A CITY FULL OF FEELINGS A CITY FULL OF FEELINGS







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Omodos

Omodos, one of Limassol’s largest wine villages, is located 42 kilometers northwest of the city. It is built on the western bank of the river known as ‘Ha Potami,’ at an average altitude of 810 meters. The village is surrounded by tall mountain peaks, the tallest of which is known as ‘Afamis’ (11153 meters), followed by ‘Kremmos tis Laonas’ (1092 meters).

According to tradition, the Sultan Selim II – a known drunkard - became enamored with the exceptional quality of the local Muscat wine of Afamis, which took its name from the synonymous mountain east of the village, and went on to conquer the island for himself. Beyond the cultivation of vineyards and production of fine wines and zivania, the residents of Omodos are produce a variety of other traditional must and wine based products. The ‘arkatena’ bread of Omodos is famous across Cyprus, while the women of the village are well versed in the art of embroidery, having for centuries created delicate decorative items with thread. These range from tablecloths and quilts, to doilies and lace.

History

The village is likely to have been founded at the end of the Byzantine period, or the start of Frankish rule, following the dissolution of the settlements of Pano and Kato Koupetra, which are located on the east bank of the river Ha Potami. Tradition says that Isaakinos Komninos, despot of Cyprus from 1185 to 1191, fled to Koupetra following his defeat to British king Richard the Lionheart, where he remained until King Richard summoned him to Limassol for peace talks. This verifies the existence of Koupetra, until at least 1911, after which it was dissolved.

Following the dissolution of the Koupetra settlement, a new settlement was created around the original monastery of the Holy Cross, taking on the name of Omodos. The medieval chronicler, Leontios Machairas, reports that Omodos had been bestowed to nobleman Jean de Brie by the king of Cyprus, Jacob I, on the occasion of his election in 1382. The village is labeled on old maps as Homodos, Homocios, and Omodos.Ancient objects have been unearthed both within and around the village, revealing that the area had been inhabited since ancient times, possibly even during the prehistoric period. Moreover, the village toponyms have ancient origins, such as the cliff of Hera, or the mountain ‘Afamis,’ the name of which denotes worship of the Ancient Greek god Zeus.

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Ancient objects have been unearthed both within and around the village, revealing that the area had been inhabited since ancient times, possibly even during the prehistoric period. Moreover, the village toponyms have ancient origins, such as the cliff of Hera, or the mountain ‘Afamis,’ the name of which denotes worship of the Ancient Greek god Zeus.

Name

There are three versions of how the village got its name:

 From the Cypriot word ‘modos,’ which means ‘carefully.’ It is said that the inhabitants of Koupetra had seen a light shining from the opposite mountain every night, embarked on a journey to find it. They saw that the light was coming from within dense bush, through which they had to cut their way. As they did so, they would warn each other to be careful, using the word ‘modos.’ Eventually, they found a cave with a wooden cross and a lit candle inside.

- Omodos is the starting point for many roads that lead to the surrounding villages. Its name is said to originate from the adverb ‘omou’ (together) and the word ‘odos’ (street), forming the name Omodos.

- In Frankish documents, it is reported that the feudal lord Homodeus lived in the area, and it is likely that the village took its name from him.

The Square

The large square of the village is one of the oldest and most picturesque of the island. It is perhaps the largest in Cyprus, with an area of 3000 sq. meters, and dates back to 1910. Stone-paved, it is surrounded by beautiful, traditional homes with flowering balconies, and also framed by tall, proud sycamore trees, making it ideal for walks, shopping and dining, all year round.

By keeping the imposing Monastery of the Holy Cross, located at the top of the square, as a reference point, visitors can easily explore the village in all directions, wandering through the narrow streets, visiting the medieval grape press or ‘linos,’ and discover all the hidden beauties of the village.

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Architecture

The village houses, decorated with dozens of blooming flower pots, attract a great deal of interest due to their traditional architecture. The main elements are the tiled roofs, picturesque awnings, paved interior courtyards decked with large clay pots, wooden doors, and the stone and wood balconies, all of which come together to create a living museum of tradition. Many of these homes have been lovingly and carefully restored to create unique accommodation for visitors. Folk art is often preserved in the interior of the homes, where visitors can tour around the rooms of an actual traditional house.

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Linos (the grape press)

The medieval grape press, or ‘linos,’ is a distinct symbol of the long tradition of winemaking in Omodos. It is located at a short distance from the Monastery of the Holy Cross, and boasts a carved arched entrance, similar to that of the monastery. It is housed in a narrow, stone-built room, approximately 13 meters long.

The ‘Linos’ has a paved floor, and features a raised wooden loft within, just above the entrance. To the right of the entrance is a row of clay jars, while in the back one can make out the traditional cauldron, made from stone and bricks. In the middle of the room is the mechanism of the grape press, from whence the grapes are entered. At the back, in an elevated area, grapes were laid out to dry, as was the ‘tsipouro,’ or pulpy residue.

