Zenovia’s secret (Chapter 16)

Posted by: Maria Atalanti

Published on: 18/09/2022

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This text is the product of fiction. None of the characters described are real.

Cyprus – Summer 2021

After a restless evening, Zena woke up relatively late, with a headache. A strange feeling gripped her as if she had taken an icy shower. Her journey began with the best prospects, the feeling that she had come to a magical place, with so many interesting things to see and suddenly she had to leave in a hurry, to avoid the annoying Mr. Nicolaou.

Such behaviors were not in her character, and she never liked it to run away. In this case, however, she was facing a very strange situation and it seems that in addition to the audacity and ridiculousness of Mr. Nicolaou’s behavior, great economic interests were also involved. This story disoriented her and removed her from her original goal, which was to find her roots, but she would not back down. Her removal from Paphos would be a temporary change of schedule, until things cleared up, and she would return. That was the only sure thing.

First, she went down to the dining room and took her breakfast. She then spoke with the hotel manager and told him that for personal reasons she would have to leave, but she would return later. She did not know exactly when, maybe in two weeks. Because the incident with Mr. Nicolaou sudden visit had become known, the director apologized and assured her that it would not be repeated. Zena, who did not want to continue this, nor to confirm that it was the specific visit that made her leave, did not comment on anything.

Going up to her room, she found on her computer a message from Mr. Neophytou, her lawyer. He apologized for what had happened in the restaurant and assured her that they were accidentally met by Mr. Nicolaou and that he himself knew nothing. He begged her to go through his office to talk and “remove the misunderstanding”, as he said.

Even though by that time Mr. Neophytou had behaved impeccably towards her, Zena was sure that he was not blameless.

She replied formally and succinctly:

Thank you for your message, Mr. Neophytou. I’ll pass by to see you when I’m ready.

She sent a message to Alexis saying that she would follow his advice and leave Paphos. Then she called Eleni. She informed her about the events of the previous day, her communication with Alexis and her decision to leave the hotel for some time. She did not hide from her disappointment about the incident with Mr. Nicolaou and the turn the events took.

-Don’t be upset at all, Eleni told her. Do not think that you will lose the prospects that Paphos opened to you. You will be back, with Alexis in fact this time, and everything will be better. Come and visit our city: Nicosia. We may not have the beautiful landscapes of Paphos, but history flows everywhere. Cyprus is a mosaic of pieces that narrate the past.

-Thank you, Eleni, you are right. Although I was initially angry with Alexis and his insistence on coming to Cyprus to face my own problems, now I feel better that he will be with me. After all, I am in a foreign country, where I do not know the people and the way they behave. A local knows best how to manage the situation.

-You are a great feminist! Here most women would demand that their husbands take over the situation, you see it as an intervention. Don’t worry. I agree with you!

They both laughed. Zena really liked Eleni and found that the two of them were very well suited. They would become friends.

-I will book you a room at the Hilton in Nicosia. It is in Engomi, a suburb outside the center. Do not expect something too big or luxurious, like the hotels of Paphos, but it has all the specifications to have a comfortable stay. It also has a wonderful swimming pool, which certainly does not replace the sea of Paphos, but you will be able to swim every day.

-Starting from Paphos and coming to Nicosia, you can stop and get to know some interesting places. Just outside Paphos is the beach where Aphrodite is said to have been born. It is called “Petra tou Romiou” (Rock of the Roman) and it is a very beautiful landscape. Nearby is Kouklia, a village with a very ancient history. Apart from the temple of Aphrodite, it has a museum and a medieval villa. Just before Limassol is the ancient city of Kourion, with very interesting archaeological findings. After Limassol is the Neolithic settlement of Choirokoitia, with some houses reconstructed for the visitors to see how people lived ten thousand years ago.

-Alexis has also talked to me about it. I don’t know what to choose first. Everything seems very interesting!

-Yes, it’s probably hard to see it all in one day. I would suggest you stop at Petra tou Romiou to admire the landscape and then visit Kourion. Below the archaeological site is a beach called “Lady’s Mile”. There are restaurants you can have your lunch.

-Yes it seems logical. But why “Lady’s Mile”? I mean why an English name?

