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A high-end sports village for Mazotos village in Cyprus March 20, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Infrastructure, Cyprus Limassol, Sports & Games, Tourism.
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A branded sports tourist village featuring 300 properties has been announced near the village of Mazotos. Located between Larnaca and Limassol, the name behind the development is ex-England and Davis cup Tennis player David Lloyd.

The development will be a self-contained village created in a traditional Cypriot style, while affording the luxury and convenience demanded by modern life. The focus will be on sport, particularly racquets, but also canoeing and football. With meandering cobbled streets and a selection of coffee shops, eateries and supermarkets sprinkled throughout the development, it promises to deliver a self-contained environment with its own unique ambience.

Properties will be either one bedroom or two bedroom apartments, split 20% to 80% respectively, and will make up the development. A beach is 300 meters away, a marina which is scheduled for expansion and plans for a theme park two kilometres away. A Four Seasons 5-star luxury hotel in the immediate area is also being built. A journey time of 25 minutes from Larnaca airport allows for easy access.

The village will also be a magnet for those interested in taking their sport seriously, with the climate providing ideal training conditions for professional and novice athletes alike. Consequently, the rental yield is likely to be very high. Commercially, the development already has an independent rental guarantee programme in place which operates on a sliding scale depending upon the level of personal usage the owner wishes to take. The minimum is five per cent although higher rates can be obtained. There is no compulsion to take the rental guarantee. Owners may wish to control this aspect themselves instead.

Overseas property specialists Thomson OPI have announced their involvement in the project which they claim will deliver all the attributes of an outstanding investment. Mike Thomson, Managing Partner at the firm said: “It is rare for all the variables in property investment to come together at the same time. With this project all of the critical elements of successful property investment are positive. With low or no entry deposits, no stage payments and a remarkable ten-year index linked rental guarantee scheme offering 6.25 per cent per annum it means that investors can access the Cyprus property market with security.”

According to its website, “Thomson OPI sets itself apart by specialising in pure investment properties. While this is the primary criteria, superb lifestyle purchases can also be excellent investments.” The company is inviting investors to register their interest early to obtain preferential options in the development.  “We offer to our clients our hand-picked properties which we ourselves have invested in,” Thomson explained. “This gives a measure of confidence to our clients that the appropriate due diligence has been completed. Additionally, we offer carefully selected opportunities through our partnership programmes.”

The likely financial structuring for acquisition in the development is consistent with Thomson OPI’s objective of delivering high capital growth opportunities whilst enabling easily affordable deposits payable over a long period of time. Sizes and prices are yet to be released, with completion scheduled for summer 2010.

According to the BuySell property index, 2007 saw prices increase by over 20 per cent, with the island set to enjoy continued double digit capital growth over the coming years. Key features of the development can be obtained by contacting Thomson OPI at: info@thomsonopi.com.

The project in summary > 
300 apartments, Sold fully furnished, Indoor and outdoor tennis, Full range of other sports activities, 300m to the beach and the marina, Water based activities, Concierge greeting service, Restaurants, bars, banqueting suite, Commercial Business Centre,
Supermarkets and shops, All year sunshine, PGA golf course 15 minutes away, Rental guarantee available (up to 10 years at a minimum of 6.25%), Low entry costs, 10% deposit with 5% upon delivery, Capital growth c. 12-15% per annum.

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Pure luxury by the sea > a beach bar with a difference August 31, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Limassol, Greek Taste Local.
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In Limassol we visited a beach bar with a difference

Beach bars are a fun and practical idea. Designed to offer beach goers an alternative choice when it comes to refreshments, eating and above all relaxing, Larnaca, Limassol and Paphos all boast some impressive bars and cafes lined along the coastline. But whereas most are undeniably a convenience, catering for thousands during the day, there is a particular one that has focused on offering that much more. Cote D’Azur is one of those beach bars best described as pure luxury by the sea, with an utterly stunning decor and excellent service. You can enjoy a bottle of Crystal in an environment specifically designed for those who will enjoy experiencing Cannes in Limassol.

