F

A STORY OF FOLLY IN FAMAGUSTA, CYPRUS

‘Not even Turkish Cypriots are allowed in,’ my guide Ferhat tells me as we peer through the barbed wire.

Beyond lies a golden beach, straight out of a tourist board advert with the deep blue Mediterranean lapping gently on the shore. Look closer though and things don’t look so perfect.

There are rows of beach umbrellas, but no one sits under their crumbling thatches. There are high-rise hotels, but they lie empty and rundown. Cars rust abandoned in the road, grass verges are overgrown and tree roots crack through the pavements. And there is the fence that separates the enclave from the surrounding city.

Ferhat, an avuncular, broad man with olive skin and dark hair, has brought me to the edge of Varosha, part of the city of Famagusta that was abandoned in 1974 when the Turkish army invaded and the Greek Cypriot inhabitants fled to the south of the island.

Burton and Taylor, Brigitte Bardot, in the years before the invasion Famagusta was a tourist mecca with celebrities arriving from across the globe. Some of those tourists died in the Turkish airstrikes, along with civilians. Since the invasion it has been a ghost town, controlled by the Turkish military and closed to the public. The Greek Cypriots who fled the fighting have never been allowed to return to their homes.

There are signs with pictures of armed soldiers warning trespassers to stay away, although I see no evidence of any military presence. I take out my camera and manage to grab a few shots through the wire. Ferhat doesn’t object, but I can tell he is nervous. Varosha is still used as a bargaining chip between the Greeks and Turks and their continued dispute over Cyprus. Talks sporadically threaten to allow some of the displaced people to return, but after forty years there has still been no breakthrough.

‘Come,’ says Ferhat, turning away, ‘Let us leave this place to the ghosts of the past. Tonight I will show you the nightlife of Famagusta, like any other modern city.’ We return to our vehicle.

I appreciate his optimism, but we both know that it is impossible for Famagusta or Cyprus to bury the ghosts of the past while this monument to the divided island sits as a decaying symbol.


Written as part of The A to Z Challenge 2018. Click HERE for more details of the challenge.

 

Each day in April we will visit a different town or city in the European Union, whose name will begin with the letter of the day – today it’s a snapshot from Famagusta in northern Cyprus – for a story based on a theme also corresponding to the same letter.

Over the course of the month and 26 stories, we will visit all 28 member countries to complete a farewell tour before Britain leaves the political union next year, touching on the history, politics, culture and people at the heart of Europe.

For a full list of stories and places visited, visit here: THE A TO Z CHALLENGE 2018.

Click the link for more information on the the ghost town of Varosha in Famagusta: Wikipedia, and there are some good videos on YouTube that show what has become of the place: YouTube – Varosha Ghost Town.

103 thoughts on “F IS FOR FAMAGUSTA, CYPRUS

  1. Politicos again, the bane of civilised society.

    Poignant reminders again Iain that everything is not well across Europe. Reminders everywhere of brutal pasts that unity was supposed to sort out. I. Some ways it has although expansion has started stepping on the toes of other issues..

    Loving this series.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Gary. Cyprus is a strange one as an EU member because the EU doesn’t acknowledge the Turkish-Cypriot government that basically controls half of the island, it’s all very complicated. Perhaps the positive thing to take from it is that for the last few years it has been a relatively peaceful conflict, although who knows what may happen going forward.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Is it a strange one, or is it the EU that is? I’ve often pondered that regarding acceptance in criteria and net flows of cash. These posts of yours keep this thinking going too. All the history and bizarre challenges thrown into the mix in a unelected parliametary body. Odd democracy is when you really think about it!

        Very oxymoronic too…a peaceful conflict… funny old world really 🤔

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Reminds me of a beautiful state that lies battered due to militancy and political tug of war.
    Sad that such a beautiful place is a ghost town and that no progress toward conflict resolution has happened in more than four decades. Great descriptions of the deserted town through the eyes of the solo secret tourist and his nervous yet helpful guide.
    This is turning out to be such a wonderful and enlightening series! Thanks for writing these stories .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Moon, when I came across this place looking for stories I had to write about it. Such a poignant and startling monument to a pointless conflict. Hope you enjoy the stories still to come 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. An island divided by the Green Line. I remember talking at length to a Greek Cypriot taxi driver when I was there and hearing about how he and his family had to abandon their farm and flee during the Turkish Invasion. A conversation I’ll never forget.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. When there’s a prominent reminder, the past isn’t easily forgotten. But when that prominent reminder cannot be removed, I guess pretense is one way to try and keep the present more relevant. Well woven.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your post took my memories back to an assignment I had to do, a few years ago, about the Cyprus dispute. The tussle between Turkey and Greece is proving to be quite costly. And your post on Famagusta, just highlights it.

