They work and study at the same time. Their senses are heightened and they enjoy each and every moment, discovering small traces of the “good life” within the transformed cells of a student city, as Nicosia has evolved. Three youngsters, Despina McCowan, Myrto Oikonomidou and Andreas Papaioannou, are taking us on a trip through to the new city waves based on their own fresh perspective.
We arranged to meet at a central café and we literally have caused quite a stir. Laughter, joking around, teasing... As if we’ve known each other for years. I’m so jealous of them. I feel as if I touch them, their youthful energy will run through me like electricity. I am observing them as while they discuss and realize that what has transformed the image of the capital –in addition to the impressive modern student dorms springing up in no time and the hip urban venues that come to the fore every day– is the enthusiasm and liveliness of young people. The students are a breath of fresh air in the city. They bring life into it.
They say that what they love most in Nicosia is its relaxed pace and the sense of security that it gives them. The fact that people here are eager to extend a helping hand whenever someone needs it. Also, it’s that wonderful light, the Mediterranean, that tugs you out of the house and makes you want to do things throughout the whole day. And since we are talking about light, Despina and Myrto are urging me to not miss Michael Anastassiades’s retrospective exhibition at the NiMAC, who has signed off on some amazing creations with international design houses such as Flos, B&B Italia, Cassina amongst others.
I take out my notepad and I am asking about what else I shouldn’t miss. From festival days and summer nights: The Summer Screening Marathon at “Constantia” cinema, which brings remarkable films with it, in the night breeze and the smell of jasmine. The AglanJazz Festival, which hosts bands from all over the world, highlighting the city’s multicultural jazzy character. The Fork Food Market, which has introduced us to quality street food and has made foodlovers “sharpen” their forks.
The taste thrills push us to start strolling outside the walls... stopping at Rokoko Kitchen & Bar. Stylish space, always packed, mostly with girl groups and couples... You keep coming back for the divine calzone filled with nutella and mascarpone cheese. Andreas detaches himself, pointing out that he is on a strict diet regime. Myrto admits that she lives on sugar and Despoina provokes us by bringing out a whole list: Bizzy Bee –also referred to as the cute canteen with the very sinful pancakes-, Moondog’s Bar & Grill for juicy burgers and football screenings, Cito Gourmet Express for imaginative gourmet-snack options with a little bit of wine and a stylish crowd. The Old Souls for its vintage cozy atmosphere, the drinks and fine music and guest djs. The Finders Bar & Grill highly recommended by Andreas, for good food, beer and rock mood –he majored in psychoanalysis, for one night, behind its bar as a bartender. Myrto, on the other hand, doesn’t miss getting up to the loft of the alternative Prozak –focused on good coffee and aromatic teas– to take a look at the work of the artists is hosts. Despina loves the Brew Lab for its special blends and eco-friendly practices, while declaring her soft spot for the Westside Vintage, a new stylistic arrival with reworked collections, where you can find the old “dad’s” jacket transformed into a stunning skirt!
In the Old Town, where the oriental aroma of hookahs blends with the bustling crowd, the hours roll rather slugishly. The kids play hide and seek until late at night on the forecourt of the Church of Phaneromeni, families take their walks and students engage in marathons of the biriba card game and backgammon, mainly in Kala Kathoumena and Halara. The Tria Fanaria is also a hot spot, as well as the Kafekopteion Haralambous, where every Cypriot coffee comes along with a traditional loukoumi, an adorable detail. We make special mention of Avo, since it is necessary to wander through the little alleys with a halloumoti in hand. Myrto adds even more temptation on the table: “You should definitely try the combination of café latte with chicken pie from Giagia Victoria, it’s so addictive”. Kozeri is preferred for its neat platters and beers, Piatsa Gourounaki for souvlaki and mastiha shots and for the most delicious seftalia, Evroula at Stoa Klokkari is the prime choice. They mention the concept store owned by the designer Kyriaki Kosta, the “Faneromenis 70”, with her artistic restlessness and I tell them about my own paradise, “Ant Comics” hosting the collectible publications, at Stoa Papadopoulou.
They love the Ifantourgeio for its unique sophisticated identity –a cafeteria and a library combined. Myrto chooses the Sferistirio as her “retreat”, a small café close to the hammam, which also features pinball machines for blowing some steam off. In the Old Municipal Market, as Despina mentions, various events take place from time to time. “Various groups gather with their guitars, skateboarding youngsters, graffiti artists showcasing their talent, bands playing music”.
When it comes to nightlife Andreas takes the lead, indicating his preference towards live music: “I want to be in touch with the artist, it’s like a musical journey... I avoid djs because I am driven into mood swings”. Asmation Live in the Latsia industrial area meets the requirements of a good music stage. Antipeina and Mezostrati go hand in hand in a combination of live music and good meze. For a more relaxed night out, they enjoy the tropical scenery of the open air Garden, which serves nice cocktails and hosts a mix & match crowd.
After the nights shenanigans, Andreas attempts to bring us back to life with exercise. He says that he finds himself refreshes after a run through the Pedhieos River Linear Park. “It fills me with oxygen for the whole day”. Us on the other hand, not at all! All three of us, we admit to being unapologetically lazy. Myrto and Despina massively enjoy their lie-downs on the lawn of the Acropolis Park. “The Athalassa Park is also ideal for roaming around in the woods, to simply admire the beauty of the landscape, but also to feed the ducks that splash around in the lake”. The conversation turns over to the subject of nature –to bright sunsets, to hills with great views, to evenings spent counting stars– and become rather philosophical. They know they are the generation of shares and likes... However, they are not prepared to succumb to global isolation. They declare that they will not stop looking for the magic of the moment... And in Nicosia they find a lot of magic reasons to do so...
What has changed the capital’s image is the enthusiasm and liveliness of youngsters.