Situated on the main beachfront in Limassol, Cote D’Azur is relatively new to the beach bar mania, but nevertheless has managed to distance itself in that it offers the over 20s a relaxing and very bling experience from the moment you step in.

“We wanted to be able to offer people who have had enough of busy clubs and bars an alternative choice,” says the owner, George Paplomatas. “But it wasn’t just about giving them a spot to chill and relax. We wanted to focus on lavishness from our drinks to our cakes, plates and glasses.”

Indeed, once you’ve sat down, it doesn’t take a rich, experienced person to realise that even the service is different to what we’re normally used to. All waiters and waitresses are dressed as sailors, giving the whole ambience of the bar the illusion that you are heading out on a journey.

But it isn’t just the themed costumes; walking into the bar, you will notice that unlike other beach bars, there is no sand. The bar is positioned on a higher altitude than the water, which splashes up against the wall, allowing you really to feel as though you are set on a yacht. The scent of the sea, the light breeze, the shell-covered table lamps and the all-white decor just give that oomph, making it a truly remarkable experience.

Sitting down for a talk with George and his lovely wife, Sue, it’s difficult to imagine that before the bar was created, the 300 m² area was nothing but an empty field with a small 60s building. “A few metres right of the bar is one of the oldest and best fish taverns in Limassol and this was the preparation room where the toilets, showers and part of the kitchen area was,” says George. It has been renovated and is now Cote D’Azur’s preparation area.

Perhaps there is nothing particularly exciting about this fact, but how about a well situated at the basement? “I think it was used as a source of clean water back in those days,” he says. “But we found it very strange that despite being a few metres away from the sea, it actually contains fresh water!” Although it is not of any use now and has been sealed, it’s a rare finding.

Cote D’Azur operates during the day too, offering coffees, fresh juices, smoothies, milkshakes, Movenpick ice cream (one of the best ice creams in the world) and various scrumptious cakes. “The chefs and the whole staff are specifically trained to offer not only delicious plates of snacks and others but also to mind the decoration too,” George explains.

Having spent a small fortune on glasses, plates and other utensils, the couple wanted to be sure people with certain tastes and preferences would be completely satisfied. Having lived the experience, I’m pretty sure they will.

Cote D’Azur: Cafeteria open from Monday to Sundays from 11am to 9pm. Bar from Monday to Sundays until 3am but make a reservation to be sure. Oh, and dress smartly! Tel: 7000 5008.

Lofou village > the price of progress August 31, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Limassol.
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Beautiful but deserted, every August the remote village of Lofou lives again

Just a short distance from Limassol and hidden away in the Troodos foothills lies one of Cyprus’ most picturesque gems, the peaceful and unique village of Lofou.

Famous for its resistance to modern life, Lofou’s honeycomb maze of narrow cobbled streets are virtually free from the relentless development seen elsewhere on the island. The local stone built enclave is preserved in a time gone by, no concrete, no litter, no property development signs, and stranger yet… virtually no people.

Lofou is somewhat of a success story, having been saved from extinction by a handful of local visionaries who began transforming the derelict village in the early 1990s. Now it is experiencing a property boom and the majority of its 2000 stone buildings have been restored to their former glory in accordance with strict planning guidelines to retain Lofou’s old charm. Only a fraction of these are permanent homes inhabited by 30 or so year-round residents, that is until late July and August when the population explodes with 2,000 Ypsonas refugees, escaping the city heat with a return to their ancestral roots in the hills.

The village has always led a double life; traditionally the inhabitants would work the vineyards on its stepped hillsides over the summer months and migrate to Ypsonas during the winter to farm the lowlands. After the Second World War, times were harder and a slow exodus of inhabitants moved lock, stock and barrel down to the suburbs of Limassol, to find better paid work in the factories and to enable their children to attend high school.

