Cats of Nicosia

Cats everywhere in Nicosia. Mainly stray cats. Plenty of bowls with cat food and water in the streets, but the cats know exactly where to find a decent meal.

Learning to become streetwise. You have to know the value of waste containers.

Yes, life’s good for cats in Nicosia. No worries. Plenty people to pick up the task of feeding.

At home, cats already have that aristocratic attitude. But here, you truly feel their royal origin.

Aphrodite´s mercy

After the hailstorm Aphrodite showed her kindness. When we drove back along the coast, right at the place where according to the legends she had come ashore so long ago, she surprised us with a stunning sunset. Aphrodite’s rock, near Paphos, is a mythical place. It is said that if you swim around the rock, you will find true love. I’m afraid I only read that the next day…

Aphrodite’s rage

Was she angry? For three days already we were on the island and still had not visited her temple to pay her tribute. This was after all her island. Kronos, leader of the Titans, had castrated his tyrannical father Uranus and thrown his thingy in the sea. Then the water had started to fizz and out of the foam arose Aphrodite, goddess of love, sexuality, fertility and beauty.

On the way to her sanctuary we stopped at the remnants of the ancient city Koúrion. We barely had time to see it. Dark clouds descended from the Olympus, and a hailstorm came upon us so fiercely that it damaged the front window of our car. With the last hailstones still drumming on the car, we drove directly towards the holy temple of the Aphrodite near Paphos. Immediately her mood improved, for the dark clouds drifted to the sea and soon even the sun showed itself again.

Thousands of years ago this place had attracted people from all over the world: the Mediterranean sea with all its islands and many countries in Europe, the Middle-East and Africa. People attended ceremonies and made offerings. The Roman historian Tacitus described the altar and a sacred stone: “Blood may not be shed upon the altar, but offering is made only with prayers and pure fire. The altar is never wet by any rain, although it is in the open air. The representation of the goddess is not in human form, but it is a circular mass that is broader at the base and rises like a turning-post to a small circumference at the top. The reason for this is obscure.”

This was the very stone.

Aphrodite was also depicted in her human form. For the goddess of love and fertility and sexuality, an offer could be to sacrifice the own body as in ancient times, making love was seen as a sacred act.

This idea has roots that go back more than 7.000 years ago, to the Sumerian cult of Inanna. In Cyprus the first settlements dated from 3.300 year before Christ. In that time the Phoenician goddess of Astarte was worshipped, also a goddess of sexuality, fertility and war. In the Greek period, Astarte became Aphrodite, and the city of Paphos was known throughout the world for it’s parties, wine and prostitutes. The stone at this sanctuary never became Venus, as the Roman Emperor Theodosius I outlawed all pagan religions in the year 391 and the sanctuary of Aphrodite fell into ruins.

Unknown territories (more ugly creatures)

So I went on this journey of discoveries. Into the unknown. Looking for flatworms…

You might think that in the Netherlands we know all about nature, and have discovered everything there is to be discovered. At least that was my assumption. But a few years ago two scientist went out to look for flatworms. Especially for the New Zealand flatworm (Arthurdendyus triangulatus – Nieuw Zeelandse landplatworm) that was put on the European Union list of invasive alien species in 2019 as it is a predator of earthworms – the worms that we need to create fertile soils. Those of you who read The Hitchhikers’ guide to the Galaxy will recognise it’s scientific name 😊. Anyhow, apparently these creatures are so unattractive, that no one ever bothered to look at them or report any findings. There are bird groups, insect huggers and botanical twitchers, but there is not one single flatworm – society.

Fortunately, they didn´t encounter any New Zealand flatworms. But just few visits to zoos, greenhouses, botanical gardens and city backyards resulted in a handful of new species, never before recorded in the Netherlands. If you want the full background, look here.

Nobody cares for flatworms. And I can’t  blame anyone. They look like their relatives, the leeches. And I really, really dislike leeches.

This weekend we did a search party in a butterfly garden. Turning pots and bricks to see what lives beneath. Perfect conditions for flatworms: humid, warm, organic material and lots of tiny creatures crawling in and on the soil. I was very proud to find two individuals of the yellow-striped terrestrial planarian (Caenoplana bicolor or Caenoplana variegata – Grote Australische geelstreep). As the name indicates, it is alien to Europe (look here). Alien, but no threat to biodiversity so not classified as ‘invasive’.

To ease your mind and make you sleep well, I’ll end this story with one of the butterflies of the garden. Sheer beauty.

Ugly little plant


It´s not what you see. It never is.
It´s what you think you see.
 
This is an ugly little plant. You might think it is nice, with delicate flowers, but that is because I´m a great photographer (– cough! –). It has been in our family for sixty years. It is tiny, with small leaves and even smaller flowers, and after flowering it shrivels, dies and disappears again.

And then after a short while, it comes back alive.
As long as I can remember it has been in our house. My father made a little note that lies besides it: “No one ever said: ‘What a nice little plant!’ We don’t think much of it either.”
 
But it’s not  about what we see with our eyes. It’s what we see with our minds. It is a sole survivor of the flowers arrangements of my parent’s wedding. If I look at it, I see my parents wedding pictures. Amsterdam, black and white, sunny day and everyone radiating from happiness! A strong little fellow. It survived my mother, and it will probably survive my father as well. Who knows, it might even survive me…
 
I secretly took a cutting of it, and grew it at home. It needs little care, just a little light and a little water – not too much! It keeps on growing, flowering, dying and rising up again.
Look really, really close, and see how beautiful these tiny flowers are!
 
I do think it is a nice little plant after all
 

Chasing waterfalls

‘Don’t go chasing waterfalls,’ TLC sings. The expression puzzles me, for I can’t combine the beautiful image of waterfalls with bad or self-destructive behaviour, what the song is about. I love waterfalls. Probably because I live in the Netherlands, a country devoid of any. So when I’m abroad, I don’t miss a chance to visit one. If you would come to my house, you’d find one printed as wallpaper. I sleep under my own waterfall, every night. ‘Don’t go jumping waterfalls,’ Paul McCartney sings. Now that I do understand. Jumping them would be very unwise indeed.

Here’s a few waterfalls from the last USA trips. Amicalola, Cloudland canyon and Big canoe. The names alone are enough to make me dream away into different worlds.