Vasilis narrates the story of the Glaros of Limassol, which has been in the city for 40+ years!

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In 1977, Limassol was a whole different city to the one we know today. It was significantly smaller, with the Old Port as its main core of activities, and with thousands of refugees from the Turkish invasion arriving in the city to get back on their feet, putting into motion newly-discovered possibilities and procedures. That year, a 10-member refugee family from Famagusta opened a tavern in a marginalised area in Limassol, which was to become etched in the memories of thousands of people.

Michalis Papaiacovou and his wife Kyriakou, along with their 8 children, fled from the war and initially found refuge in Pedoulas, where they had a small hut for a holiday home in the mountains. Soon after, it became clear that they would need to move to a city, so that their children could go to school and find jobs. So they began searching for shelter in Limassol. In the chaos that was brought about by the aftermath of the war, refugees were called upon to seek out and invent their own way of survival. At the time, Michalis located a small space near the church of Agios Antonios. Perhaps you could say that the sea called out to him, a remembrance of his hometown.

The area was marginalized after the bi-communal conflict erupted in 1963, with the Greek-Cypriot residents leaving their properties and the Turkish-Cypriot area expanding towards the sea. “Many properties in that area belonged to the state and there were also some oil warehouses which housed barrels of oil that arrived through the Old Port,” says, Vasilis, the youngest son of Michalis, who runs the family business today.

Vasilis is the only one of Michalis and Kyriakou’s 8 children who continued working in the tavern professionally. He is also the one who made sure to return Glaros to its rightful place by the Limassol sea, after an absence of many years.

“The state had expropriated a number of properties, because there were plans to build the new port there. The bi-communal conflict erupted before the construction works could begin, and the Turkish-Cypriots eventually took over the properties abandoned by the Greek-Cypriots. That was when the character of this area changed completely,” he adds.

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The tavern that was set up right next to the ‘quarantine pier’, as it was known. Find out more here

In 1977, in the building that Michalis Papaiacovou had located near the sea, there lived two women, a Greek-Cypriot and a Turkish-Cypriot, who used it as a brothel. “When we came to Limassol, the Turkish-Cypriots had begun slowing making their way to the occupied parts of the island. The general rule regarding any abandoned shops or houses was basically ‘finders’ keepers.’ That’s how it was at the time. After the chaos of war, there was no interference from the state, nor anyone to impose order,” recalls Vasilis.

“It was our responsibility to put a roof over our heads. The directive was ‘live wherever you find space,’” he adds.

The small house they found was barely big enough to fit the entire family, and it had no indoor toilet, nor any bath or shower. “The Greek-Cypriot woman who lived in it was willing to rent it to my father for the amount of 5 pounds – a considerably large amount of money at the time, almost an entire salary – even though she had no right to do so. She took the money and never appeared again,” says Vasilis, confirming the fact that there were people who took advantage of the misfortune that had befallen the island. That space housed 8 of the family members, while in the house next door, their father set up a woodworking shop in order to live off the craft he knew. His attempts were unsuccessful however, and people would keep trying to claim the space for a tavern.

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‘After declining one offer after the other, my father finally decided to open a tavern himself, even though he had no idea how to do this job at the time,’ Says Vasilis, explaining how a wood craftsman from Varosi became a tavern owner in Limassol.

“We received no help from the state for putting a roof over our heads or for opening the business. My father had to take out a large loan, which took decades to pay off,” Vasilis explains. Of course, once things settled down somewhat, my father went to the department that was responsible for refugee housing, and requested to pay rent for the property. But because it did not belong to Turkish-Cypriots, but rather to the state, only the state could ask for rent. It never did.

The most characteristic element of the tavern was the large balcony jutting out over the sea, which was also a unique, unplanned advantage.

The tavern’s balcony – pier attracted more and more visitors and so, in the ‘80s, a second pier was constructed. “We had used iron supports in the construction of that pier, which rusted after some years, while the wooden supports of the first pier remained as good as new,” Vasilis notes.

“A wooden boat had been left near the port during the winter, and the waves had repeatedly thrown it against the stone breakers until it had been completely demolished, and its wood was scattered across the sea. My father had a good knowledge of woodworking, as this had been his job when we were still in Varosi. He even used to build small boats.”

Michalis Papaiacovou could tell that this wood was of very good quality, dipped in tar to make it water resistant, and so it could be used for the construction a small pier, like a balcony for the tavern.

“I was 16 years old at the time, and we worked together with my father to collect the wood and build the pier. It took us approximately a month to finish it,” says Vasilis.

The Limassol Marina, which is situated where the tavern used to be, has incorporated elements that are reminiscent of the image of that characteristic balcony.