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Timios Stavros Monastery

According to tradition, the Monastery was established before St. Helen’s arrival in Cyprus in 327 AD. The exact date of establishment is unknown. Various historians of Cyprus, such as Neofytos Rodinos, Russian monk and traveler Barsky, Dean Kyprianos and others, make reference to St. Helen’s visit to Cyprus and to the fact that she left a part of the Holy Rope and the Holy Rood in the Monastery. The monastery, the founding of which is attributed to the miraculous discovery of a cross at this spot by residents of neighboring villages Ano and Kato Koupetron (which are no longer in existence today), is said to have begun as a small chapel which garnered a gathering of several monks, resulting in its transformation into a magnificent monastery.

The presence of the monastery appears to have been the reason for the creation of the village, while in modern times it constitutes one of the main reasons for its survival and development. During the difficult centuries of Ottoman rule, the Monastery survived and flourished. Around 1700, it secured a bond of immunity and asylum from the Sultan, and in 1917, the entire Monastery property was handed over to the Omodos residents. A few years later, it was deprived of its last few monks, and turned into a parish.

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The monastery entrance comprises a large, vaulted arched door, fitted with heavy double latches that served to protect it from attacks under the Ottoman rule. The building complex comprises many stone-built cells, cellars and guest houses spread across a ground floor and first floor, with all the rooms facing the central courtyard where the church is located. Beyond the impressive wooden balconies, carved doors and the characteristic wood ceiling, the Synodicon is especially of value, boasting a wood-carved inlay of unparalleled beauty.

It features an excellent specimen of wood carving in the Rococo style, made from thousands of small pieces of wood, harmoniously weaved together. The throne of the Holy Cross, a true masterpiece, is carved from walnut wood. With the two-headed eagle towering above, the throne also serves as a crypt for the Holy Cross. Even the four preserved couches made out of woodcut walnut are of unique beauty. Today, the hall of the Synodicon is an ancient monument. The other halls house the Museum of Byzantine icons, the Museum of Folkloric Art, the picture gallery, and the first Museum of the 1955-1959 Struggle for Independence.  

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Chapel of Apostle Philip: The Chapel of Apostle Philip is the oldest of all the chapels in Omodos, and is located in the ‘Pente Litharia’ or ‘Five Stones’ area, west of the village. It is likely that in ancient times, the chapel location was once an altar to the Greek god Apollo. This is supported by the fact that an enormous, ancient laurel tree stands next to the chapel, with a circumference of 8 meters and a height exceeding 10 meters. Its age is estimated to be approximately 1000 years old.

Chapel of Prophet Elias: The small, pure white chapel of Prophet Elias is located northwest of the village, at a distance of 2 kilometers from Omodos, on one of the village’s tallest hills. It was renovated on 2nd November 1975. Once a year, on 20th July, it hosts a doxology, during which the faithful pray to Prophet Elias for rain.

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Chapel of Saint Paraskevi: The Chapel of Saint Paraskevi is located at a small distance northeast of the village, close to the hideout of the EOKA independence fighters of ’55 – ’99. Hidden within the cool shade of the cypress and other trees, this picturesque, stone-built chapel had once been left in ruins, but was renovated on 27th August 1976. The chapel liturgy takes place on 26th July.

Chapel of Saint Spyridonas: The chapel of Saint Spyridonas is located south of the village, and renovation on it begun on 11th November 1971. The chapel liturgy takes place on 12th December, the day of the Saint’s feast.

Museums

Museum of the Struggle - Hideout: During the entirety of the Struggle for Independence, many Omodos residents joined and helped the EOKA organization in every possible way. A hideout was created in the home of Aristos and Maroulla Theodorou from Omodos, following instructions from Grigoris Afxentiou. Its construction begun in October 1956. The hideout could be accessed behind a stone slab through the fireplace and down a wooden staircase, leading to the basement. The space was ventilated through holes in plasterboard. On the morning of 21st January, however, security forces surrounded the village of Omodos, tipped off with information of betrayal by foreigners. They spotted the hideout, and captured the fighters in the process. After their arrest, all furniture and objects were removed from the house, which was then blown up, along with the hideout.

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The first Museum of the 1955-1959 Struggle for Independence was founded in Cyprus, within the Monastery of the Holy Cross. It featured clothing and other personal items from dozens of fighters from that era. The Monastery also houses the Museum of Byzantine Icons, which was established in 1960 in order to preserve and protect the old icons from the Monastery. There, one may find displayed Byzantine icons of inestimable value. The lace museum, also within the Monastery, presents a remarkable collection of lace samples and serves to preserve the traditional folk art of manufacturing lace. The painting gallery is also located there, displaying 40 works by Cypriot artists, all of whom have been inspired by the natural and human environment of Omodos.

