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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Among the olive trees ]

Among the olive trees

400 year old olive trees provided the inspiration for a new, environmentally friendly housing project that also offers stunning views. SARAH ANTONIOU has a look around

On an island less than half the size of Wales, with money-hungry developers building apartment blocks in abundance without taking Cyprus’ great heritage and culture into consideration, it is refreshing to find one who cares.

George Xydias wants to make a difference. His current development, the Olive Garden, comprises five houses, being created using traditional local stone and timber construction methods, designed and built around olive trees dating back 400 years. The houses are named after types of olive tree: Ionia, Ladoelia, Vernina, Elia and Olivella and, once finished, will not only be fantastic for a holiday, but will also offer a perfect place to live.

The Olive Garden is “traditional, ecological and unique” according to Xydias and the expected completion date is February 2009. The original design and brief was centred around the mature olive trees on the site, which were planned to be a part of the final project. Sadly, due to various reasons, such as the large root systems, most of the olive trees had to be relocated, but they remained as the inspiration. “I had to go to see the priest of Skarinou, Xydias said, “as the olive trees, owned by the church, had a separate title deed to the land. I had to buy the trees separately for CY£800. In those days people wanted the crops, and didn’t care as much for the land. The seven olive trees were more important.”

As for the development, “we wanted something a bit different, that stands out,” Xydias, a UK surveyor, explained: “There’s nothing like this anywhere else – we’ve married traditional methods of building design with the thermal qualities of a modern building, which hasn’t been done anywhere before. The houses at Olive Garden are built with a beautiful, traditional, local stone – at the centre of the village all the houses are like that. Effectively, the pyramids were built in the same way with stone and mortar, which lasts a very long time.”

But, although respect for the environment and architectural heritage is clearly evident, Olive Garden’s houses will benefit from Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) from the UK’s Kingspan TEK Building System. These help to create a home that is energy efficient, especially combined with the qualities of the local stone, which make it very low maintenance as the stone will not need redecorating. Internal walls are also to be made of stone and sealed with a special sealer. “Each stone is different and there is a specialist company who do the stone work. The stone will hold the heat in the winter and help to cool in summer.” Xydias was keen to explain how all this adds up to make a property that is both economical, easy to maintain, and also a pleasure to live in.

“Every house has a courtyard, all have three bedrooms with ensuite, a private pool, and spacious ground floor, open plan living areas, and a guest wc downstairs. Each has a garden area and car port. The interior layout is done in such a way that it is interesting – as you walk through there are little areas of interest and the gardens are a natural extension to the living area. There are sliding doors to your patio and you can sit by your pool and watch TV.”

Amid hillsides and with an average altitude of 190 metres above sea level, in the heart of Cyprus, Skarinou is one of most picturesque mountain-side villages of the island, conveniently located 20 minutes drive from Larnaca, Limassol, Nicosia and the proposed Tersefanou golf course, close to Lefkara and Stavrovouni Monastery. Governor’s Beach is a ten-minute drive away.

The village sparkles with summer sunshine and tradition. Narrow lanes weave through stone-built houses. The quietness in the air transmits calm. The views are breathtaking. The dominant building of the village, the church of the Guiding Virgin Mary, is close by the Olive Garden, and an old fountain marks the centre of the community of just 250 inhabitants. There are two restaurants, and two traditional coffee shops. In the past, the village was well known throughout Cyprus for its road stop – the Station of Skarinou – which existed for about 60 years, until the building of the Nicosia-Limassol motorway in 1983. The amazing natural environment, cool climate and handy locality, contributed to the station’s national fame.

Walking through the area of ‘Elia’, the largest house of 185 square metres (covered area), I imagined how beautiful the sunken courtyard for plants and flowers would be, and the contrast of the cool blue, pool water against the beautiful, old stone walls. The architect George Solomou, often uses local stone as a contrast in his designs, which has become his signature trademark. The stone surrounding me echoed the courtyard feel of the village. I looked beyond at the view characterised by vegetation of pine, eucalyptus, cypress, various fruit trees and of course, olive trees. Luminous pink bougainvillea blazed vibrantly against the walls of the local houses. This is the traditional image of Cyprus one expects, and it is no less beautiful close up - a world away from the beaches just over the horizon.

Xydias is rightly proud of his project – the Olive Garden is a beautiful complement to Skarinou, totally in harmony with the charming village.

For prices and information see or contact George Xydias on Tel: 99 118747

(Source: Cyprus Mail)

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