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D. Mavropoulos recounts how he went from tractor driver at age 7, to an internationally renowned rally driver!

* 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.

From an early age, he was restless, and always up to something. He recalls that in order to make an allowance, he would gather lemons from his father's orchard, load them onto his bike, and ride around the neighborhood to sell them. He had even set up his own stall next to the family home, filled with tomatoes, cucumbers, and other fruits and vegetables. "I sold them to my mother, rather than her buying them from elsewhere," he says. At age 9, the unstoppable Dimis Mavropoulos got himself into trouble, when the police arrested him for driving after a 4 hour chase. At the time, no one could have thought that that particular misdeed would have positive implications both for himself, and for Limassol. 

Today, Dimis Mavropoulos is one of the Limassolians who has managed to make his name internationally known. For when he grew up, he stopped selling fruits and vegetables in his garden, and evolved into a commercial agent for Cypriot agricultural produce in England. What made him more widely well-known, however, were his repeated distinctions in motor races around the world. Having trained behind the wheel as a young boy, driving his father’s tractor in the field, he evolved into a passionate driver with a multitude of successes. His passion for cars also led him to set up the first of its kind Cyprus Historic and Classic Motor Museum in Limassol. Today, the museum hosts one of the largest collections in Europe, with rare and impressive exhibits, some of which cannot even be found in some of the larger corresponding museums around the world.

The world of sales and the world of race cars appear to be diametrically opposed. For Dimis, however, it wasn’t difficult to find a connection and devote himself equally to both. “When I would meet sponsors who wanted to collaborate with me for advertising during races, I was able to sell my services better due to my experience in sales".

"I ended up being one of the most highly paid race car drivers, both in Cyprus and abroad,” he explains, but he is still nostalgic for the years he spent behind the wheel of large farm machinery, not stopping until night fell.

“I wouldn’t stop for food or for water. I would have some bread and olives with me, and would eat as I was driving,” he smiles. And as important as it is for societies to be aware of their historical journey, it is just as important for each individual person to remain in touch with his roots, no matter where they end up in life. Museums, such as the one Dimis Mavropoulos created, are certainly a response to this need.

At the Museum founded by Dimis Mavropoulos in Limassol, there is a special section with a wealth of exhibits dedicated to agricultural and other similar machinery.

Agricultural machinery makes up the intersection between the 2 worlds in which Dimis has lived, creating a harmonious bridge between rural life and his love for vehicles. Of course, when his father Stamatis began setting up the family business, importing the first motor-powered agricultural machines to Limassol, he could not have imagined that this would inspire in his youngest son a love for driving and racing. Indeed, when Dimis began to enjoy his first racing successes, it triggered a strong reaction from his father, Stamatis Mavropoulos, who likely could not comprehend how his son’s dedication to agricultural work was what led to this new interest.

“I have been racing since I was 14, entering races with a fake ID. I would take a foreign ID and replace the photo with my own,” says Dimis, clearly still amused by his youthful cheekiness.

It was then that he adopted the nickname 'Dimis,' so as not to be recognized. “Of course, my father would reproach me, mainly because he thought it to be a waste of time. I never gave him reason to complain about my work, but he insisted that I shouldn’t be involved in anything else. The concept of a hobby was inconceivable to him. He would argue that in order to succeed in your work, you need to also make it your hobby. So intense was his reaction that often, when the news would announce one of my wins, he would immediately switch off the television,” Dimis adds, and it is apparent this is still something that hurts him, decades on.

 

The start of the Mavropoulos agricultural business

Stamatis Mavropoulos was a man with conservative ideas, whose life revolved solely around his family and his work. His father was from Alexandria and worked on the N.P. Lanitis farm. In fact, he married the sister of the two founders of the company. Stamatis Mavropoulos mother died from complications during his son’s birth, so the young boy was placed under the care of his uncles and mother’s brothers whom he had never met, Nikolaos and Costas Lanitis.

