Click on an image below to see the snow up close:

Snowed in.
I was staying on an island in the Mediterranean and I was snowed in.
Roads were closed.
Buses weren’t running.
Instead, white flakes were falling from the sky like diamonds.
Snowed in.
And the village came alive.

I’d been in Treis Eiles for one week exactly.
The day prior, I had said my goodbyes to the village. With a population of twenty on a good day, it is a small town to say the least. Most of the homes sit empty, some fill only on weekends, and a select few have full-time residents. The majority are pensioners, retired couples from bigger cities, and some are still working the fertile land to grow crops of fruits, vegetables, nuts and olives. I’d gone to the tiny village to help a young family with their permaculture project. They’d moved there, the woman from Hungary and the husband from nearby Limassol, given birth to a darling baby girl, and begun work on a plot of land ready to grow anything and everything the soil and sun would allow.

 

Dancing the night away in Tres Elies - by Anika Mikkelson - Miss Maps - www.MissMaps.com
Dancing the night away in Tres Elies – by Anika Mikkelson – Miss Maps – http://www.MissMaps.com

 

At 4am, my alarm sounded. Time to wake. I dressed, cinched up my rucksack and went to the church to wait for a bus. I opened the door of my one-room flat, a damp space which is built into the side of a hill overlooking much of the town. Through a dim streetlamp’s light, I could tell there was something unique about the morning. Snow had fallen overnight and had left a light dusting on rooftops and cement streets. There might not be a bus after all, but there was no way to know other than to wait and see.

As I stood in the shadow of a deserted building, the sky filled with plump white flakes. Harder and harder they fell, and I knew that drivers would be weary of passing along the small mountain roads leading to Tres Elies in these conditions. Fifty minutes I waited, just in case, as dark turned to light and a few daring souls made their way to Sunday morning service in the church to my right. Knowing then that the roads had been closed due to inclement weather, I began the walk home, stepping quietly to allow the sounds of winter’s morning be heard.

 

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Turning a corner, I spotted three figures whom I hadn’t yet met: two dogs and their owner, an elderly man in boots and a woolen winter coat.

“Have you seen a dog?” he asked without introduction.

“Just these two,” I replied, “are you missing a third?”

“Yes, yes. Hold on to this one. I’ll be back,” he said, handing me the leash of a minuscule Chinese Pekingese dressed in a winter coat complete with a fur-trimmed hood. Faux fur of course.

He walked away and returned less than a minute later with his wife and a third dog, much like the one I’d been put in charge of.
“I followed her footprints in the snow!” he told me proudly, “Good thing we’ve got this ground cover! Otherwise she would’ve slipped away.”

He went on to introduce himself as Michel and then to his charming wife, Rozie. Their three dogs were introduced as well, brought back from China by their son. These dogs, they told me, had replaced their children after each had graduated from university and moved abroad.

We stood in the snow and I listened as they shared their excitement for finally having been in the mountains for snow. “We’ve come close before, but usually miss it by a day or two. This is the first time we’re in Tres Elies while it’s actually falling! Isn’t it beautiful?” They kept repeating those words, “Isn’t it lovely? Isn’t it delightful? Isn’t it beautiful?”

They were as in love with the weather as they were with each other. It melted my  heart to see them interact, a couple of kind souls from Paphos who escaped to their one bedroom mountain home whenever time allowed. “Come for coffee,” the wife said. Not a question, not a demand, just a fact. It didn’t even need a response. I simply followed them up the steps to their home and sat down next to the fire.

Immediately, the wife put a kettle on the stovetop and the husband began to show me photographs and books from Cyprus. Along with a steaming cup of Cyprus coffee, I was also given pumpkin pie baked the day before by Rozie herself.

After we’d all warmed up, Michel escaped outside to sweep away the slush that had accumulated from the rapidly melting snow. As he stood on the slippery porch, a neighbor called out an invitation to come over for coffee.

