Salamis: waiting to be discovered

salamis street

Salamis was a city with 100.000’s of inhabitants in ancient times. Only a small part of the city has been excavated, showing Roman and Byzantine remains. Much more is to be discovered as Salamis was founded already in the 11th century BC, ruled by Assyrians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Persians and Alexander the Great.

salamis unexcavated

Salamis lies next to the sea, at a not very proper but well accessible sand beach. As temperatures can be quite high here in the summer season, this offers a great opportunity to combine a visit to hot Salamis with a good swim to cool down. The site of Salamis is a deserted place. The first excavations here date from 1880 and all excavations stopped after the division of Cyprus in a Turkish and Greek part in 1974. The largest part of Salamis is still covered under sand and bushes. Visitors are scarce.

salamis baths
salamis statue of persephone

The part I liked most is the bathing complex from the 1st century BC, as it has several statues around it with the beautiful dark marble statue of Persephone (on the right). Salamis prospered during 15 centuries until it was destroyed by earthquakes and tidal waves in the 4th century AD. Only some Byzantine activity persevered in Salamis but Arab raids in medieval times brought islam and made an end to christian domination. Many stones from Salamis were used to build Gazimagusa (Famagusta) and other buildings all over the island. All other remains were covered under sand dunes and bushes.

salamis basilica of campanopetra

Worth your attention is also the 6th/7th century AD Basilica of Campanopetra. Cyprus was a very early christian island, as the apostle Saint Barnabas was born in Salamis from a Jewish family. There was a large Jewish community in Salamis, most probably due to its nearby location to Israel.  Saint Barnabas spent time in Israel, became a christian and an active apostle, traveling to major 1st century cities. He returned to Cyprus together with the famous apostle Saint Paul in 46 AD.

salamis mosaic basilica of campanopetra

They created a thorough basis for christianity in very early times in Cyprus. Saint Barnabas’ grave is very near to Salamis and open for visitors although rather disappointing. From the Basilica of Campanopetra site you can see the enormity of the Salamis site as well as the blue Mediterranean Sea. There is a very fine mosaic here (photo on the right), do not leave before you found it – a bit on the side of the ruins.

salamis gymnasium

The gymnasium of Salamis was among the largest of Roman era. Byzantines rebuilt it upon an older complex, destroyed in 4th century AD earthquakes. The marble columns do not match with the capitals on top, most probably the rebuilders just took pieces from elsewhere in the Salamis ruins. To be honest, the gymnasium itself is not very special to visit except for the impression of the large size; however the 44 (!) latrines where people would sit side by side in a semi-circle is a unique place to see.

salamis latrines
salamis latrines

They had good plumbing systems to secure hygiene, fortunately, that are still visible here. Note the funny sign in Turkish, Antik Tuvalet = antique toilet.

salamis the colonnade street

Particularly interesting are the roads that have been excavated. They show how well the roads were made, and also how large the city of Salamis must have been (for example in the 1st century AD it problably had 350.000 inhabitants).

Here some pictures of beautiful streets.

salamis harbour street
salamis street
salamis unexcavated

However, the best may still be uncovered here. Salamis has known Assyrian, Egyptian, Persian and Greek times: all I saw were the much more recent remains of Roman and Byzantine times. The nearby Royal Tombs and other excavations show that deep down there is more to see; much more. Salamis is waiting to be discovered.

Other blogs you may like:
* Harran, nothing to see?
* Göbeklitepe, zero point in time
* Vesunna Museum in Périgueux

Royal Tombs like Homer’s Iliad

royal tombs

Royal Tombs dating from the 8th and 7th century BC can be found in Northern Cyprus. The burial practices offer a good insight into ancient rituals just like Homer described them in the Iliad. However, it is more the knowledge about the Royal Tombs than the visit to the tombs themselves that is interesting.

royal tombs
royal tombs

Homer describes in the Iliad how kings and other noble personages were buried. His words are confirmed by the discoveries at the Royal Tombs in Northern Cyprus, although there are also archaeological theories about Homer being first to tell and invent and then the rituals on Cyprus following his epic narrative.

It is easy to find the Royal Tombs. If you go to the grave or the monastery of Saint Barnabas, north of Gazimagusa / Famagusta, you will see them along the road in the fields. Most objects found are in the Cyprus Museum in the South of the Island; I have not been there yet but it seems interesting as findings include chariots, a throne, incense burners, ivory objects, bronze horse bits and decorated breast plates, pottery and amphorae that contained oil and wine. Kings were buried with lots of grave goods.

royal tombs horse skeleton

On the location of the Royal Tombs however, only the stone buildings of the graves remain as well as the skeletons of horses: try to see one behind the glass on the picture (left). I am not sure if the glass ‘protection’ is helpful; most of them were so humid on the inside that it was impossible to see anything or take pictures. How can a humid glass house be protective for such old remains? My visit was December 2018; maybe it is dryer and more clear in summertime.

