Two narrow roads, one easterly, the other westerly, wiggle their way from the main thoroughfares towards Lofou, an ancient Cypriot village ensconced between the hills northwest of Limassol. From either direction, the drive up evokes a welcoming sense of solitude. Grapevines, standing in line like obedient students, crowd the countryside and provide a stark contrast to the dearth of automobiles that share these same roads. Occasionally, a few mountain goats stumble onto the pavement and bleat at passersby. You expect to come across signs of inhabitation but for kilometers each sharp bend leads to another until you reach the entrance to the sleepy and isolated town.
Built up in the clouds during the 14th century to fend off attacks from Arab raiders, Lofou, with its traditional carved yellow stone houses, ornate wooden doors and handful of residents, remains frozen in time. Walk up and down its cobblestone streets and minute alleyways during the summer months and the hustle and bustle of the island’s teeming beaches seems eons away. You peer into the empty courtyards of many of the well-preserved homes and picture a group of octogenarian women dressed like the night embroidering or kneading dough or sharing tales of their childhood. Children imagine Lofou as their own labyrinth, running and evading its narrow openings, tight turns and scattered olive and almond trees in the same way their favorite footballers dribble past stocky defenders. Old men, their paunches hanging over their waistbands, sit on rackety chairs outside the coffee shop and sip on muddy sweetened coffee. Often, you hear stones slamming down on backgammon boards followed by loud cackling and dejected cursing. And from the southernmost edge of town, you look down at the arresting and very real view of the Troodos foothills and lively Limassol communing with a glistening Mediterranean Sea.
In recent years, thanks to a push by the community to boost tourism in the area, Lofou has experienced a resurgence of sorts. Traditional boutique lodges like Apokryfo and Oinoessa, both rather sophisticated and henceforth pricy, and several taverns serving Cypriot delicacies have opened their doors to visitors. Each year, more and more of the village’s ramshackle homes are being revamped and transformed into idyllic weekend getaways for the urbanites. During the past three summers, Louvana Records, an independent Cypriot record label, has organized the Fengaros (“Moon”) Festival, a three-day event packed with performances and exhibitions by musicians, theater troupes, visual artists and stand-up comedians. Just last year, Greek rock legend Vasilis Papakonstantinou, who’s a dead ringer for The Muppets’ Sam The Eagle and draws hundreds of rabid fans to his concerts, headlined. Other local annual events sponsored by the Cooperative Credit Society of Ipsonas Lofou, the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Youth Board of Cyprus, among others, include a palouzes (basically, grape jelly) festival, tree-planting day, carnival party and Easter games.
Besides finding sufficient inspiration to—quoting Chilean author Roberto Bolaño—“write until night falls with the thunder of a thousand demons,” I have made it a goal of mine to own an artistic retreat in Lofou. There is something special about this remote mountain village imbued with serenity and idleness that inspires long hours of introspection. With its open skies, quiet days and nights, unencumbered nature and quaint rusticity, Lofou encompasses everything the writer in me needs to hopefully compose the next Great Cypriot-Ecuadorian novel. I fantasize about a modest two-story abode with a windowed nook looking out onto a patio bedecked with potted orchids and a centurial olive tree where to reflect on life and witness complex personas sprout from a blank screen. Albeit, my dear wife, a refined and intellectualized Cypriot beach bunny, already stresses over the likelihood of spending our holidays there twiddling her thumbs to the soundtrack of rustling leaves, birds chirping and my fingertips tapping on QWERTY like (Thomas) Mann possessed.
Until then, nonetheless, we’ll book the Palati studio at Oinoessa and load the station wagon to traverse—a lonely bend at a time—the Cypriot countryside for our monthly fix of fantasy in Lofou.
Originally from Ecuador, Mateo Jarrin Cuvi lives in Cyprus where he lectures in sociology, political science and anthropology. His writing has appeared in Cyprus Gourmet, The Financial Mirror, The Cyprus Dossier, as well as many other great publications.
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