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Cyprus turns chic June 24, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Cyprus.
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Buying on the Med’s biggest island used to be a budget option for retirees. Not any more.

Drive along the newly tarred motorway in Cyprus, with the sparkling Mediterranean on one side and scrubby green hillsides on the other, and your view is punctuated not by herds of goats or Greek Orthodox Churches, but by hoardings advertising properties for sale.

Sun-bleached images of pastel coloured villas set around swimming pools are selling the dream: a cheap house on a sunny island, where prices are 30% below those in Spain.

Over the years, Cyprus has built up something of a “chic as chips” reputation, a result of the boom in package holidays that has left much of the island’s coastline scarred with lines of concrete hotels and apartment blocks, Irish theme bars and fast-food restaurants. But Cyprus, the largest island in the Mediterranean, is already moving upmarket, and the government believes that “residential tourism” will provide the best way forward.

According to the Cyprus Land Registry, 12,000 British people, constituting 1.5% of the population, already own homes on the island, the same proportion of Brits who own properties in France. The British have been buying on the southern half of Cyprus, especially near Paphos, for 20-30 years, but the past two years have seen them moving further afield, to Polis, north of Paphos, and to hillsides with sea views near Limassol on the southern coast and near Larnaca, in the east, where prices are up to 30% cheaper. Interest from well-heeled British buyers will be key to the success, or failure, of the attempt to push Cypriot holiday homes upmarket.

Work has started on the expansion of Paphos airport, and there are plans to build 1,000 berths at the Coral Bay Marina, to help tempt wealthy yachtsmen. Last year the government also launched a new golf policy, which could increase the number of 18-hole courses on the island from three to 14. At Aphrodite Hills, one of the biggest new housing developments trying to woo a richer clientele, about 60% of homeowners are British, says Loucas Kitrou, the real estate manager, but “only a third of them play golf”. They are buying by the greens and alongside the fairways because, as Kitrou says, golf “adds as much as 40% to the value of a property”.

A self-contained resort just 20 minutes from Paphos airport, Aphrodite Hills is set in 578 acres, and when it is finished in 2008, it will have a total of 650 properties. It also has an InterContinental hotel, a tennis academy and a “village square”, surrounded by cafes, restaurants, a chemist, a shop and a church.

In 2000, when the resort was nothing but bare earth, you could buy a three-bed townhouse for £83,500-£95,500 (and that’s sterling, not Cypriot pounds). A similar property now costs £240,000. The penultimate phase of the development, Zephyros Village, was launched last month, with villa prices starting at £690,000 and rising beyond £1.1m for a four-bed property with a private pool.

“Prices have gone up a lot, as has the calibre of client,” says Kitrou. “If you can pay £955,000 for a villa, then you are willing to spend more on the extras, like a built-in barbecue area. We created the market on the island.”

Part of that market includes self-build. Planning laws in Cyprus are strict, permitting only 10% of a plot to be built on. Designs are limited to a few colours and are encouraged to echo the traditional style of hillside villages, with red-tiled roofs and hardwood window frames.

For this reason, a number of British buyers, including Peter Dyoss, a financial director, have taken advantage of the existing planning permission and infrastructure at Aphrodite Hills to build their own homes there. Dyoss has bought two plots, on which he has built one large villa, using his own architect.

“I could see that the quality of civil engineering, the roads, the sewers, and so on, was better than what I’d seen elsewhere on the island,” he says.

Dyoss, 67, and his wife Angela, 62, who live near Bournemouth, have spent the past 18 months building a 3,500sq ft villa at the Cypriot resort at a cost of £537,000. It has four bedrooms, a walk-in wardrobe in beech wood, a study, a large infinity swimming pool and an underground garage.

“You still have to build in a similar style to fit in with the resort, but this way I got a bigger villa,” says Dyoss. “Paying for my own architect added 6.5% to the costs, including a pool designer and a quantity surveyor, but this way we also got more choice when it came to the layout, tiles in the bathroom, wood floors and so on. The quality is very good over here and 15% cheaper than in the UK.”