When the young boy turned 16, the Lanitis brothers sent their nephew to study in Larnaca, at the American Academy. There, he met his wife, who was a descendant of a British family who had come to Cyprus to escape the turbulent times in Izmir, during the Armenian genocide.

Dimis Mavropoulos recalls his grandparents telling him that his British great-grandfather was a conductor on the train station in Izmir.

His family was rescued by British ships, which transported them to Cyprus as the nearest and safest destination, and the British granted the father of the family the right to trade spirits as a representative of well-known gin and whiskey labels. And so, thanks to this good fortune, the Armenian family of refugees found themselves among the affluent social classes of the time.

Dimis’s strict father and gentle mother, in two equally smiling portraits.

When Stamatis Mavropoulos finished his studies, he focused on an activity that was familiar to him thanks to his Lanitis uncles. He began importing modern farm machinery from the US, and began utilizing fields that had been considered barren, since they could not be cultivated using tools that operated solely with farmers’ manpower or with the aid of their animals. This is why there is a special room dedicated to these machines at the Historic and Classic Motor Museum, as they were the start of it all.

“My father brought the first chain tractor to Cyprus. He was the one who plowed and planted all the vineyards in Pissouri. This was part of my daily life since I was 7 years old,” recalls Dimis Mavropoulos.

“I really liked driving the tractor and I would work for 10 hours even as a young boy. I also managed to avoid hitting any trees in the field I was plowing,” he says, with the same pride he felt for this achievement at the time. “My father started out with no property. During those first years, he didn’t even have a car, we would get around on a motorcycle that had two baskets on either side for us to sit in. But by cultivating one barren field after another, he slowly began buying pieces of them from people who did not have the means to utilize them,” he adds.

“My father was a workaholic and he passed this on to both his sons. When someone would tell him that they were going on holiday in the summer, he would wonder why anyone would want to do such a thing for 2 whole weeks.”

“Right up until the end of his life – he passed away at 89 – my father would insist on supervising everything at work. For him, the only things that were important in life were his family and his work. In fact, we had a problem, because the older he got, the more his handwriting changed, and a bank employee would need to be present when he was signing the checks, to make sure he was the one doing it. I often believe I will end up like that,” laughs Dimis.

Little Dimis with his mother, on one of their beach outings west of Limassol.

The little farmer who became a rally driver

Stamatis Mavropoulos watched his family business grow and made sure his sons were well equipped to take over in the future. And so, after he finished school, Dimis found himself pursuing a degree in Business Administration in England.

For his strict father, deviating from the schedule he set was unacceptable. “Every day, at 2:15, we all had to sit down at the table for a meal, and there had to be silence while we ate.

If someone left food on their plate, there was always an argument. We were allowed to supplement our portion if we were still hungry, but he would not tolerate throwing away food.

He would insist that we all take cod liver oil daily, as it was considered a necessary supplement at the time for keeping the body healthy. To this day I can’t eat fish because the smell reminds of that cod liver oil,” says Dimis.

How smooth was the transition from rural life to the cosmopolitan life of England?
I adjusted right away. I like the good life, as did my father. He loved having fun, good food, and I adopted the same habits. In that way, the environment of England completely covered me in that respect.

In one of his many participations in motor races, along with his daughter. 

Of course, when I announced to my father that I had taken care of everything that was pending at work and that I was going to take a couple of days off, he would fret. When I was in England, I once told him this on the phone, when I had booked a racing job, and he angrily hung up on me. This will always haunt me.

What exactly did you do in England?
My job was marketing for the fruit and vegetable market. In England I was the commercial representative of the Cooperative which produced and exported all the fruits of Cyprus, not just Limassol. 

I was involved in everything from receiving ship freights to what would be the ideal packaging for selling a bunch of grapes in the English market.

That was when we came up with the idea of selling grapes in a perforated bag. At the time, there was the problem of large quantities of grapes being left unsold because they would fall off the stem. By putting the stems in bags to begin with (perforated with holes that allowed the fruit to breathe) we solved this problem, selling every last grape and also making it more convenient for the customer. This innovation received a marketing award in England at the time.