Burial in the era of the 8th and 7th century BC did not just come with the above mentioned grave goods but also with sacrifice of horses, donkeys and even humans. Archaeological research only started in the ’60ies here and gave a wealth of information. Whoever thought that Homer just made up his stories in the Iliad, found out that his description of burial practices was very accurate (unless you support the theory that the rituals were only shaped under the influence of Homer’s stories).

royal tombs
royal tombs
royal tombs 50

Most probably (part of) the Royal Tombs were used during many ages. Saint Catherine’s Tomb, number 50, for example, had a chapel on top that dated from the 4rd century BC. Archaeological research in the ’60ies revealed that the chapel was built on a tomb dating from a thousand years earlier than the 4th century chapel. By the way, the chapel was used for Saint Catherine’s veneration even in 1950 BC! So this location was special to many people during at least 2600 years…

cellarga graves
cellarga mezarlik

Not everybody could afford a Royal Tomb. Next to the Royal Tombs lies a necropolis of hundreds, or even thousands of graves. Just like the nearby ancient city of Salamis and the nearby Bronze Age city of Enkomi, only a minor part of the fields have been unearthed. What has been excavated, shows us tombs people could go to by steps downstairs that were cut in the rocks. Large stones sealed the entrances of the burial chambers that were used almost continuously from 700 BC until 400 AD.

Cellarka necropolis
necropolis of cellarga

The picture on the right shows the immense fields with so much left to excavate. Further on you can see the grave and monastery of Saint Barnabas between the trees. Next to the chapel of Saint Barnabas’ grave there are also findings of burial chambers. Maybe that is just ‘the other end’ of the same necropolis….

cellarga necropolis

Like the Royal Tombs, there is not so much ‘to be seen’ here. Nevertheless in the same time it is an exciting experience to stand there and oversee the place and consider that all you see might have been part of an immense necropolis, used during more than 10 centuries by hundreds of thousands of people. Neither in the nearby cities of Salamis or Enkomi nor at the Royal Tombs or Cellarga necropolis any excavation took place since 1974: the year that Cyprus was split in a Turkish and a Greek side. But nothing stops you from visiting the sites already now: you can feel the vibe of Homer’s Iliad here quite clearly!

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeological Museum

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeology Museum

The Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeological Museum in Northern (Turkish) Cyprus houses many beautiful artefacts: especially pottery dating from 2300 BC till 475 years BC. It was a pleasure to walk through the two different exposition rooms. The icon part of the museum is disappointing; rather new (19th/20th century) and mostly bad quality. But I do recommend a visit to other parts!

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeology Museum

Next to Saint Barnabas’ grave lies a (former) monastery – the last monks left in 1977. Nowadays it is the residence of the Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeological Museum: the banner above this blog notices the opening in 2017 but I remember a visit in the ’90ies when both icons and archaeological artefacts were already exposed. Most probably a more formal status was given to this place to attract more attention and thus visitors.

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeology Museum

You can enter through the gate where you pay a small entrance fee and find the church of the monastery immediately on your right hand. It houses the Icon Museum but that is not an interesting place to visit. There are no valuable old icons and the quality of the icons is poor. It looks as if the Turkish-Cypriot government didn’t know what to do with the church and some icons found and decided to combine the two into a museum.

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeology Museum

Just pass by the church to find yourself in the beautifully kept courtyard. The Archaeological Museum is housed in (several different) buildings that surround this courtyard. It is a simple museum, just showing objects as they are in showcases, with little signs for explanation in Turkish and English. The charm lies fully in the tranquillity of the place combined with the quality of the artefacts. This is not a modern, fancy museum, but a museum that you like if you like the unusual. Like in other blogs, I can only show here some highlights: there is much more to see. Some examples I liked:

Red polished double spouted bowl with plastic decoration, early bronze age, 2300 – 2075 BC, says the sign. Someone, living 4200 years earlier than us, decided to decorate a red pot with humans lying against or climbing up the sides of the bowl: how moving is that! What a brilliant artisan…

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeology Museum


And then this pottery: how can I describe it? The sign says ‘white painted ware and red-on-red flask, early bronze age 1900 – 1625 BC’. The description does not do justice to the originality and variety in shapes. Endless is my admiration for the artisans who made this in a period when they had ‘nothing’ compared to the instruments and techniques we have.

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeology Museum


Late bronze age pottery – 1450-1225 BC: amazing in its simplicity. Or is this late bronze age design? Amazing….

