Omodos a Traditional Cypriot Village

Omodos is a traditional village in the Troodos Mountains of Cyprus. It is located in the Limassol District of Cyprus and is about 80 kilometres from the city of Nicosia and a big favourite with many people including our friends.

On arrival you will find that Omodos is car free village (except for local traffic) and on arrival you are directed to a car park when you can park your car and then walk to the the village.  The narrow roads to the village square have lots of small shops selling different Cypriot products.  Be careful when walking around the village and it is definitely worthwhile taking / wearing flat shoes otherwise you may find yourself on the ground.  The square has really small cobbles and none are flat and some are missing.

3743ded7-f363-4a66-a502-d464e20b0350

Omodos Village Square with its restaurants and shops

On the lanes off the square there craft shops where you can purchase ornaments, paintings, lace tablecloths  and jewellery to name but a few items.  In some of the shops you may be lucky enough to watch the artists are work producing some beautiful works of art.

The village produces a lot of wine and holds a wine festival every August.  It is even possible to taste some of the local wines prior to making a purchase.  There were too many to choose from however, we opted for a lovely crisp dry white wine and a beautiful bottle of red wine from the local winery.  Some nibbles were also provided.

Once you have had lunch and wandered round the shops and spent some of your euros you may wish to visit the 17th century monastery  Timios Stavros Monastery also known as the Church of the Holy Cross  via a cobblestone path….

There are several legends behind the emergence of this monastery. One of them describes a miracle working cross being discovered in a local cave by the ancient inhabitants of Kupetra — a village that existed before Omodos.  In another legend, Queen Elena, who was traveling from Jerusalem with the True Cross and had to wait out a storm in a small harbor in Cyprus, had a divine vision. She saw the Cross hovering over the mountain — a vision that convinced her to found the Stavrovouni Monastery. Some of the other monasteries on the island also emerged thanks to her and each one of them had received a piece of the True Cross, as the legend has it. One way or another, a piece of the Cross was gifted to the Timios Stavros Monastery by Queen Elena during her visit and became the monastery’s main relic.

It is alleged that the monastery and the village of Omodos were founded following the construction of a small church in 210. The monastery’s current appearance dates back to 1816. In mid 19thcentury the ancient Byzantine church was completely reconstructed and replaced by a massive three-nave basilica.

What more could you wish for on a day out…..great company, sunshine, lunch, shopping and some history…..what’s not to like.  It’s easy to get there and you can take in some of Cyprus’ beautiful coastline heading towards Limassol before you turn left to venture up towards the Troodos Mountains.

 

“Abandoned” Vretsia Village

Phill has always been keen to learn about the history of Cyprus and is constantly trying to find out more about the country we now call home.  From the Turkish invasion to current day affairs.

This Sunday morning trip for us was to find one of the many deserted villages which can be found around Cyprus.  We were off to find Vretsia up in the hills around 30 miles from Paphos.  Couldn’t wait as it was a beautiful sunny day and after the rain we have had everything is turning a lush green in the fields and hills beyond.  

Route to Vretsia from Coral Bay

Vretsia or Vrecha (called by the villagers) is a village located on the southwestern foothills of the Troodos mountain range, five kilometres southeast of Panayia Khrysorryiatissa monastery and three kilometres northeast of Kilinia. Vrecha means “getting wet” in Cypriot Greek.  In 1958 Turkish Cypriots adopted the alternative name Dağaşan, meaning “persons who overcome the mountain.” 

Vretsia was predominantly inhabited by Turkish Cypriots from the 19th century.  Throughout the 20th century, the population of the village grew and in 1946 it was recorded that there were 396 residents.  Subsequent to this the village then began its decline and by 1960 based on the census figures had dropped to 386 and by 1982 to only 5.  The decline was mainly caused following the Turkish invasion in 1974.  The final census of the village was taken in 2001 where there was no one left living in the village.

During the war of 1974, the Turkish Cypriot Fighters of Vrecha refused to surrender their guns to Greek Cypriot forces who were trying to disarm the Turkish villages.  After a ceasefire was declared in late August of that year, many villagers took their weapons and fled over the mountains to the north, then under Turkish control. During this period, the village also became a transit area for Turkish Cypriots who were trying to get to the Turkish-controlled north through the mountains. The 160 persons who remained in Vrecha were eventually evacuated to the north under UNFICYP escort on 1 September 1975. They were resettled in many different villages in the north.  