Did you participate in races during your spare time, or did work have to take a backseat?
Not only did work not take a backseat, but there were times I had to miss out on races when there were hurdles at work that took longer that I had anticipated.

The oldest car in the Museum is a 1912 Ford 'T'. The collection includes a 1973, super-shielded Sadillac, especially made for the late President of the Cyprus Republic, Makarios, as well as the favorite car of Margaret Thatcher, a 1973 Rover.

How did you become involved in classic cars?
Every year in England, there is a classic car race that takes place on the London-Brighton route. I first took part in this race in 1996, under a contract I had signed as a driver for the company Shell, though I really didn’t want to participate. I didn’t enjoy driving something that looked like a carriage (I remember at the time it was a Renault from 1903), which wouldn’t be able to go on whatever road you wanted, which would require frequent stops to oil the engine (there was no automatic lubrication in the technology of those cars), and which traveled at 8 miles an hour, for a distance that would need 8 hours to cover (which a modern car could do in 2 hours). It was a difficult race, and a few times we had to get out and push the car up hills, and if it rained or was cold, we had to cover up with blankets.

I hated that race. I had gotten used to fast cars and I considered it a waste of time. Whenever something like that was recommended to me after that, I would always find an excuse not to do it.

What happened between then and 2014, when the Museum opened?
After that traumatic experience in 1996, I slowly began to appreciate the historical value of classic cars. In 2000, when I returned to Cyprus, I began collecting ‘stock.’ I repaired the first car completely on my own, waking up at 4 in the morning for weeks in order to finish it. The collection grew and I always made sure to drive all the cars that I added to it. I would get in one of them with my daughters and we would make the trip to Platres for lunch. You get there a lot slower than with a modern car, but you enjoy the ride, as well as the reactions of the people who see you on the road, as such cars are basically moving attractions.

Dimis’s daughters have inherited his multi-dimensionality. Stephanie is a producer at the BBC, Sylvie is the owner of a boutique in Limassol, Samantha works with magician David Blane in the US, and Angela (the youngest, which is not in this photo) is an actress in Hollywood.

In time, I had filled 3 warehouses with about 25 cars. The result was that I had to frequently move 5-10 cars in order to get to one of the ones in the warehouse. In the meantime, I began getting visits from people who had learned about the cars and would ask if they could go into the warehouse to see them. It was around that time that the idea of the Museum was born. It was initially housed in a warehouse in Ypsonas, and in 2014, it was moved to a larger space in the Limassol Industrial area, where it still remains to this day.

I’ve been to many museums. In all my visits, I would always take back with me anything that related to the exhibits or the organization of the museum. I would collect these in an old, small suitcase, until that became full, and I had to get a second suitcase.

Based on that knowledge, we created the Museum in Limassol. The response from the people was particularly warm. This is why we are now preparing for the creation of a new museum, one which will be 4 times larger than the current space.

From warehouse to Museum

Why create a Historic and Classic Motor Museum though?
I wanted to leave something behind, to give back to my city, because it offered me a lot. It saddens me to see people take from Limassol, and leave without giving anything back.

What did you take from the city?
I took a lot of love from the people of Limassol, and this follows me in everything that I have done. I don’t think anyone dislikes me, just some negative reactions that may be due to jealousy.

 

Does the Museum make a profit?
There is not a museum in the world that makes a profit. When you need premises that cost millions in operating and maintenance costs, then it is impossible to cover this cost just by attracting visitors, let alone make a profit. What I get from the Museum is the satisfaction of seeing people enjoy their visits, and even more so when the visitors are school children.

Proceeds only come from the rental of these cars for various themed events or weddings. This is why I make sure that all cars are suitable for use and not just exhibits.

We are now getting the new, modern premises for the Museum ready, with more exhibition space that will allow visitors to see the exhibits from all sides, as well as a space to host a collection of aircraft models that have not been presented to this day.

“The aim is for this space to offer a complete experience, with food venues, a children’s playground, as well as areas where motor clubs can meet.”