Today, there is some hostility toward the annual influx of the prodigal Ypsonians who abandoned the village, stripping its buildings to construct their new homes near the coast. Resentment of the noise that descends with their arrival comes partly from the old inhabitants, but predominantly from the incomers who have made a permanent home here. Now the residents of Lofou face an identity crisis, questioning whether the village can retain its personality in opening itself up to the lucrative tourist market or if they should raise the barricades and keep a piece of old Cyprus for themselves. The village remains divided, but Lofou residents are united in their dread of an onslaught of tour buses and retinue of souvenir shops, knowing that once they arrive in the village, things will change forever.

Village President, George Danos was coaxed from retirement 16 years ago to take on the job of reviving the village he had left more than 40 years before. When he took up permanent residence in the hills, he faced a mammoth task. “I was asked to see what was going on, the village president here was an old man and he was not able to do anything. When I came, everything was destroyed, even the school, there were not even windows or doors, nothing at all,” he says. George accepted the challenge and using a £300,000 government grant, set to work renovating the school and asphalting the access road to the village. Five years later work began on re-cobbling the streets and restoration of the old olive press before embarking on the conversion of a dilapidated property to serve as the local council office.

The school remains closed as it has since the last teacher left in 1970 and it is unclear whether children will ever again be seen playing in the school yard here. George retains some hope, with plans to bring elementary school pupils from Ypsonas for summer breaks in the future.

Placed under government protection in 1993, many of Lofou’s homes and buildings have been renovated using grants to finance half of the restoration costs. The council now benefits from a steady flow of income from the property taxes due on 1,500 restored buildings, but has only recently installed a computer to transfer the details from a huge manually-kept ledger of property owners.

Lofou’s appeal is its simplicity; quiet streets, clean air and miles of hiking trails with panoramic views of the hills, mountains and coast. There is little more for visitors to see aside from the olive mill, an old cave and Lofou church with its ecclesiastical museum. Several villagers keep keys to unlock the attractions and are usually delighted to guide visitors as an opportunity to have a chat about life in Lofou.

Internally, the village church, built in 1872 and dedicated to the Annunciation of the Virgin Mother, belies its plain exterior with a ceiling covered in stars supporting colourful chandeliers and walls packed with 19th century icons. Aside from a solid gold icon on the main wall, Lofou’s most treasured piece is an 800-year-old icon of the Virgin Mary found by shepherds in what was then a forest. The museum can be visited by arrangement with Lofou’s priest who, you’ve guessed it, lives in Ypsonas, but visits once a week to deliver an enthusiastic Sunday service, broadcast across the village by tannoy to rouse the less virtuous of its residents.

Further down the hill is the restored olive press, while toward the centre is the birthplace of the village, a large cavern cut into the rock face, once used to shelter travelling shepherds centuries ago. Settlement in Lofou began from this area and the cave now awaits preservation as an important heritage site.

Nowadays, Lofou’s heart beats within the three local tavernas where residents and visitors gather to eat and pass the time. Lofou Tavern owner Costas Violaris arrived in the village in 1993, immediately setting about extending and restoring the old hostelry before tackling conversion of several homes into holiday studios and a coffee shop. “When we came here, the village looked like a cemetery,” says an undeterred Costas, who continued his mission to redevelop the village with a firm belief that one day it would attract tourists. His investment proved to be a shrewd one and despite a recent offer of £100,000 for the once ramshackle building, he is content to run the business, occasionally entertaining guests with bouzouki performances in the traditional courtyard restaurant.

Property is in demand here and prices in Lofou have risen by more than the island average over the past 15 years. One village building badly in need of repair is currently on the market for £80,000, providing a considerable profit for its owner who would have been lucky to sell for a couple of thousand pounds before the transformation of Lofou began.

Across the way, Lofou’s first hotel is nearing completion, and the locals agree it will not take long for the Limassol-based owners to recoup their £2 million investment in the project. The aim is to target German tourists for whom the peace and hiking trails of Lofou have become popular. Many ex-locals recognise the financial benefits of tourism and have converted old family homes into high-yield rental properties. Limassol Customs Officer, Evros Diogenous, has just completed his third refurbishment, a beautiful 150-year-old, two storey house featuring romantic four poster beds, cosy fireplaces and traditional Cypriot cane ceilings. “I want to rent it to someone who loves the house and appreciates the style,” he says, and with a monthly price tag of £500 he is aiming straight for the most affluent tourist market.