Towards the end of the 1990s, intense discussions began over the construction of the Marina. The original plans entailed a marina near the Limassol seafront promenade (Molos) area, but the plans that were eventually approved were for a marina to the west of the Old Port. And so, by 2006, the tavern owners were forced to abandon the area.

Vasilis stayed out of business for 5 – 6 years, after they had left the area where the Limassol Marina is now located. “That was a difficult time for the entire family, with a great deal of insecurity and rising daily expenses. We had a lot of pressure, both financially and emotionally, and the decision for Glaros to start again from the beginning was a difficult one,” he says.

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A long time passed before the permits were granted for the tavern to relocate to its rightful place near the Limassol sea.

The new location of Glaros tavern, between the shipyard and the new port, was in terrible condition when Vasilis took over. Abandoned, forgotten by almost everyone, with industrial facilities around it obscuring its natural beauty, it needed a lot of work to become a space that was hospitable and approachable for all.

What is impressive about Glaros Tavern is that the people who got to know it in the area of Agios Antonios 40+ years ago still remember it, and continue to seek out their favorite little tavern.

“The people’s response and the positive messages I received, even during the time that I was out of work, were some of the main reasons behind my decision to reopen the tavern,” Vasilis says. “The people had associated the tavern with the flavors of fish-meze, as well as with the beautiful personal memories each person had created there. We now have many guests, both from Cyprus and abroad, who return on occasion to relive moments from the past.”

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The tavern was built once again from the ground up and brought new people in a forgotten area of the city.

Are memories the only reason that people return time and time again? Certainly not. For this tavern, which was established almost by chance and survived thanks to the love and dedication of an entire family, profit was never favoured over quality. “Would you sell bad food to people? What is the gain in that? Why would you risk someone telling you that the food you serve is not good?” says Vasilis.

In the beginning, the tavern used to serve all kinds of meze dishes during, from crushed olives to grilled pigeon and seafood, which people would order along with brandy. This was a form of entertainment for the young people of the time, who started off with brandy and meze and ended up dancing all night to music from the jukebox.

“Eventually, we realized that people preferred the fish meze, because we were close to the sea. We always used to have fresh fish from the dock of the harbour because there was plenty of fish back then, as well as little shrimps and crabs, which were plentiful and delicious. There aren’t any more now, but we still kept the savory mullet as a meze dish from that time,” he adds. “Restaurant costs are far more these days, and even fish as a product is more expensive today, but that is not a reason to downgrade the quality of your menu, or charge exorbitant prices in order to survive. Glaros has remained a fish tavern that I believe is accessible to everyone,” he concludes. 

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The son of Michalis, having moved the tavern next to the new port this time, had to refurbish another marginalized area of the city, showcasing the wonderful view of the sea.

What Vasilis has done with the return of Glaros is similar to what his father achieved 40+ years ago, when he started his tavern in the area west of the Old Port. At the time, the family of Michalis Papaiacovou turned a marginalized area into a pole of attraction for both locals and visitors, one that has remained etched in everyone’s memory.

The children of Vasilis may be busy with their studies or jobs, but they are always willing to provide a helping hand, whenever they get the chance, just like Vasilis and his siblings did for their parents in the past. After all, the support of the entire family was a catalyst for the re-opening of the tavern

Of the neglected area next to the New Port today, Vasilis calls it “one of the most beautiful coasts in Limassol, with clean waters that are used by the few swimmers that known about it. But the beach needs to be taken care of, because over the years, lots of garbage has been left behind. If the Municipality would take over, we would have yet another beautiful beach in the city.”

He may have been born next to a sea far away from Limassol, but he grew up with the view of this one. He worked, saw his parents struggle to survive, and in turn, struggled himself for his own family. For 40+ years, Vasilis has been walking alongside this sea, which has seen Limassol change and grow each day. Everyone who holds the Glaros tavern of the past within their hearts, and who still seek out the Glaros tavern of today, are a testament to the fact that even the smallest, most incidental of actions can leave their mark on a place.

The choice Michalis Papaiacovou made in order to ensure his survival, and which is carried on by his son Vasilis to this day, has created a landmark for the city. And because this landmark was not simply a location, but rather the very soul of the people behind it, it continues on the same journey to this day. For what is Limassol but the soul of the people who give back to the city every day with their actions. And such actions, that are full of humanity, deserve to be showcased in a tribute by All About Limassol, the Official Guide of Limassol.

* NOTE: The tributes of the Project "History of Limassol" present information that has emerged from historical research thus far. Any new data is embedded into the tributes, once it has been confirmed.