Abandoned Villages of Cyprus (EN)
I was having a discussion with my friend Achilleas, about the Motorcycle tours he organizes, via his company, EuSouth&East Motorcycle Journeys, and he told me about a trip to some forgotten and abandoned villages in Cyprus.
He asked me if I could help him complete this tour since it would require passing through dirt roads that might be difficult to get through for the heavy on/off bikes that participated.
Of course, I accepted because I was looking for a chance to esxape from the daily routine and familiar routes. It was also an opportunity for me to try and ride outside my comfort zone, with the panniers and more load than I'm used to.
The big day came, I loaded the motorcycle with all that was necessary for an offroad trip and started early to meet Achilleas and Souli to where we arranged.
The atmosphere in Nicosia was suffocating, with a lot of fog and no visibility. There was so much humidity to the point where you could not close the visor of the helmet because everything would get blurry.
We took the highway for Choirokitia where would be the beginning of the adventure.
The first dirt road came up quickly, and we easily passed through it with very slow speeds, due to the large passenger-carrying on/off motorcycles. And so we arrived to the first two villages of the trek.
Precious metals were found in the mountains of Kalavasos area.
Two villages were created during the Venetian rule, which housed the miners. These villages were Parsata and Drapia.
Both of them are built along the valley of Vasilopotamos ("Royal river")
Parsata village is located just 3km east of the village Lageia.
The settlement, according to the findings, seemed like it was built to last. In the surrounding fields there are huge carob and olive trees, which reveals the intention of the village residents for permanent and continuous stay in the area.
A few kilometers further lies Drapia
Drapia village, that bears the name of the administrative circumference of South Italy, is a residue -"monument” of the Venetian Era in the island of Cyprus. It is built northwest of the village of Kalavasos.
Both settlements share the same story and the same fate. They were built almost within the same chronological period and both of them for the same reason. They were abandoned for the same reasons, as well.
As years went by, the mountain had nothing more to ooffer. The miners were left without a job and without a choice. They had to leave their houses behind, take their families and head to other territories where they could find work. Some of them went to Amiantos village and others to Mitsero village.
We headed for Pafos district through the motorway so we could save some time.
We would continue our trek to the rest of the villages after Kouklia village which was our first stop for coffee as well.
After we got some rest we took a dirt road just outside of Kouklia village that brought us just above Souskiou village.
Souskiou is located in the northeast part of the valley that Diarizos river had formed over the years.
During the Ottoman Era of Cyprus, Turks choose to build their villages in valleys that were fertile because of the rivers crossing them. So the beautiful valley of Diarizos, with its huge arable lands, was inhabited entirely by Turks.
In the village of Souskiou, the wealth and welfare of its residents is a prominent feature. In every neighborhood there is a fountain with drinking water.
The architecture of the houses varies depending on the time when each house had been erected. The oldest are built with huge irregular stones, coated with clay. While the houses built after the Ottoman period are built with square bricks, which villagers made themselves, from clay and straw.
In the years following the independence of the island, the houses were built with bricks.
The mosque, located in the center of Souskiou is the only building that is in good condition.
During the first years of independence, Souskiou was part of TMT's terrorist training. The village, well-hidden in the valley of the river, away from the eyes of the police, was the perfect place where disruptors could be trained on weapons, which they then turned against the legitimate authorities of the island.
In 1963 began the abandonment of the village. By 1974 the streets of Souskiou were empty. Today they only living creatures that moves through the cobbled streets are some pig "families".
We continued to ride along Diarizos valley through dirt roads, to the next village, Maronas.
During the Frankish period the village was very rich, and was one of 14 villages in Pafos that made up Little Commandaria of the St. John Knights, which had its headquarters in Foinikas village.
Maronas must have been a very big village, as well, because the Latins had established a religious center there, by creating a Latin Catholic Diocese.
No one knows when and how the village became Turkish and Muslim from being Maronite and Christian, but if we follow the historical events, we can assume that the village had changed identities after the Ottoman conquest of Cyprus.
In 1960, the village had 11 Christians amongst 100 Muslims.
Maronas survived until 1963-64 when its inhabitants abandoned their homes to seek safety during the intercommunal violence that broke out between the Greek and Turkish communities on the island.
We continued along the valley Diarizos, traveling to Trozena. The first thing that catches a visitor's eye is the green landscape that Diarizos formed.
In Trozena all homes have turned into ruins and the only building maintained in good condition is the church of St. George, which was built in 1885 and restored in 1993.
We walked into the village, which gave us the impression that the inhabitants fled in haste. Potted flowers were placed at the entrances of houses and some homes still had chairs and tables in their yards.
A house was closed off with a gate and it seemed that the owner was planning to renovate, possibly to use it as a cottage or holiday home.
Walking down the street to go to the church of St. George, an amazing view welcomes you. A natural spring surrounded by huge trees that can offer coolness and shade for rest. There is also a bench to sit.
Information says that the village was abandoned some 20 years ago.
Characteristic of the village is the old metal bridge with the wooden top, which can hold vehicles weighing up to eight tons. It was designed by an English engineer that served in the English occupation army.
We continued on a paved road, passing the nearby abandoned village of Gerovasa, which had almost the same story with Trozena, and we got to the village Choletria which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1953 and was rebuilt a few kilometers farther, but unfortunately we had no time to stop.
While passing through this village it's almost impossible not to notice the old church.
The most difficult routes of the day came up on our way to the village of Foinikas. It's one of the most famous abandoned villages of Cyprus to which access is almost impossible in rainy periods because of its location.
It is located northwest of the dam Asprokremmos in Paphos. And there are only two ways to reach it.
From Nata village the dirt road is smoother but it passes through the bed of Xeropotamos( Xeros river) for 200 meters. This means during rainy periods it cannot be accessed.
From Anarita village there is a very difficult and uneven path through a very steep narrow dirt street which "floats" on the verge of the towering cliff that ends in the deep waters of the dam. This road goes through a small stream, which is covered by reeds and wild vegetation.
Fortunately Xeropotamos had no water in it the day we chose to go and so it was the best way to and from the area.
The story of the Foinikas begins in the era of the Knights Templar and ends in about 1960.
In 1191 AD, King of England Richard the Lionheart invaded the island of Cyprus.
After defeating the Byzantines, he plundered the island and sold it to the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, or widely known "Templars&quo