Sunday, March 21, 2010

They’ve Taken the Trees

was never a particularly beautiful village. A few kilometres to the east of Pahos and slightly inland, it straddled the main road between Limassol and Paphos with a few handsome Neo-Classical buildings and a higgledy-piggledy collection of later shops and dwellings. Traffic always choked its plateia, and the Church, in a hideous attempt to enlarge its space available, tacked a twentieth century addition onto a Ninth Century masterpiece -- though it's quit difficult to find a web picture of the extension: most shots are taken from a flattering angle that excludes it.

But once the Municipality ‘took matters in hand’, everything went from bad to worse. First we endured more than a year of roadworks and diversions. (I say ‘we’ because we were living in Yerouskippou at the time and a ten-minute journey to town sometime morphed into a half-hour odyssey.) When the roadworks were completed, the new street plan became a nonsensical nightmare of no-left and no-right turns, zebra crossings that force drivers to stop in the middle of intersections, and at least one road that becomes one-way (the wrong way) just before the main road, forcing law-abiding drivers to reverse. For the first weeks of this daftness, demented traffic wardens ran thither and yon, gesticulating and even swearing at recalcitrant drivers. But they have long since given up, and Yerouskippou drivers cheerfully make illegal turns, mount the pavement, and park all over the street.

When the revamped plateia was unveiled early last summer, my heart sank to my sandals. In place of the scuffed but cheerful, well-shaded hodgepodge of kafeneia, shops, Turkish (oops, gasp, no, sorry!) Cyprus Delight factories and other miscellany, stretched a gleaming expanse of white marble and sandstone, shaded at intervals by concrete structures – mercifully stone-faced – with bizarrely curved roofs of Perspex and steel. And hardly a tree in sight. The old clump of cypresses still stands at one end looking a little like a poor relation at an upmarket wedding, and a few saplings have been carefully inserted into breaks in the marble, but the old broad leaved ficuses are gone, and any other greenery that dares intrude gets ruthlessly sprayed or pruned out of existence. One wonders who will be able to sit on the scatter of benches between June and October – even the hardiest of sun-worshipping British tourists -- the kind with skin like well tanned leather, a sprinkling of illegible tattoos, and necks and wrists encrusted with chains usually spotted chain-smoking on a sun lounger clutching a beer -- would be fools to try.

The stalls, shops, and factories on the non-plateia side of the road are all now directly open to summer’s murderous glare, and the absence of dust-filtering greenery means that tourists hoping to see the church frescoes or buy some ceramics, baskets, or Delight, get lungfuls of

particulate into the bargain.

A similar affliction has struck the promenade of Kato Paphos. Around the harbour, pines and ficus remain, but the newly renovated seafront parade has been resurfaced with dark grey granite cobbles and only a few tall scraggly palms shade the benches which could be a delight.

Imagine… late afternoon in mid-July, the thermometer stands at about 35C… you’re a tourist… you leave your room for an après siesta dip at the Municipal beach, and with wife and child stroll the promenade. You stop for an ice-coffee and take-away treat, then continue your stroll to a shaded bench that overlooks the water. You slurp and lick contentedly, people watching and taking in the view to the harbour. In the middle-distance, brightly painted caiques head seaward for an evening’s fishing, and overhead a flock of birds chatters their last song before dusk…

All that could be possible in five years if the Municipal crews get planting now. Meanwhile, keep dreaming.

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