Tuesday, 11 December 2012

A Village in Cyprus

Pyla is a village 12 kilometers north of Larnaca in Cyprus. It is unusual in having a mixed Greek and Turkish population, one of only a handful of such communities. On reaching the outskirts of Pyla, one is greeted by a makeshift sign mounted on oildrums announcing the start of the UN Buffer Zone and forbidding photography. The streets are patrolled by the blue capped peacekeeping force, currently Ukranian. Should a crime be reported, either the Greek or Turkish police may become involved but only enter the village in plain clothes; only the UN have power of arrest. A Turkish army observation post is high above the village and from another hill Greek Cypriot soldiers keep watch. Continuing north, one reaches British Sovereign territory although there is little evidence of any boundary. After a further 3 kilometers, the border with Northern Cyprus is manned by British Customs officers and Turkish police. The village of Pergamos, known to the Turks as Beyarmudu lies immediately beyond the checkpoint. Here old men and farmers while away the hours playing backgammon and cards at the coffee shops. 

A small aircraft from the adjacent Kingsfield airstrip often flies over Pyla and sky divers are seen leaping from it's door for the aerodrome is home to the British forces parachute club. The thump of artillery rounds is sometimes heard from the nearby firing range. Visit the nearby Dhakelia base and bargain prices will be found at the servicemen's cafe. The shop is stocked with confectionery remembered from childhood and old fashioned stationery. The restaurant next door is said to serve the best fish and chips on the island and ex-pats drive miles to enjoy the food.

 Pyla, despite the military presence is a quiet peaceful village of about 1300 people. There are underlying tensions between the communties but the two groups live and work side by side even though they do have their separate schools, shops and bars. Five times a day, the muezzin calls from the mosque and often the bells from one of the three Orthodox churches will be heard. There is a sizeable British presence and Nigerian students and Asian workers add to this interesting mix. 

A strange quirk surrounds the electricity supply. For political reasons which date back to the 60's, the Turkish population receives free power. The village suffers frequent and lengthy power cuts following an explosion last year at the island's largest power station. Munitions had been seized from a ship in 2009 and stored at the naval base which happens to be alongside the generating station. A brush fire ignited the gunpowder causing a huge amount of damage including loss of lives.

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