Cyprus Mail
Cyprus Life & Style

Something old for something new

Lambrou sells a wide variety of traditional and modern household items

By Maria Gregoriou

EVER seen a coffee shop employee riding a moped holding an aluminum tray with five full cups in one hand while steering with other? Ever wonder where you could buy such a handy – if daunting – item?
The Lambrou shop, opposite Ayios Antonios market in Nicosia, is the place to go for any number of weird and wonderful things, and guessing what they’re for is half the fun.
When I first entered the shop I was transported back 30 years to when my parents used to bring me over to Cyprus from the UK. We always landed in Larnaca and took the then one hour drive to my mum’s village, Ayii Vavatsinias in the Larnaca district.
My black-clad grandmother, dressed in her apron and head scarf, still had and used some of the traditional items still sold in the Lambrou shop, so I decided to pay tribute to her by seeing if I could remember what the various items were used for.

Handmade sieves or tatshia with different sized holes for sieving everything from flour to louvi
Handmade sieves or tatshia with different sized holes for sieving everything from flour to louvi

A large round tray-like object with wooden sides and a steel base lined with holes seemed to me to have been used to grate halloumi. Wrong. This object, I was told, is called a tatshia and it was used to sieve flour, dry beans or semolina, depending on the size of the holes.
Not willing to give up just yet, I took a shot at what looked like a bunch of dried spices, still on the plant. I guessed it was used for decorative purposes, or even to keep insects away because of the smell. Wrong again. Its traditional use was not so flowery. It was used as a small broom to sweep the floors on your knees. I won’t be buying one of those.
Fourkalouthi, a natural broom
Fourkalouthi, a natural broom

Disappointed with my own poor response so far, I picked up a metal mug. I smugly suggested it was for measuring flour, sugar and pulses but all I got from that guess was a third strike. It was simply used to drink water and is called a mastrapa.

By then I decided to cheat and chose something I remembered well, a long wooden object with round wells. I remember my grandmother shaping her bread dough in these round shapes and putting them to sleep as she put it, so they could rise and grow-up, just like I would do, she always said.

Sanithokoupa, used as a bread mould
Sanithokoupa, used as a bread mould

I then gave up the guessing game and turned to the expert.
The Lambrou shop is a family establishment run by married couple Lambros and Anita Lambrou, opened in 1977. At the time the area was a well-known place for selling and buying, as all retail activity hung on the success of the market.
“This area was the market centre. All of Nicosia used to come and shop for their groceries and other goods from the area so it was a perfect place to set up shop,” Anita Lambrou said.
The shop sells a range of newly made but very traditional Cypriot products and other modern house-hold items. It can’t be missed as the little veranda space outside the shop is filled with items, some hanging up, some on shelves and some spilling out onto the pavement.
Most of the products are old-style equipment that was used in the home or in the fields to cultivate crops. Although some shoppers still buy these items to be utilised in their traditional way, many buy them to simply give an old feel to their homes. Others use them for arts and crafts projects.
feature-maria-Fountanoua, a water container with tap used for washing yourself
Tsesto, used for drying food and fruits such as figs
Tsesto, used for drying food and fruits such as figs

Individuals looking for objects for their homes are not the only ones stepping into the shop on a daily basis. Restaurant, cafes and hotel owners often go to Lambrou’s for traditional items to use them in original or new ways.
feature-maria-traditional coffee trays
“Many cafes buy a number of traditional coffee shop trays with the handle to serve coffee and petrol fueled lamps to be used with electric bulbs. Hotels buy deep wooden bowls once used to knead dough to serve salads in. Another wooden object that was used to shape bread dough is also used to serve food in by restaurants and hotels,” Lambrou explained.
All this swapping and changing uses is for an aesthetic feel, or to charm a customer into reminiscing about the old days. Yet some items are still treasured with pride for their traditional use in cultural events.
“Dance schools come and buy scythes or round woven dish-like objects with wooden sides, known in the Cypriot dialect as tatshia, as props in traditional dances,” said Lambrou.
Large round straw trays, called a tsesto, are still used in weddings during the ritual of getting the bride ready. Her shoes and other items of clothes are placed on the tsesto and her maid of honour dances with it.
Most of the products, especially the straw items, are brought from Liopetri and Paphos, where they are still manufactured, said Lambrou.
She said older people have the know-how and are still making these traditional goods.
“But when they are no longer around, I don’t know what will happen as they have no one to pass their trade onto,” Lambrou added.
The most popular items in the shop are the barbeques and their accessories for making the famous Cypriot souvla. Following on with the tradition of eating well, clay cooking pots are frequently sold for cooking in outdoor clay ovens at very high temperatures.
“The most well known food to be cooked in this way is tava, a traditional dish of rice, vegetables and meat,” the owner said.
Some items seemed a little expensive to me but considering that some straw items are made by hand, or other brass objects are welded in the old fashioned way, a coffee tray for €30 didn’t seem so bad. Just don’t ask me to ride a moped while carrying it.

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