Varosha can truly be called a Ghost Town. Nobody lives there. Few, if any visit it and if you could, then its ghosts would be ever apparent in the silence, the stillness and the ‘frozen in time’ sights before you.
On the 15th August 1974, all of the residents of Varosha left, fearing death or worse at the hands of the Turkish invaders who were, at that very moment, fighting the Greek Cypriot army on the streets of Famagusta, a mile or so further north. They left at a moment’s notice. No time to collect treasured possessions or to clear tables or to lock up houses. They hoped they would be able to return within days or weeks but deep down they feared it would be the last they would see of their homes and businesses.
Over the last 35 years the town has gradually given in to nature. The streets have cracked in the heat of the summer sun, the roots of plants, free to grow wild, have invaded walls, floors and windows, gradually breaking down the man made structures, determined to return Varosha to the wild. Accounts tell of meals left uneaten on dining tables, of clothes, fashionable at the time, fading in boutiques along the streets and of cars, now classable as vintage, sitting brand new in garage showrooms waiting patiently for buyers that will never come.
Apart from the hotels and shops, churches stand empty and forlorn, now home to thousands of birds who have lived and bred uninterrupted by humans over the decades. Turtles now return to nest on the beautiful beaches of the resorts, safe, knowing that their eggs will rest undisturbed under the pitch black night sky until ready to hatch. Older buildings, many made from traditional , have crumbled under the ravages of nature, some barely recognisable from the homes they once were. And under the midday sun or the cool bright moon, silence reigns, broken only by the call of a bird or the scuttling of lizards.
The perimeter is patrolled by the Turkish army and the United Nations. The UN politely, but firmly, turning away the curious or the heartbroken former residents drawn towards their homes by memories and unfounded hopes. The Turkish army, less understanding, threatening harm or imprisonment to those who break through the flimsy, rusting barriers and fences to catch a glimpse of what was. Many brave the risks, taking heart rending photographs of the town which, even in their two dimensional form, still exude sadness and despair.
Each time Varosha appears in the news or in details of the endless and seemingly hopeless settlement negotiations, the visitors to the wire increase, then fade away with the dashed hopes, leaving the town to its creatures and its ghosts.
August 25, 2010
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