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeology Museum

I adore the warrior in this chariot: although he seems to be too small for the size of the chariot, he looks proud and confident. This is just one of a collection of very special terracotta figurines in this museum, from the archaic period 750-600 BC.

Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeology Museum

Among a series of terracotta heads, also from the archaic period, my eye fell on this one because his eyes fell on me. A strong and in the same time quiet, confident expression. Very nice to see. I was walking out of the museum when I passed by this one and he stopped me 🙂

The Archaeological Museum is worth a visit, even though the Icon Museum is disappointing. You can combine it with a visit to Saint Barnabas’ grave at immediate walking distance, to the nearby Royal Tombs, or to the ancient city of Salamis.

You may also like these blogs:
Archaeological Museum Sanliurfa
Archaeological Museum Amman
Museum of Art and Archaeology Périgord
Icons in the Antiphonitis church

Saint Barnabas’ grave

Saint Barnabas' grave

Saint Barnabas’ grave lies on the northern (Turkish) side of Cyprus, in the cellar under a small chapel. Although this saint’s grave is a major ‘asset’ for the status of the Cypriot-Orthodox church, no signs of love or care can be found.

small Greek-Cypriot chapel
Saint Barnabas' grave

I expected to find a place with worship and deep veneration but the grave of Saint Barnabas bears hardly any signs of that. To my surprise, street dogs were walking in and out of the chapel. The grave cellar contains just a few cheep pictures and a candle here and there. Whoever saw the decorations and worshipping around the graves of for example Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint John can not believe his eyes in seeing the treatment of Saint Barnabas’ grave.

Saint Barnabas' grave
Saint Barnabas' grave

Saint Barnabas was an apostle who worked a lot with Saint Paul. He was the one who introduced Saint Paul who was converted only after having persecuted the Christians, to the apostles who still feared that man. Barnabas convinced them that Saint Paul’s conversion was truthful. Saint Paul and Barnabas traveled together from Antioch to Tarsus to Jerusalem, from Cyprus to Pamphilia. The couple spread early christianity every where, until they fell out and split. After that both went their own way.

In 46 AD Saint Barnabas returned to the city of Salamis in Cyprus, the Island where he was born. The Bible does not mention what happened to him after that but Christian tradition dating from the 3rd century already has it that he died as a martyr there in Salamis (c. 75 AD). His remains are buried in a small grave cellar under a chapel not far from that ancient city on the northern side of Cyprus. As said the chapel is open for everybody, even dogs. The interior contains nothing special. Just take the stairs to go down and see the coffin in the cellar.

simple church interior
stairs in the chapel to go down to the grave cellar

The fact that Cyprus ‘has’ Saint Barnabas is the main reason that the Cypriot-Orthodox church is an ‘independent’ church. Unlike what many people think, they do not belong to the Greek-Orthodox or similar orthodox churches. Of course they do have strong ties but the Cypriot-Orthodox church makes it’s own policies, can go it’s own way. This was particularly clear in the ’60s and ’70s when archbishop Makarios was president of Cyprus. Religion and politics intertwined and there was no way to stop Makarios in his policies to let Cyprus become one with Greece (‘enosis‘) and oppress the Turkish-Cypriot community.

cellar with coffin of Saint Barnabas

During 30 years it was not possible for Greek Cypriots to go to the North and for Turkish Cypriots to go to the South but there is again free access already since 2003. You’d expect an investment by Greek Cypriots to make Saint Barnabas’ grave a respectable place of veneration. Or have they gone beyond the point where that matters – how proud are the Greek Cypriots of a church that is still a major factor in blocking peace processes in north-south negotiations?

road to the chapel of Saint Barnabas
road to Saint Barnabas’ chapel

Anyway, I found it painful to see the status of Saint Barnabas’ grave. Whatever today’s politics are like, he lived in a different turbulent period and did his upmost to create something new and good he believed in. He suffered for that and deserves a better memorial.





You may also like these blogs:
Saint Barnabas Icon and Archaeological Museum: the former Saint Barnabas Monastery where the last monks left in 1977.
Royal Tombs like Homer’s Iliad: not just the Royals Tombs but also the Cellarga necropolis lies here. Some graves excavated next to Saint Barnabas’ chapel seem to be part of that necropolis.

