It’s not uncommon to come across virtually deserted villages throughout Paphos Region. Many of these villages became ghost towns after the Turkish invasion of Northern Cyprus in 1974. As the Turks-Cypriots fled north, they left their homes as they were. The land and property being held protected for the day they might return. The result is that villages stand empty for nearly 40 years now, during which time they have decayed to the point of being ruins.
These ruins are a very real and continuing shadow of the 1974 Cyprus war. Walking through these villages today, there’s a spooky feel about them. You don’t have to look hard for signs of the often forcible nature of the occupant’s relocation.
More than one quarter of the population of Cyprus was expelled from the occupied northern part of the island where Greek Cypriots constituted 80% of the population. A little over a year later in 1975, there was also a flow of roughly 60,000 Turkish Cypriots from the south to the north after the conflict. The Turkish invasion ended in the partition of Cyprus along the UN-monitored Green Line which still divides Cyprus today. In 1983 the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus declared independence, although Turkey is the only country which recognises it.
Androlykou and Theletra, deserted for different reasons
I visited two abandoned villages in the Paphos district, Androlykou and Theletra. The first was left to its own devices during the 1974 war, the second supposedly due to landslide risk.
Androlykou is a former Turkish-Cypriot village, its Turkish name Antroliku. The villagers lived by livestock farming, predominantly sheep and goats. A few families still live here apparently, hence the goats, but I saw no people at all.
There’s the dilapidated Old Theletra and an uninteresting New Thelatra. In Old Theletra once lived 500 souls. The old village was abandoned in the beginning of the 1980s because of a huge earthquake that made the nearby hills to fall. Or so the story goes… Rumor has it that there was no space left for new ‘brides houses’ in the old village and that the villagers’ children could not longer be accommodated. So the inhabitants made up the story about the landslide risk in order to get land from and funded by the government.
Living your dreams in the Cyprus countryside
The buildings in Theletra are hardly in pristine condition, but equally they’re not showing the ravages of 40 years of abandonment. Several houses have been restored and it’s obvious more are being restored. So gradually Old Theletra seems to be coming back to life. The charming little church, dating from 1755, has obviously undergone a recent facelift. It has an interesting interior (the door is usually unlocked) with a fine wood-carved iconostasis. Watch out for dolphins, a rare theme!
In my photography I mainly focused on two themes:
- on how quickly nature reclaims what has been abandoned
- and on the juxtaposition of contrasting ruined buildings in their bucolic countryside location
On the way: three generations of buses
On the way: abandoned (farm) houses