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Anthos, creator of Euphoria Land, speaks about all that he has experienced and made a part of his work!

18/07/2019
* NOTE: All the tributes of All About Limassol (as the Official Guide of Limassol) aim to ONLY highlight the special aspects of this wonderful city, so that everyone can be aware of the exceptional options they offer. Under no circumstances do they have any promotional or nominal value, and they do not serve the interests of Companies, Municipalities, Organizations or Individuals.

Anthos is one of those rare cases of people whose companionship you seek, as they have the unique innate ability to emit a precious sense of serenity and a vibrancy that many find lacking in their daily lives. We met on a sunny morning, in the cool garden he created in Euphoria Land. He opened the door with a cup of coffee in hand, and a smile as warm as an embrace. Every person who walks through this door always takes a while to orientate themselves, feeling as though they have entered a fairytale setting. For Anthos, however, this is home.

Anthos is as bright, colorful and welcoming as his home. He wears a loose, white linen shirt and an embroidered vest, handwoven by native craftsmen in Mexico. In this way, he seeks to be as close as possible to nature, but also to the cultures of the people he encountered during his travels. Anthos is a typical example of a Limassolian: open-minded, creative, and resourceful. He has taken dozens of trips around the world, to Thailand, Ethiopia, Mexico, Colombia, Morocco, and India, though he never felt the need to leave his home. Rather, he chose to bring back what he saw and learned in these distant places, creating a magical corner in Pyrgos Limassol, called Euphoria Land.  

This is a space that is sure to leave an impression; a work of art which people can explore. A unique project for Cypriot standards, the appeal it had for people from the day it opened its doors is completely understandable. The project’s expanse, the attention to detail, its grand vision and the inspiration that surrounds are all reasons enough to want to find out more, both about the space itself and its creator. This is the aim behind such a tribute by the Official Guide of Limassol, as this is a project that has attracted the interest of people from all over the world.

'I wasn't expecting the people's response to Euphoria Art Land...'

Anthos studied at the Fine Arts Academy of Poland, in the field of Interior Architecture, where he graduated with distinction. Upon his return to Cyprus, he initially worked in the private sector, and in 2000 he began working in Secondary Education, teaching interior design courses. Nevertheless, the urge to create was deep within him, as was the need to find the lush greenery of Poland once more. And so, this led him to seek out a space that he could turn into a refuge.

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“The time I spent in Poland was pivotal, as I spent it in an environment with plenty of water and greenery, which filled me with peace. Each time I would come to Cyprus and see Larnaca all dry and brown, I would get depressed.” 

He found himself in Pyrgos completely by chance, seeking out a quiet area that was at an equal distance from the city. And though the area he found was quite degraded, the tall eucalyptus trees, the dense bushes and all the different types of plants that still thrive there were a determining factor in his decision.

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“When I bought the plot in 1999, trucks would come here to load up on construction materials from the stream. I wanted to protect the wildlife of the area and benefit from it,” Anthos explains.  

Since 2000, Anthos has been planting new trees in the river bed, which has enriched the flora of the area, turning it into a kind of Garden of Eden.

Within this primitive setting, in direct contact with nature, Anthos envisioned how he could begin creating his original idea: a small ‘village’ which would be a meeting place for people to learn about and share traditions and cultures from all corners of the world.

“I was fascinated by the serenity of the setting,” says Anthos, “and this is why I poured my soul into it, so that I could turn the creation in my mind into reality.”

And so, after many months of designing, and years of work that involved the help of dozens of volunteers who also believed in this idea, Euphoria Art Land became a reality in the summer of 2018, sending waves of excitement through people, and quickly demonstrating that it would soon achieve its goal.

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The latest addition in Euphoria Art Land for 2019.

Were you satisfied with the project’s resonance?

I didn’t expect this kind of reaction to Euphoria Art Land and, to be honest, the fact that we had a sudden onslaught of visitors caught me off guard. Initially, I was the only one taking care of the reception, the management, and the social media communication. The summer of 2018 was very difficult, as I was still trying to find my feet and deal with the people’s enormous response.

At some point, the wave of visitors was so large, that I began to wonder if I would have to abandon my creation and go live alone in a nearby cave I had discovered (laughs).

Wasn’t the purpose of the space to become a meeting place for people?
Yes, that’s precisely what it was and indeed teamwork was the driving force for implementing the project. I did not have time, however, to clarify this characteristic last year. With the immense response the project received immediately, the impression was created that it was a fun park or a dining establishment, especially since there was once a café in operation for a short time on the premises.

