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On Saturday I set off to make my first visit to the Cyprus Wine Festival at Alexander Palace and was looking forward to feeling the vibe…..It started off well as we made our way to Ally Pally as it’s affectionately named, along the woody footpath, through a park on a lovely sunny day. As we neared the impressive building sitting on top of the North London hilltop we caught the unmistakable whiff of souvlakia and heard the music tinkling away.
Alexandra Palace was built in 1873 for the purpose of becoming ‘the people’s palace’ a site of recreation and entertainment. It does indeed look like a palace and covers a vast area commanding a sweeping view of London below. We approached from the Palm Court side and from the terrace here you have a fine view of the City skyline with the Gherkin and Shard clearly visible. Here was set up the souvlakia stand and to give added atmosphere recorded Greek popular music was playing. We resisted the taunting of the delicious aroma and went inside to see what fun and frolics we could find.
The Palm house area looks cool, calm and green with its palms and obelisks and the beautiful glass paned domed ceiling so very Victorian in its design. Entering into the lobby we passed painted illustrative scenes of Victorian leisure activities and came across our first stand displaying some beautiful black and white photographs of Cyprus in the late 60’s as well as aerial scenes of Famagusta town. Famagusta has been frozen in time since 1974 when the Turkish invasion caused the inhabitants to flee and has remained as if in a time warp. Cars and shops remain as they were that day a whole retro city, slowly crumbling and being re-claimed by nature. The inhabitants unable to return and the Turks denied re-population due to a UN Security Council Resolution which will only allow the original residents to live there. It falls right on the edge of the occupied area and was once the pride of Cyprus, a shining example of the wealth and rapid growth of tourism that took place in the sixties with masses of skyscraper hotels dotted along the coastline and a busy port. There are movements now taking place to open up Varosha, as it is called locally, to get the economy moving and re-open the port, this stand was advertising a petition which we gladly signed.
Moving on into the main hall we came across many stalls but they all seemed to be swallowed up by the vastness of the space. All the usual suspects of food importers and wine stalls with some other local Cypriot businesses were assembled not forgetting the CTO of course. We arrived at lunchtime and it had the feeling like you get when you arrive too early at a party, you certainly couldn’t call it crowded. My biggest disappointment was there were no activities taking place, where was the dancing and singing? This meant the atmosphere was flat. A large area in the centre was taken up by a stage all kitted out ready for the music complete with security guards, and a seating area but the music was all taking place in the evening when the much publicised Elena Paparizou performing.
The most alluring of the stalls of course for me was the Aroma patisserie. Here were laid out all the Cypriot delights you could wish for, koupes, loukoumadhes, daktyla, pourekia anaris, shamishi, haloumopitta, eliopitta and so on. So of course we had to sample some and they were all delicious. The wine stalls only seemed to be displaying wines made by SODAP with one exception of one individual producer. My sister and I felt that this could have been so much more, a real showcase for Cyprus but really it is a showcase for the Cypriot businesses of North London and didn’t capture, for me, what is actually happening in Cyprus today. To be fair it is advertised as a business fair and really that should be its main title because Cyprus Wine Festival implies a whole different feel which it didn’t deliver for me, maybe I missed the party. If it truly was a wine festival, it could demonstrate some of the truly delicious wines that are now being produced by small wineries in Cyprus; that would have been worth sampling.
- Talk of Varosha return a ‘logical, tangible step’ (cyprus-mail.com)