Panagia Tochniou Monastery – Northern Cyprus Heritage (23)

panagia toxniou

Panagia Tochniou Monastery or in Turkish, the Bulușa Manastırı lies in a beautiful spot of the Kyrenia mountains in Northern Cyprus. An high Cypress Tree that is 500 years old serves as a wishing tree. The place is deserted and peaceful when I arrive there.

panagia toxniou

Panagia Tochniou Monastery is in a better state than I expected when the locals of the village Agıllar (in Greek: Mandres) showed me the way, complaining that heritage is left abandoned and that nobody takes care of it. Panagia Tochniou Monastery lies at only 3 kilometers distance of Agıllar; follow the tarmac, you do not need to go over unpaved roads even if your map tells you so. The first 2,5 kilometers you think you will end up in the middle of nowhere with nothing to see. 

panagia toxniou

Then suddenly a great view opens in front of you: tree, monastery, fields and the Troodos mountains far away. The Cypress Tree is said to be 500 years old and 15 or 18 meters high. It was bigger once upon a time but it was struck by lightning and is now hanging over like the tower of Pisa.
The tree is full of little papers and cloths symbolizing visitor’s wishes: may they all become true!
Large iron rods protect the tree from falling: a merciful act accomplished by English inhabitants, a local in Agıllar told me.

panagia toxniou
panagia toxniou

The church of the
Panagia Tochniou Monastery is not in a too bad shape. I have seen a lot worse in Northern Cyprus (for example Antiphonitis, Sourp Magar, Agios Pandeleimon).
Panagia Tochniou dates from the 12th or 13th century: Find more details about that and a recent restauration here.

panagia toxniou

Inside, some traces of frescoes can be found in the dome and in arches. The tomb in the north wall seems to be the founder’s tomb.

panagia toxniou

In front of the church is a courtyard with buildings around it. On one side they are intact. You can enter the rooms that are empty. The view from the windows is spectacular. How on earth did they find this kind of spots in the middle ages to build their monasteries? Well done, for sure!

panagia toxniou

There is not a lot left from the other buildings around the courtyard of Panagia Tochniou but a look around is interesting. I saw several different marble pillars that are certainly not medieval. Most probably they took them from the ruins of nearby Salamis, an ancient city that thrived for over 1200 years until it was destroyed by the Arabs in the 7th century.

panagia toxniou

On a visit in 2012, a reporter from the local newspaper described the place as a total mess (you can read it here in Turkish, quite funny) where nobody ever picks up the garbage, but when I visited Panagia Tochniou Monastery (December 2018) it was clean. And peaceful, most of all. A beautiful place.

Find the Panagia Tochniou Monastery on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sinir-Üstü-Buluşa-Manastırı/312056435663223

Agios Mamas Agıllar – Northern Cyprus Heritage (22)

Agios Mamas Agıllar

Agios Mamas Agıllar lies in a small village of just a few hundred inhabitants, called Agıllar in Turkish and in Greek: Mandres. Nobody looks after the church. In the village, there are tensions between Turkish Cypriots and Turcs. My visit was more interesting for the meeting with the locals than for the church Agios Mamas Agıllar.

agios mamas church

Agios Mamas Agıllar is an abandoned church taken over by the pigeons after being used as a mosque for many years. It took me quite some time to find the name of this church and now that I have the name, I still haven’t got a clue how old it is. Feel free to comment below if you have information about this church, that would be interesting.

agios mamas Agıllar

I met a local who felt uneasy about the state of the church: ‘our municipality should care more but they do nothing’. I wondered, is it not the Greek-Cypriot religious authority that is responsible here? But he was sure, ‘no, for general maintenance the municipality is responsible’. Well, in that case they surely lack in task execution…

Agıos Mamas Agıllar

The only thing about the church that struck me was the fact that it still has a clock. Usually clocks are removed as soon as churches are turned into mosques. Maybe they did remove the Agios Mamas clock but kept it in a safe place and put it back when they did no longer use Agios Mamas Agıllar as a mosque.

agios mamas Agıllar

Agios Mamas Agıllar was maybe not that interesting for a simple tourist like me but the meeting with the locals was. A conversation that started in the streets of Agıllar soon ended in the local cafe La Marina, a century old house that had the traditional shape many houses had before they were broken down by the Turcs who came to live here. Indeed it is a beautiful place with nice arches and a wooden roof. Tea and cakes were offered by the Turkish-Cypriot inhabitants.

Agıllar

They told about the existing tensions between themselves as Cypriots and the mainland Turcs who had come to live in Agıllar and now form the majority. One of the Turkish Cypriots worked in the Greek South where he tried to learn Greek and his colleagues Turkish because they have a deep Cypriot desire to understand each other and share a common culture again.

Agıllar local cafe

Almost by accident I find out that there must be an old monastery nearby, nowadays called the Bulușa Manastırı, the Bulușa monastery. Again it took some time to find the real name that appeared to be the Panagia Tochniou Monastery. A local explains that it is abandoned just like the church. That makes him angry. Next to the monastery stands an old and precious tree that might be falling down. Who takes care of the tree? Not the Turkish Cypriots, nor the Greek Cypriots. They are worthless and do nothing for preservation. It is the English who safeguard the tree. Isn’t that a shame?! I do not know how to answer to this tirade of a Turkish Cypriot and nod silently. Whether I talk with Greek or with Turkish Cypriots: it always seems to be someone else’s responsability…
I must see this monastery for myself, that is clear. The goodbye is with warm greetings and an invitation to come again. Plus indications for the road to the monastery that is a few kilometers off the road.