-Do not forget that Cyprus was under the British from 1878 to 1960. In many ways they have influenced us. After Limassol there is another beach called “Governor’s Beach”. Everywhere, the names of the place tell the story of this country. A stormy story. Kourion and “Lady’s Mile”, are located within the boundaries of the British Military Base of  Episkopi. You see, the British, in addition to the place names, made sure to maintain their physical presence here too!

-You know I’m interested in the history of this country, but there’s too much to digest. Very bad I wasn’t interested in it for so many years!

-Well, I don’t want to delay you any longer. It’s good to start now, before the heat gets stronger. I’ll see you at the hotel tonight. We ‘ll have lunch together and get to know each other in person.

-Have a nice day, Eleni. Happy reunion tonight!

Zena hurriedly packed her things, just two days after she unpacked them, loaded them into her car, put the “Petra tou Romiou” address on the GPS and set off.

On the way she was thinking of what she had read on the first day of her arrival, about the goddess Aphrodite. Even though Maria Stylianou had told her that the etymology that her name comes from the foam of the sea, is not considered correct by modern linguists, Zena preferred this interpretation. According to Hesiod, the ancient author of Theogony, Aphrodite was born when Saturn cut off the genitals of his father Uranus and threw them into the sea. From the foam of the sea Aphrodite was born , the most beautiful of the goddesses. The waves pushed her to the coast of Paphos, where people took care of her and adored her. For this reason, she is called Kyprida (Cypriot).

-What a nice story! Zena thought. I like the way the ancients interpreted life and nature, away from dogmatisms and structured hierarchies. Simple, humane, and sinful!

Not much time had passed, and she saw the road sign: “Petra tou Romiou” and “Venus Rock” in English, even though the translation was not accurate. She drove to a hill, specially designed for cars to stop, and see the view. She came out of the car and looked down. A bay, with white pebbles and some high rocks rising at both ends. Then the coastline was lost in the distance. The waves were bursting on the pebbles, and a white foam was forming. That’s where the goddess would have come out of the sea, thousands of years ago.

The scenery was gorgeous. But not unique. She remembered “The twelve apostles” coast in her homeland, but also elsewhere. That was not what impressed her. It was something eerie that the place inspired. The white beach, the blue sea, and the silence. It undoubtedly had something divine. She saw some tourists lying with their towels on the pebbles and some swimming. It was not an organized beach here. The coast that had received Aphrodite, remained unchanged.

She stayed for a while staring at the beauty that was spreading in front of her and then got into her car. She would come back here at sunset. And she would swim. Surely the experience would be magical.

She set the GPS to the “Kourion” address and set off. From the few information she had read, she had learned that it was one of the cities – kingdoms of Cyprus. There were archaeological remains from the Neolithic times, the classical period of the 3rd and 4th century BC, but mainly from the Roman era until the 5th century AD. An area that was inhabited for thousands of years. This dive into history and the past made her shudder.

Arriving at Kourion, she found that the ancient city was built on a hill and looked towards the sea. She decided that she would not deal with the details of the archaeological site. She would simply walk among the ruins and try to feel the presence of the people who lived and created thousands of years ago in this place.

What impressed her from the first moment was the incredible view. The ancient city was located on a hill, which ended in a cliff and underneath the sea: spreading in deep blue, while the surrounding limestone rocks seemed white. All the ancient buildings were built with stone, in the same colors and carob trees surrounded the area. In the background one could see the green plantations of the region.

As she walked she saw the signs that said House of Theseus, House of Eustolius, House of Gladiators. All these houses had mosaic floors, which presented various scenes from mythology as well as Christian symbols. There were baths in many places, the Agora and other public buildings.

-The people who lived in this place, so many thousands of years ago, enjoyed a culture that has little to envy from our modern technological civilization, she thought. They may not have had the smart electrical appliances that we have today, but they were not lacking in arts and daily facilities.

Moving on, she reached the ancient theater. A semicircular amphitheater facing the sea. A panorama.

She sat in one of the stands and tried to remember what Alexis had told her about the ancient drama. The truth was that she herself did not know much about ancient Greek history and ancient culture. In fact, she knew nothing before she met Alexis. He had introduced her to the world of these ancient people, who had laid the foundations of modern civilization.

From what she could recall, the ancient drama began with the feasts held in honor of Dionysus, an ancient god of the Greeks, who was miraculously born from the thigh of his father Zeus. Zeus, from whose name comes her own name: Zenovia.