Tourism has yet to gain a foothold and the closest thing visitors will find to a souvenir shop, or indeed any kind of retail experience, is the small shelf of dried groceries and home-made preserves sold from a room in the home of pensioners Kyriacos and Polymnia Stylianou. The couple look forward to the annual influx from Ypsonas: “We like it. We prefer it because it gets very lonely, now there will be people and company,” Polymnia says as she prepares early morning coffee for a handful of locals who come for a chat and an occasional game of Tavli (backgammon).

Paul and Kathryn Lewis are one of five foreign families who have made a permanent home in Lofou. After four years here, they admit that they have become very protective of their idyllic lifestyle and are resistant to any changes tourism will bring. “We sense that it won’t stay this way,” says Kathryn regretfully, while husband Paul concedes that tourism will bring benefits to the villagers, but at a price, “Lofou will decline in the sense that it will lose its tranquillity,” he predicts. “People will come by the busload like they do in Omodos and elsewhere. Do we want it? No,” he says with passion.

Turning back the tide of progress may seem futile, but all the same, one can only hope that the villagers can find a sustainable solution to retaining Lofou’s intangible charms as successfully as its aesthetics; only time will tell.

Bitten by the bug > get rough on a buggy safari in Limassol July 22, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Limassol, Racing & Motors.
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While driving along the windy roads en route to Asgata, rather than slow your car down for a group of mountain goats, you may have to do it for a team of dust-laden four-wheel buggies crossing the road ahead of you.

The shepherd of this herd is Andreas Lofitis, the owner of Sayious Motorsport Adventures, who leads daily off-road safari tours throughout the backcountry region of Asgata, close to Limassol.

An avid lover of motorcycles and off road riding, he started this family run business with his wife and two sons just ten months ago and now leads daily tours by appointment only. The experience requires some psychological preparation and a deep desire for adventure. You may not see lions preying on antelope or hippos cooling themselves in the river, but you will be led to a number of worthwhile historic sites, over dramatic bridge overpasses, and to local village hotspots; this all after a jaw chattering, bumpy ride along rugged mountain trails with breathtaking views. Lofitis stressed that this ride is very safe for people of all ages, as long as one rides with care. There is also a racetrack at the headquarters of Sayious for those intent on a different type of fun.

At first the foreign object which one finds oneself driving feels eccentric and unpredictable, but within minutes the robustness of the vehicle becomes evident, and the sharp corners, sudden dips and boulders are more confidently maneuvered. Ninety-five percent of the trip is off road riding in an ATV buggy, a hybrid between a car and a motorcycle with engine powers of 150 cc.

The Sayious route includes excursions through nature trails and along farm roads, a scenic drive over the Kalavasos Dam as well as a stop at the Kalavasos mine, where the tour guide offers some historical insight into the region’s gold and copper mining industries. The final stop is at Lenia’s Restaurant in Asgata for a cold brew, or a coffee and a succulent traditional Cypriot sweet. The panoramic views on our ride back demand our undivided attention and as we reach the headquarters, there is a feeling of both satisfaction and disappointment; the satisfaction from the adrenaline rush of the ride and the disappointment with the journey’s end. This experience inevitably leaves one wanting more.

For those concerned with the environmental impact of such a sport, rest assured that the crew of Sayious Motorsport Adventures is very careful to remain on the designated trails. If you are considering partaking in this Safari adventure, do make sure you bring sunglasses, sunscreen, and above all do not wear flip-flops, as they make the driving more difficult. Juice and coffee are complementary and helmets, suits and wireless communication devices are also provided.

