follow the tarmac, you do not need to go over unpaved roads even if your map tells you so. The first 2,5 kilometers you think you will end up in the middle of nowhere with nothing to see. 

panagia toxniou

Then suddenly a great view opens in front of you: tree, monastery, fields and the Troodos mountains far away. The Cypress Tree is said to be 500 years old and 15 or 18 meters high. It was bigger once upon a time but it was struck by lightning and is now hanging over like the tower of Pisa.
The tree is full of little papers and cloths symbolizing visitor’s wishes: may they all become true!
Large iron rods protect the tree from falling: a merciful act accomplished by English inhabitants, a local in Agıllar told me.

panagia toxniou
panagia toxniou

The church of the
Panagia Tochniou Monastery is not in a too bad shape. I have seen a lot worse in Northern Cyprus (for example Antiphonitis, Sourp Magar, Agios Pandeleimon).
Panagia Tochniou dates from the 12th or 13th century: Find more details about that and a recent restauration here.

panagia toxniou

Inside, some traces of frescoes can be found in the dome and in arches. The tomb in the north wall seems to be the founder’s tomb.

panagia toxniou

In front of the church is a courtyard with buildings around it. On one side they are intact. You can enter the rooms that are empty. The view from the windows is spectacular. How on earth did they find this kind of spots in the middle ages to build their monasteries? Well done, for sure!

panagia toxniou

There is not a lot left from the other buildings around the courtyard of Panagia Tochniou but a look around is interesting. I saw several different marble pillars that are certainly not medieval. Most probably they took them from the ruins of nearby Salamis, an ancient city that thrived for over 1200 years until it was destroyed by the Arabs in the 7th century.

panagia toxniou

On a visit in 2012, a reporter from the local newspaper described the place as a total mess (you can read it here in Turkish, quite funny) where nobody ever picks up the garbage, but when I visited Panagia Tochniou Monastery (December 2018) it was clean. And peaceful, most of all. A beautiful place.

Find the Panagia Tochniou Monastery on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sinir-Üstü-Buluşa-Manastırı/312056435663223

Agios Mamas Agıllar – Northern Cyprus Heritage (22)

Agios Mamas Agıllar

Agios Mamas Agıllar lies in a small village of just a few hundred inhabitants, called Agıllar in Turkish and in Greek: Mandres. Nobody looks after the church. In the village, there are tensions between Turkish Cypriots and Turcs. My visit was more interesting for the meeting with the locals than for the church Agios Mamas Agıllar.

agios mamas church

Agios Mamas Agıllar is an abandoned church taken over by the pigeons after being used as a mosque for many years. It took me quite some time to find the name of this church and now that I have the name, I still haven’t got a clue how old it is. Feel free to comment below if you have information about this church, that would be interesting.

agios mamas Agıllar

I met a local who felt uneasy about the state of the church: ‘our municipality should care more but they do nothing’. I wondered, is it not the Greek-Cypriot religious authority that is responsible here? But he was sure, ‘no, for general maintenance the municipality is responsible’. Well, in that case they surely lack in task execution…

Agıos Mamas Agıllar

The only thing about the church that struck me was the fact that it still has a clock. Usually clocks are removed as soon as churches are turned into mosques. Maybe they did remove the Agios Mamas clock but kept it in a safe place and put it back when they did no longer use Agios Mamas Agıllar as a mosque.

agios mamas Agıllar

Agios Mamas Agıllar was maybe not that interesting for a simple tourist like me but the meeting with the locals was. A conversation that started in the streets of Agıllar soon ended in the local cafe La Marina, a century old house that had the traditional shape many houses had before they were broken down by the Turcs who came to live here. Indeed it is a beautiful place with nice arches and a wooden roof. Tea and cakes were offered by the Turkish-Cypriot inhabitants.

Agıllar

They told about the existing tensions between themselves as Cypriots and the mainland Turcs who had come to live in Agıllar and now form the majority. One of the Turkish Cypriots worked in the Greek South where he tried to learn Greek and his colleagues Turkish because they have a deep Cypriot desire to understand each other and share a common culture again.

Agıllar local cafe

Almost by accident I find out that there must be an old monastery nearby, nowadays called the Bulușa Manastırı, the Bulușa monastery. Again it took some time to find the real name that appeared to be the Panagia Tochniou Monastery. A local explains that it is abandoned just like the church. That makes him angry. Next to the monastery stands an old and precious tree that might be falling down. Who takes care of the tree? Not the Turkish Cypriots, nor the Greek Cypriots. They are worthless and do nothing for preservation. It is the English who safeguard the tree. Isn’t that a shame?! I do not know how to answer to this tirade of a Turkish Cypriot and nod silently. Whether I talk with Greek or with Turkish Cypriots: it always seems to be someone else’s responsability…
I must see this monastery for myself, that is clear. The goodbye is with warm greetings and an invitation to come again. Plus indications for the road to the monastery that is a few kilometers off the road.

Agıllar, just a few hundred inhabitants with a Turkish Cypriot minority compared to Turkish mainlanders. Warm hearted and visionary in different aspects of the word: worth your visit, especially if you speak enough Turkish to exchange ideas on a profound level with the locals.

You may also like these blogs about abandoned churches in Northern Cyprus:
https://grethevangeffen.nl/2018/01/16/agios-nikolaos-limnia/
https://grethevangeffen.nl/2015/12/25/agios-mamas-church/ > church with the same name as this blog but in Bahceli
https://grethevangeffen.nl/2011/07/29/gaidhouras/