Agıllar, just a few hundred inhabitants with a Turkish Cypriot minority compared to Turkish mainlanders. Warm hearted and visionary in different aspects of the word: worth your visit, especially if you speak enough Turkish to exchange ideas on a profound level with the locals.

You may also like these blogs about abandoned churches in Northern Cyprus:
https://grethevangeffen.nl/2018/01/16/agios-nikolaos-limnia/
https://grethevangeffen.nl/2015/12/25/agios-mamas-church/ > church with the same name as this blog but in Bahceli
https://grethevangeffen.nl/2011/07/29/gaidhouras/

Apostolos Andreas Monastery – Northern Cyprus heritage (21)


The Apostolos Andreas Monastery lies in the Karpaz, the rather deserted and naturally beautiful northern peninsula of Cyprus. Historic sources tell that the Apostle Andrew landed here for a moment on one of his travelings through the Mediterranean. Since very old times this place was considered as a holy place and visited by many pilgrims. However, christians were not the first people to visit the Karpaz; not only remnants from the Roman period were found, also from the far earlier Iron Age. 
The actual Apostolos Andreas Monastery dates from 1867 and rest partly on walls of a 15th century chapel. The former cells for the monks lie empty around the complex that is guarded by one or two priests only. President Erdogan visited the region in 2011 and promised to cooperate for a UNDP project to renovate the church. Most of the work has already been done by a combination of Greek and Turkish Cypriots (or their companies), with nice results, worth a visit. Some adjacent buildings are still being restored.

Monastery in a divided island
Since Turkey took hold of the northern part of the Island, there has been a lot of hustle and bustle around this holy place. For the restoration, cooperation of both the Greek and Turkish Cypriot community did not come just by itself: UNDP had a strong role in that. Anyway it is the Greek-Cypriot hope to get back not just the monastery but the whole Karpaz peninsula once that peace negotations have finally proven successful. And the Turks do what they always do in areas that might be disputed. They keep investments low > the last part of the road to go to the monastery is the worst road of Northern Cyprus. And they show their power by calling the primary school of Dipkarpaz the ‘Recep Tayyip Erdogan School’ and the large square in front of the Apostolos Andreas Monastery the ‘Bülent Ecevit Square’; Ecevit was the Turkish Prime Minister in 1974 who decided to send the army into Cyprus to help the Turkish Cypriots. It is a strange pattern since over 40 years now of Greek Cypriots Always complaining as if they have no role whatsoever in what is happening, and the Turks showing muscles instead of empathy.

Useful links

Other blogs you might like:
Sourp Magar, Armenian monastery in Turkish Cyprus
Monastery Antiphonitis in Turkish Cyprus
Monastery Pandeleimon in Turkish Cyprus

Church of Saint Helias, Mutluyaka (Stylloi) – Northern Cyprus heritage (20)

 

The church of Saint Helias in Mutluyaka (Stylloi) is rather new: it was opened in 1953 by president and head of the church of Cyprus Makarios; the sign to remember that moment is still on the wall inside the church (see the photograph on the right). In 1974 the Island of Cyprus was divided in a Northern and Southern part. The Greek Cypriots inhabitants of the village that then was called Stylloi, went to the South while Turkish Cypriots who lived in Mouttagiaka / Mutluyaka, an old Osman village in the very South of the island, resettled in Stylloi in the North and renamed the village of Stylloi after the village they left.
As the church of Saint Helias is quite new, there is not a lot to tell about it. The amount of concrete used is too big to call it ‘lovely’ like many other Greek churches still are. Inside, it was stripped of almost all objects, as you can see in the photograph I took.
Outside, around the church of Saint Helias, is a graveyard that has been destroyed. The best comment I can make about that is to refer to the blog I wrote before and the publication of M. Thorsten Kruse from the university of Münster in Germany. The strange thing about villages like this is that they changed from completely Greek Cypriot to completely Turkish Cypriot – the actual Turkish Cypriots living there left an all Turkish village behind. The grief and the nostalgia on both sides must be enormous, and maybe also the bad feelings or even hate.
The church of Saint Helias in Mutluyaka is deserted and you can visit it without any problem. I tell that here because people have asked me during the last years what happens when they go visit and look around. I have visited many churches in Northern Cyprus by now, as you can see in the range of blogs on this site and I have never been bothered by locals (or the army); whenever I needed help, I got it. The climate in Northern Cyprus is peaceful and friendly; do not worry and just go for what you want to see or know.

