Varosha - The Ghost Town of Forgotten Summers
Muhammet Fatih Ogras/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

On the eastern coast of Cyprus, the district of Varosha in Famagusta tells a haunting story of conflict, division, and lost glamour. Once a bustling and glamorous seaside resort, Varosha now stands frozen in time, a ghost town caught in the crosshairs of political strife.

In its heyday, Varosha was a jewel of the Mediterranean. During the 1960s and early 1970s, it was one of the most popular tourist destinations in Cyprus, attracting celebrities and tourists from around the world with its beautiful beaches, modern hotels, and vibrant nightlife. The town was a symbol of prosperity and peace, with its elegant streets lined with shops, restaurants, and chic apartments.

However, the summer of 1974 marked a drastic and tragic turn for Varosha. In the aftermath of a coup d’état by Greek Cypriots who aimed to unite the island with Greece, Turkey invaded Cyprus. As Turkish forces advanced, the residents of Varosha, fearing a massacre, fled their homes, expecting to return once the situation calmed down. That return never came.

Following the invasion, Varosha was fenced off by the Turkish military. It became a no-man’s land, inaccessible to its original inhabitants and left to decay. The once-thriving resort turned into a ghost town overnight, with personal belongings, vehicles, and furniture left as they were in the rush to escape. The high-rise hotels and apartment buildings, once symbols of luxury and modernity, now stand empty, their windows broken and their facades crumbling.

The eerie silence of Varosha is in stark contrast to its past vibrancy. The streets, once bustling with holidaymakers, are now overgrown with vegetation. The shops, stocked with 1970s goods, are coated in dust, and the beach, once packed with sunbathers, is empty except for the patrolling Turkish military.

Varosha has become a symbol of the Cyprus conflict and the complexities of the island’s political situation. Its fate remains a contentious issue, tied up in the ongoing negotiations over the future of Cyprus. For the former residents of Varosha and for Greek Cypriots, the town is a poignant symbol of loss and displacement. For Turkish Cypriots and Turkey, it is a strategic bargaining chip in the geopolitical dispute.

Recent developments have seen partial reopening of Varosha, leading to international controversy and renewed attention on the town’s future. This move has been met with mixed reactions, seen by some as a step towards normalization and by others as a violation of international law.

Visiting Varosha is a journey into a complex and painful chapter of Cyprus’s history. The ghost town serves as a stark reminder of the fragility of peace and the human cost of conflict. In the silence of its abandoned streets, Varosha speaks volumes about the consequences of war and division, holding within its decaying walls the memories of a happier past and the hope for a resolution that still seems distant.

 

 

Don Leith

By Don Leith

Retired from the real world. A love of research left over from my days on the debate team in college long ago led me to work on this website. Granted, not all these stories are "fun" or even "trivial" But they all are either weird, unusual or even extraordinary. Working on this website is "fun" in any case. Hope you enjoy it!