Magic Moment in Mathikoloni Village

I can still do it you know. They say you should never go back. Yes, but it’s not hard for me to conjour up moments in places like this: places that first exercised their magic on me so long ago. In fact, when we first stumbled on Mathikoloni, back in 1987, we thought its ruined structures were unique. Later we were to discover that abandoned villages were everywhere in Cyprus: the original Apsiou, Athrakos, Choletra, Mathikoloni, Vretcha (The Place that brought  Grief): the list is endless. It stretches back through time to the ancient cities, Kourion, Amathus, Kition and Lapithos and Idalion: back again to Choirokitia, Akrotiri and other traces of the Stone Age scattered about the island.

Already we had got to September, 2015. The ruins of Mathikoloni were behind me, the new village out of sight further up the road, though the church still in use, was in view, proudly surveying the ruins at the top of the hill. There are various reasons for the abandonment of so many villages, and indeed larger settlements in Cyprus. They range from land slips to urban drift, to political factors (along the Green line and of course, Varosha). Mathikoloni was abandoned during the particularly severe winter of ….? which exposed the weakness of its foundations. Other villages abandoned, for similar reasons,  at the same time include Evretou and Korfi. The latter actually suffered a land slip that destroyed a few houses. In all cases the situation was so severe that the inhabitants had to take refuge with relatives or even in temporary camps that were set up to  tide people through a winter when snow fell on the Mesaoria. Later government money became available for the relocation of new villages on more stable locations nearby.

So this was Mathikoloni revisited for the umpteenth time. I was sitting on a backside-shaped rock, eating my sandwiches by the side of a rustic road, feeling contemplative, even philosophical – well Okay, drowsy and maybe a bit sentimental. The irritations caused by a few flies couldn’t detract from the warm November sun, or the carob trees framing Kyparisha and the rest of Limassol Forest in front of me. I watched the occasional tiny car far in the distance crawling up the switchback road to Dierona.  In a detached way, I indulged  myself in reliving other moments the details of which were, I dare say, rosily inaccurate. Even so, this sure as hell beat staring at a  computer screen for hours on end.

Yes, the thriving new village of Mathikoloni, is now in commuting distance of Limassol and with that awful winter a one off of the past, the new village encroaches slowly back onto parts of the old site. Caution. New houses have appeared near the forest road up from Akrounda and, guess what, the weather has already got into a concrete enclosing wall built on the unstable marls of Mathikoloni.

I haven’t been there recently, but I wonder if the new house built near Korphi  on similar foundations, continues to list in obedience to the rules of gravity.  September and the clours of autumn were starting to appear in the terraced vineyards, reminding me of that magic moment I experienced a few years ago in Pitsilia.