“Anika the American is here also,” he told the far-off voice.
“Come come. Anika too,” the voice replied.
So we went.

 

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In we walked to a room filled with cigarette smoke and smiling couples, happy to welcome the change in weather and this new face (me!).

Immediately we were served Cyprus coffee, much like Turkish coffee, and more traditional Cypriot pastries: one sweet one savory.

This time, to wash down our snacks we each were given a shot of Ziniria- the sweet brandy I’d been introduced to in Limassol.

At 9:30 in the morning.

Over an hour passed while I tried to make out pieces of Greek conversations which were occasionally interrupted by a quick English translation to show they hadn’t forgotten about me.

Afterward we toured her house, a two story, century old building which she’d filled with antique rugs, furniture and trinkets found by visiting surrounding villages. Downstairs, classical cookware and 50 gallon wine barrels were set up in a cellar and a white stone fireplace was fed by the host and her husband to keep their home warm on this cold day.  Upstairs, three beds were covered in blankets so thick they could pass as mattresses and nets so light their sole purpose was to offer a touch of laced romanticism.

Big embraces helped us to say goodbye, and I thanked everyone, thinking this would be the last time we’d see each other.

 

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That night, before getting ready for bed, I stopped over to a neighbor’s home to bring her oranges freshly picked from a snow-covered tree. She owns the village’s only bed and breakfast and makes homemade meals, sweets, and marmalades for her guests. As I approached the glass door I noticed wine bottles sitting on the table and several people seated around. I nearly turned away, thinking to wait until morning to avoid interrupting an otherwise intimate evening for her guests.

Then I noticed the tanned face of the same gentleman I’d met on the morning’s walk. He looked up saw me and smiled a genuine grin, wrinkle-less despite his age.

‘Come come’ he said, and everyone turned to me, immediately repeating his words.
“We’re making sweets” his wife followed.
“Have some wine” another gentleman suggested.
“Oh no thank you, I was just coming to drop…”
“Have a seat! Even if you don’t want to eat, join us, join us!”

Three women stood at the kitchen counter kneading and forming various types of pastries, popping them into the oven and frying pan, and slathering them with honey and fresh cream.

I ate and ate, and drank a few sips of wine to wash it down. I realized saying no was just as effective as saying yes, so ‘yes’ to everything was the only real option.

“This is what we do. This is why we come to the village,” the couples echoed, reminding me that this is only their weekend home away from the big city.

“I see, and it’s lovely,” I responded. It was. I wished I could wrap it up in a glass capsule to cherish and look back on, these friends without a worry or care. With rules not to talk of politics nor work nor gossip. Even if it meant being silent – which it never was.

 

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“Thank you. Thank you. Efcharisto. This was an unexpected surprise of a day. Thank you for inviting me in time and time again.”

“So you will leave tomorrow? Back to Limassol?” they asked as we all suited up in winter coats.

“Yes, that’s the plan if the weather cooperates. I’ll miss you all. Thank you again.”

“We’ll look for you on our walk in the morning,” the wife said, reminding me that we’d only just met for the first time earlier in the day yet had managed to share three meals together.

“And if we don’t see you, we’ll look for you afterward for coffee,” her husband followed.

“And the rest of us will see you back here tomorrow night for dinner,” said the hostess to whom I’d brought the oranges.

The day started and ended just the same. Unexpected encounters. Snow blowing outside and warm fiery laughter inside. This is a life of simplicity. A town which comes alive on the coldest day of the year. And a room full of people 30 years my elder with not a worry to their name.

During a week of sun, I’d been in this village and made a handful of connections, but the snowy day when I’d intended to leave, I got to find the whole village come alive with coffee, Zivinia, desserts and cigarette-accompanied stories.

An invitation to Dinner in Tres Elies - by Anika Mikkelson - Miss Maps - www.MissMaps.com
An invitation to Dinner in Tres Elies – by Anika Mikkelson – Miss Maps – http://www.MissMaps.com

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