Everything is beautiful—at the café
By Phoebe Gruetter
It had been a week of new experiences and faces and names I was working to learn, and my group decided to visit the Home Café in the buffer zone for a coffee. It would be my first time at the café, a brief two years before I would travel back to Cyprus to seek out the Home for Cooperation once again with the desire to spend more than just a mere hour there. After learning a bit of history and context, we made our way to the checkpoint through what I recognized to be the embodiment of that history before my eyes.
The Home for Cooperation appeared like an oasis in a desert. The potted succulents and cacti on the exterior tables were appropriate for the scene, but the splash of color and light that seemed to emanate from the vicinity was unexpected and refreshing.
The front doors of the café were opened wide and inviting. We entered and we were welcomed by the smells of brewing espresso and what I later learned to be freshly baked vegan brownies. Light wooden tables, each with their own succulent or flower in a pot or a vase, were tucked in neatly with chairs adorned with green, red, blue cushions and pillows. The café’s tranquil, eclectic décor is a mirror of the fresh and varied faces seated contentedly with a laptop, a book, a smile and a cappuccino. Listening in to any conversation, I hear a symphony of voices, fluent in all sorts of composers, speaking words that I personally would not recognize if I heard twice. Between the phrases, there’s the occasional grinding of beans or steaming of milk and maybe the musings of Radiohead or the lull of some other soft guitar. Sometimes you enter the café to find a sea of giggling children on a lunch break, digging into their sandwiches at the feet of their adults who stand around with arms crossed and knowing smirks. Other times, there is but a quiet murmur from a focused crowd. The atmosphere of the café is always light and pleasant.
We found a table between a long eight-top for meeting new friends or large luncheons and a cozy two-seater (or four- if you’re generous). A light breeze on my back felt like sunshine. I ordered a shot of espresso—plain and simple. It was a warm drink received with a warm smile.
I have come back to the café over a dozen times since arriving in Cyprus. I know the familiar comfort of the place will always introduce me to someone new with a story to share.
There is something about the café that draws people in and keeps them coming back. Yes, the coffee is great; the food is fresh, and the daily specials are always exciting and flavorful; however, this is not what makes the café unique in Cyprus and the world. It is the first of its kind to exist in the UN-controlled buffer zone. Upon entering the space, it feels like there is a silent agreement that visitors make to recognize and enact peace through the actions they take in the space. Personally, I could not imagine being unkind and disrespectful in a place such as the Home Café. It stands for an ideal that may be far off from being achieved with perfection, but the efforts dedicated to peace that are made on this premises are well-intentioned and are impacting the community every day on an intimate scale.
Phoebe Gruetter is a Biology student who is currently interning with the Home for Cooperation. She is studying at European University Cyprus for the spring semester on an exchange program from Stockton University in the United States. She has been tutoring English writing at European University Cyprus and at Stockton University for almost two years, and has a passion for literature, music, and performing arts