The developer, Lanitis, has submitted plans to build two more resorts, one near Pissouri, a pretty seaside village midway between Limassol and Paphos, whose population is already 70% British, and the other closer to Limassol.

Across the gorge from Aphrodite Hills, the island’s largest developer, Aristo, is building the Secret Valley golf resort, set in a 2,500-acre nature reserve. If permitted, the company will build up to 1,500 apartments and 1,500 villas over the next seven to 10 years. Flats will start from £240,000 and go up to £1m-plus for a custom-built villa.

“Golf is the way of the future,” says Themis Mavromichalos, Sales Director for Secret Valley. “But we are also building an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a tennis and squash academy.”

Property prices on Cyprus have been rising at about 20% a year since the island joined the European Union in 2004, but can such growth be sustained? Stuart Law, Managing Director of Assetz, a specialist property investment firm, believes they can, at least in the short term. “Prices are still considerably lower than in France or Spain, as much as 30% less,” he says. “Prices rose by 15% in 2005, and I expect the same this year. Entry to the euro in 2007-08 will pre-empt further growth.”

Eftychia Christodoulou, General Manager of Lordos Properties, says: “Cyprus is no longer cheap. It used to be popular with retiring couples, but now we are seeing more families. The buyers are getting younger.”

Lordos Properties started out renovating old stone houses, but Christodoulou admits there are few left now. The firm is building 150 properties across the island, and is starting to break into markets at Ayia Napa and Protaras, where developers are testing the water hoping to appeal to the British “value for money” market. Prices at Lordos Sunrise Beach Villas on the seafront at Protaras start at £187,000 for a two-bed villa and £235,000 for three-bedrooms and a private pool.

Lordos is also starting to convert some dated and now half-empty hotels along the coast into furnished apartments, such as the Ermitage on the seafront at Limassol. These flats have laminated floors, stainless-steel kitchen appliances and plasma television screens. The penthouse just sold for £1.2m.

The buying process in Cyprus is relatively straightforward. It is advisable to visit the island independently, rather than allow a developer to fund your trip, so that you can visit your choice of agents and areas.

Chris Wilkinson, 63, and his girlfriend, Jane Davis, 47, had been visiting the island for 15 years before they decided to buy. “We were mooching around and came across the most beautiful site,” says Wilkinson.

Planning permission for the 100-acre site, sold off by a local farmer, allowed only eight building plots. Four of them, including Wilkinson and Davis’s, have been built on, while the remaining four properties are still under construction.

The couple bought their plot, 600ft above sea level, behind the Coral Bay Marina north of Paphos in 2004. Wilkinson estimates the villa, with its 180-degree sea views, cost just under £597,000, including landscaping and a pool.

Wilkinson and Davis are proud of their achievement but are selling up, as they feel the four-bed property and its acre plot are too much to look after. They are selling the villa themselves for £780,000, to take advantage of the booming market, but plan to stay on in Cyprus.

“There is a colony of Brits here,” says Wilkinson. “But it is easy to avoid the overbuilt areas. You can still find the old Cyprus, with small squares and tavernas, where the ladies are dressed in black.”

Cyprus: A Mediterranean beachhead June 24, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy.
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Cyprus: A Mediterranean beachhead for India

TAKE A test: Which capital, other than Delhi, has three major boulevards named after three political leaders of India. No guesses?

Little known Nicosia, capital of Cyprus, has thoroughfares named after Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. That measures the warmth of feeling this country in the Mediterranean has for India.

Even decades after India lent critical support to Archbishop Makarios during its hours of crisis and struggle, Cyprus has not forgotten the good turn. The reservoir of goodwill for India is amazing.

And today, when Cyprus is a member of the European Union and well on its way to entering the Euro zone, that is, when the euro becomes its currency, signifying complete integration in the largest and wealthiest regional grouping, it is once again extending an open arm to India to participate in its economy.

To a visiting team of high officials this month, Cyprus listed a whole gamut of activities where the country is looking forward to working with India. The negotiations of the high-level delegation took little time to home in on areas where effective and fruitful collaboration was possible.