Sayious Motorsport Adventure > Cy£20 per hour with a 90-minute minimum. Operating Hours are: 14:30 – 17:30 on Monday through Friday, and 10:00 – 13:00 and 14:30 – 17:30 on Saturday and Sunday. Age limit is 18 or above for drivers, and 15 or above for passengers, with parental permission. Tel 25 366525 or 99 534827, www.sayious.com, info@sayious.com

Happy campers at Limassol’s Governor’s Beach June 24, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Limassol.
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If enjoying a twilight meal sat on a sandy beach and then stretching out beneath the stars to a symphony of crickets sounds like your idea of heaven, a camping vacation might just be for you.

In colonial times, Cyprus’ British governors frequented the beach area between Nicosia and Limassol now known as Governor’s Beach.

The trademark white rock landscape, numerous coves, sandy beach and crystal clear waters still make it a favourite among foreigners and locals alike. The Brits certainly knew how to pick a campsite but not so long ago, Governor’s Beach campsite had nothing to boast about apart from some army barrack look alikes and ugly sheds. There were no bathroom facilities and no regulations were applied or inforced. Within two decades the area has witnessed tremendous growth and development. The eyesore that was the camping site was given a facelift and can now truly be called a caravan and tent paradise. Corrugated iron sheds have given way to high tech fitted caravans and fairy tale log cabins. Well tended miniature gardens are in bloom all year round, even under the scorching August sun.

The Governor’s Beach, Kalymnos campsite is one of six licensed camping sites on the island. It is open all year round and has a capacity for 360 tents and caravans. The campsite is equipped with car parking, piped drinking water, a mini market, kiosks with tables and benches, barberque facilities and children’s play area.

The site is fairly divided into plots and quarters. Each quarter has its allocated public toilets, showers and washing facilities. All plots have electricity and plumbing provisions and the permanent or yearly caravan or cabin tenants have taken advantage of this to make their stay more pleasurable. You do still get to see a weathered tent erected here and there and more times than not, next to the amenities and laundry rooms for easy access. There is no sign of any mod cons in the vicinity of the tent, only colourful flimsy garments artfully decorating the nearby tree branches drying in the heat. Those opting for this type of accommodation are mainly young tourists travelling on a low budget and wanting to bask in the true character of the island or local young teenagers who want to experiment on their own.

The camping sites in Cyprus are licensed by the Cyprus Tourism Organisation. Other facilities available in camping sites include a snack-bar or restaurant. Fires are not allowed to be lit anywhere except in the areas provided for barberques and grills. A fire engine is permanently parked at the entrance to the camping site in case of an emergency.

It is obvious from the mature gardens and the elaborate patios that a lot of individual effort has been put into getting such stunning results. “This is our home now. We have plenty of time to kill so we both take pride in our new home and surrounding areas,” said a retired couple from Limassol. All sorts of pets are part of the camping site. Canaries or budgies are the favourite with the elderly as they are the ones living permanently at the campsite. Children, alone or accompanied, walk pet dogs while stray cats keep the mice and lizard population at bay. But beware, you may encounter lively monkeys atop the eucalyptus trees and unlike the drowsy koalas, these ones are ready for mischief. The monkey, alias Petros in Greek or Peter, was happy to move from branch to branch with ease and playfully pose for the camera. His mother was relaxing nearby and was more than happy that her son was “not vegetating in front of the TV or a computer screen.” In general, the majority of the children seem to be leading a carefree existence. The campsite offers a variety of attractions during the summer months, beach parties prime among them.

For some visitors, a beach’s amenities and attractions are important. Others feel that it is the seclusion and the chance to waste away the day on the sand that is the best part of the beach. No matter what you’re looking for, Governor’s Beach may be precisely the type of beach you will enjoy. A few of Governor’s beaches may hardly ever be crowded, while others are frequently crowded especially during the high season. The number of people at the beach is affected by a few things, including the time of year and day of the week. The same applies to the camping site. There are those that live permanently there, those who have their caravan or log cabin on a yearly basis but visit occasionally or the seasonals that only come during the two week August holiday.

“Nature really comes alive when you experience it first-hand. What better way is there to commune with the outdoors than to pitch a tent and take in the profound beauty of an Eastern Mediterranean island?” said a German reveller. It will certainly make a vacation to remember.

