Souvenirs from Cyprus
Holidays are something we all look forward to and we indeed feel excited during this short but memorable time. Every visitor tends to buy something to remind them of their holiday from a souvenir shop in their holiday destination - either for themselves, or as gifts for friends and family back home.
If you are intending to buy some souvenirs in Cyprus, you will be delighted to learn that there are a number of different items that make quality purchases. Although sadly, there are some rather gaudy souvenirs for sale in all the resorts (and that’s because they are really popular!) with some clever shopping, some beautiful gifts can be bought and often at surprisingly good prices. And if you do find that you have bought more than will comfortably fit in your suitcase, you will be delighted and relieved to learn that luggage is a really excellent buy in Cyprus!
Food & Drinks
To me, one of the highlights of travelling is eating and drinking the local specialties. This applies to Cyprus as well and there are plenty of delicious traditional delicacies that are typical for Cyprus.
Soutzioukos is a popular – and nutritious - traditional sweet made from a thick creamy mixture known as “moustalevria”. Strings of almonds coated with boiled grape juice that has been thickened with a little flour and flavoured with rosewater, cinnamon and mastic. Soutzioukos is widely available in the fruit and nut department in local supermarkets and looks like a sturdy knobbly dark golden branch. It is sold by weight and tastes delicious served thinly sliced and is the perfect accompaniment to evening drinks.
Pastelaki is delicious carob honey, often mixed with peanuts and almonds with a topping of sesame seeds. Pastelaki is a delicious crispy and healthy snack full of nutritional value.
Glyka (Spoon sweets) are seasonal fruits that have been preserved in syrup and packed in small jars and really are a true taste of Cyprus. These traditional sweets keep well and were made by housewives to preserve fruit in the days before refrigeration. They can easily be enjoyed at any time accompanied by a cup of coffee – especially when you are missing your holiday island! There are probably as many spoon sweets as there are fruits and vegetables and include oranges, lemons, grapes, cherries and eggplants (aubergine). Even onions and garlic are available and both are credited with many health properties but it is Karithia (green walnuts) made when the walnuts are young and soft, that is the most prized glyko of all.
Halloumi This wonderful cheese is Cypriot and is loved for its robust texture and deeply savoury flavor. It is versatile as it can be grilled, barbecued or fried without losing its shape or it can sliced straight from its packet and enjoy with tomatoes and crusty bread. For these reasons Halloumi is an extremely popular purchase for visitors. Fortunately, Halloumi can be easily bought in local supermarkets in sealed vacuum packs and can be kept chilled till your departure and put in the last empty corner of your suitcase! Once you are at your home you enjoy this delicious authentic taste of Cyprus and the best news is that it can now be bought in many European supermarkets.
Olive oil Millions of years ago, Cyprus rose from the seabed so its soil contains a great deal of lime which is said to be perfect for the thousands of olive trees that grow on the island. Cypriot olive oil probably one of the best olive oils in the world and as all of us know the benefits of consuming olive oil, a bottle or two of the top quality – extra virgin – olive oil, is therefore a great buy. Olive oil can be bought in plastic bottles which is easier for transporting, but for extra safety, it is best to wrap each securely in a plastic carrier bag.
Commandaria This wonderful amber-coloured sweet dessert wine, is the world's oldest named wines and is still in production, Dating back to the Crusades during the 12th century, when Richard the Lionheart and the Crusaders were living at Kolossi Castle and developed the wine’s manufacture, Commandaria soon became an important export for Cyprus and remains so today.
Cyprus wines Over the past 20 years, the wines from Cyprus have improved beyond recognition as Cypriot winemakers have enthusiastically embraced the latest production methods using top quality machinery from abroad and the cultivation of imported grape species that are being successful blended with the endemic grape varieties to produce excellent red, white and rose wines.
More than 100 varieties are cultivated in Cypriot vineyards including Chardoonay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah as the island's soil and climate are excellent for most grape varieties. Wine lovers can appreciate that there is a wide range of wines to choose from at prices that still represent very good value. After all, Cyprus wines continue a wonderful 5.000 year-long tradition of enjoyment! Interestingly, it has been proven that Cyprus was the first country in the Mediterranean to produce wine.
Leather production used to be one of the most important trades in Cyprus and there were four large tanneries in Nicosia. Even today, a leather specialist can be found in each town. In his workshop a wide range of beautiful skirts, trousers and suits can be found in almost every colour imaginable and items can be made to measure in just a few short days. Shoe craftsmen can also be found and they will measure your feet and create the most beautiful pair of shoes in your chosen style and shade in just a few days – at a fraction of the price charged in other countries.