India-Cyprus economic relations can bring in substantial dividends to both the countries. Three specific areas could be cited for closer co-operation. First is enhancing financial flows for mutual investment. Small it may be, but Cyprus is financially muscular and has funds for investing overseas. It is investing in properties and financial instruments in the West.

At the same time, the well-heeled of Europe are looking for the sun and sands of Cyrpus and picking up beachside properties around its coastline. Picturesque villages are coming in areas where there was nothing but clusters of traditional dwellings. Indian hotels could just well as look at Cyprus if they are in a mood to expand abroad.

At any rate, all the funds flowing into the country are adding to its prosperity and pushing up the exchange rate. Else, how can one Cyprus pound be worth around $2.3?

Of course, such an exchange rate is good for an economy which depends on tourism for its sustenance, because for every incoming tourist you get more.

However, the Cypriots have realised the vulnerability of an economy based exclusively on tourism. The bitter realisation was all the more acute in the aftermath of 9/11. The economic planners of the country, headed by a man who had spent his impressionable youth in India on a Commonwealth Scholarship, is evolving an alternative model, in which India can play a very critical role.In a country of this kind, investments from Indian companies in certain sectors can yield good dividends.

However, one has to be very careful about choosing the investment options. Cyprus is not suited for large-scale investment in manufacturing industries. It is a good place for investment in critical segments.

Obviously, given its positioning, Cyprus offers access to the entire Mediterranean world. It has good and functional links with countries from the northern fringe of Africa to the southern coastline of Europe. If Indian companies set up some measure of operation in this island-country, they will have the advantage of penetrating the regional markets. Cyprus allows 100 per cent foreign equity stake. Indian companies just might as well consider the country as a hub for servicing their markets in the wide region, from North Africa at one end to Europe on the other.

Second, Indian financial sector can establish its toehold in Cyprus for eventually entering the European Union. Speaking to some of the senior officials of the Bank of Cyprus, the country’s central bank, one got the impression that it should be possible for Indian financial intermediaries to establish operations in Cyprus to serve the small and affluent local financial market as well as for capturing a slice of the European business.

Here, in this Med island, the Indian companies will be able to get the same treatment as Cypriot companies.

Third, Cyprus has at its disposal large funds for research and development under the “EU programmes for R and D in member countries”. By establishing joint ventures with Cypriot companies, research institutes and government agencies, a good part of these funds earmarked for Research and Development activities could be tapped.

Indeed, the Government of Cyprus is formulating its master-plan for Science and Technology and it is time that some of our organisations began the exercise for establishing synergies to participate in these projects.

And the Cypriots are willing to look at Indian institutions and scientists for undertaking such jobs. Cyprus has identified bio-technology as one of the prime areas for such R and D activities. The only other country which is keenly involved in these areas in Cyprus is France.

Under its master-plan, the Cypriots are looking at involving the private sector for incubator activities. This will call for private sector participation and Indian firms could look at these opportunities. Since biotech is one of the chosen areas, Indian firms in this segment, and there are a few world-class units, could get involved in these programmes.

These are in fact the thrust areas which could be pursued by India in developing its economic relations with this Mediterranean country. We need not pursue the same strategy for all countries in formulating and developing our external economic relations.

Trade might be important factor in our relations with the US or China. However, with a population of just about 800,000, Cyprus cannot be a target for developing trade. Already, India runs a huge surplus with Cyprus in its trade account.

We cannot hope to further raise our exports and yet take little from that country. Where we should concentrate is in developing qualitative and strategic links.

Cyprus is situated at the eastern fringe of the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Turkey but culturally an extension of Greece and Greek civilisation. If today Cyprus is a sleepy little island, dotted with tourist spots, the government is taking its first critical steps to turn it into a technology hot-spot. It is consciously moulding its industrial, development and tourism policies not to upset in any way its critical ecology.

Hence, large-scale operations, such as even setting up cement plants for exploiting the abundant limestone deposits, are carefully avoided. Instead, the authorities are talking of developing cutting-edge research and development centers, IT hubs and technology collaboration.

