With an e-museum in the making, one Cyprus village is making sure its history is not forgotten finds PAUL LAMBIS
In less than a month, seven traditional villages and towns across Cyprus will transform their rural aesthetic into one of magic, mysticism and enchantment. Streets, alleys and courtyards will come to life with traditional music, local produce and the delights and eccentricities of local markets.
Although the island boasts countless attractions and events over the festive season, the village of Fikardou will once again provide an authentic travel experience for both locals and visitors.
“This year’s Christmas village will surpass our success from last year,” deputy chair of Fikardou’s community council, Christos Tyrimos said. “Our aim is to introduce more activities, street performances, traditional customs and tailor-made experiences that will create Christmas memories to cherish for a lifetime.”
According to Tyrimos, almost all the households in Fikardou are expected to take part in the event by decorating their homes and spreading the festivities across the entire village.
The island’s Christmas villages and markets will open on November 25 and will operate on Fridays, weekends and public holidays until mid-January.
But Fikardou is more than a Christmas village; it is an open-air museum that has played an active role in the preservation and promotion of the island’s history, handicrafts, wine, and gastronomy.
“The community council has made every effort to introduce both locals and visitors to Fikardou’s picturesque charm while presenting the region’s unique folk art, locally produced wine, and its gastronomy through a variety of interactive workshops,” chair of the community council Sophocles Markides said.
“These free workshops, held at various dates throughout the year, are subsidised by the Deputy Ministry of Tourism and include pottery, weaving, embroidery, painting, basket weaving, winemaking and the production of local sweets, among others.”
Fikardou’s rural charm also extends beyond local arts and crafts and gastronomy. The village is an excellent example of a traditional mountain settlement that has preserved its centuries-old physiognomy and architecture, as well as its natural environment, which is accessible to the public to explore on foot on one of the many nearby nature trails.
“Plans are underway for the upgrade of an existing hiking trail, which will be lined with benches, that will allow visitors to experience the village’s surrounding areas, including the flora and fauna that are unique to the area,” Markides added.
Fikardou, in the Nicosia district, may appear deserted at first glance, but within its narrow cobblestoned streets are two remarkable structures (which won the Europa Nostra award in 1986) that have been restored and preserved by the Department of Antiquities in collaboration with the Leventis Municipal Museum, providing an insight into the village’s past rural life.
“The houses of Katsinioros and Achilleas Dimitri have been transformed into immersive museums known as the Fikardou Rural Museum,” Markides said. “The first features rustic furnishings and is a place where grapes were once pressed into wine, while the latter is a restored weaver’s workshop that also features other interesting artefacts such as old photos, texts and drawings.”
Fikardou, like all traditional villages in Cyprus, has a church at its centre which dates back to the 18th century and is dedicated to the Apostles Peter and Paul. The view from the church, which is enveloped by trees, is spectacular, as the entire forest and valley below unfold before the eyes.
Although there is only one tavern serving local cuisine, and local wine served in carafes made from the pumpkins cultivated in the village, Markides and Tyrimos have revealed that a new café offering traditional delights, and locally produced wine, will open to coincide with the Christmas village and will remain operational beyond the season.
In addition, the village is moving with the times. “The Cyprus University of Technology, with the support of the Unesco and EU Era Chairs on Digital Cultural Heritage, will do complete digitisation in 2D and 3D of the village, collect stories from the inhabitants and their successors, and will set up an e-museum so that more people, including those with physical disabilities, will be able to visit the village, whose narrow streets are not suitable for wheelchair or mass tourism,” Markides said.
Another milestone in the development of sustainable cultural tourism is a memorandum of understanding that was signed towards the end of last year by the Municipality of Anfeh, Lebanon and the Community Council of Fikardou to create a roadmap for cultural heritage and tourism cooperation between both villages.
“Both villages share a strong interest in preserving their heritage assets. With this agreement, we will also strengthen our cooperation and agree on a commitment that extends beyond the project,” Markides added.
Thanks to the digitalisation of its heritage assets, this semi-abandoned community is now embracing its future as a newly recognised e-museum, safeguarding and promoting its rich traditions and historical past.