Part of the images of the space one sees during a guided tour.

This year, we are trying to make clearer the philosophy of the space to visitors. This project is an arts and culture center, and all are welcome, whether it is to experience what we have created, or to express themselves artistically. There is therefore a specific framework for its operation, such as the safety framework we have established so as not to disturb the animals living in the area.

Love and respect are the core values of Euphoria Art Land, as we consider these to be the basic elements for the development and peaceful coexistence of all people.

Within this context, we are translating our ideals, such as protecting the environment and offering cultural knowledge, and using them to cultivate cultural and ecological intelligence, especially among children. After all, everyone who finds themselves in this space is able to recognize that our ideals are embedded in the décor. It is clear that Euphoria Art Land is a place for cultivation and harmony, rather than fun.

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The furniture and décor of the houses, which act as accommodation, is just as special as their architecture. The walls of the bathroom are decorated with stones and elaborate ceramics, as well as jewels brought directly from the countries that were part of his inspiration, while the furniture was made to order, from recycled wood.

Have there been changes in 2019 then?
Yes, plenty has changed in its second summer of existence. After all, Euphoria Art Land is a constantly evolving project. One of our goals is to constantly reduce the Project’s environmental footprint. So, we created an extra space to protect some ancient olive trees that burned many years ago in a fire. We also saw that many of our visitors were not Greek speakers, so we added other languages to the guided tours.

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Most importantly, we have created a system of organized tours around the space, giving people the opportunity to really understand the concept behind Euphoria Land.

The aim is for everyone to see beyond the beautiful designs and the colors of the décor. And so, anyone can visit Euphoria Art land, from older people to young children, as long as they can all understand the type of environment this is, and exist within it in harmony.

The trips that strated it all...

How did this idea come about?
It all started from my travel experiences, particularly in Asia, Africa and South America. These experiences shaped my beliefs to such an extent that they created the need to create, as well as the desire to bring these experiences back to my own country. I am convinced that whatever knowledge I have is useless unless I share it. Creation is a vital aid to the continuity of life. On the other hand, I am also deeply convinced that I must give back to the communities, the tribes, and the countries which I have encountered on my travels, and I am certain I will do so in some way in the future. I believe this is the point in my life’s journey that will fulfill me as a person.

This is why, each of the creations that exist in this space are connected to my experiences from my travels.

We created 3 little houses in the space, each of which contain elements from the art, the culture and the civilizations I encountered. The first house has elements from the art and culture of the tribes I met in Ethiopia, for example. Geometric shapes and anthropomorphic characters, painted in natural colors using dirt and water, are the decorative elements used by women and children of these tribes to decorate their homes.  I replicated that here, using the same type of materials, no synthetic or artificial colors. I just covered all the drawings with protective materials to keep them from fading.

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The house with influences from the art in Ethopia.

Why did you travel to such faraway places?
I wanted to travel to faraway places, seeking out more primitive communities that have remained unchanged, untouched by the hypocrisy and scheming of modern civilization, where nude bodies are not shameful or immoral. My aim was to learn about the way of life of each community and each race, and I would go back and revisit some places, gaining new experiences each time. 

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From the trips to India.

I have been to India 10 times, for example. I wanted to really understand what these people felt, living in nature, and how their unwritten laws work, how men and women share their responsibilities within their tribe.

In India and Ethiopia I visited tribes where the children would grow up without clothes, without shoes, away from school. What struck me was how they all had a smile on their lips.

At the same time, it was a shock to see children gathered under a tree, with the teacher delivering a lesson which the children would write on a small board or even in the dirt.

In India, I would give candy to the children as a gift, but they would not take it, and instead would ask for pen and paper. That was when I made the decision to help. The first aid was given in collaboration with my students from the Paphos Technical School at the time. They all brought in pens and pencils, and I gave my entire 13th salary to help gather the necessary supplies to be shared among the villages of India.

It is unacceptable to me that we do not all have the same opportunities, and it upsets me that even when aid is gathered to help people in these countries, it often never reaches the people it is supposed to help.

Do you travel within Cyprus as well, or only outside the country?
I haven’t traveled very much within Cyprus. I dove straight into the deep end (laughs). I feel energized with the unknown, and I believe the most beautiful journeys are the ones I have not yet taken. Even though Europe does appear familiar to me, since I did some traveling when I was a student in Poland, there are many worthy places that I have not visited. I always think that I will be able to make these shorter trips when I am older, when it becomes difficult to visit countries in Asia, Africa, or South America.

