Sunday, September 29, 2019

Suede live in Rishon, 25 September 2019

This week I attended a Suede concert for the second time. This time, it was held at Zappa Live Park in Rishon Lezion, an open-air venue south of Tel Aviv. I previously saw their indoors concert in 2015, and there was a different atmosphere.

Since their previous appearance in Israel, Suede have released 2 albums and toured extensively. This concert was not a nostalgia show focusing on their classic hits of the 1990s, though many of them were played. This was a concert of a mature band, featuring a variety of pieces from throughout their career.

Lead singer Brett Anderson still maintains his impressive vocal range, exceptional energy, and strong crowd interaction. The combination of beautifully performed, much-loved music and Anderson's charisma made this an unforgettable experience. The other band members might receive less attention, but their masterful playing and intuitive coordination were no less important than the singer's centre-stage performance.

The concert was structured to start with some of the band's newer work, followed by some of the 1990s hits, and ending on some of the more recent songs. I found it sad that much of the audience seemed less familiar with the newer albums. As Anderson said: "We're only as good as our last album", and I think people who were Suede fans in the 1990s would appreciate their latest albums if they gave them a chance. For me, anything they chose to play would be welcome, though there were a couple of favourite songs I missed.

It's hard to express what music means to me. It's an all-encompassing experience of body and soul, and hearing music I love played live is a rare pleasure to be cherished. I hope to have the opportunity to see Suede play live again in the future, and look forward to their new music when they release their next album.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Cyprus, Part Four: Troodos Mountain Villages

The third tour we took with Ascot Travel was to the villages of the Troodos Mountains. This was a welcome change from the rest of the holiday, which was spent in cities, archaeological sites, and museums. It was good to get out into nature. I particularly like mountains and forests, and the temperature there was pleasant, after we'd been suffering from the heat and humidity the rest of the holiday. Cyprus had above-average rainfall last winter, so the vegetation was lush and healthy.

The first village we visited was Agros, located about 1,000 metres above sea level. We had a tour of The Rose Factory, which produces a range of products using Damascus rose petals. They pick the roses in May, and it takes 400 flowers to produce 1 kg. of petals. The petals are then distilled, with each kilogram making 2 litres of rose water. Among their products: a range of organic rose cosmetics called Venus Rose, rose liqueur, rose tea, rose jam, rose candles, and even rose chocolates. Of course we bought gifts and souvenirs from their gift shop.

Next, we visited the nearby Nikis Sweets factory, where traditional Cyprus Preserves are made. Various nuts, fruits, and vegetables are coated in sugar or carob syrup to create a wide range of natural sweets. We bought some of these products, too.

Our next stop was St. Nicholas of the Roof church. This is one of the famous painted Byzantine churches of the region. Its name comes from the second, higher roof that was added above an existing roof, which helped preserve the 11th century wall paintings inside. Fortunately, this church was accessible by wheelchair, so my father was able to view the inside (photography was not allowed inside).

Our next stop was the beautiful village of Kakopetria. We were given time to explore the village. This involved a steep downhill walk, so my parents were taken to the bottom of the village and waited for us there. We enjoyed seeing the old houses, which are still inhabited. At the bottom of the village there is a waterfall, and we ate lunch at Zoumos restaurant overlooking the stream.

After lunch, our next stop was the Millomeris Waterfall. Unfortunately, this place was not accessible by wheelchair, so my parents stayed on the minibus. A pleasant walk through the forest took us to an impressive waterfall. It was refreshing to watch the water for a while.

The final stop was Lambouri Winery, where we had a wine tasting. Some of the wines were good, but we didn't buy any. I liked the lion statues that stood outside.

Overall, this was my favourite day of the trip. It combined beautiful nature, attractive villages, and glimpses into the local family-based industries. Of course, the lower temperatures in the mountains also made it more pleasant. I can see why the Troodos villages are always recommended to visitors to Cyprus.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Cyprus, Part Three: Nicosia (Lefkosia) and Larnaca

The next tour we took with Ascot Travel was to Nicosia (Greek: Lefkosia) and Larnaca. This meant that we were able to visit the four main cities of Cyprus, with Limassol and Paphos. My parents joined us on this tour, and we were able to store the wheelchair in the boot (trunk) of the minibus.

Nicosia is the capital of Cyprus, located inland rather than on the coast, and it has been divided since the Turkish invasion in 1974. The Cypriots kept stating that it's the only divided capital city in the world. This made us wonder about Jerusalem, until I realized that it's not that they don't think Jerusalem is divided, it's that they don't recognize it as a capital city!

Our first stop in Nicosia was the Archbishop's Palace and St. John's Cathedral. We didn't go inside either building. There were interesting statues outside: the ubiquitous Archbishop Makarios outside the palace, a statue that I assume represents the refugees who escaped from the north of Cyprus during the Turkish invasion, and a rather modern Jesus.

Then we walked through the streets of the Old City of Nicosia, which contained the same combination of charming, authentic old buildings and new touristy shops and cafes that can be found in many similar places around the mediterranean. Somehow we managed to get through the narrow streets with the wheelchair.

We had a limited amount of time before the minibus was due to continue, and we did not wish to cross over to the Turkish occupied part of the city as some of the other tour participants did. We left my parents at a cafe and ventured outside the walled part of the city to find the Cyprus Museum, the largest and oldest archaeological museum in Cyprus. We chose this in preference to the closer Leventis Municipal Museum, and were not disappointed. We had to rush through quickly, but even this rapid visit gave us a good impression of the finds from all over Cyprus, from various periods.

Then we had to hurry back to the minibus, and the tour continued to Larnaca, back on the south coast. Here we visited St. Lazarus Church, an impressive Byzantine church where second tomb and relics of St. Lazarus were found. There were wax votive offerings in the crypt. This church had wheelchair access.

We then had time to eat a pleasant lunch with a sea view at the Finikoudes Promenade before returning to Limassol. This was an interesting tour, though the weather was very hot and humid.