Some useful links about the population issue:
http://www.prio-cyprus-displacement.net/default.asp?id=409
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mouttagiaka

Other blogs you might like:
Ermelaos and Lapta – Northern Cyprus heritage (4)
Agios Nikolaos in Limnia (Mormenekse)
Agios Mamas church – Northern Cyprus heritage (15)

Agios Nikolaos in Limnia (Mormenekşe) – Northern Cyprus heritage (19)

agios nikolaos limnia
It is absolutely lovely: the church of Limnia (in Turkish Mormenekşe): Agios Nikolaos. Built in 1863, beautiful details can be found at the walls, in the tower, agios nikolaos limniaat the main porch.
It has been in use as a mosque and as far as I could see also as some kind of cultural house for the village. Whether that is still the case, was not clear when I visited; in other places churches are no longer used as mosques because new mosques have been built. Everything was closed, I could not enter the church Agios Nikolaos in Limnia and there were no people around to answer questions.
On the front side of the church, both the Turkish and the Turkish Cypriot flag were present which could indicate some kind of actual use. Alternative activities are not necessarily a disadvantage for a building, although I know that it is hard for Greek Cypriots to see their heritage used for other religious or nationalist purposes. When it comes to preservation, in Northern Cyprus churches that have been used or are still used, often show a much better state of affairs than empty churches that fall into the hands (feathers and dirt) of birds, rain and wind. Empty and deserted churches (since 1974 = for decades) have step by step fallen into decay – here are some examples.
There is a house next to the church Agios Nikolaos in Limnia, most probably some kind of dwelling for priests, that looks beautiful but proves the statement: it is empty and in a bad state that will not improve just by itself. The lovely details might disappear if nobody preserves this house or restores it.
Limnia was an all-Greek Cypriot village until 1974; the Greek Cypriot inhabitants fled to the South when the Turkish army entered Cyprus. Turkish Cypriot refugees from Southern Cyprus became the new inhabitants of Limnia and named it Mormenekşe after the village in the South they came from.

Useful links:
http://www.cyprustemples.com/templedetails.asp?id=535
http://www.prio-cyprus-displacement.net/default_print.asp?id=592

You might find these blogs also interesting:
Abadi church: Northern Cyprus heritage (17)
Agios Prokopios – northern cyprus heritage (9)
Gaidhouras – Northern Cyprus heritage (8)

Alaniçi: visiting Atlilar monument (6/end)


After the astonishing visits to the monument for Murataga-Sandallar and the Sehitler Müzesi, a last visit in this area remained: the finding place of the bodies of the Atlilar massacre. 37 people were killed and bulldozered into their grave in such a way that bodies could not be separated any more when the massacre was uncovered.
When I walked on that specific spot, the most striking aspect was the normality, the field-like aspect of the place. That spot looks like ‘the middle of nowhere’ and everybody knows nothing happens in the middle of nowhere. So how did these heavy things occur right here? It would be reassuring if a place where very bad things happen, had some kind of special sign or mark. But there is none. Of course now there is a monument and a man made statue in the former mass grave. Information boards tell visitors that abnormal activities took place here; but this information board is broken. Somehow, remembering does not seem to be serious business. It really irritates me to find broken information boards in memorial places like this, like I wrote in the blog about Murataga-Sandallar. How serious do officials take their own history? And how come locals don’t force them to do their duties and take care of the boards?
Also, we got more here about the ‘sehit’- approach (see my blog moving memories and then the last part) on one of the remaining, non-damaged information boards: this monument was erected in memory of these 37 martyrs who did not flee from their village, and defended the honor of the Turkish flag on the cost of their lives‘. I found it difficult to read this text neutrally.
How can I describe a visit to the Atlilar monument? If you go there directly without visiting other nearby places, it might be very interesting. If you come to Atlilar after Sandallar-Murataga and the Sehitler Müzesi, the question is not so much to find something ‘new’, but to honour the dead, the individuals who died here without maybe even knowing why. If you do not care at all about any interpretation of what happened, you will feel just sad, maybe even overwhelmed by the cruelty and heartlessness of the events. And your understanding of the Turkish community in Cyprus and the role of Turkey will deepen.

Davet – Nazim Hikmet

Dörtnala gelip Uzak Asya’dan
Akdeniz’e bir kısrak başı gibi uzanan
bu memleket, bizim.

Bilekler kan içinde, dişler kenetli, ayaklar çıplak
ve ipek bir halıya benziyen toprak,
bu cehennem, bu cennet bizim.

Kapansın el kapıları, bir daha açılmasın,
yok edin insanın insana kulluğunu,
bu dâvet bizim….

