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Phikardou > the past restored June 19, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Cyprus, Cyprus Nicosia.

The entire village of Phikardou has been declared an ancient monument. It now provides a fascinating insight into life in 18th century Cyprus

Most tourists seem perfectly content to spend their time here eating familiar cuisine and tipsily tripping from sun bed to hotel bar and back, which is a huge shame, especially on an island as fascinating and varied as this.

On this day trip, we visit a village that 10 years ago was literally taken over by the Department of Antiquities to preserve its entire fabric and unique architecture, it now boasts the unusual title of being the only village which has been declared in its entirety as an ancient monument.

Such was the success of this huge undertaking, the project was awarded the prestigious Europa Nostra award for conservation work, while visitors will not visit a lifeless archeological site as every house in Phikardou has an owner and has either been renovated or is in the process of being done so by the owners. Every occupier must adhere to what is a strict set of rules and regulations for listed buildings, so no satellite dishes loom from roofs nor will you catch sight of any aluminium doors or window frames.

The aim is to breathe new life into this rural village, which so called progress threatened to snuff out. Farmland lay untended as workers left to seek work along the busy coastal strips, leaving behind deserted buildings and a dwindling elderly population. Phikardou is now considered to be one of the most important traditional settlements still surviving on the island and is quite a success story for the environmentalists. In addition, all visitors are able to experience a living village where little has changed since the 18th century.

From Nicosia, the drive is around 25minutes, and the turn off is one and a half kilometers past Gouri village on the Machairas-Nicosia via Klirou road. Visitors from Paphos can enjoy a longer, 2hr, 40min, but still lovely route once they come off the motorway at Limassol.

As the village is an ancient monument, the government-issue ‘brown’ signs clearly show the route. The village is set on a sort of dog leg, which means there are two ways in and out, so if you miss one turn off, a few kilometers further on there will be the other.

We made the journey in late February and as we drove along the winding but well-surfaced road we saw what first looked like snow flakes fluttering across the windscreen but turned out to be almond blossom, millions of petals were falling and gently blowing past us, originating from the hundreds of almond trees that flourish in the area. This helped make for a lovely drive up to the village all through rolling, un-spoilt countryside surrounded on either side by forests of pink-tinged blooming almond trees, the experience making us feel as if we were taking part in an extended and very slick car advert.

Make for the parking area just by the 18th century church, dedicated to the Apostles Peter and Paul. This is a good place to first walk round then take the tiny path from the side of the church yard into the heart of the village. The first thing you notice is the predominance of local stone, or iron stone, used in the construction of all the houses, that is mixed with pebbles and limestone slabs to support mud brick superstructures, covered with slanted tile roofs.

Walking through the narrow, slate-lined walkways, make sure you look at the wooden front doors and especially the front door locking mechanism. Here the cover of the lock is carved and a special key was made with a lever and opened with a wooden key specifically designed for each household. Above the door lintel, some of the houses boast carved plaques displaying the protective eye, one even has a rather somber cut out of a human head, yet another deterrent to a visitation from the devil.

There is a small visitor centre a few minutes walk down from the church right in the heart of the village staffed by very friendly, English-speaking locals, who will take you on a small tour of the two homes open to the public.

The house of Katsinioros can be traced back to 16th century origins and here you get a fascinating insight into the way lives were lived: families slept on hard wood planks amusingly described as beds, one room on top was used for sleeping, cooking and the all-important art of weaving. Below the living quarters resided livestock, with a room for the all important zivania still, an oven for cooking and baking bread, and an area for storing wine in huge pithary pots.

This house, along with that of Achilleas Dimitri, has been faithfully restored using reference to old drawings and photographs, and it is very well done. Mind you, after being told that parts of the village date back to the 16th century one has to then stop and look around and wish there was much more of this type of conservation, by comparison most of us now live in rather temporary accommodation.

Don’t dare leave without enjoying a jolly good lunch served at the one and only taverna, set on the hill down from the church. The owner prides herself on her homemade bread and everything served here is fresh, well cooked, good quality and excellent value for money. Sitting with glass in hand and good food on the plate it’s a perfect end to our time spent looking into a past that will hopefully flourish for another three centuries.

If you are going from Paphos or Limassol > Leave at Limassol Junction 27 towards Agia Fylia (E110) to Palodia, Paramytha, Gerasa, Zoopigi Agros. Then make a right onto the E903 towards Palaichori/Apliki Then either take a right to Farmakas and turn left to Gouri/Phikardou, note on most maps its spelt Fikardou, or carry on towards Klirou turning right at Kalo Chorio then Gouri to reach Phikardou.

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