I made my first trip to Kalavassos last Saturday 27th June. I had booked myself into a village guesthouse part of agrotourism, called The Art Deco house. Parts of this house date back 350 years and it has remained in the same family all that time which is quite impressive in itself. It is tucked away in the sleepy back streets and the only part visible from the road is the beautiful blue hue walls and large wooden double doors which open onto an inner courtyard which surprisingly houses a jacuzzi for the guests use. I was on the first floor in the Superior suite accessed by stone steps from the courtyard which took me up onto a delightful terrace with wicker chairs under a shady vine. My little abode for four nights was a whole self – contained unit of large bedroom come sitting room small kitchen and bathroom, all furnished beautifully with many personal pictures and ornaments making it feel very much like you are staying in someone’s home. All is immaculately clean and well maintained. Fruit and wine are left as a welcome with some home-made desserts in the fridge. Breakfast which is included in the price, was plentiful and varied and in fact more than I could usually eat so part of it I kept for later in the day.The hosts George and Eleni were helpful, welcoming and truly hospitable in the very Cypriot way and yet left you to your privacy without intrusion.
The village itself I found one of the prettiest I have seen in Cyprus with all the streets paved with stone, most narrow but passable by car. The square like many at the moment was undergoing some improvement. Many narrow and steep side streets with some unusual details that I hadn’t seen before, all the houses are made from limestone. Kalavassos although easily accessible from the main Limassol /Larnaka /Nicosia road is slightly elevated at the height of about 80 metres and is not greatly developed with new housing although there is a good sized population. It has a rich history with an important Neolithic site being excavated nearby called The Tenta as it has an enormous wig – wam like construction protecting the site, this can be seen clearly from the main highway. There were five mines in the region but they are now abandoned although in their lifetimes they were rich providers of copper and pyrite. Evidence of mining in this area dates back to Phoenician and Roman times. The Romans mined extensively on the island and their skill was remarkable as even now with modern techniques the mining companies cannot access or replicate the tunnelling techniques of the Romans who managed to reach very deep levels.
On my first day I took a leisurely drive around the area and at George’s suggestion I visited the Ayios Minas convent a very peaceful and pretty place to spend awhile with plenty of their own products on sale, then on to Lefkara village by the old road. I have visited Lefkara on many occasions but on this visit I took several hours to explore its side streets and visit the church. I stopped to have some lunch at Tasties which I had seen on Facebook and was not disappointed. Although busy I was lucky to get a space and sat to cool down with a beer while waiting for my order of oven cooked calamari. It was plentiful and well cooked but I would have preferred a little more seasoning. I was full but knew their cakes were good so ordered a slice of carrot and walnut cake for later and this was scrumptious. The decor is worth a visit by itself as it is a beautifully restored traditional house built around 1850, all the work was done by the owners Marie Cousins and her husband who were antique dealers in London in a former life which shows in the eclectic mix of furniture and knick knacks which fills the place. The atmosphere is a mixture of London town house and Victorian conservatory with a very welcoming Maria who bade me farewell like a long lost friend with ‘Yasou Agapi mou” goodbye my love and a kiss – that’s a first from a cafe owner!!!
Replenished and rested I carried on my exploration and being one for looking down side streets I saw a sign for the Alley Shop so pottered along to find the walls and exteriors of neighbouring houses adorned with pieces of embroidery and crochet along with tablecloths and clothing but there was no visible shop. I knocked on the door of a house and asked if I could buy a couple of pieces I had seen which were a very cheap price as they had been reduced by 50% but this was a neighbour only and she kindly offered to telephone the owner who was having her midday siesta very sensibly. A few minutes later Mrs Christala appeared and opened up her shop for me. She spoke very good English and we had a lovely chat where I learned a few things about Lefkara lace I didn’t know as well as some of the technical names of the techniques used. Sadly as she explained the young people don’t want to spend hours sitting doing needlework for peanuts when they can go out into the cities and earn better money. This of course is entirely understandable but does pose the question of what will happen to the tradition of making lace in Lefkara? I hope to visit Mrs Christala again someday as we past a very pleasant half hour chatting. There was a sign close by which was for the embroidery museum and Mrs Christal recommended a visit, this took me up some very pretty side streets that were full of flowers and plants and nooks and crannies ( this has to be a Scottish word surely? ). I eventually came to the museum which was open but in true Cypriot style I was told I was not able to see anything as the electricity was off due to repairs which begs the question of why it said it was open!!! Nevertheless I saw some lovely back streets which I might not have otherwise explored.
Before regretfully leaving Kalavassos for Nicosia, I wanted to pay a visit to an artist I had been told of by a friend, called Michael Mozaras. He is also a friend of George and Eleni so she kindly telephoned him to see if he was at home in his workshop. Unfortunately I had timed it badly as he was in Limassol that day but told Eleni she could take me to his garden where he has his workshop so that I could take photos. Michael Mozaras is a musician as well as an artist and is well-known in the area, he writes and performs his own songs and Eleni tells me his voice has a soporific effect. He has also opened a small gallery in the village square with some of his work for sale but the garden was far more interesting to me as it was full of stones he has collected from the beach over time. Some he sculpts and creates pieces of art many into angel sculptures and is known locally as the Stone angel man. Many were just laid out into probably future creations and some were already constructed, it was a fascinating visit, I will obviously have to return at a later date to meet and talk with the man himself and hopefully hear him sing.