What has impressed you most on your travels?
The people in the tribes I encountered have a heightened sense of aesthetics. They may not wear clothes, they may live poorly or primitively, but they always decorate their bodies, either with paint and tattoos, or with jewels or even animal horns. My travels enhanced my love for color, because for the communities in Asia, Africa, or Latin America, a variety of color is a way of life and a way of expression.

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Color is very important to me. I can’t live without it. Anything I have created to this day is filled with color. I don’t like to boast, but I truly think that I am one of the few who can combine so many colors.

This is something I probably got from my mother. Even today, in her 80s, she continues to dress very colorfully.

You visited countries with very different customs and habits. Did you ever feel frightened?
I tend to approach people without a trace of suspicion or reservation. But I don’t feel threatened by people, even if some have at times attempted to deceive or hurt me. I don’t let any fear stop me from observing and relating to the people I met on my travels. I generally don’t have a sense of fear.

I completely oblivious to danger, and this may have worked in my favor. I have passed through crime-ridden neighborhoods that you would only enter if you were crazy. It was only years later, having matured, that I realized the danger I was putting myself in.

I have been approached to buy drugs and never suspected it, as I never had any contact with drugs myself. I don’t even recognize the smell of hashish.

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The honesty and authenticity of Anthos is manifested tenfold in his relationship with animals.

Where does this attitude stem from?
I never encountered deceit growing up, and this is probably what led to me turning out the way that I did. My parents were always good, simple, and direct people, but also open towards doing things differently. I remember going to the Yiordamili cinema once, when I was 13 years old, meeting one of the Black students in town.

At the time, many locals would call them names, and ladies would cross the street when they saw them. I had never felt any such thing.

I sat next to him at the cinema, I offered him some of the chips I had taken with me, and after the show, which was a morning one, I invited him to our house for lunch. My parents considered it very normal to welcome any person into our home, no matter their color or origin.

I grew up in an environment so beautiful, so calm and harmonious, that it wasn’t until I turned 40 that I began to realize that people lie and cheat.

I don’t have a scheming or suspicious bone in my body. I have tried to be suspicious, but I just can’t do it. I might have made more cautious choices, had I been suspicious with the world, but perhaps my naiveté has protected me in dangerous situations, especially on my trips.

It is precisely because I grew up in such a dreamlike world, far from the reality that most people encounter, that I wanted to create Euphoria Land, a place seemingly taken out of a dream.

From a financial standpoint, how were you able to cover the needs of the project?
It was (and still is) very difficult. I started from scratch and mainly relied on loans. My earnings are only coming from my job as a teacher. I had to save a lot in order to make ends meet. Beyond my travels – which are connected to this project – I didn’t go out very much. I did extra work until I could complete this part of Euphoria Art Land, but at the same time was helping children who needed it most, through photography exhibitions and the publishing of a book with images from my travels.

Even today, that there is a little income, after we the area opened for visitors. Still, I have to deal with financial issues, even with my daily expenses. But I wouldn’t change this experience I have lived for anything.

I am not rich. In order for Euphoria Art Land to be what it is today, I have had to take out loans, which I will need to repay. What people see today, however, is only 1/6 of the total plan, which will be completed in stages. The ultimate goal, through the operation of Euphoria Art Land, is to give something back to the people who visit it, but also to the people I met on my travels.

Το αρχικό σχέδιο του project.

However, I can be happy in a way that would not be possible if I was in possession of a few extra millions, and could give them away without limitations. Then, this would just be another project. Now, it is my heart and soul. Whatever obstacles you may encounter on the way, the journey is always worth it, as it offers precious lessons.

The future...

Do you fear getting older?
No, not at all, I have come to terms with ageing and death (laughs). It is something I realized does not bother me, because I know that every age has its advantages.

Have you travels ended now?
For as long as I was preparing Euphoria Art Land, I wasn’t able to take any trips. The project took up all of my time, as well as my available resources. However, I need to start traveling again, because feedback from stimuli is necessary when you are creating. Future travels, to new places, are part of my future plans, and this will result in new creations inspired by the civilizations I encounter. The tribes of New Guinea who live among the trees in the jungle are among my next points of interest.

Anthos with some of his students with special abilities.

What has your work in education offered you?
The only satisfaction I get from that job is the opportunity to offer guidance to young people, be it food for thought, or stimulation through visits to this space, art workshops within nature, or even through projects at school. I have a very good relationship with my students, as well as with my colleagues, but the system really kills me. It’s all about who knows who, rather than what education really needs.

The education system requires much redevelopment. Students’ problems are not addressed with any correct or long-term planning. Educators are being pressured from all sides and the work becomes exhausting.