Of course diminishing residents in the abandoned villages of Cyprus wasn’t always caused by the Turkish invasion of 1974, there were a number of other contributory factors, no work in the villages, in some locations there was mining but it too dried up.  As Cyprus is also prone to earthquakes this has also been a contributing factor as they have caused landslides causing the homes to slide and become unsafe.

We viewed the village from the winding narrow road which takes you down to the deserted village of Vretsia.

And who was there to meet us but a donkey grazing in the hillside above the village.  What a welcome

So strange looking as we drove into the village as we half expected to see people and houses lived in but alas that wasn’t to be.  All the houses were abandoned and empty.  Many had no windows, doors and in some cases missing walls and roofs.  Some contained old furniture which could have been left when the people left their homes to go over the mountains and of course couldn’t carry it.

As we drove through we came to what may have been the village centre with the mosque and the village square.  If you look really close at the top of the mosque on the minaret you can see bullet holes.

Initially I thought this was one of the small Greek Orthodox churches which can be see throughout Cyprus however, it turns out to be a memorial for a former inhabitant.  I couldn’t see any names on this visit and of course didn’t try to venture inside – maybe next trip.

There were also a number of water troughs lining the little narrow road through the village one dating back to 1950 and the others 1961

Driving around the roads through the village we were able to see the back of some of the properties.  Some of the grass looks like it is used by some of the other local villages for grazing their livestock (we did see a couple of horses and donkeys so you never know)  

Former house and swing but more recently has been used as a tavern for local hunters and visitors to the village

But of course it wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t stop for a coffee or even on this occasion Sunday lunch so after our adventure we went in search of a taverna to stop, somewhere we hadn’t been before and of course this was easy as we hadn’t been this way so we found “The Spring of Life Forever” Restaurant

Friendly staff, beautiful views, pork kebab with homemade chips and complimentary hot sponge pudding drizzled with carob sauce….what’s not to like…..

This trip certainly opened our eyes to Cyprus and realised there was much more to discover here on this beautiful island.  

For our next trip we are off to the abandoned village of Foinikas, which is located just northeast of Anarita.  This village was invaded by the massive military force of the King of England, Richard the Lionheart…….but that’s another story for another day!!

Paphos Kennedy Square and Municipal Gardens

Kennedy Square and surrounding roads are so interesting and well worthy of a walk around if you can stand the heat during the day and want to escape lying by the pool. Of course it may be even better to go there in the evening if it is too warm during the day as there are many nice restaurants away from the tourist areas.

Let’s start at Kennedy Square and progress from there:-

Kennedy Square

As part of the re-generation of Paphos Old Town Kennedy Square has changed dramatically in the last 2 years and is almost in its final stage of completion.

There are now many beautiful restaurants and bars around the square which have a very cosmopolitan feel to them and are so busy in the evenings.  The buildings that house these venues still have a very traditional feel to them too but definitely more modern on the outside.  Kennedy Square has been beautifully paved and new lighting added to give it a truly modern feel.

 

Off Kennedy Square you can do some shopping in the narrow paved streets of Paphos whether it be a Cypriot souvenir something to wear from the many unique little shops which are opening their doors now that the major part of the re-generation has been completed.  Maybe find yourself in the Place, which I mentioned in a previous blog Revival of Paphos Old Town  or try one of the boutique shops for something new to wear.

Government Buildings

Paphos Government Buildings (containing the town hall and library) are located just off Kennedy Square and surrounding the municipal gardens, are quite a spectacular sight to see with their Roman columns and traditional Cypriot Buildings.  They are set around the municipal gardens where there are fountains and lovely bars and restaurants.  These bars/restaurants come alive at night with Cypriot families enjoying quality time together. Rows of tables set up to hold families of 30 (it is fabulous).  Music plays out into the streets and couples and families alike enjoy themselves.  Click here to see more Photographs of the Municipal Gardens and surrounding Buildings

Omnia Espresso and Wine Bar

One of the bars surrounding the municipal gardens was this one, we loved it, we visited the bar during the day for coffee and watched the world go by.

During the day if you visit this bar and venture inside you will find many Cypriots sitting indoors under the cool air-conditioning playing Bridge !!  We discovered that this place is home to a local bridge club.

In the evening it comes alive and turns into a buzzing bar, frequented by lots of people, locals and tourists and provides a fabulous cosmopolitan feel.  Take a look on their Facebook Page Omnia Cafe to find out what goes on.

