By Heidi Trautmann
It was one late summer evening only last year that we were sitting on the roof of Mountain Road 1&3 in Upper Karmi under the huge tent of the milky way with a glittering carpet of lights, loosely knit around the village in front of us and tightly woven towards Kyrenia. The wind coming down from the mountains cooled our hot skin. We were talking about Karmi, about the very beginning of our hosts in 1972, the first construction works on their house which had to be interrupted during the 1974 intervention by Turkish Forces. Very few people had lived in Karmi then and most of the houses were in ruins.
Our friends brought their albums for us to see the state of the village throughout the first years and I told them that it would be worthwhile to collect all the photos and stories about the village and make a book of it. I had met with Nadia Brunton one year before she died and had gone through her photo albums as well and I was amazed about the richness of documentation there was.
And here we are with just the book that I had thought of we should have. A photographic history book with pieces of memories by the still living tenants, by letters and newspaper clippings, by quotations made to the authors, a patchwork all have contributed to. It is not only to have documented how things were like before 1974, with most of the young village population having left the village for a better life down at the coast, with better chances for work, a situation which by the way you find everywhere in villages in Greece and its islands – with houses beyond repair slowly taken over by nature, it is also to show the enormous effort of a handful of people to breathe new life into this old village. A village which already existed in very old days when people moved into the mountains for fear of pirates.
Nadia Brunton was the soul of the project, she, the Belgian woman, living all by herself in Karmi as the only one to protect the Church and the village from pillagers; and we learn in this book how she approached the new authorities to help her, and we learn about Mustafa Cemal who persuaded his ministry to carry through the fantastic idea of offering to foreigners the chance to renovate and partly own the houses: the leasehold project which came into life in 1983.
There is a lot of enthusiasm necessary to renovate or rather build up from scratch the ruined houses but there existed plenty of it and this effort and the problems the new tenants were going through were the cement that brought and kept them together. The older tenants would help the newcomers and thus an admirable village community was established solving problems together but also celebrating and partying together.
Karaman, the model village, visited by all tourists but also by expats living elsewhere on the island to spend the day walking along the many romantic and harmonious lanes well cared for by all the tenants, visiting the Art Gallery under the Arches to find paintings of one or the other Karaman renowned artists, to later sit in the shade under old trees high above the sea with a fantastic view along the length of the coast.
Karaman and its story that should be made known to all Cypriots and expats living here.
The book was compiled by Jean Clark and Corinna Phillips and published by Karaman Special Village Committee in 2010 with an introduction by the Founder President of the TRNC who himself was a regular visitor of the village at all times with his camera.
The book is available at the Crow’s Nest, one of the four village pubs/restaurants and on every Monday at the Village Office in the Village Square from 10 – 12 am at TL 20.