You began your collection in 2000. Why did the design of a modern museum take so long?
When you start something, you take small steps at first. With regard to the Historic and Classic Motor Museum, we started with a much smaller exhibition space, and when the collection grew, we needed to move, and it is now time to create modern premises. At the moment, the museum resembles parking lot, where only one side of each car is visible. In the new space, every exhibit can be viewed from all sides.

The Museum’s impressive collection includes more than 175 cars, constructed from the late 19th century to the present.

Has there been a response from people?
There has been a large response from non-Cypriots who live here or who visit as tourists. Unfortunately, we don’t have many Cypriot visitors. This certainly has a lot to do with the lack of museum culture in our society. Additionally, I don’t believe that the Museum has gained the recognition and promotion that it deserves from the island’s various authorities and institutions. It’s as though we have a diamond (for this is the only Museum of its kind in Cyprus, with exhibitions that one can’t find at any of the corresponding larger Museums in Greece and Italy), but we keep it on the sidelines and only mention it if someone asks.

Relevant

“There needs to be will and determination for the right moves to be made in Limassol”

Is there anything you would like to change in Limassol?
Personally, I have tried 3 times to be elected to the Limassol City Council. I wasn’t able to receive support any of those times, because the parties knew that they could not control my actions or my positions, were I to be elected.

At times I have supported views which others did not agree with. For example, when the process for the establishment of the CUT began, I was in favor of creating a modern campus, one which would not affect the city center.

The University may have boosted the historical center, but many problems have arisen due to a lack of infrastructure, such as traffic, lack of parking spaces, and increases in rental prices. It seems that further development for the CUT is been transferred to the Berengeria area after all. Additionally, I had recommended setting up a public transport station in Enaerios, which would serve people traveling to and from the city center. I was criticized from all sides when I expressed such a proposal.

Is it possible that you share some of the responsibility for your ideas not being heard?
The truth is, I do have my own eccentricities, and I can be stubborn sometimes.

In recent years, Dimis has found a companion and supporter in both his personal and his professional life in the smiling, active Sveta. Their biggest daily struggle is over the remote control as they sit in front of the television in the evenings.

Are you a difficult person then?
I am both difficult and easy. When it comes to things I know, I make sure to have studied and reviewed them repeatedly, and I don’t back down on my views. If, however, I am not sure about something, I acknowledge it, I take a step back and admit my mistake where I need to.

Do you see any disadvantages in Limassolians?
Cypriots in general have disadvantages. There is a problem, for example, with parking cars on pavements. The problem, there, however, lies with the legislation that perpetuates this situation. For though parking on the pavements is illegal, there are nevertheless trees or traffic signs or electricity poles which block pedestrians’ access anyway.

In such cases, the law is contradictory and inevitably creates windows for violations, which end up becoming the norm.

What do you consider to be the advantages of Limassol?
Limassol brings together people from all parts of the world to create a multicultural society, and this is a positive because it offers people many experiences to discover, all of which correspond to these unique segments of its population. 

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“Additionally, in Limassol, you can be in the mountains skiing in the morning, and by the afternoon, find yourself at sea for a boat ride. Where else would this be possible?”

The location of Limassol is a very important asset. The large coastal front across which the city is spread allows for easy access to all its locations, while a 20-30 minute drive will take you straight to the mountainous villages of the countryside.

I personally love spending time in the mountains in the winter. We have a family vacation home in Platres, and the village is our favorite destination. I discovered it when I was 5 years old, under British rule, and I continue to have a soft spot in my heart for it.

Platres was Cyprus’s first tourist resort, but since the ‘70s, there has been a decline. Why do you think this is?
The tourists that once frequented Platres had a distinct character, and were made up of kings and sheikhs, along with their entourage. Times have changed and the tourism businesses of Platres did not adapt to the new circumstances when they needed to. The truth is, more emphasis was given to seaside tourism, which was the easier solution, because transport was easier than in the mountains, and the infrastructure was also better.

