All memorable adventures nowadays seem to start with a road trip, a cool drink in hand and a GPS. Heading towards Katydata village, we prepared for a weekend at Windcraft festival.
The festival's fourth year, our first. Windcraft newbies. As soon as we reached the village - near Morphou and right on the division line - we attempted to find the festival's center. A few kilometers later and an Argentine Force base, we realize we're a tad off track. But what's a road trip without getting a bit lost?
Shortly after, we find the festival and within minutes we are being invited into a woman's bursting garden for the first workshop - a singing circle.
Group-improvised singing and music creation is something we often do with the Drum Tribe (see previous post), yet nothing has matched the magic of this singing circle. Left at the hands of Aggeliki Toumbanaki - a musical treasure - the workshop participants spent an hour tuning in with the sound of their bodies and melodiously communicating with each other.
What we were eagerly excited about is that the festival workshops (free of cost!), all happen in villagers' houses. Mrs. Lella who opened up her garden for this workshop, did not hesitate to offer us lemonade and biscuits and a tour of her house, which by the way, should definitely be a museum. From each photo frame and knitted pillow case, to EOKA's hiding spot with all the letters, shoes and cutlery still in place. Her home was truly a gem waiting with arms wide open - just like Mrs. Lella.
Living amongst the locals over the weekend, you could feel that they were proud of their village and excited to share their neighbourhood with the festival-goers. Not one concert passed by where they didn't secure first entry into the hani where the concerts were held.
With each workshop, participants looked into Cyprus' tradition, some forgotten customs dissolving through the generations. Through taking part in these 'classes', we were engaging with traditional Cypriot culture with the people that are still living it.
Mr. Kostas learnt the art of baking bread from scratch from his mother Anastasia, who was there to show us how it's done. Tracing down their family tree, their ancestors were farmers that would plough the land, growing wheat to make flour for the bread. Now, Mr. Kostas and his family buy flour yet they stick close to tradition by baking it in their own fourni (traditional oven).
His wife was quick to offer trays of baked bread and homemade mandarin squash, while her grand-daughter Anastasia eagerly helped her great-grand mother, of the same name, prepare the dough.
A few houses down, lived Mrs Anthoulla, one of the few in the village who has mastered needle work. Before showing us the many tricks she has up her sleeve, she proudly presented her needled curtains, table clothes and accessories.
Took me a good while to get the hang of needle work, so precise and detailed it felt like my eyes were going to pop out. The group was determined though and Mrs. Anthoulla went from student to student to unravel knots. Refreshed with lemonade and prickly pears, around ten little workers - both women and men - sat around a table in the garden doing needle work, chatting and listening to Mrs. Anthoullas stories of the village. In those hours we got a sweet glimpse of the daily life of women back in the day.
Mahalepi-making was another workshop on offer at Mrs. Aliki's where we had our dance therapy session the day before. Running late, discovering the village under the sun, we missed the preparation yet Mrs. Aliki insisted we try her mahalepi. A refreshing snack and one of the many bites the locals offered us whenever we visited their homes.
One thing's for sure, you won't go hungry at this festival. You simply eat off these snacks - most of which are homemade - pittas with honey, dahtyla, marble cake, vanilla cake and so on.
Though come early evening and the smell of sizzling souvlaki cooked by one of the villagers quickly hit your nostrils. Served in pitta bread and salad (5 euros), it was a fitting bite for the village scenery. For vegetarian friends and those wanting a lighter meal, yet equally as delicious, a falafel stand was quick to fill up. Warm balls of falafel with hummus, salad and a touch of green chili to give it the right kick (4 euros).
To cool down in the humidity and to partner up your meal, ice cold beers (2euros) were available. Cocktails were also sold at the bar and you could enjoy them under the stars whilst listening the bands play.
The musicians played a variety of genres from gypsy swing to balkan wind sounds and middle eastern melodies. A lullaby to hum you under the Perseid shower happening every August with musicians cooking up tunes as a backdrop.
Four-five acts played each night, in a simple, cozy setting, much like the rest of the festival. The festival-goers were few in numbers and added to the wonder of the weekend, as familiar faces greeted you at workshops, sang with you at the concerts and found shade together under a tree somewhere. This tight community-feel also allowed visitors to blend in and interact with the locals, creating a pleasant atmosphere for both.
All in all, Windcraft festival was by far the cheapest expense I've had in a good while at such occasions. Tickets went for 15euros for one day and 20euros for two, with free camping at the schools' yard and reasonable prices for food and drink.
Some things to consider, nonetheless, is definitely the heat and humidity which made the experience more intense and the treasure hunt a catch for your dry breath. Perhaps September would be a more ideal month yet all summer festivals battle with the high temperature. An ice cream stand would also do the trick.
Certainly with such warm hospitality, the locals will do their best to quench your thirst and hunger, so not only you'll spend even less money but more importantly you'll see Cyprus through their eyes, experience their lifestyle as our grandparents used to and discover intangible treasures in sincere places.
With a blend of swaying music, kind people and uncomplicated set up, Windcraft festival acts as a passage through Cyprus' traditions and history with the most adequate storytellers - the few people that still practice it to the core.