After 20 years in education, my plan is to eventually give it up, to spread my wings across other horizons and continue to provide knowledge and experience to students through the arts. The arts are what cultivate the culture and collective intelligence of society.

Do you remember anything that has really hurt you?
I am a man with a passion for life, who is positive and giving. I give 100% of myself in everything that I do. My unpleasant memories are limited to peoples’ personal weaknesses which have saddened me. At the time, I blamed myself and felt guilty. However, I have learned from these experiences and I consider that to be their greatest value. I learned that not everyone is the same, and this is why we are not a good match with everyone.

Of course, I have received a lot of love and given a lot of love. I feel full and this feeds my desire to give.

Now, I have learned to protect myself from people who carry negativity within them. I choose to surround myself with people who emit positive energy, and the more the better.

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The mosaics that decorate the space and dwellings of Euphoria Land have been created with the participation of dozens of such people, who have a surplus of positive energy, who have volunteered their time and help.

From the very first moment, this project has drawn many different kinds of people whose common characteristics have been positivity, collaboration, and creativity, and for that I am grateful. It is like the universe has conspired to help me achieve the purpose of this project (laughs).

I no longer live in my own bubble, and I don’t believe that everything is beautiful and pure. I do believe, however, that life is like a mirror: you get what you give. That is why I give it color, joy, and light.

There are inherent difficulties to this project, due to its uniqueness, especially when it comes to state bureaucracy. I didn’t allow this to bring me down, however, and I focused on the positive.

There must be something that brings you down.
What makes me feel vulnerable is financial insecurity. It is something I felt strongly when I was a student, when I relied mainly on scholarships I secured due to academic excellence. I still feel it today, however, due to the financial conditions of our country. There are months when I get by with very little money.

Nevertheless, I have seen people get by under harder circumstances, and always stay smiling. I therefore believe it would be unfair to complain about my life. I have more than I could have ever imagined I would have.

Of course, I want to continue improving my quality of life, thought that doesn’t mean that I am in pursuit of luxury. My goal is to be in as advantageous a position as possible in order to be able to offer as much as I can. Financial comfort does not bring happiness, but it does make things easier. I don’t care about my image, or what others think of me.

What do you think about the image of our country?
There is a strong tendency towards mimicry, and we lack our own point of view, our identity. This could be the result of many years of slavery under various conquerors. 

The image we project to the world today is one where half of Cyprus is occupied, due to the Turkish invasion, and the other half has fallen victim to a ‘cultural’ invasion, which is a result of our obtain financial gain.

New money, and the sudden changes that took place in our country, have not allowed us to find ourselves, to accept our culture, to cultivate it and transplant it to the younger generations. We never put a strong stamp on anything that clearly states our own identity, so it was even easier for our culture to be eroded by money.

Anthos has chosen the quiet life, but this does not mean that he is cut off from all that is happening in his country.

Do you think all Cypriots suffer from this phenomenon? Even Limassolians?
I believe this is a general problem. Of course, Limassolians have one thing going for them: they have always had a particular liveliness, perhaps due to the sea next to which they grew up. I don’t say this as a localist, but perhaps Limassolians have the most energy and the greatest extroversion of all Cypriots.

Can all About Limassol help to promote the identity of Limassol?
All About Limassol has already helped a lot, and has made its mark in the way it communicates elements of this identity. From there on, we must take great care to build this identity correctly. Otherwise, no matter the effort, no matter how good, it will always remain a cherry on a spoiled cake.

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The journey from dream to reality has been a long one, but Anthos knows that he still has a ways to go.

Anthos firmly believes that each of us has a special talent. “It may take certain people more or less time to discover it and believe in themselves. But when they do, they can do anything,” he says. He has his parents to thank for this: “Though they were poor people, they never clipped our wings and this helped us find our way freely,” he explains. He has found his own destination, and with surplus talent, imagination and dedication, has given his city and his country a unique project of international standards, of which we can all be proud.

Beyond the uniqueness of the design and image of Euphoria Land, it is the personality and rare characteristics of Anthos that make this environment such a precious experience. It is no surprise that the mass appeal of his project frightened him, as Anthos never viewed this as a profitable endeavor, nor did he set out to become a businessman. He is a loner, and always seeks out time to himself (his own house is within these grounds). He knows that bringing more people to Euphoria Land in order to increase his gains would be wrong, even if he never has much money left over. In the end, he always stuck to his initial goal, never undermining the value of his work, which will continue to grow, giving Limassol a hub of creativity which brings together people, cultures, and traditions through art.