Text: Andreas Katshis / Antonis Antoniou
I sit on the footbridge in front of the seaside Gymnastic Club Olympia Stadium observing the joggers and casual strollers. Others are priming themselves to go into the cool morning water. It is 7 a.m. and the beach is already full of people who have come to start their day with a breath of crisp morning air.
My friend Sotiris is on his way. I had promised him a walking tour of the city ever since he moved to Limassol from Munich. We meet at the Galette Artisan Bakery, my favourite in the area for its famous, freshly-filled croissants and Κoulouria (rings of sesame seeded bread). In an ideal world, my diet would consist entirely of these. We cross the coast road, head up Anexartisias Street and stop at Uluwatu Specialty Coffee. Andreas was one of the first locals to take the plunge to open a café serving specialty coffee in London-inspired surroundings. After seven-plus years, this landmark has become a standard of high quality.
We amble along Anexartisias discussing carefree times when, as teenagers, we would go to Tsiknopempti (Smoky Thursday – ‘Smoky’, as in grilled meats) to party in the big, raucous outdoor Carnival. After national anniversary parades, we would gather at Bolse-Vita, now gone but forever cherished, for fresh juice and hot sandwiches with Lountza (cured pork tenderloin) and halloumi cheese. At the lights of Pentadromos Street, we turn right onto Gladstonos Street to drop by the Agno Zero Waste Grocery to buy nuts and organic eggs. Nothing here goes to waste. In an age of excessive consumption, Dimitris and Christina started a business with minimal detrimental impact on the environment. A little further down is my beloved Shopkeeper & Co. It is just the place to enjoy a second cup of great coffee in the company of some engrossing publications. For brunch, The Cookhouse is a surety, but at the expense of patience as one must queue for a table. Pancakes with mascarpone and blackberries are a firm favourite, as is the Quiche Lorraine. The eatery is already chockablock for lunch, so we depart from Mesolonghiou Street and head to Platia Iroon (Heroes Square). My eye falls on Petit Paris, a patisserie with a sixty-year history and one of the tastiest chocolate cream pies anywhere in Limassol. With great difficulty, I overcome temptation.
Salut, Sousami and Library Bar has breathed new life into the city’s nightlife, Petit Paris patisserie hides 60 years of history and the best chocolate tarte, while Gonia Tou Pepe is famous for the most delicious souvlaki in town.
I make a mental note to pass by Nomad Bread & Coffee for fresh Focaccia with tomato and thyme. On the way to Platia Iroon, I remember as children taking car rides down with my parents every Thursday. We would all cross Anexartisias Street and end up at Mr. Takis’ kiosk on the square for a hot chicken and pickle sandwich. This was a time before Platia Iroon was home to facilities of the Cyprus University of Technology or the popular cocktail bars Madame and Dusty Monkey: even before the existence of the Rialto Theatre, from days when Kit Kat and Crazy Horse were the places to be.
I promise Sotiris an evening out at the square in the days ahead for meze and tsipouro at Sta Ouza Mas and perhaps for Souvlaki (skewers of grilled meat) at Gonia Tou Pepe, to remind him of Thessaloniki, his hometown. He inquires about lunch and I suggest Kalimera India. His expression is telling of his feelings on such exotic and spicy flavours, so I reverse course and opt for something less daring: namely, the quiet and welcoming courtyard of Giagkini Magirio – always a safe bet for homemade dishes reminiscent of mum’s cooking.
Walking down Saripolou Street, I explain to Sotiris its evolution from a state of dereliction. Three small bars in the area (Salut, Meli and In Theory) risked opening and succeeded in creating a positive vibe that, ten years on, still runs strong.
Upon noticing prominent graffiti of varied types on the exteriors of old buildings, I sense him wondering why no one has cleaned them. I explain that they are part of the Street Life Festival. On that day, foreign and local graffiti artists flock to the city centre to tag outdoors. We are drawn to a turquoise door, the entrance to Sousami, a bar that embraces freedom of expression and has changed the face of entertainment in the city. We take a seat at Sto Dromo for coffee, but end up drinking beers; owner Christis insists. This too is a historic eatery that, despite having developed and grown, has never lost its identity or compromised on quality. That is why the locals love and support it.
Pitot was made for those who love Israeli flavours, while Enso Vegan Lifestyle Bar is for those who favour vegan food and sugar-free sweets.
It is getting dark and Limassol is preparing for its third and final act. Leaving the city centre, we enter Vassili Michaelides Street to find Enso Vegan Lifestyle Bar. We do not follow a plant-based diet, but the gluten and sugar-free vegan sweets made by Juliette are truly something to fall in love with! I get myself their version of a snickers bar and another with chilli flakes. Sotiris is perplexed over how these sweets can be sugar-free. Shortly after, we dine on falafel and kebab at Manoushe Lebanese Food & Bakery on Ellados Street. A little further on is the Israeli cuisine of Pitot, but I save that for our next outing. We eat on the fly as we are already late for drinks at the Library Bar.
Later on, I realise that this is probably the first time I have experienced Limassol by way of plotting a route to flavours, aromas and memories of a past filled with bright colours, loud music, unique sensations and warm people.