Some beginning has been made in this direction. An Israeli technology company has begun operations, employing, of all people, some 1,000 Indian software engineers.

A few of these irrepressible young engineers had surfaced at a reception at the residence of India’s High Commissioner in Nicosia and could hardly be stopped in their conversation about the possibilities for Indian technology companies in their host country.

In choosing this new strategy, the Cypriot Government is consciously avoiding the easier option. It can do so because the country’s economy is sound. Unemployment is virtually unknown.

It has one of the highest per capita income in the world. It has a steady flow of income from rich European tourists who are ever flocking to its shores.

It is an incredibly beautiful country, where the air itself is laced with the sweet smell of orange flowers, vineyards. Poppies abound here, though not its cultivation. It is a country that gave birth to the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, and is seeped in Greek myths and legends.

When the whole world is establishing bilateral trade and economic co-operation agreements, it may well be a good idea to have strategic links. In that case, Cyprus could be the one country for India.

Visit Cyprus > the birthplace of Aphrodite June 24, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Cyprus.
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Welcome to Cyprus, an island of legends that basks year-round in the light of the warm Mediterranean sun.

A storied past 10,000 years long has seen civilizations come and go and the likes of everyone from Alexander the Great to Cleopatra stake their claim here, but then, people do tend to get possessive when faced with such beauty. Aphrodite made her home on Cyprus, and travellers throughout antiquity came here just to pay her tribute.

Today Cyprus is a modern country that effortlessly marries European culture with ancient enchantment. Here you will discover a compact world of alluring beaches and fragrant mountain peaks, vineyards studded with olive trees and ancient ruins that stir the imagination, citrus groves and old stone villages where sweet wine flows as freely as conversations at the local café. A carefree place where a sense of timelessness is magnified by the kindness of the people.

This official website of the Cyprus Tourism Organisation is designed to be your electronic entry to the quiet beauty of Cyprus in all its dimensions. Step inside for an in-depth look at an island that is as exotic as you imagine, and more accessible than you might think. Go to > http://www.visitcyprus.org.cy/

Events in Cyprus > Cultural Information

Whether it is January or July, the cultural calendar in Cyprus is always a busy one. Here is a selection of some of the more prominent events in 2006.

2006 > January/February/March/April
Cultural Winter at Agia Napa and Paralimni:
A touch of tradition in the summertime clubbing haven, with performances of Cypriot dances, Greek and Cypriot music and contemporary dance (Jan.- March).
European Limassol Festival (November to April): Variety of prestigious cultural events.
Spidernet Pafos Marathon (March 6)
Carnival Festivities in all towns (March 3-13)
International Cycling Competition “Afxentia” (March 4-6)
Mountain Bike Race, Marathon World Cup (April 9-10)

May/June/July
Anthestiria:
Flower festivals in Larnaka, Pafos, Lemesos, and Germasogeia.
International Museums Day (May 18)
Kataklysmos (June 17-22): A unique Cypriot celebration, the Festival of the Flood coincides with Pentecost and is marked by festivities at all seaside towns.
Day of Music (June 21): All towns.
Shakespeare Festival (June 24-26): Outdoors at ancient Kourion.
Ancient Greek Drama Festival (July 1 – August 3 ): Odeon Pafos.
International Larnaka Festival (July 1-31)
Cyprus Rally (May 12-15)
 
August/September/October
Limassol Wine Festival
(August 30 – Sept.11): Famous annual festival at Municipal Gardens, Lemesos, with local foods, traditional music and dance, and free Cyprus wines from the barrel.
Pafos Aphrodite Festival (Sept.2-4). La Traviata by G. Verdi
Kypria 2005: Cyprus International Festival (Sept.-Nov.), all towns.
Cyprus Independence Day (Oct. 1)
“Afamia” Grape Festival (Oct. )
 
November/December
12th Aphrodite Half Marathon-Pafos
(November 20)
7th Kolossi Half Marathon (Nov. 27)
Cultural Winter at Ayia Napa
Annual Christmas Concerts
Gala Opera at Rialto Theatre Lemesos
(December)
 
For additional information go to > http://www.visitcyprus.org.cy/

Food on Cyprus is fresh and filling June 24, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Cyprus.
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The food on Cyprus, as might be expected, is similar to Greek cuisine, with lots of grilled seafood, lamb, a beef- and-onion stew called stifado, and locally grown fruits and vegetables.

