F IS FOR FAMAGUSTA, CYPRUS

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 responses to “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. It certainly is that! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The ghosts of a horrific past cannot easily be put behind. Another good one Ian

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, it’s a startling reminder to have an abandoned town rotting away for over 40 years.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. 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

      1. I look forward to reading the rest of your A-Z stories. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. What a pity such a beautifully described place should become a ghost town!
    Great post!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, it does look fascinating. I would love to be able to go and see it for real, like time has frozen still.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah I would love to pay a visit too!!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. A sad tale of what otherwise is a beautiful little town.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. 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

    1. Puts things in perspective certainly.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I totally see why it is a story of folly – what a waste. Beautifully written again.
    Tasha
    Tasha’s Thinkings – Movie Monsters

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Tasha 🙂

      Like

  8. Nightlife of famagusta sounds promising 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A few drinks of the local drink and I’m sure it will be! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. 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

  10. What talent, Iain, to convey so much in so few words. 👏👏👏👏

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Martha, too kind!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. A poignant story – well done Iain

    Liked by 1 person

  12. 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.

    Like

    1. Thank you Pradeep – and no end in sight at all.

      Like

  13. And we’re back to war again 🙂 Excellent snippet of history again Iain, though in this particular story, I personally thought the story part could have been more.

    Liked by 1 person

    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!

      Like

  14. 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. I agree, it’s such a shame that there are places I will never get to visit in the world because of conflict and politics. Thanks for reading.

      Like

  15. I remember hearing about this battle through some Greek friends of mine. It seems a battle that is never ending. I love what you’re doing with these blogs!

    Liked by 1 person

    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

  16. 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

  17. Such a pity. Wonderful article, Iain. I like what you’re doing with this series.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Eva, much appreciated, hope you enjoy the stories still to come too 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Very sad. The remainders of war often hold the seeds of the next conflict.

    http://findingeliza.com/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed, the never ending circle. Thanks for visiting, heading over to check at your blog now.

      Like

  19. Stacey Explores Avatar
    Stacey Explores

    Fascinating. Abandoned spaces are so haunting. I love your them for the challenge! Excited to see more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Stacey, there is something quite eerie and yet fascinating about them, like they are frozen in time.

      Like

  20. It’s depressing to read about how a tourist mecca has slid so far. War has changed so many landscapes and cities for the worse.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A shame indeed, and that no one can experience such a beautiful part of the world. Thanks for reading.

      Like

  21. 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. Perhaps there are some places where it would be better if humans retreated and left it to nature, but here it is sad to see so many lose their homes.

      Like

  22. Well done. Some of us had no idea but this is one of the things I love about AtoZ–I learn a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jacqui, I only discovered it while doing a bit of research for my challenge.

      Like

  23. A very haunting piece, Iain. Have you thought about compiling your posts as a book? You should. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Varad, nice that you think they would be worth compiling – will see once/if I make it to the end of the challenge! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well begun is half done, Iain. Good luck

        Liked by 1 person

  24. Learnt things I didn’t know. I love history, enjoyed the post. Looking forward to read more from you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, glad you enjoyed 🙂

      Like

  25. This American hangs her head and again realizes how much going on in this world I don’t know about.

    Like

    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.

      Like

  26. I can see the crumbling ruins of what was once a thriving resort area. You have a very vivid way with words. Great post!

    https://katseaholm.wordpress.com/2018/04/06/f-is-for-feelings/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Kat, very kind.

      Like

  27. Wow. This town still exists as a ghost town. That must be so tough. To watch or pass by those reminders of airstrikes and destruction.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A constant reminder of a tragedy that has still to be properly resolved.

      Like

  28. This really took me there; mental pictures vivid. It’s a sad state of affairs, so much conflict in the world. Living in one big one right now is unsettling, at best. Keep up the tour. I like this travel group.

    Stu
    Tale Spinning
    https://stuartnager.wordpress.com/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Stu, the tour continues tomorrow!

      Liked by 1 person

  29. 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!

    Like

    1. Thank you Suzanne, so pleased you enjoyed them and hope you will like those still to come!

      Like

  30. This town looked eerily beautiful. Loved the way you drew the picture. Great theme Ian!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Meha

      Like

  31. Now this reads like a proper travel piece, could have a place in a contemporary magazine! Another style you’ve mastered.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, that’s what I was aiming at, a photo journalist being shown around the town.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yep, completely sold!

        Liked by 1 person

  32. I wrote a short spy series, and one of the chapters was set at the Larnaca International Airport on Cyprus, which I thought was a great place for a clandestine meeting between an MI6 agent and a Chinese assassin.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This ghost town would be a great setting if anyone is ever allowed to film there in the future.

      Liked by 1 person

  33. Make that “Nicosia International Airport”.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Another day, another new destination! If only I got passport stamps… 😛

    @IsaLeeWolf
    A Bit to Read

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wouldn’t mind being able to go on this tour myself 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  35. 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. So you were there at the time? How fascinating and what a lucky escape. I hope my story managed to do it justice.

      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

  36. Beautifully captured emotions of a dying city. It must have pained those who lived there.. I love the way you write!

    Keep smiling,
    Lakshmi
    http://www.lakshmiramanan.com/fiction/ghosted-for-g-a-z-blogging-challenge/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Lakshmi, I imagine those who once lived there are still to this day desperate to be allowed back, but for many it will already be too late.

      Like

  37. 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

    1. Thank you so much, glad you enjoyed the information too, such a sad reminder for those on the island of what they have lost.

      Like

  38. 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.

      Like

  39. Great story. I would love to visit those parts one day!

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Cyprus is such a beautiful country. Your poignant post brings home the fact that we humans refuse to learn from history and history, therefore, repeats itself over and over again.
    Why we insist on ruining lives and landscapes is beyond my comprehension.
    G is for Golden Cap

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Arti – that is something I have found writing these series of stories so far – so many wars, and no one seems to learn from them.

      Like

  41. What a terrible story. but true in more places than this, I suspect.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely, a few places like this around the world. Thanks Liz.

      Like

  42. I only know a few Greek Cypriots, including colleagues. Must be strange staring through that wire to see something sitting there for all those years, falling apart… this reads like a newspaper article – so, you haven’t actually been there, then?

    Aussie children’s writers: G is for Gleitzman and Griffiths

    https://suebursztynski.blogspot.com.au/2018/04/a-to-z-blogging-challenge-2018-g-is-for.html

    Liked by 1 person

    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.

      Like

  43. Excellent work! This is very well written. Loved it.

    Like

  44. War is a marriage of madness and sadness.

    Great entry for the Challenge!

    Liked by 1 person

  45. 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

    1. Exactly, wouldn’t it be good if we could just do away with lines drawn on maps!

      Like

  46. 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

    1. I remember this team playing in the competitions too 🙂

      Like

  47. Informative with well painted scenes – a story to get me thinking and researching.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, glad it got you thinking 🙂

      Like

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