In the foothills of the Troodos mountains of Cyprus there is a beautiful village of old stone houses with wooden shutters and balconies overlooking a steep gorge where a burbling stream runs, overhung by verdant trees. The village is named Kakopetria, which, according to the guidebook translates to “place of wicked stones” named after the huge boulders, which once dotted the hillside when the village was founded in pre-Christian times.
Legend has it that in the old times the stones were held to be sacred objects by the local people and many rituals were performed around them. Some of these were later incorporated into Christian rites of passage such as weddings, when brides and grooms would balance on the top on one large example at the bottom of the village. Unfortunately on one occasion, the stone [the shape of a giant egg] tipped over and crushed the unfortunate couple. From then on, they were deemed “wicked” stones and in time, the name was transferred to the village itself.
In many languages, kaka [kako?] means shit so I think this may be an example of “prettying up” a place name. I’m reminded of Puddletown in Dorset that until Victorian times was known as “Piddletown”. Indeed, the river that runs through it is still called the Piddle. It certainly was a shit thing to happen to the young couple.
It wasn’t until several years ago that my cousin Elli told me the real meaning of my Greek family name, Kapakiotis. Although the family are Greek and lived in the Troodos for hundreds of years, the name is actually a transliteration from Turkish. It means “the man who is constipated”. Now, the British may have developed names like Sidebottom and Ramsbottom but I challenge anyone to come up with such a graphic surname. I don’t consider the teacher from the animated series Southpark [Miss Chokesondick] a fair example.
The Greeks of Cyprus seem to have a love of the graphic. My Great Uncle Tolis, was know as The Great Farter, as his trumps could be heard from the top of one mountain to the next and our family village of Pedhoulas means “the place of sandals”.
We were very taken by Kakopetria on the first day of our excursion into the mountains and noted how many of the village houses had been rebuilt using local materials, retaining the local style. Pantiled roofs, varnished pine and panelled doors were the order of the day, set off by hand thrown pots of geraniums and old ladies selling preserved fruits from the doorways of their homes.
After a long walk around the village, we retired to a local Inn and met hotel owner, builder and developer Stelios Alkiviades. He showed us around his latest project, a pair of village houses that had succumbed to almost complete decay. They were full of rubbish, roofs had fallen in, the floors were decayed and the windows devoid of glass. Then he showed us another he had recently rebuilt to contemporary standards of design and suitable for modern living.
Had it not been for the fact that the house had no garden, we would have been sorely tempted. It made us think that a retirement [in many years time] could be spent in far worse places than one where the sun shines for most of the year, the beer and wine slips down easily and the food is some of the best you will find anywhere in the world.
Yes, we are enjoying Cyprus!