Yaşamak bir ağaç gibi tek ve hür
ve bir orman gibi kardeşçesine,
bu hasret bizim…

 

Alaniçi: moving memories of 1955 – 1974 (5)


In the Şehitler Müzesi that I found by accident (see blog 4 in this series) I bought a book that was published in 2015 under the title: 1955 – 1974 Step by Step Genocide – Murataga – Atlilar – Sandallar. It is a rather simple, straight forward book and therefor impressive. It contains the stories of survivors of the massacre in 1974 along with pictures of the victims. The stories are quite different, there is no sign of an editor or anything. They are not always logical or consistent and that gives it a pure and attractive style. It flows the way locals tell a story and you follow their story line without even breathing.
There is only one lesser thing to tell about the book, and that is the English translation. I am sorry that I did not buy the Turkish version because on several occasions the English translation is so bad that it is difficult to find out what was meant originally. I could have bought even both versions, for 10 TL per book it is very affordable. But I didn’t, alas. Now, I give you my analysis of some aspects of this book.

Remembering
It matters to remember and to personalize the victims. A news item like “89 women, children and elderly were killed in Murataga – Sandallar” is terrible and then quickly disappears. This book shows the list of individual names and photographs of these 89 persons and those killed in Atlilar. It gives names and faces to the people we remember; it makes the crimes committed come much closer to our hearts and minds.
Most people on the pictures do not smile. Apparently being photographed was serious business at the time. This somehow increases the impression that is made on the observer. Some photographs are vague, it seems that that was the best they could find for the book. At least some memory is given to us, even though it is imperfect.
Remembering in this book is a mixture of photographs of those who were killed with the stories of the few who survived. This is an influential way of remembering. As a book, there are quite some technical failures – but that is maybe why this book is so interesting. It is pure and it is a direct message both from the deceased and from the survivors. There was clearly nobody ‘in between’ to interprete, to correct or to think about how to get the message across. The message is just the message. Remembering in this book is about hearing and listening to authentic stories.

Different memories
Authenticity also means that memories differ. My impression is that some memories were influenced by actual events in the Middle East. For example two survivors say that they saw decapitated corpses when the victims were excavated. As said in an earlier blog, the corpses were bulldozered when they were buried. Other survivors say they saw loose body parts at the excavation, which is, combined with atrocities elsewhere in the Middle East, probably the explanation for the idea that there was decapitation. There are some claims that the attackers threw locals from the mosque, raped the women, dragged them on a rope behind a bus or burned the bodies. There are also claims that victims were buried while still alive.
Some survivors state that UN officials knew what was happening or even witnessed some facts; that they helped the locals afterwards but did nothing to prevent or intervene. Others do not speak about the UN at all.
This book is not a scientific study. The truth for all this is that we do not know exactly what happened. This book should be considered as a good start to deal with this past.

Peace, justice, nationalist and islamic influences
No one was punished for the massacres at Murataga, Sandallar and Atlilar. In 1974 Cyprus was simply split in a Northern and a Southern part and initially it seems that people just wanted to forget about the past. Several victims that tell their story in the book call for justice. Others just rely on Turkey for protection. They feel that nobody except the Turks helped and will help them and this is more or less true with the exception of Kofi Annan who organized the 2003 referendum (where the Turkish Cypriots said yes to reunification but the Greek Cypriots said no).
All seem to agree that remembering the massacres is the only way to prevent that such cruelties happen again. The calls to remember go hand in hand with calls to be human:
“The struggle of Turkish Cypriot in order to exist in Cyprus has not finished yet. The form has only changed. Maybe, it is going to continue a few generations more. The thing to do is to reach the honoured peace and carry on this struggle, knowing the past by not forgetting it and, without being slave under the emotions of anger and hatred. Remembering the past is not for bearing a grudge to somebody, it is important to know who and how much we will trust in”. (p.122)
I am giving this message to the youth. Do not forget your past and think your each step learning from the past. Do not be deceived. We are not trying to affect you to hate. Be kind and humanistic, and do not do anything Greeks did. Do not concede from your freedom and land. Live with your honour. This is the gift for you from our martyrs” (p. 193)
And there it is, the word ‘martyr’, in Turkish (and other languages in the Middle East): şehit. Talking ‘martyr’ instead of ‘victim’ has a meaning. Martyr is related to islam: he who sacrifices himself in the nationalist and islamist Turkish fight will go directly to heaven, a Grey Wolf adept explained me with enthusiasm: ‘me myself I have made many mistakes but if I fight in a war for Turkey and die there, they will all be wiped out’. In the 21st century narrative, the locals that died in this massacre, in my eyes as innocent victims – from a 16 days old baby to 95 year old elderly – become strong people who stood up for the Turkish flag and the Turkish identity and thus deserve martyrdom. The word ‘şehit’ is on the museum, on the graveyards, on the roadsigns and in the book. I like to refer here to the exposition I saw in the Stockholm National Historic Museum that questions who is telling your history. In Cyprus there is now a nationalist and islamist narrative in place that was not there 20 years ago. It is clear that the making of this book derives from that narrative, even though not every local in the book shares it. The question is why people interested in this narrative have taken on the making of a book about the Murataga – Sandallar – Atlilar massacre; it is worrying and likely to effect the peace process as well as the islamisation of Turkish Cypriot identity. However, the question is also why nobody in the 3 decades before was interested in the making of a book about the Murataga – Sandallar – Atlilar massacre and in justice for the victims….

