THE 43rd ANNUAL Limassol Wine Festival opened with a bang on Tuesday night, opening the gates to 13 days of festive drinking, dancing and, of course, eating with a colourful array of fireworks.
The wine-drinking festival, which started in 1961, is a staple on the Limassol calendar and has succeeded in attracting thousands of tourists and locals to the Limassol Municipal Gardens each year, allowing the wine to pour freely and setting the kefi, or mood, high.
This year’s festival is marked by a greater focus on entertainment, with the setting up of four stages providing song, dance and theatre – as if the wine wasn’t enough.
The seven-metre ‘vraka man’, dressed in traditional outfit, will be standing over the festival to greet visitors and party goers, despite having suffered some minor burns a few years back.
Wine sluggers can enjoy traditional song and dance from Cyprus, Crete and Latvia or take a turn in the grape stomping barrel.
Smoked herring and other delectable titbits soon find their way into punters’ stomachs as they gulp down the wide variety of Cypriot wine picked from vineyards with 4,000 years of tradition under the sun.
For those unable to make it to the merry entertainment, the municipality has commissioned a vehicle to distribute free, cold wine around the city with the help vraka-clad men.
The Limassol Municipality has also planned a Zivania Symposium for September 7 as a back up, just in case the red tipple doesn’t hit the right spot. For those who have never tried the local moonshine, a word of advice… whether a drop or a trickle, the spot will be hit with Zivania; it’s unavoidable.
The Limassol Wine Festival has its origins in ancient times when similar feasts were held during the harvest season. It is seen as a revival of ancient festive manifestations of worship in honour of Dionysus, the god of vine and pleasure, and Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love.
According to Limassol Municipality, during these feasts the man worshipped the gods but primarily enjoyed himself. The festival was organised for the first time in 1961 and since then it has become an established annual event of merrymaking and fun, in which the citizens of Limassol are joined by merrymakers from all over Cyprus and beyond.
Each September thousands of tourists visit the Municipal Garden to join in the festivities and try the national pastime of eating and drinking.
“They become the protagonists since the festival is a play which is mounted and the visitors are the enthusiasts, who banish from their mind all concerns and feel an inward sense of comfort, free from social conventions or protocols, in an atmosphere of unconditional fraternisation, generated by the mysterious effect of wine,” says the municipality website.
Vine growing is mainly developed in the Limassol region where the biggest wine industries can be found: KEO, SODAP, LOEL and ETKO. Visitors pay a small entrance fee before engaging in animated and multi-purpose wine tasting and traditional dish eating in unlimited quantities.
According to the municipality website, around 15,000 visitors come along to the festival every evening for a touch of inebriated magic. (Photos taken from www.limassolmunicipal.com.cy)