Platres: A Royal Resort by Lyudmila Budanova - reviewed by Ann Willmore
In August, we told you about a new book about the village of Platres, in the Troodos Mountains, in Cyprus. The book, called Platres: A Royal Resort, was written by Lyudmila Budanova and is about the history of Platres, the interesting people, including Daphne du Maurier, who visited the village through its history, and day to day life in Platres now. https://www.dumaurier.org/news_details.php?id=797&nc=2
One of the lovely things about running the Daphne du Maurier website is that it puts us in contact with people from all over the world and sometimes, as in this case, leads us to new and interesting books we might not otherwise have been aware of. Lyudmila has sent me a copy of her book, so now I can tell you more about it.
Lyudmila Budanova is Russian and an artist as well as a writer. Her book, Platres: A Royal Resort, is available in Russian, Greek and English. You might wonder why a Russian would want to write about a village in Cyprus. Lyudmila has lived in Cyprus for some years, and as you read her book, you will come to understand her love for the village of Platres and the people who live there. She decided to write the book now to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the village. She interviewed many local people, who were able, through their family ancestry, to help her build a picture of the village's history and commentary of what Platres is like now. The book is illustrated with some beautiful photographs of the area, and each one has an image from the past superimposed on to it. The book's front cover provides an example of this with a picture of a young Daphne du Maurier superimposed on a photograph of a waterfall in the Troodos Mountains*.
The story of Platres began during the reign of Queen Victoria when the political situation brought the island of Cyprus under the administration of the UK. The UK formally annexed it in 1914. The British military was sent in, and one of their interventions was setting up a camp on the southern slope of the Troodos Mountains, in a shady forest close to a mountain stream and a waterfall* Over time, this basic military camp evolved until it eventually became the village of Platres.
As the 20th century began, British colonists came to Cyprus, many of whom set up businesses throughout the island. As a result, Platres began to develop as a popular tourist destination, hotels and restaurants were built, and the history of Platres was underway.
The main interest to Daphne du Maurier followers is that Daphne accompanied her husband, then Colonel Boy Browning, on a tour of duty to Alexandria in Egypt. He was Commanding Officer of the second battalion of the Grenadier Guards at the army headquarters in Alexandria. During that time (1936), Daphne, Boy, their tiny daughter Tessa and her Nanny Margaret Eglesfield travelled to Platres for a holiday at the Forest Park Hotel. Very little is known about Daphne's time in Platres. But there is a message written by the Brownings in the hotel's book of signatures, saying how much they have enjoyed their stay. Also, it seems Daphne made friends with a young woman called Theodora Pierides, who lived very close to the hotel. Her son, Demetris, wrote his autobiography many, many years later and referred to the friendship between Daphne and his mother.
In one of Lyudmila's emails to me, she said that to write about Daphne's stay in Platres was extremely difficult because of the lack of information. For this reason, she explained that the chapter about Daphne is more her fantasy version of events. I think we have to accept that we would rather Daphne, was included in the book, even if the story of her time in Platres is, just that, a story. We should perhaps remember that, particularly in her earlier years of writing, Daphne was quite capable of inventing a little fantasy of her own if facts proved to be elusive.
Some interesting people visited Platres, particularly in the hay-day of its popularity. Chapters include King Farouk of Egypt and Sudan and his mistress Lillian Levy Cohen, also known as Camelia, a famous Egyptian film actress. Giorgos Seferis who was one of the most important Greek poets of the 20th century and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1963. He was a career diplomat in the Greek Foreign Service and was appointed Ambassador to the UK from 1957 to 1962. And Princess Mary, granddaughter of Queen Victoria and daughter of King George V. There are references to many dignitaries who made official visits to Platres, including such names as German Chancellor, Willy Brandt, King Constantine of Greece and his wife Anna Maria, Archbishop Makarios III, and the Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. There is also lots of information about local people, their ancestry and their role in the daily life of Platres.
Lyudmila is hoping that her book will be available via Amazon at some point, but in the meantime, she is willing to send books out to people if they contact her directly by email. The book costs 15 euros plus shipping. If you would like to buy a copy of Lyudmila's book, please contact me via the Daphne du Maurier website email email@example.com, and I will send you Ludmila's email address so that you can contact her direct to buy the book from her.
Ann Willmore, September 2021.