Vavla: A work of art

Cyprus unlocked

Text: Eleni Xeniou

Photos: Romos Kotsonis

A painter, a musician and countless other infatuations with the village of Vavla are revealing its enchantments.

Paskalis Anastasi, the celebrated Cypriot painter, has brewed coffee and is sitting in his courtyard surrendered to the panoramic views of a cloudless sky, the mountains, the Kalavasos dam and the sea of ​​Limassol stretched to the horizon. “A painting by a divine hand,” I think to myself, in wonder, then say much. He smiles in agreement. After all, Paskalis lives here to connect with his surroundings. His house, perched atop a hill on the outskirts of Vavla, seemingly hovers between heaven and earth. He spends hours observing clouds, hilltops, trees, birds and the sea before he begins to paint. His disposition radiates calmness, his art energy. I want to ask him, “How did Vavla become your permanent residence?” Instead, I linger on the stunning scenery.


Vavla, a part of the Larnaka prefecture, was founded in 1450 CE. Surrounded by the Troodos mountains, it has retained its picturesque character. Today, its inhabitants are few. Known for the supreme quality of its honey, some residents of Vavla, young and old, focus on beekeeping. Others came to escape the lunacy of city life – a handful of foreigners and Cypriot artists who found Vavla therapeutic. The village is relatively close to services provided by the towns of Larnaka, Limassol and Nicosia. Near the sea and sufficiently distanced from urban calamity, the people of Vavla regard tranquillity as their birthright and are avowed to its preservation. The region’s characteristic white, traditional stone houses are part of her charm. The village aesthetic is under government protection. Paskalis recounts his ‘karmic’ encounter with Vavla and promises to show me her most beautiful locations.

Founded in 1450 CE, Vavla is known for its picturesque character.

Through a Painter’s Eyes

Twenty-six years ago, a newspaper ad about land for sale, this combined with intuition, brought Paskalis to Vavla. It was love at first sight. The simplicity and beauty of the natural landscape captivated him. He purchased the land, pitched a tent and camped in isolation for an entire winter, taking in its energy. Everything around him argued in favour of this being his home. It took Paskalis ten years to build his house, a feat he accomplished alone! He enjoyed every moment that brought him close to the grandeur of the landscape and deep into meditation, a practice integral to his being. His living quarters consist of three tiny houses. He rests, cooks and sleeps in one, paints in the other and keeps his tools in the third. His studio is open to visitors. One by one, Paskalis shows me his works. Afterwards, we depart for Vavla. On the way, he explains how contact with nature is catalytic for his creative inspiration. He prefers days of wild weather to put on his raincoat and walk in the rain as he used to as a child.

A Village Stroll

We walk the cobbled streets, gazing at homes with family crests emblazoned on their doors, embroidered-curtained windows and pots of geraniums. “A lot of people come on weekends,” Paskalis informs me, “especially now that ‘Amygdalies’, a restaurant offering traditional cuisine, has opened in the square.” Otherwise, on any other day, Vavla is filled with the sounds of nature. Before arriving at the square, he points out a monument dedicated to the recent fires created by Philippos Yiapanis, the well-known Cypriot sculptor. Then, Paskalis introduces me to the village masterpiece, a magnificent arch dating from 1900 – Stoa Michaeloude, the pride of Vavla. At night the arch is illuminated like a work of art. In the square, we descend steps to the Cultural Centre in the courtyard of the church of Ayios Georgios. Once the village primary school, this architecturally-striking building, constructed in 1905, is where Paskalis exhibits some of his work. A sign below the church points to the old well where locals used to draw water. Sunken stone steps and the heady scent of thyme define the path to its location. The walk is rich in oxygen, transporting you to times past when everything had essence and value.

Nature’s Footpath

A phone call jolts us to the present. Lefteris Moumtzis, the caller, is a well-established Cypriot musician who has lived in Vavla for two years and is openly infatuated with it. He is the art director for the Fengaros Μusic Festival held every summer in Kato Drys, a neighbouring village. Lefteris always wanted to live in a small community. When he discovered Vavla by accident, he was immediately smitten. His constant companion is a playful black dog named Sushi. Together, we follow a natural footpath from the village centre past the chapel of Panagia Tis Agapis along a charming course meandering along the banks of the Ayios Minas river and the crests of hills. As we pass beneath ancient trees emitting strange sounds of birdsong from their foliage, Lefteris says, “Now, do you see why I moved to Vavla? Every morning, I take a walk in nature, and with my lungs full of fresh air, I am ready to face anything.” I follow up, asking, “Then you isolate yourself in the stunning house you’ve rented and compose music?” Indeed, when Lefteris does not have appointments in the city, he is here. Though, he admits that his creativity did not blossom immediately. “It takes time to surrender yourself to calmness,” he states as we reach the chapel of Panagia Tis Agapis.

Lefteris Moumtzis, a renowned musician, is in love with Vavla.

Vows to Love

The church of Panagia Tis Agapis (Holy Virgin of Love) opens its doors to welcome the faithful, pilgrims and the public but once a year for the service, ‘Friday of Galilee’. Engraved with initials from scores of couples, the large tree next to the chapel of Panagia Tis Agapis is a living monument to l’ amour. “It is truly moving to feel how much love has passed through this chapel,” says Paskalis with arms outstretched. Those who journey here do so to make vows to love, and that has reverence, I think. I voice this thought to Paskalis and Lefteris, and they agree wholeheartedly. Vavla projects magic that encourages you to search inwards for spiritual balance. Panagia Tis Agapis facilitates this. After all, it is the only consecrated edifice in Cyprus with such a reputation, elevating it from a sightseeing attraction to a place of deep contemplation.

We return to the village, ending up with Lefteris at his house. A large lemon tree dominates the walled courtyard. A piano occupies one room, a yoga mat in another. The sizable verandah upstairs offers unbound views of the mountains and sky. In that moment, I think there is nothing more necessary than a window, a courtyard or a terrace to frame God’s work. One must journey through the din of humanity to arrive at this realisation. Fortunately, some places assist in reaching this awareness much faster. One of them is Vavla, blessed with an infinitude of vows to love.

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