Limassol > an old town with a new style June 24, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Cyprus, Cyprus Limassol.
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The renovation of Limassol’s old town has created some fantastic buildings and pockets of activity but what of the area’s traditional residents?

Does Limassol’s old town function better than Nicosia’s? Is it more lively? Has it managed to get rid of the typical Cypriot old town reputation of being ‘palio’, which in Greek means both old and useless? A friend of mine, who a few weeks ago visited the place, definitely thinks so.

“You should check for yourself,” he told me when I asked for an opinion. “It is packed. They have somehow managed to persuade people to start going there and having fun. They have made it into a real town centre.”

Yes, I know I should visit Limassol but when? I postpone the trip endlessly as driving down the Nicosia-Limassol motorway isn’t one of my favourite pastimes but finally decide to make it. The ride takes a surprisingly short time as all the cars around me speed so, of course, I join the race. “Where are the cameras,” I think before finally resigning myself to the fact that there aren’t any. The same goes for police patrols. What bliss! We are in free man’s land and no-one drives slower than 140.

In less than an hour I get to Limassol and continue driving west, along its coastal road. On my right hand side I see the ugly achievements of 1970s and 1980s Cypriot architecture put up by clever entrepreneurs who believed that seven-storey office buildings would bring the town closer to the future than the magnificent traditional villas they replaced. On my left there is the newly expanded sea promenade, with its various patches of greenery, benches and bicycle paths.

“It was a big trauma for Limassolians,” explains local architect Sevina Floridou. “When I moved here from Nicosia in the early 1980s they were still lamenting the fact that they had lost the familiar landscape. They missed the old villas and the promenade and the ritual of evening walks with their families, sitting in the seaside cafes and drinking coffee. But at that time it was thought that old things had to be wiped out in the name of progress. Also, in 1974 after the Turkish invasion in Cyprus, Limassol had to change rapidly. Overnight, from a sleepy tiny town it became a major shelter for refugees. Many houses had to be built to give these people homes and stabilise their lives but it all happened at a great cost to historic heritage.”

Limassol’s former Mayor Demetris Kontides, by many considered to be the major driving force behind the old town’s successful revitalisation project, tells the same story. “When I became Mayor in 1996 the town didn’t have a real connection to the sea. There were these big ugly houses along the seafront and they divided the town from the sea. Also, at that time, old houses were usually brought down and new ones were built. But I studied in Prague and perhaps because of that I like old buildings. I feel they are part of our history and the people whom I worked with at the Municipality thought the same. So we decided we wanted to connect the town with the sea and to protect the old town. We made plans to develop the seafront and restore the area around the castle and also two other squares in the old town. We borrowed £20 million from the bank, got some help from the government and slowly started. Now, the seafront is again a favourite place for Limassolians.”

I park my car next to the old harbour where, the media has just announced, a new marina with berths for 1,000 boats will soon be built, and walk into the old town. It is midday and all restaurants around the castle are busy. My plan is simple. I want to eat something, have a look at the castle and old market place, walk around both the Greek and Turkish quarters, and finally use the hamam. I proceed to realise the first point of the schedule and from quite a number of establishments choose Artima, a modern looking place based in the Carob Mill, offering modern Italian cuisine. At its entry it has a big aquarium full of very depressed looking lobsters so in order to put at least one out of their misery, I decide to have lobster and prawn ravioli. As a drink I want fresh lemonade. “We have Sprite,” says a waiter so I opt for water.

I look around and can see that all other clients seem to be serious international businessmen. I ask manager Ivan Djordjevic and he confirms. “At lunchtime our customers are mostly businessmen from various Lanitis companies,” he says. “But in the evenings we have a much more mixed crowd, mostly Cypriots and also tourists from places like the Four Seasons and Le Meridien hotels. They recommend us to their guests because they know that they can trust our service.”

Djordjevic, originally from Serbia, has been working at Artimo for the last five years and is clearly proud of the reputation that both his restaurant and the others in the same chain have achieved. “Before Lanitis decided to open these restaurants this place was dead,” he says. “Now there is life here again. There are lots of restaurants and shops being renovated. We are slowly taking customers from the old tourist area. It is more attractive here. Especially on Sundays, one can’t find a chair to sit on to drink coffee. And when they open the new marina and University it will be even better.”