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    1. Thanks, no war tomorrow! I am conscious of not wanting to write too many long pieces for the challenge, so this was a shorter one, although with Cyprus a full explanation of the situation there would be a long story indeed!

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  6. Reading “Brigitte Bardot” reminds me of Gunter Sachs, and they hung out in Southern France?
    I have never been to Cyprus. While I am sure it is beautiful, it wouldn’t be my first choice, Why? It may be a cliché, but I don’t like the conflict between Turkey and Greece. I also don’t like what’s going on in / with Israel and its neighbors, even though I have roots there.

    Happy weekend!
    Returning your visit from https://thethreegerbers.blogspot.ch/2018/04/f-is-for-florence.html

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It does seem like they’ve given up any hope of sorting this one out, although every now and then something might pop on the news. If Turkey ever want to gain entry to the EU – which they say they do – then they would have to solve the situation in Cyprus first. Thanks for continuing to stop by and read 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I was in school with a girl from Famagusta. That was a long time ago, but I still have a clear memory of her heartbreak. I’ve never been to Cyprus and I don’t seen myself being able to do so while it remains thus. I wonder if she’s been able to either. A good choice for F and a great depiction of the sadness.

    A-Zing this year at:
    FictionCanBeFun
    Normally found at:
    DebsDespatches

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Debs. I am always saddened that there are some beautiful parts of the world that I will probably never be able to see because of politics and war, particularly around the Middle East and Africa, as well as places like Cyprus too.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I know of Cyprus and the beauty of it but did not know about this part of history…I was around and a teen so I must not have been paying attention at the time this happened. you evoke sadness here and the pointless issue they fight or have fought over. It is sad to see a place decay like this but it also shows how quick nature takes over.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No shame, it’s a big world after all. Although I knew about Cyprus and the Greek/Turkish war there, it wasn’t until I researched this story that I discovered this ghost town and the story behind it.

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  9. I just finished reading all your stories posted thus far, and am impressed. You’ve managed to use the letter requirements in multiple ways, and the research you must have done helps the stories really shine. Plus I admire your theme. Looking forward to reading the next one!

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  10. Your post awakened memories from childhood…I remember seeing the hills erupting in gunfire from the taverna where my family and I were staying, in Kyrenia (we were lucky tourists who were able to fly back safely to Germany where my father was posted!)…I’ll never forget the scent of lemons in the air and the blue of the sea!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Your words drew me right in and I felt sad reading about the changes wrought in Famagusta…my time there (2 weeks) was magical…Kyrenia was far enough away that our leaving the island was not rushed or fearful in any away but later, we were thankful our flight left for Germany at just the right time as that gunfire signalled the beginning of the troubles there!

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I like how you draw attention to the beauty of the beach and the water before painting a clearer picture of the abandoned city. Thank you for providing the links for additional reading. I enjoyed learning more about Varosha even though it’s sad that it still, to this day, has not been returned to its people.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Iain, there are so many such disputed territories all over the world. In my own country, there is Kashmir which is a constant point of contention between us and Pakistan. The number of innocent lives lost over needless war is a problem all over the world

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, and so many of them are not reported around the world but are ignored and forgotten, especially the plight of those people who get caught up in these needless conflicts. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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    1. No, I haven’t been to Cyprus, just one of many places I would love to visit. Perhaps this tour of stories is my way of making up for the fact I’ll never get to most of these places. Thanks for reading.

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  13. Remembered the story by Leo Tolstoy, “How much land does a man need?”. Wish the nations fighting over the territories read and re read it.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. The place reminded me of the Cypriot football club, Anorthosis Famagusta FC. They used to be in the European leagues, I remember but I guess it’s been several years since they featured in the Champions League or the Europa league. A poignant story this one was. The past sometimes is impossible to forget and the learnings are there for all who want a peaceful future.

    Liked by 1 person

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