By Bejay Browne
LETYMBOU village in Paphos is experiencing a reawakening as plans to improve infrastructure, create a more inclusive community, promote agro tourism and encourage artistic expression get underway.
The push for change is being spearheaded by the local mukhtar, Costas Hadjisolomou and his American wife, popular singer, Melissa Williams. He told the Sunday Mail that he didn’t like the inequality that was rife in the village ahead of his election and wanted to address that and other issues.
“The Cypriots were paying less tax than the British and I didn’t like that at all. Everyone is equal and should be treated as such. I want people to know that if they chose Letymbou to live, they will be treated fairly,” he said.
The community leader has spent his first year of office addressing such issues and ‘getting all of the work in order’. It has been a mammoth task as some residents hadn’t paid tax for years, in some cases, a decade. “It has taken a year to get everything back on track,” he said.
Collecting the outstanding debts and ensuring a smooth operation of the village means there will be funds to improve infrastructure and undertake projects and implement plans to encourage visitors and new residents to the area, he said.
Letymbou is a traditional Cypriot village, close to the Ezousas River, with an agricultural history, including vine growing and a small population of around 400 permanent residents consisting mainly of Cypriots, Britons and Swedes. These numbers can increase at times, as both Cypriots and other nationalities have holiday homes in the area.
The couple said that exciting things are happening in the village, a new winery has opened, a traditional Cypriot house demonstrates cooking to the public, and an Egyptologist is keen to excavate various spaces around the village following the discovery of ancient human bones.
“Antoine Hirsch PhD of the Canadian Institute in Egypt is interested in digging in the village, alongside Cypriot universities, and the project will be financed by the university and funds from the EU. We are just waiting for the go ahead from the antiquities department and work can get underway,” said Williams.
The singer pointed out that as there was currently no museum in the village, this project will enable one to open, offering further reasons for people to visit the area, she said.
“Any findings could be displayed and there is also documentation that there were numerous churches in and around the village. It is exciting to think what may be uncovered,” she added.
The mukhtar and his wife said that the village was slowing becoming more popular with visitors who like exploring.
“Someone once told me that Letymbou is one of the ugliest villages in Cyprus, I don’t agree at all, I love this community. However, there will be some beatification projects getting underway,” she said.
A huge, long concrete wall in the village will be painted and tiled and by local artisans, and a general spruce-up of the area will see it tidied to present a more pleasing aspect, she said.
Recycling bins are being introduced and importantly, the muktah is mulling various ways to encourage younger families to move to the area.
“Child care is vitally important and subsidising child care is beneficial for young couples,” said his wife.
She believes this is a way to encourage more people to the villages to ensure that communities don’t die out. “Many villages run the risk of turning into ghost towns as populations die and no-one moves to the villages.”
Community activities to bring the villagers together are also being considered, such as outdoor Tai Chi, in which people of all ages would be able to participate.
The village is already becoming busier with word of mouth recommendations. Popular with Israeli visitors is ‘Andros and Sofia’s Traditional House’. This ‘living museum’ offers a unique and authentic traditional experience and many members of the family are involved.
Sofia decided to open up her home to the public and gives demonstrations of how to make halloumi, resi and bread, said Williams. It attracts visitors who experience a traditional, warm hospitable welcome and a real Cypriot experience, she added.
“There is also an area where visitors can sample the foods made at the house, it’s like a mini taverna.”
Recently opened ‘Makarounas Boutique Winery’ is also popular, opened eight months ago, the winery currently produces three wines from the families’ grapes grown in the area.
Oenologist, Theodoros Makarounas said that grape-growing has been a family tradition for decades and that the time had come to create a bespoke winery to showcase their own wines.
“We used to make wine for family and friends for many generations, we also sold our grapes to the smaller wineries, but I decided to open our own winery as I love to make wine,” he said.
Based on modern methods of cultivation and bottling, the wines present a distinct, rich and full taste, he noted.
Another popular venue is ‘The Vineyard Taverna’, owned and run by British ex pat residents, Julie and David Cooper. The restaurant holds a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence and is popular with both locals and visitors. Live music and other events at the venue are breathing new life into the village and keeping things interesting, said Williams.
“The traditional coffee shop in the village centre is also popular and frequented by women as they hold darts night which sees many attend.”
Hadjisolomou and his wife are a force to be reckoned with. They met at one of her gigs after Williams took up a job offer on the island six years ago. She was originally due to stay for only three months.
“I fell in love with the island and stayed. A year later I met my husband. He is very handsome and always behaved with the ladies and has a wonderful voice, I thought his wife was a lucky lady,” she said.
However, fate threw them together on a stormy night when both took shelter in a tavern and they discovered they were both single. “He had never married and I was single and we have been together ever since that night,” she said.