Costas Lanitis, one of three Lanitis brothers who run the Lanitis Group of Companies, agreed that the Carob Mill project was a huge success. “It is a very good business, especially the restaurants,” he says when I visit him in the Group’s magnificent Headquarters, also located in the old town, next to the Municipality. “We are very happy with this project because, although I wouldn’t say it is only thanks to us, the place has become a focal point for Limassolians and proved that a quality type of development in the centre of the town can work.”

Floridou provides me with yet another explanation of the area’s success. For years, before the Carob Mill phenomenon, she and a group of like minded friends had been working tirelessly to put the old town back on the map of Limassolians’ urban consciousness. They were organising open air Sunday bazaars in the streets around the castle, had a New Year Party in one of the warehouses, and every Saturday organised walks entitled Know Your Town around various old neighbourhoods.

“There was a lot of interest,” she remembers. “There would be three tours every Saturday with 40 people a group, and some of the schools would come as well. Both adults and kids were very receptive. It was as if we were shining a light on these things and bringing them together and people would understand how the old town was interconnected and how it worked.”

I take a walk towards the Old Market, also renovated during Kontides’ time as the Mayor. On my way there I pass various very noisy construction sites. These are old buildings that are being transformed into the new University’s premises. In spite of the midday heat, the work goes on as the first students are due to enter them in next September. At first, about 350 but the number within a decade is to increase to about 5,000. The ex-Mayor sees it as the next step to bring life into the old town, the young people will need shops, bars and accommodation, they will be the reason for development of the old town’s future infrastructure.

I get to the Old Market Square and at first sight, filled with many busy, colourful restaurants, it looks like yet another success story. But a short conversation with Marios, the owner of Palia Agora restaurant based next to the market, paints a different picture.

“The market works only till 1.30pm,” he says. “After that it is closed, and even if tourists come here there is nothing else for them to see. In the evenings the place is empty. Most of us close around 4pm. They have spent £2 million on the renovation of the old Agora but they haven’t thought about how to use it properly. They treat it like an institution and not a living place. We need it to be open longer hours so there are more customers. Also we need more shops around so the area is more attractive, not to mention that there is also a parking problem. Still there is hope. We are all waiting for the University to open.”

The Lebanese owner of a shop selling fashion jewellery, Michel Rebaiz, who has lived in Limassol since 1975, agrees. “A lot of people who used to come to this market before to buy and sell don’t come here any more because it is too expensive. They have created a new open air market, only on Saturdays, behind the Police Headquarters. So the authentic market is not here any more.”

Twenty-nine-year-old Elisabeth from England who rents a flat next to the square with her Scottish artist boyfriend says she spends her morning around the market place, in the afternoon she moves to the area around the castle and Ayios Andreas Street. “The market shuts up around two, the cafes around four. If they were open longer maybe people would come at five and stay till late evening but this way after a certain hour, people just don’t go there.”

A trained massage therapist, who has been living in Limassol for a year, she says she loves the laid-back, international atmosphere of the old town and was thinking of buying a property there but the prices she was quoted were too high. “We wanted to buy our apartment and had it valued somewhere between £60,000 and 90,000 because it is old and needs a lot renovation. However, our landlord wanted £350,000, that’s a London price, not Limassol. I have other friends who would love to buy here as well but the prices are too high. Renting is still quite cheap though.”

I ask Floridou, who also lives in the old town in the beautiful residential Irini Street, about the prices and she just shakes her head. “This is a very unfortunate thing that is happening now,” she says. “The prices have gone up so much that many young people, especially young artists who would be a huge boost to the community to have their workshops or accommodation here, can’t afford it any more. This is a big loss.”

