For my last day in Cyprus, we spent the morning in Lefkara, a small village in the Troodos foothills famous for its lace. We make the conscious decision to avoid all of these lace shops, the majority of which were highly touristy, and instead focused on the architecture of the town, taking pictures of what seemed like every door and every window.
As we walked into the village square, there was a market being set up selling a variety of items from food to children’s toys.
Though we did not go into any shops, Lefkara lace was still prominent in the town. Advertisements were everywhere on the main thoroughfare and every shop had a sample. In the past, the lace was the center piece of a woman’s dowry leading to competition between women to create a higher level of quality. Today, are over 650 different motifs, according to the Cyprus Handicraft Service.
After leaving the square, we meandered through more of the town, examining other aspects of architecture, as we looked for a vantage point to see the entire city.
We had to climb upwards a few levels before we found a clearing that let us see the town and valley below.
Once we had finished taking pictures at the viewpoint, we decided we should head back towards the car. As we turned down one street, we saw a pair of men talking in front of a house. When we passed them, they stopped us and asked us where we came from. A few minutes later we found ourselves being given a small tour of the house and learning about each of their lives and about the town’s history, which they were proud to share.
The owner of the house had flown in to Larnaca on a red eye that morning, which was why he appeared to us in a disheveled state. Wearing blue striped pajamas, with half the buttons open on the shirt, he had shaving cream covering parts of his face, head, and neck. We learned he spends part of each year living in England, where he had flown from the day before, and the other part here in the house he inherited from his family.
The other man was the former mayor of Lefkara and he had plenty of stories to tell us about his time in office and what was true or false about the city’s history. According to him, the old part of town dates back 200-300 years ago. Because of its history, there are now restrictions on new construction including the requirements of stone walls outside and wooden windows and doors. Many of these rules were put in place by the former mayor. Due to the recession, however, many of the “wooden” windows that have been constructed in recent years are in fact made of other materials and only painted to look as such. Until the economy grows more, everyone just turns a blind eye.
In terms of stories related to the town, we heard the most famous, which the former mayor completely disagreed with. According to tradition, Leonardo da Vinci visited Cyprus in the 15th century and took a piece of Lefkara Lace back to Italy. Today, this piece supposedly can be found in the Duomo Cathedral in Milan. According to the former mayor, however, the style of lace found in Lefkara actually originated in Venice. During the Venetian occupation of Cyprus, local Cypriot women would clean the houses of the rich Venetians, see the aristocratic ladies sewing, and copy the designs to use at home. In addition, the patterns seen on the supposed da Vinci lace only date back to 200 years ago, though it should be 500 if one listens to the story. While he found the story false, he did think the art is important to Lefkara’s history and future. During his time as mayor, he wanted the Cypriot government to subsidize lace-making. Without monetary compensation, he believes the art would die out in the next 10-15 years as more and more women leave the town and work in the tourist industry.
In more recent history, a delegation from Japan came as part of an effort to find the prettiest small town in Europe. After visiting every country, the representatives awarded Lefkara the honor. While the former mayor certainly thinks the city is pretty, he said he can not believe it to be the best in all of Europe, especially when compared to the small towns of Italy.
The former mayor finally led us out of the house with the hopes of showing us the Folk Art Museum, though the owner of our house thought the local church would be more interesting. After all the previous conversation, however, we needed to get to our car and drive back to Larnaca so I could make my flight back to Munich, much to the former mayor’s evident disappointment. As we drove away, I wished we had met these two earlier that day or on our trip and been able to take the man up on his offer.
An hour later, I was at the airport waiting for my flight while my dad visited another town as he had a later flight. I had an easy flight to Thessaloniki, where my layover was, and then to Munich, where I barely made my train back to Salzburg. Two days later, a new quarter of classes began and my whirlwind Spring break was over.