But it also has one specialty that appears to be unique to the island, and anyone visiting should be sure to try it. A meze is a multicourse meal made up of small dishes, a meal of all appetizers that will leave you with a variety of tastes and a full stomach.

It can start with samples of tzatziki; hummus; tahini; potato salad; beets; and terrasalata, a fish roe dip, with bread and olives. Next might come some small meatballs, sausages and chunks of pork in a wine sauce. It is followed by fish dishes, cod, octopus, crab and calamari rings, and then perhaps a kebab or sizzling slices of chicken or beef. The meal is finished with fruit, apples, pears, grapes, and if you are lucky and the owner likes you, a complimentary Cyprus brandy.

The key is to go easy on the bread and dip, eat slowly and don’t worry if you cannot finish everything.

Most restaurants will have meat, fish and mixed mezes. They start at about 6.50 Cyprus pounds (about $15), depending on how many courses are served.

The Wine Roads of Northern Greece June 24, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Wine And Spirits.
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The Wine Roads of Northern Greece is a trail, blazing program that grew out of the joint effort of the members of the Wine Producers Association of the Northern Greece Vineyard.

It is a unique tourist program, a wine tourism program more specifically and an innovating proposal for Greek and foreign visitors, to reach the variety of our viniculture regions, discover their local characteristics, familiarize with the wine-producers local environment and participate in the variety of cultural activities.

The wine-producers, wove this web in and through the various places where they live and work and practice their craft. All around them unwinds the skein of history, of architecture, of religion, of tradition in the arts: in a word, the everyday life of the people of Northern Greece.

More at > http://www.wineroads.gr/en/default.asp

First stone laid on new airport June 24, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Transport Air Sea Land.
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‘42 months from now we will have a new and modern terminal building’

HERMES Group chairman Nicos Shacolas yesterday pledged that the new Larnaca Airport, capable of handling 7.5 million passengers a year would be completed on time in 2009.

Shacolas was speaking at a ceremony to mark the laying of the foundation stone for the new terminal building, 31 years after Larnaca airport became the island’s main entry point in the wake of the Turkish invasion.

“We will honour the contract that we have signed with the government of the Cyprus Republic down to the last detail and in three and a half years without any delays we will all be here again to inaugurate the new airport and for that we can feel proud,” said Shacolas.

Shacolas said that 6,000 people would be permanently employed at the new airports. He also said that over the next three and a half years around 2,000 people would be working on the construction of the new terminal.

The foundation stone was laid jointly with President Tassos Papadopoulos as dignitaries and diplomats joined officials for the historic occasion. “Forty-two months from now we will have a new and modern terminal building that will further contribute to Cyprus’ development, offering the island a special place in the eastern Mediterranean region”, Papadopoulos said.

He said it was the government’s most important project so far and would make Cyprus an even more important player in air transport in the region. (more…)

Cyprus Airways Spins Off Charter Unit June 24, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in News Flights.
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Cypriot flag carrier Cyprus Airways has sold charter subsidiary Eurocypria to the government for CYP13.45 million pounds (USD$29.3 million) as part of a restructuring.

The government, which owns close to 70 percent of Cyprus Airways, has said the acquisition and spinning off of Eurocypria from the main airline unit was designed to create a second, debt-free scheduled carrier.

Cyprus Airways, burdened by fleet renewal costs and cheaper competition, posted a pretax loss of CYP25.03 million (USD$54.6 million) in 2005 and required an EU approved and government-backed financial bailout last year.

The restructuring, which includes outsourcing, the Eurocypria spinoff and shedding about one fifth of its work force, is designed to generate savings of CYP21.8 million (USD$47.5 million) annually.

The European Commission approved a EUR51 million (USD$111 million) government-backed loan as rescue aid for the carrier in May 2005, on condition that the government come up with a credible overhaul plan.