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A folk museum is also located within the Monastery, preserving the elements of folk tradition. Many private homes in the village also operate as Private Museums. These present a diorama of a traditional Omodos home. Their key characteristics are the thick, stone and mud-built walls and wooden doors. Traditional items and furniture are displayed within (such as the traditional tall beds, the ornately carved sofas, the wooden chairs with woven rattan seats, the walls adorned with framed silk cocoons, the hearth housing bronze pots and traditional baskets), often kept in the same layout as their original inhabitants. This includes jars of wine and sometimes even animals all sharing sleeping quarters, a sure sign of the struggles of poverty.

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Wineries

Famous for its fine wine from the time of Ottoman rule, the inhabitants of Omodos had always had winemaking and vineyard cultivation as their main economic activity, growing vineyards that covered more than 5000 acres across the village. Both the mountain ‘Afamis,’ as well as the area of ‘Laona,’ are hosts to the island’s oldest vines, offering excellent quality production. Today, besides the local varieties of white and black grapes, Omodos also cultivates newer varieties such as cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, chardonnay, Riesling, and others.

Omodos is home to several large and small wineries, the wines of which often participate in international competitions and have repeatedly been awarded top-class distinctions. Among the ones to visit are ‘Ktima Gerolemo,’ the winery ‘Zenon, (which hosts a small wine museum), the winery ‘Linos tou Charilaou,’ as well as the winery ‘Oinou Gi (Land of Wine).’ Many of these also have shops selling wine and grape products in the village. 

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Traditional products

The rich folk tradition of Omodos has become well-known both in Cyprus and abroad, thanks to two main types of products: traditional embroidery and ‘arkatena’ bread and rusks.

The lace created by the embroiderers of Omodos is truly a work of art, one that is passed down from one generation to the next. This delicate pattern has been a source of livelihood for many women in the village. Indeed, it is said that the lace, or ‘pipilla’ of Omodos received such admiration that many ordered it from abroad to decorate tablecloths, sheets, curtains and even clothes. Today one can find wonderful examples of this local art in the Lace Preservation Center, as well as in workshops and shops within the village. 

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The ‘arkatena’ bread of Omodos is a type of sweet bread that has been baking in family ovens since ancient times. It is made with chickpea leaven, and has now been turned into a craft which feeds the entire Cypriot market. In the village, you can buy arkatena, both fresh and dried into rusks, at various points in the village, while getting to know the artisans who produce them, such as Fotini’s Bakery or Eleni’s Workshop.

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Activities

On the beautiful slopes surrounding the village, a farm has been created to host racing horses, offering the public the opportunity to visit them in their natural habitat, but also to try their hand at horse-riding in the surrounding area. Those interested in visiting the farm should contact the owner on 99 625761. 

A community donkey farm in the village has been set up to protect and preserve this native species. People can visit the donkey families in their natural environment, on the slopes surrounding Omodos.

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Accommodation

As a popular relaxation destination any time of year, Omodos offers various accommodation options. Many of the old, stone-built homes have been restored and are now a way to experience the village up close. The options are as follows: ‘Stou Kir Yianni’ (99 459306), ‘To Katoi’ (25 423033), Omodos Village Houses (99 749065), Omodos Cozy houses (99 284201).

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Dining

Because good wine always goes well with good food, the village boasts several traditional taverns that are ideal for sampling the local cuisine: ‘Omodos’ Tavern (25 421493), ‘Themistoklis Tavern’ (25 422649), ‘Themelio’ Tavern (99 459306), ‘Stou Kir Yianni’ Tavern ( 7000 0100, 99 308555), ‘To Katoi’ Restaurant (25 423033), ‘Mavres Chines’ tavern (99 342826), ‘I Kamara’ Tavern, ‘Makrinari’ Tavern (25 422151), ‘Ambelothea’ Tavern (25 421366).

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Drinks

For a cup of coffee or a refreshing drink, look no further than the Square for its variety of cafés and bars: ‘To Tembelchanio’ (96 569324), Square Café, Cold Stone Café, George’s Bakery & Café (25 422142), ‘Gerolemo Vini Bar – Café (25 422 122).

Omodos is a village full of life. Warm hospitality, cleanliness and pristine streets are some of its greatest advantages, making it a pleasure to visit regularly. Though the influx of visitors is more intense during the summer season, there is a unique beauty in both spring and autumn. As for winter, Omodos is an ideal destination to enjoy wine and tasty treats by the fireplace.  

Events

Omodos Cross Xenion Race: At the start of May, the charitable foundation ‘Xenios Xenofontos’ is joined by the running clubs of the Omodos Community Council, Dromea Racing, Periklis Dimitriou and Omodos Gymnasium to organize a Road Race for all ages, called the ‘Omodos Cross Xenion Race.’

Togetherness Festival: In August, the village celebrates its myths, legends and traditional with a fun festival.

Holy Cross Festival: On 14th September, the entire village participates in the celebratory festival of the Monastery, which takes place in the village Square.

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