IMG_3577

Omnia Espresso Wine Bar

Spectacular views out over the square towards the various fountains, restaurants and of course not forgetting the beautiful buildings.

Day Time

Evening

Now I am keeping the best for last we went to a beautiful restaurant called Agora Tavern it is situated on Kennedy Square next to the traffic lights coming up from Kato Paphos at the Kings Mall.

We hadn’t booked a table in this restaurant but I had always wanted to go.  Fortunately there was two tables  that hadn’t been reserved so we were given a lovely table on the terrace.  This restaurant has no menu and you order either a meat or vegetarian meze.  As each dish was served the girls who served us explained each dish and told how it was prepared. An absolutely delightful experience.   I don’t want to tell you anymore about our experience as it would then not be a surprise for your visit.

———ΨΨΨ———

Revival of Paphos Old Town

The sky was overcast and it had been threatening to rain, but being Cyprus it was warm even though slightly dull it was great to venture into Paphos with my friend Carolyn as we hadn’t seen each other for a few months….. So with umbrellas in hand we decided to have a wander round the old town to see the work that had been carried out over the past year and the changes that have been made.

I’m pleased to say that the work being undertaken is progressing well and it is hoped that it will bring regeneration to the old town where the once vibrant centre of Paphos had become desolate in places with shops and premises lying empty.  It is hoped the €60m worth of projects for Paphos, including the regeneration of the traditional shopping centre and Kennedy Square, the restoration of the municipal market, the upgrading and enhancement of the Markideio theatre, and connecting and enhancing the squares of October 28, Kosti Palama and Dionysios Solomos (around the town hall) will see the old town being revived and re-invigorated not only because Paphos is the European City of culture for 2017 but for the future of Paphos itself!!

From the photographs below you can see the streets have been pedestrianised with lovely paving and beautiful shrubs and trees have been planted.  Shoppers can now wander without any need to worry about traffic on the narrow streets.  Many street cafes have opened in addition to those restaurants that have been there for many years (near the market area)  Clothes boutiques have opened and some little shops open  selling local artist products.  Of course there are still shops selling bags and leather goods.  Fitflops can also be found here at a fraction of the cost of those at home.

They are once again looking to move the bus station from the harbour to the old town near the Markideio theatre where it originally was to bring tourists and locals once again back to the old town.

We couldn’t believe the changes in the area.  It looked amazing we could see that the developers/architects were trying to retain the traditional old world charm expected of the old town but also introducing the more modern cafe and boutique feel about the area too.

 

The little shops and cafes all looked very interesting and definitely worth a trip if you fancy getting away from the beach and out of the sun for a few hours……..

If you do fancy it you don’t need a car to get to the old town of Paphos just jump one of the local bus which is signed to the MARKET.  If you feel like walking then you can go straight up the road from the Kings Avenue Mall and you are there.  In the cooler months it may take about 15 minutes from the mall but allow more time in the hot summer months.

Of course every outing with your friend needs to start with a coffee before moving onto the shops and other attractions.

fullsizeoutput_d29

Grafico Cafe

We chose this quaint little cafe “Grafico Cafe” to have a coffee in the new pedestrian area where we sat and caught up and watched the world go by as we enjoyed the ambience surrounding us.

Grafico Cafe in Paphos Old Town

Having ventured into a few clothes shops and did a little window shopping we came

fullsizeoutput_d1e

The Place

across an old traditional property housing a   shop called “The Place“.  From the outside we thought it was fabulous and the architecture was typically Cypriot so we had to go inside to find out more…..

 

Once inside we met one of the local artists who told us about the Place and how it offers the opportunity to visitors to get a hands-on experience of Cyprus culture and tradition.  She told us everything that we saw was made by local people.

“Everything here is traditional and handmade. People were disappointed to come to the market and see goods from China. This is why everything we have is natural and from small producers in Paphos villages. People want to see what they’re creating.”

I was very tempted to purchase a few of the items on sale here, from wine jugs to glass candle holders not to mention locally grown herbs too.

There are live daily demonstrations of traditional handicrafts, pottery, basket making, weaving, wood carving and wine tasting performed by wine experts as well as a variety of Cypriot handcrafted gifts, souvenirs and products to enjoy.  We were offered the opportunity to try wood burning and pottery designing (we declined on this occasion but most definitely will return and perhaps take an opportunity to try our hand at one of these crafts.   Who knows we may discover we have a hidden talent!!

———ψψψ———