So who buys? According to Floridou, at present, apart from some courageous individuals who can afford to make take a chance and are not afraid of all the difficulties connected with investing in the old town, not too many. However, many original owners who don’t live in the old town any more also restore their properties and use them in various other ways, for example renting them as restaurants. The problem is that despite a widespread belief that renting out a house as a restaurant is a great business it is not true.

“There is only a number of restaurants that the old town can support and frankly speaking I know of only one that is a real success,” says Floridou. “The others keep on closing down and being turned into other restaurants, bars or even brothels. So in the long run, it is not really a great investment.”

Cyprus Estates Ltd, a company based off Ayios Andreas Street, that deals with properties belonging to the Pavlides family, one of the old Limassolian families whose members live mostly in Greece, provides yet another solution to the issue of Limassol’s old town property market. “If the property we want to rent out is not in a very good state we ask for a low rent that will be increased only gradually but meanwhile we expect the person who rents to repair it,” says its director Kyriacos Mavri. “Now with the University coming we are experiencing a huge interest in renting out spaces to open coffeeshops.”

Restaurants, coffeeshops, bars, University, new marina, even a floating conference centre on the sea just opposite the Carob Mill… it seems that Limassolians are exploding with ideas about what to do with their old town but where in all of this is the space for its residents?

“That is the main problem,” says Floridou. “The interest that the Municipality has in reviving the old town is unfortunately not prioritised onto the permanent residents. For me, if I was managing the old town or the town centre or a community, permanent residents would be number one on my agenda, temporary residents number two, and those who create businesses and shops number three. The rule is simple: you make a hierarchy but you always remember that permanent residents are the most important because they are the ones who are going to buy from the shops, send their children to local schools and buy the services you provide. But here, one of the most serious mistakes the urban planning people make is that nobody thinks of doing more research into who lives in the old town, what income group we belong to, what we need, how to encourage more people to move here. All the changes are made in the interest of commerce and not residents.”

I go back towards Ayios Andreas Street, which has some of the most beautiful buildings in Limassol and whose breathtaking facades are hidden behind ridiculous, 1950s-style, tourist-directed merchandise such as fake Lefkara lace, cheap suitcases and ugly swimming suits. I pass by two beautiful Ottoman hans used as souvenir shops, an old mosque where I can see some men preparing for prayer, and the hamam that I won’t be able to visit as I am slowly but surely running out of time. I have a brief chat with Yiannis, a Cypriot from South Africa who came to the island a year ago, lives nearby and runs the baths, pop into the Voila Bar that Elisabeth told me her boyfriend has just opened an exhibition at, and look at a building next to it that used to be Limassol’s oldest brothel and is being renovated as a residence by the French owner of Voila. “It is the best thing that could have happened to this building,” says Floridou. “He will do a great job”. Then I enter Ankara Street that marks the official entrance to the Turkish Cypriot quarter and there, somewhere next to an old, half-ruined house with a facade displaying traces of at least five different architectural styles, I realise that now I am in another part of the old town and here time has stood still. 

Some highly recommended Museums in Limassol, Cyprus June 19, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Museums, Cyprus Limassol.
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Museum Of Olive Oil, Oleastro Olive Park >
The House of the Olive is set high on a hill just outside the village of Anogyra, for which you turn off at the signpost from the motorway onto the Pachna road, about half way between Limassol and Paphos. It offers visitors the chance to learn more about the history of olive oil making, to purchase high grade extra virgin oil, or browse among the many olive-related products on sale in the gift shop, after which you can sit down in the tiny café area and watch, when in season, locals bringing in their just-picked olives to tip into one end of the pressing process.
Telephone: 99565768
Address: The House Of The Olive, Oleastro, Limassol

Old Port Sea Sponges Excibition Center >
A small exhibition center in the old port area of Limassol, with a collection of sea sponges. Some are available to buy.
Telephone: 25359933
Address: 3 Agias Theklis Street, 3042 Limassol

Pilavakion Museum >
A privately run Museum housing a collection of pottery.
Telephone: 25421508
Address: Foini Village, Limassol

The Pastelli Museum >
An agricultural Museum about carobs and carob honey making.
Address: Anogyra Village, Limassol