“I was teacher in the semester of 1973-1974. I had twenty five students in the class. They were all murdered and martyred. I cried for them (…). There were two deaf students among the students in the class, one of them was a girl, and the other was a boy. I can’t forget them. (…)
I remember how Uncle Rüstem come back from captivity. He lost his wife and four children. Who would console? Everybody was wounded, and was so sad. We cried all together.
Then, all of us were unhappy in the village. We wanted to run away and be freed from all pains. Elder people in the village offered to go to Dörtyol, and we went together. It wasn’t like we thought, because our pains were with us, as well. There is still fire burning inside of us. It is something that will never end inside.
I hope that the ones, who hurt our hearts, are going to be punished. I really desire this.” (p. 162-166)

* 1955 – 1974 Step by Step Genocide Murataga – Atlilar – Sandallar, published by MASDER, the association to keep alive the memories/martyrs. Published Cyprus 2015 (no ISBN)

 

 

 

Alaniçi: a school as Şehitler Müzesi / Martyr’s Museum (4)

A school serves as Şehitler Müzesi, the Martyr’s Museum for Murataga, Sandallar and Atlilar where massacres took place in 1974. I passed this museum by surprise, on my way from the monument and mass grave of Murataga and Sandallar to the one in Atlilar. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a museum, maybe it is of rather recent date. It is quite small and somehow one of the saddest places I have ever been to.
The school lies in a kind of courtyard where there is enough place to put your car. I was the only visitor that day and the day before me there was also only 1 visitor. As you can see in the picture, there are information boards on the left (in Turkish) and the right (in English) along the path to the Şehitler Müzesi and they are really good. Of course the perspective of the information is the Turkish Cypriot perspective; this is not the place for an interesting two-sided history. If you go to the Şehitler Müzesi, you look through the eyes of the locals of Murataga, Sandallar and Atlilar. As their perceptions are rarely found in the news or other sources of information, I found it very enrichening for a better understanding of why things are felt the way they are in Northern Cyprus.
The school of Murataga-Sandallar was not very old. Until 1958, children used to go to the mixed school of Alaniçi (in Greek: Pigi Peristerona). There had always been some pressure on the Turkish Cypriot children but the heavy troubles of 1958 chased all Turkish Cypriot children away and forced the last Turkish Cypriot inhabitants of Pigi Peristerona to leave and move to the smaller village of Murataga (in Greek: Maratha). Murataga welcomed the ‘refugees’ and built houses for them. At that time also a school and a mosque were made. Who could imagine that on August 14, 1974, 29 children (their names are in the picture) of that school would be killed, bulldozered and buried in mass graves?
However, what affected me most, was the guide of the museum himself… At the time of the massacre, most Turkish Cypriot men were in camps where the Greek Cypriots kept them as prisoner; some young men like himself had already gone to places where the fights took place, in his case Famagusta (in Turkish: Gazimagusa). While they were absent, the women, the children and the elderly were murdered. The men who survived and returned to Murataga, Sandallar and Atlilar, found out that they lost almost everybody. For the museum guide this meant: his mother, his five sisters and his brother – you can see them in the lower row on the picture to the right – and his aunt and her seven children. Only his father who was a prisoner at the time of the massacre, survived.
Now, this man is every day in a museum that – compared to museums in Amsterdam where I live – has hardly any visitors and he stays in that school alone facing the pictures of his murdered family members and all the other victims every day…
The museum has a video (Turkish only) about the event but I didn’t watch it.

If you are interested in the history of Cyprus, I do recommend the Şehitler Müzesi even though it might cover you with a blanket of sadness; it will highly contribute to your understanding of the Turkish Cypriot soul, and why they put safety first in all the negotiations with the Greek Cypriots.

The Şehitler Müzesi has published a book under the title: 1955 – 1974 Step by Step Genocide – Murataga – Atlilar – Sandallar. I bought the book and will tell you more about it in my next blog.