Maria's Tavern, Cyprus
Maria’s Tavern has two claims to fame: being the first stop on a recommended driving tour in the Lonely Planet guide for Cyprus and being featured in an article in the Daily Mail 5 years ago. Maria had this article proudly displayed in her window, laminated, next to her menus.
Despite the coverage the tavern was empty when we arrived. We may have actually been the only tourists visiting that day or even that week. We arrived mid-morning on the Lonely Planet route exactly at the right time for a coffee and cake.
Maria’s Tavern is in Fyti, a small village less than an hour’s drive through the hills from Paphos. Apart from the tavern there’s a church, a small craft museum, a shop and not much else. As it turned out the other two customers in the tavern that morning were the priest and the museum owner.
Maria was pleased to see us and kept us entertained as we enjoyed her coffee and complimentary cake, which was "made with love" as she explained when we asked about the ingredients. I asked about the Daily Mail article and whether it had attracted many visitors. Maybe it had in the early days, but these were different times now. "The Euro has been a disaster.” Maria explained. “Cyprus used to be really popular with tourists but every since the Euro, people have stopped coming”. I asked Maria if she thought that things would get better now that the Euro was very low vs. the Pound. Maria didn’t think so. “Most tourists want to go to a luxury resort that’s all-inclusive” she said. “They stay within 4 walls and are not interested in the history or the countryside”.
Maria didn’t seem too bothered though: “There’s not much stress here. Yes, we have some, like everyone does, but it’s not like the city with the traffic and the noise”. Having seen the relatively quiet streets of Paphos, the nearest city, I wondered what she would make of the Thames Valley in the UK.
The museum owner also took a keen interest in us too, especially when he noticed the Lonely Planet guide with us. “I’m in here” he said and turned to an article about him, his wife and their museum. After that introduction it was only right that we visit the museum next. Given the lack of visitors, we had the full-works tour with a detailed description of every artefact in the place. I’m not sure we needed to know so much about Cyprian rural craft making but his enthusiasm was infectious and we felt we had to stay for the full tour.
The rest of the driving tour was nice, although uneventful. It was off-season and many places were closed. We did wonder though how many visitors would have been there at busy times, especially given Maria’s comments. Either way, we were happy to have the place to ourselves for the day.