The southern Cyprus city of Limassol kicked off its annual wine festival on Thursday night in high spirits.
The mayor of Limassol Andreas Christou told Xinhua that this is the 54th celebration of this event and added it is very important to promote local varieties of wines and grapes, which are unique and received strong reputations recently, like Cypriot sweet wine Commandaria, which known as the oldest wine in the world.
“We are expecting about 80,000 to 100,000 people, Cypriots and foreign tourists, to attend the festival in the next 10 days, enjoy the best Cypriot wines, food, and a lot of other traditional cultural activities,” said Christou.
With barrel upon barrel of wine distributed freely to the visitors it does not take long for outsiders to get in the spirit of the city.
The Limassol Wine Festival is a tradition since Cyprus became an independent state, held in the last week of August and the first week of September each year, just ahead of the grape picking season.
The four big wineries based in Limassol offer free wine to thousands of visitors, to go down with an assortment of local specialties sold at low prices by makeshift restaurants inside the city’s sea-side Municipal Garden.
There is more than drinking and eating at the wine festival.
Visitors are welcomed at the site of the festival by an oversized figure, the Vraka Man, dressed in the traditional Cypriot baggy trousers- the vraka- and his motto: “Drink wine for better life”, meaning to be healthy and alive.
The wine festival is an island-wide event. The Cyprus Tourism Organisation provides free bus transportation for tourists and locals from other cities.
Its organizers advertise it as a wonderful event to mark the end of the summer and the transition to autumn.
But it is also meant to draw attention to the history of wine production in Cyprus.
A wonderfully preserved mosaic at a Paphos archaeological site aged two thousand years back shows two men in a dazed condition, who had been offered wine by the God Dionysus. The inscription says: “Those who first drank wine”.
Various historical references confirm that wine has been produced in Cyprus for over 4,000 years.