Smaller leather products include soft handbags, purses and wallets, credit card holders and of course belts and prices are so reasonable that it is foolish not to buy a selection to take home!
Delicate hand-made lacework from Lefkara and Omodhos has been famous for centuries. Cypriot lacework is prized for its quality and artistry. The village of Lefkara is well known for its intricate embroidery lace which is skillfully used to make highly decorative tablecloths, curtains, doyleys and placemats.
Ceramics such as pretty plates, bowls and pitchers in traditional patterns make great gifts, and there are plenty of imaginatively-painted modern pieces available too. Traditional terracotta pieces with white decoration are widely available and these are copies of museum exhibits.
Few places in the world are as obsessed with coffee as much as Cyprus! One heaped teaspoon of coffee is added to each demitasse (half coffee cup) of cold water. The amount of sugar added, depends on taste: sweet “glykis”, medium “metrios” or unsweetened “sketos”. Those who are intrigued by Cyprus coffee often choose a bag of the traditional grind - but not without buying the traditional miniature copper coffee pan used for its preparation, - the indispensable “ibriki”.
Rugs and Carpets
Colourful decorative and hard-wearing woolen rugs are made in all sizes, in geometric patterns and stripes of red orange, yellow and brown. Watch out for the brightly striped traditional ‘rag rugs’ made from cotton as they are perfect to use in the bathroom, are easily washed and very hardwearing.
Musical Instruments & CDs
Music in Cyprus has a very old tradition and has been an integral part of traditional Cypriot life. The main traditional instruments were tampoutsia and shepherd’s flute. These hand-made flutes, crafted from reeds were popular amongst the shepherds in Cyprus. They are still widely made and sold relatively cheaply-although few people know how to play them these days. At folk music festivals, you might have an opportunity to hear the melodic sound of the flute in action.
For a smaller budget and taking up even less space in your suitcase – CDs of traditional Cypriot folk music can be bought almost anywhere.
Since antiquity, Cyprus has been famous for its herbs. Because of its geology, geographical position and its wonderful climate, more than 600 herb species grow on the island. The traditional herbs of Cyprus include oregano, sage, chamomile and mint which are all exported worldwide. In everyday life, Cypriots still use herbs to make infusions to drink – many with health and healing qualities for simple ailments. Essential oils are widely used for massage therapy, relaxation and toning. Locally grown herbs are also widely used in cooking to give distinctive aromas and flavours to the island’s traditional sweet and savoury dishes.
Cookery books & Recipe Collections
Having enjoyed great food during your holiday, you might well want to learn how to cook Cypriot style recipes at home. There are plenty of cookery books in Cyprus with easy to follow recipes that showcase the traditional Cypriot dishes or demonstrate how the recipes have been given an innovative twist to ensure they remain popular with busy housewives. A real bonus is that most of the ingredients are readily available in European supermarkets.
Usually when you are sitting in a trendy Cypriot café or village coffee shop, you will see several pairs of players enjoying a game of backgammon - Tavli. It has been the national game of Cyprus for generations and today is as popular as ever. If you would like to learn how to play, there is usually someone who will enthusiastically ‘show you the ropes’. Boards can be bought in various sizes and qualities, from simple plastics and wood to ornately carved sets. Take one home, and every game will bring you in mind innumerable memories of your happy stay in Cyprus.
Basket-making is one of the oldest handicrafts on the island and has been handed down through the generations without any significant changes. There are two main styles of basketmaking – one using stout reeds for making rigid styles of basket such as the dalari used to shape cheese, and other using softer materials for making flexible baskets such as the sizeable panniers worn by donkeys to carry such valuable crops as grapes during the harvest. In the days before plastic, baskets were made in different shapes and sizes suitable for many uses in the home including hanging larders and wardrobes. The bread baskets are practical yet can be decorative too as many are decorated with vegetable dyes.
The tradition of Cyprus jewellery dates back thousands of years. Therefore, collections of beautifully recreated replicas of the beautiful pieces found in the various excavations of the island’s historical sites, can be bought in a number of quality souvenir shops and many jewellery workshops. Contemporary and innovative styles can also be found and it is easy to have your own design made into a beautiful piece of jewellery for your loved one. Gold is 18ct in Cyprus and is very competitively priced so is well worth considering for a very special souvenir. Look for the hallmark of the Cyprus Goldsmiths Association.
The distinctive filigree silverware crafted in the village of Lefkara also has its own fascinating history! Therefore, bracelets, chains, rings and earrings are real bargain in a souvenir shop or in the beautiful narrow streets of the village where the villagers can be seen at work creating lovely pieces that can be treasured forever.
Keep your holiday memories close to your heart by buying something to remember from a souvenir shop in Cyprus for you to carry home and treasure until you return to Cyprus…..