Phill has always been keen to learn about the history of Cyprus and is constantly trying to find out more about the country we now call home. From the Turkish invasion to current day affairs.
This Sunday morning trip for us was to find one of the many deserted villages which can be found around Cyprus. We were off to find Vretsia up in the hills around 30 miles from Paphos. Couldn’t wait as it was a beautiful sunny day and after the rain we have had everything is turning a lush green in the fields and hills beyond.
Vretsia or Vrecha (called by the villagers) is a village located on the southwestern foothills of the Troodos mountain range, five kilometres southeast of Panayia Khrysorryiatissa monastery and three kilometres northeast of Kilinia. Vrecha means “getting wet” in Cypriot Greek. In 1958 Turkish Cypriots adopted the alternative name Dağaşan, meaning “persons who overcome the mountain.”
Vretsia was predominantly inhabited by Turkish Cypriots from the 19th century. Throughout the 20th century, the population of the village grew and in 1946 it was recorded that there were 396 residents. Subsequent to this the village then began its decline and by 1960 based on the census figures had dropped to 386 and by 1982 to only 5. The decline was mainly caused following the Turkish invasion in 1974. The final census of the village was taken in 2001 where there was no one left living in the village.
During the war of 1974, the Turkish Cypriot Fighters of Vrecha refused to surrender their guns to Greek Cypriot forces who were trying to disarm the Turkish villages. After a ceasefire was declared in late August of that year, many villagers took their weapons and fled over the mountains to the north, then under Turkish control. During this period, the village also became a transit area for Turkish Cypriots who were trying to get to the Turkish-controlled north through the mountains. The 160 persons who remained in Vrecha were eventually evacuated to the north under UNFICYP escort on 1 September 1975. They were resettled in many different villages in the north.
Of course diminishing residents in the abandoned villages of Cyprus wasn’t always caused by the Turkish invasion of 1974, there were a number of other contributory factors, no work in the villages, in some locations there was mining but it too dried up. As Cyprus is also prone to earthquakes this has also been a contributing factor as they have caused landslides causing the homes to slide and become unsafe.
We viewed the village from the winding narrow road which takes you down to the deserted village of Vretsia.
And who was there to meet us but a donkey grazing in the hillside above the village. What a welcome
So strange looking as we drove into the village as we half expected to see people and houses lived in but alas that wasn’t to be. All the houses were abandoned and empty. Many had no windows, doors and in some cases missing walls and roofs. Some contained old furniture which could have been left when the people left their homes to go over the mountains and of course couldn’t carry it.
As we drove through we came to what may have been the village centre with the mosque and the village square. If you look really close at the top of the mosque on the minaret you can see bullet holes.
Initially I thought this was one of the small Greek Orthodox churches which can be see throughout Cyprus however, it turns out to be a memorial for a former inhabitant. I couldn’t see any names on this visit and of course didn’t try to venture inside – maybe next trip.
There were also a number of water troughs lining the little narrow road through the village one dating back to 1950 and the others 1961
Driving around the roads through the village we were able to see the back of some of the properties. Some of the grass looks like it is used by some of the other local villages for grazing their livestock (we did see a couple of horses and donkeys so you never know)
Former house and swing but more recently has been used as a tavern for local hunters and visitors to the village
But of course it wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t stop for a coffee or even on this occasion Sunday lunch so after our adventure we went in search of a taverna to stop, somewhere we hadn’t been before and of course this was easy as we hadn’t been this way so we found “The Spring of Life Forever” Restaurant.
Friendly staff, beautiful views, pork kebab with homemade chips and complimentary hot sponge pudding drizzled with carob sauce….what’s not to like…..
This trip certainly opened our eyes to Cyprus and realised there was much more to discover here on this beautiful island.
For our next trip we are off to the abandoned village of Foinikas, which is located just northeast of Anarita. This village was invaded by the massive military force of the King of England, Richard the Lionheart…….but that’s another story for another day!!