In any case, she did not remember more details, but she knew that what today we call theater and theatrical performances began then. They considered it so important for the education of the inhabitants that Pericles, a great Athenian politician and general, subsidized the needy citizens to attend the ancient performances free of charge.

-This is culture! She thought.

Then she looked at the incredible view.

-The performances must have been held during the day, she concluded. It was not possible to have sufficient lighting to make them at night. In the face of this magical landscape, people would listen to the truths and concerns expressed by the actors and in relation to the nature around them, they would assimilate the maxim of their words. Their gods, who came from nature, spoke to them through nature to succeed to introduce them to the principles and the natural order of things.

She shuddered at her thoughts. She felt that she had known a primordial truth. Just like that. From the influence of the place.

-This is how civilizations began, she thought. In the beauty and order that nature offers. Here are the arts. Wars and brutality stem from disorder and anarchy.

She looked at her watch. Noon had passed. She would eat something in one of the restaurants, below to the beach and set off for Nicosia. Enough tourism for one day. It was not possible to assimilate more. Besides, when Alexis would come, everything would be easier.

The meal at the seaside restaurant was another confirmation of the delicious Cypriot cuisine. She finished with a Cypriot coffee and a spoon sweet, which was suggested by the waiter and set off for Nicosia.

The trip was pleasant. She passed by Limassol and saw from above the city that was famous for its nightlife and cosmopolitan environment. She crossed the low parts of the Troodos mountain range and got a taste of the forests of Cyprus, with pine trees dominating. In her homeland the forests were of eucalyptus trees, although there were some with pine trees as well, that were brought by the first settlers. But it was not indigenous to Australia.

Descending the last hills, she saw Nicosia stretching lazily on the plain. Opposite was Pentadactylos. The other mountain range of Cyprus, after Troodos. Here the mountains were lower and calmer. Just opposite her, she saw a flag with a crescent moon engraved on the mountainside. She remembered Alexis’ words about the Turkish invasion of 1974 and about the uprooting of his family from their village, Marathovounos.

From the moment she set foot in Cyprus, it was the first time she met modern history. And this story was engraved on a mountain for anyone, who came to this place, to see.

-Not everything is rosy and romantic, she thought. This place is divided and engraved with pain. Something else I must learn here.

She arrived at her hotel in the late afternoon and called Eleni. They agreed to meet early for dinner because Zena was quite tired.

-We will eat in a restaurant on site, Eleni told her. It serves Greek appetizers that I am sure you will like.

The meeting was pleasant for both. Zena recounted her impressions of the places she visited, and Eleni gave her more details about the plot of land she had in Kato Paphos, on a hillside facing the sea.

-It’s a great location, she told her. Really sorry you haven’t been able to see it yet. The view is spectacular.

-Does Zenovia’s house exist?

-There are some ruins there, which mark the existence of a dwelling. There is no roof, the walls have almost been demolished, but they clearly show where there were rooms and their size. The parts of the walls that were made of stone, are somewhat preserved, but the parts made of plinths no longer exist. The floor was covered with slabs of Cypriot marble and in some places near the walls it is still preserved, but in the center of the rooms it has been destroyed. In the courtyard there are the remains of an old well, olives and carob trees. The rest of the trees have dried up.

-Do you think the house could be reconstructed?

-It is very difficult. The materials no longer exist and if we can find them they are very expensive – I am talking about the plinths. It is your choice if you want to pay so dearly to resurrect your grandmother’s house or you will want to build a new house with modern materials.

-We should visit it first, before I decide. What do you think of Mr. Nicolaou aspirations?

-It seems that he is a ruthless investor, betting on his charm. But he was shut up! Of course, your lawyer, who informed him about it, is also responsible. The expectation of profit makes people brazen and sometimes dangerous.

-We will handle this issue when Alexis comes. I don’t want to mess with these guys anymore. I’m just sorry for the delay and the waste of time.

-Consider that every obstacle is for good. You will use your time differently. I will guide you around Nicosia. It is an opportunity to get to know this city as well.

As soon as they finished the conversation Zena went up to her room. It was too late to call Alexis and so she laid down to sleep. She had decided to follow the course of events. Until now they seemed to be leading her on interesting new paths.

-I wonder, what is hidden in the next turn?

It was her last thought before she fell asleep.






Ancient Drama






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