Aside from driving on land, sailing at sea is another beloved pastime of Dimi’s.

Do you believe we have rested on our laurels when it comes to seaside tourism as well?
This is a big debate, with many factors involved, both local and international. One of our problems is certainly the concept of the all-inclusive resort, which keeps visitors from other countries exclusively within the hotels.

What could be improved in Limassol so that the city’s offering could become more competitive?  
The rationale behind anything that has to do with tourism is to ensure that there are long term results, not just short term gains. For example, creating bus parking lots will have a long term gain, allowing for the smooth operation of public transport, as well as offering a stop for tourist buses in the city center.

Limassol has many attractions, but we need to offer easy ways for people to move around in the city, without costing too much time or effort.

A good idea for Limassol would be small, 15-seat buses that are mobile and higher in number, that people could use for free or at a small daily cost to visit the entire city.

Beyond that, there needs to be a serious adjustment in the prices of kiosks and café-restaurants, especially ones that operate in facilities rented to private individuals by the municipal authorities. After all, when a private enterprise pays a relatively low rent, they should commit to making their price list accessible, especially when it comes to basic items such as coffee, sandwiches, or juices.

“There are a number of competing destinations close to us, which means that the least we could do is make sure that there are available flights to and from Cyprus.”

Are there any issues that could be dealt with immediately in order to improve the city’s image, such as cleanliness, for example?
Cleanliness could be taken care of directly by outsourcing to contractors. We need a new plan for the services that serve the common good, because oftentimes the procedures that are in place create delay and make the process of problem-solving more difficult.

In order to make the right moves that will have a direct benefit to the city, there needs to be both will and determination, so that there will be a real and measurable value.

For example, we recently missed the opportunity to host the International Rally in Limassol, which would have brought 6,000 visitors to the city, because there was an obstacle in the procedures.

When hosting visitors in Limassol, what are the first 3 places you make sure to take them to?
Now you’ve hit a nerve, because personally, I consider that the best beach in Limassol is the area around Lady’s Mile. But the way it is today, without any facilities for swimmers, such as toilets and showers, means that it has serious shortcomings. There could easily be chemical toilets and showers installed, with the cooperation of a private company that would also undertake their cleaning, so that there wouldn’t be a monopoly by the venues that operate there.

The coastline of Lady’s Mile.

Another serious problem in the area is the road, the improvement of which has been granted a license by the British Bases, which have jurisdiction in the area, though we are stuck seeking out the €8 million required by the project.

Another spot I believe one should visit in Limassol is the area around the castle, and in terms of countryside, Platres is a solid destination, where one can relax, enjoy nature, and enjoy the hospitality of the area.

Do you believe all of these places are being promoted through All About Limassol (Official)?
There is a significant effort, which is worthwhile and must continue. It is something that the city was lacking, and there needed to be a group of professionals who are independent from the interests of parties and other individuals to undertake this effort, and ensure that its work remains unhindered. Even if mistakes are made with such efforts, they can always be corrected. The important thing is for there to be a tangible result, as well as the support and participation of all of Limassol for such a goal to be reached.

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In his office, the trophy case which bears witness to his particularly successful journey in international racing.

Spirited and multi-faceted, active and restless, a man of fun but also of hard work, Dimis Mavropoulos is a typical Limassolian. His ties to the city were, after all, what led him to establish such an impressive and unique museum, adding yet another element to all that Limassol has to offer to its residents and visitors. Dimis may feel as though he is walking in his father’s footsteps, but he has managed to combine his work with all that brings him joy and relief in life. Additionally, his many extracurricular activities became a way for him to give the city he loved more than any other yet another reason to stand out.

He appears to have struck an ideal balance between obligations and pleasures, but even if this may not exactly be true, the way in which he devotes himself to all that he loves is certainly admirable. And it would be remiss of All About Limassol Official (the Official Guide of Limassol) not to feature a tribute to this man, recognizing that his passion for creativity and his love for Limassol are clearly the key ingredients for creating great and beautiful things for the city.


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