The swarthy rental agent with fantastic English gave a noticeable start, setting the suitcase back down on the ground.
“You’re staying where?!”
With a little smile I repeated our destination, “Vavla.”
“Well…that’s a first,” he replied.
Vavla is not on the tourist trail.
It should be.
But it isn’t.
That honour goes to nearby Lefkara, a circuitous 10-minute drive up and over the ridge to the north-east; home of polished silver as bright as the Mediterranean sun, lace that even caught the eye of Leonardo da Vinci (no, we haven’t yet commissioned our matching bibs!), and a population of 1,000 to Vavla’s 30 odd.
Seven days was all we had, yet even in so short a time we emerged with a suitcase full of stories, memories and ruminations on the future.
Young or old, we all love an audience for our stories; picking over old bones and eliciting memory, laughter, perhaps a tear.
Yet this felt like something more…
It was as though Vavla had a voice. Quiet now, and whispering. Yet the time is coming when that voice will be heard on a far greater stage than over a shot-glass of fiery zivania with family and friends.
Not today, not tomorrow, perhaps years from now. But the time IS coming when Vavla will be a destination in its own right, and the community will at last have its reason to return.
George is a local. Born and raised in Vavla, yet by necessity leaving his home for America’s shores of promise.
That time is gone now, the need satisfied, and in his own words, “As we grow old, we return to what we know.”
We had just returned from a day of hiking up the valley of the Agios Minas river, to the Chapel of Panagia tis Agapis (Our Lady of Love). The staccato “crack-crack” of shotguns still ringing in our ears.
Their eyes grew bright as we asked George and his wife Donna Marie of what we’d seen and heard.
Time and distance hadn’t dulled Donna Marie’s iconic New Yorker drawl as she told of her younger days with George, spent roaming the slopes of the snow-capped Troodos mountain range in whose lower climes is perched the village of Vavla.
It was a time of plenty. A time when Vavla had a far greater population and its lights shone nearly as bright as those of Lefkosia, Larnaca and Lemesos.
Hare, partridge and quail were abundant back then, and unlike the motivations of today’s thrill-seeking shooters, game was much sought after as food for the family dinner table.
Less common was the woodcock. A swift flyer, well camouflaged and with a devilishly sharp change in direction and turn of speed! A fine challenge for any aspiring young marksman and delicious reward for those with a steady arm and good reflexes.
Yet the real allure lay elsewhere. Of all things, it’s stomach.
See, the woodcock is a forager. Probing the soil with its rapier-like beak for earth worms, insects and other fine morsels.
The story goes that once in a while, a woodcock finds a diamond!
Mistakenly taken for something more delicious, the diamond is swallowed and there resides, safely ensconced until one lucky hunter takes it down, changing his life forever.
If you’re not a hunter, you’ll never find the diamond.
If you hunt a different prey, you’ll never find the diamond.
Even if you know the tale, it’s for nought if you don’t remember.
Tarry over long, and it returns from whence it came. Dust.
Vavla. The diamond in the east.
If you’re thinking this is the first and last article we write on Vavla, then you couldn’t be more wrong 😀
The truth is we had so much we wanted to say (and photos to show!), that it wouldn’t be doing the village and region justice to cram it all into a single post.
Consider this an introduction of sorts, and for Part 2 of this story, click here!
The food, the landscape, family, community; join us as we take you deeper, revealing every sparkling facet of this diamond of the east!
Planning your travel to Vavla, Cyprus
How to get to Vavla?
From Larnaca Airport it’s a 35 minute drive. The first 20 minutes are via the broad and fast A3, A5 and A1 highways, and then from the Choirokoitia exit another 15 minutes up into the Troodos foothills along a winding but high quality and well signposted sealed road.
If you’re travelling at night you’ll find the lighting isn’t great the higher you get, and the locals do tend to adopt their own ‘exciting’ version of the road rules, but you’ll be fine!
Where to stay in Vavla?
There are two accommodation choices that we recommend:
Vavla Rustic Retreat is where we stayed for our seven days in Vavla.
We can’t speak highly enough of both the quality of the accommodation and the support we got from the owner, Kelley. She was the perfect host and was absolutely brilliant in helping us out with food and activity recommendations in the local and broader area, particularly after we mentioned our keen interest in local cuisine and our love of hiking!
Kelley is originally from the USA so you’ll have no worries whatsoever in your communication both before and during your stay. We’ll put together a far more detailed review of Vavla Rustic Retreat shortly, complete with photos, and link through to that article as soon as it is available.
‘Our House’ is our second recommendation and is located right next door to Vavla Rustic Retreat.
Donna Marie and George are the owners of Our House and while we didn’t stay with them, they provided us with the most wonderful introduction to Cypriot cuisine through a magnificent breakfast and dinner (on which we will write a LOT more very soon!). We also received a tour of their accommodation and it looked absolutely lovely.
Donna is also from the USA and George has excellent English from his time spent in New York, so again, don’t worry about anything being lost in translation!