With one of the oldest recorded human civilizations on the planet, it is no surprise that Cyprus has an enormous deal of tradition and culture to offer. Its various foods, magical mountain villages and much celebrated tradition ensure that the island has enough authenticity in store to satisfy even the most culture hungry of tourists. I am lucky enough to call this sunny island in Southern Europe home, so today I’m going to tell you a little bit about what makes it so special.
If you come to visit Cyprus and don’t put on a little weight, chances are you didn’t do it right. Thanks to the area’s well-balanced mix of Europeanization and retained cultural identity, food lovers are able to enjoy the benefit of a diverse range of cuisine. From virtually every branded fast food outlet to high class gourmet dining and traditional Cypriot cuisine, Cyprus provides food for every taste and occasion. From our world famous Halloumi to our fine local wine and sumptuous honey drizzled loukoumathes, a visit to Cyprus done properly should be nothing short of an assault on the taste buds. Start your day with a refreshing frappe – a frothy form of cold coffee that, while not unique to Cyprus, can lay claim to kick starting and refreshing the entire nation through the hot summer months. Tuck into some fresh cheese or olive pies from a local bakery for breakfast, but be careful not to overeat, because lunch is just a few hours away. As the day progresses, be sure to head down to a Tavern to enjoy an authentic Cypriot Mezze. If you don’t make the mistake of filling up on the homemade bread, tasty dips and fresh salad that comes for starters, you will be able to indulge in some tender slow baked local meat, or, in the case that you are visiting one of our famous fish taverns, some of the freshest seafood and shellfish in the world. If after your heavy meal you are feeling a little sluggish, don’t be afraid to take a nap. Much like the Spanish with their ‘Siestas’, Cypriots traditionally like to nap away some of the hotter hours of the day – a method of survival back during the hot summer months back in the days before air conditioning.
Arguably Cyprus’ most precious assets lie outside of its major cities. There is something undeniably special about the various villages to be found dotted around the island – each with their own precious history and purpose. Arssos, a village in the mountain regions above Limassol is famous for its antiquated wineries – producing some of the finest wine in the Mediterranean, while Agros can lay claim to being the ‘village of roses’ – a place where products of all sorts are manufactured from that one core ingredient. Kakopetria is one of my personal favorites – its high altitude providing an occasionally welcome break from the heat of the coast and its island-famous trout farm restaurant providing some incredible fish and mountain views. Whether it be Asgata, Fini, Platres or Zygi, the villages of Cyprus are a gentle reminder of the countries culture-rich past and are kept very much alive by the hardworking yet every friendly local residents. It is somewhat tragic that most holidaymakers won’t have time to visit them all, but be sure to visit a few if you get the chance.
While business and work is taken very seriously on the island, don’t be fooled into thinking that the locals don’t know how to relax. Take the Wine festival, for example. This annual event held in the Limassol Municipal Gardens consists of great local food, traditional dancing and, as the name states, the finest island-sourced wine. It us hugely popular amongst locals and foreigners alike and it is completely normal to find the open parks of the municipal gardens still bustling with people all the way into the late hours of the slightly cooler September nights. Similarly, Carnival is taken hugely seriously here. With a massive 78% of the islands’ inhabitants belonging to the Orthodox Church, Carnival is held 12 days before ‘lent’, otherwise known as the fasting period and is of huge significance to many of the locals. People drive from all over the island to participate and watch some of the various colorful floats parading down the famous Makarios Avenue in Limassol. Anyone who has ever taken part will agree that it is one of the great carnival festivals in Europe. As Cyprus becomes more foreigner – friendly, we are seeing the start of different types of festivals, such as events that celebrate the cultural diversity brewing here in Cyprus. The ‘Cyprus-Russian festival’, for example, is a 2 day event held every June that attracts upwards of 12,000 visitors. It is the largest event in Europe dedicated to friendship with Russia.
As you may have already gathered, music and dance are very important to Cypriots, and this is reflected by the wide range of unique local instruments that are played. From the ‘Bouzouki’ a string instrument similar to a guitar to the ‘Tampoutsia’ – an instrument similar to a small drum, Cypriots have not only retained their heritage through these unique sounding instruments, but continue to generationally pass down the skills required to master the instruments in a controlled, musical and traditional manner. It is something of a testament to the patriotic pride shared by locals that even in this age of rampant modernization they have been able to keep all things traditional at the forefront of local lifestyle. And now, as the corporate world awakens to Cyprus’ bursting business and investment potential and hubs like the coastal city of Limassol spearhead our transformation into a world renowned investment center, Cypriot culture is finally receiving the international appraisal and recognition that it deserves. Couple this with low crime, enviable weather and stunning natural scenery, and it is easy to see how Cyprus is quickly becoming recognized as one of the best places in the world to live.