Limassol’s salad days
 
The final day of the carnival was marked by the parade in Limassol on Sunday and followed by Green Monday, the first day of Lent and the beginning of fifty days of fasting leading up to Easter.
 
On this day each year, families descend by the thousands on the fields and valleys of the island or go to friends and family members to have lunch, to drink together, to sing songs, to talk and to be with each other. Picnics and dining tables are laid out with bowls or basketfuls of fresh raw green vegetables like celery, spring onions and artichokes eaten with bread and olives, dips like taramasalata and hoummous, salads, cooked or pickled octopus and more. Some people prepare chargrilled wild mushrooms or wild asparagus (‘agrelia’). Everything is washed out with plenty of wine or ice-cold zivania, a powerful spirit that can also double as a disinfectant.
 
Having survived this day, people will then begin their fast when they will eat mostly pulses and fresh fruit sand vegetables. Some of the best fruits and vegetables are available at ‘froutaries’ (fruit and vegetable markets). Here you can buy fresh spinach, ‘strouthouthkia’ (Bladder Campion), wild oyster mushrooms, and more.
 
But there is one place in Limassol where you will find all the freshest local produce. On a balmy morning, a pleasant walk in the old part of town can take you to the old stone-built Municipal Market. The ‘Pantopoulion’, as it known locally, was constructed back in 1918, well before the days of supermarkets. It was commissioned by then-Mayor Spyros Araouzos whose Municipal Council received a loan of £4000 from the colonial rulers. The land was bought for the princely sum of £600 and the plans drawn up by Greek architect Zacharias Vondas. A crowd turned up on the morning of April 14th, 1918 for the opening. The Mayor delivered a speech, then took off his hat and cut the ribbon. The people rushed inside, eager to see what the fuss was about, eager to buy things.
 
Newspapers from that time applauded the Mayor and Council and noted that the British Governor had praised the market as “the best in Cyprus, and possibly the best in the east”.
 
Not everyone was amused. I read a reference to a newspaper dating from 1920, where a well-known Limassolian, George Francoudes complained that nothing was now sold outside the market and noted that a “citizen of Synachorion is obliged to travel for half an hour every day, just to buy a cucumber”. Francoudes condemned the decision to build a single market to house all produce sellers as “unpopular, undemocratic and tyrannical”.
 
Years later, though, despite many changes and renovations, despite all the events that have unfolded in Limassol and elsewhere on the island, the large old stone market is still there. And it is not just a reminder of the past; it still operates. I walked there on a lazy morning last week. There are crates of fresh greens stacked next to one another; there’s a fish market with mullet so fresh it looks like it’s about to jump into your lap at any minute; there is a stall where you can buy herbs and spices by the kilo, a meat market and more. There were plenty of people in there, walking around and looking at the produce and buying things. The din of voices echoed on the thick stone walls.
 
Recently, the Municipality has revamped the square outside the market nearest to Anexartisias street and refurbished an adjacent building into a tavern. There is another little square, on Saripolou street, where locals and tourists alike can sit down outside the several taverns and restaurants. Here you can have breakfast, a good meze or a drink to cool down. In the winter months they serve traditional soups like creamy avgolemono (rice in chicken stock flavoured with eggs and lemon) and trachanas (made with cracked wheat mixed sourmilk and left to dry). In the summer they serve you ice cold ayrani (a refreshing drink of yoghurt and mint) and mahalepi dessert. 
 
In the old days, when there was a cue of horse-drawn coaches waiting by, the area was buzzing.
 
Down the road, there are the many large and small shops of Saripolou street, selling everything from pots and pans to gadgets. At the end of Saripolou street is the recently renovated Ayia Napa church on St Andrews Street.
 
This part of town has changed so much, but the market remains. And there’s always something to do, see, or buy- a light meal or a cold dessert, a bag of local oregano, an item from one of the local shops and, of course, the largest choice of fresh local produce. Just what you need for springtime, whether you are fasting or not.

 

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