Mountainous PITSILIA is one of the remotest parts of the Troodos Massif. Spreading eastwards from the main B9/B8 Lefkosia to Lemesos road that loops through the mountains, the region is sparsely forested, with large areas of hazel and almond trees and grapevines. Little visited or known, it has a character and charm all its own, and is beginning to make attempts to attract tourists, with a small but growing number of places to stay and eat. Like other parts of the Troodos Mountains, Pitsilia is associated with the struggle for independence and enosis, memorials to EOKA fighters are encountered in many villages, and the Greek (as opposed to the Cypriot flag) is still much in evidence.
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AGROS, the main village of Pitsilia, is an attractive spot, its red-roofed houses (many of which are on stilts) cupped by the mountains at the head of the Agros valley. It’s known across the island for its rose petal products, sold at several shops along the serpentine main street (for example Venus Rose at 12 Triantafillou t25521893, wwww.venus-rose.com). You’ll also find several tavernas raucously popular with locals and shops selling the village’s traditional sweets (try Nikis at 5 Triantafillou t25521400. During the first half of May the area’s dedication to roses is celebrated in the Rose Festival. Just across from the main square are two churches – one, Panagia Eleousa, built at the beginning of the twentieth century, the other, Timon Sprodromos, slightly older and encased in modern stone walls and a wooden roof.
Agros feels remote, yet is eminently accessible, being thirty minutes from Lemesos along the E110 and twenty minutes from Troodos east of the B9. And the surprising presence of a very large hotel, sited high on the hill with extensive views both south across the village and north across the mountains, makes it the perfect base for exploring the region.
Situated in the undercroft of Panagia Eleousa is the Frangoulides Museum, dedicated to the work of a well-known artist, Solonas Fragoulidi, who lived in Agros for two years in the 1930s. Lots of his pictures adorn the church above, and the museum, once the local cinema, has rough drafts and sketches and additional finished work by the artist.
The Monuments of Heroes
The Monuments of Heroes
On a hilltop between Pelendri and Kato Amiantos to the northwest, the activities of EOKA in this part of Pitsilia are comprehensively commemorated in the Monuments of Heroes, a heavily symbolic clutch of linked memorials in a natural woodland setting. Entrance is through the “Porticos”, which places the fight against the British against the backdrop of Greek history, and includes portraits of Makarios and Grivas, together with marble rolls of honour. This is followed with the Room of the Fighters which has artwork and a big-screen film presentation, and the 108 Steps of Freedom, each representing a fallen EOKA fighter. The steps lead up to a large paved hilltop capped with the Monument of Freedom and the little Chapel of Panagia Eleftherotria, representing the large part played by the Greek Orthodox Church in the struggle. It’s all a bit florid, yet the natural setting lends it a certain gravitas.
Cyprus’s old warhorse: General Grivas
Cyprus’s old warhorse: General Grivas
Together with Archbishop Makarios III, General George Grivas (whose nom de guerre was “Digenis”) is the person most associated with the “Cyprus Problem” between the 1950s and 1970s. Born in Trikomo (now Iskele) in northeast Cyprus on May 23, 1898, he, like Makarios, studied at the Pancyprian Gymnasium in Lefkosia. When he graduated he fled to Athens, apparently to avoid an arranged marriage and it was here that his military education began. Having joined the Greek army as an officer, he served in the catastrophic campaign in Asia Minor which ended with the expulsion of the Greeks from Turkey in 1922. Despite this setback Grivas gradually moved up the ranks, making captain by 1925 and major by 1935.
During the German occupation, Grivas was involved in what can only be described as the murky deeds of the far-right organization “Khe” – the Greek letter usually represented as an “X” – which he founded and led. It was said to be far more concerned with attacking Greek communist guerrillas than the occupying forces. Indeed, there have been accusations of collaboration with the Nazis – at many times during his career, Grivas’s political hatred of the left seems to have outranked his patriotic Hellenistic pride.
After the war Grivas played a significant part in the Greek Civil War (1946–49), fighting for the government against the communists. He stood unsuccessfully in the Greek elections of 1951, one of several times when his attempts to turn to politics failed, perhaps owing to a distinct lack of the common touch. Following his dream of enosis (unification of Cyprus with Greece), he returned to his homeland. He met Makarios, and the two of them, together with other supporters, formed EOKA, the Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston or “National Organization of Cypriot Fighters”, pledged to the overthrow of British rule in Cyprus and union with Greece. If there was any disagreement between the two men at this stage, it was that Grivas favoured full-scale armed rebellion, while Makarios wanted to limit action to the destruction of property.
In November 1954 Grivas landed in a caique loaded with arms and explosives on the west coast of Cyprus, near Pafos, and on April 1 the start of the armed struggle was announced by explosions all over the island. Grivas led the rebellion from a series of hideouts, in Lemesos, and later, the Troodos Mountains, attracting a price of £10,000 on his head. After Makarios was exiled in March 1956, Grivas led both the military and the political struggle from a hideout back in Lemesos. Finally, when the archbishop accepted a British offer of independence without enosis in 1959, Grivas decamped in disgust to Greece – his exile was part of the final agreement. In Greece he was deliriously greeted as a hero, and promoted to general.
The deteriorating situation in the new Republic of Cyprus attracted him back to the island in 1964, where he led Greek hardliners in the National Guard and a division sent by Greece. Attacks on leftists and on Turkish Cypriots became increasingly outrageous, until the massacre of 27 Turkish Cypriots, many unarmed civilians, in Kofinou and Agios Theodoros caused worldwide revulsion. The Greek division, and Grivas, were withdrawn. The general returned once more to Cyprus in 1969, and re-established EOKA, now called EOKA B, whose aim this time, in addition to achieving enosis and suppressing Turkish Cypriot opposition to it, was also to combat the Greek Cypriot left. Virtual civil war broke out between EOKA B and the left, while Turkish Cypriots formed heavily armed enclaves. Finally, in January 1974 and still in hiding in Lemesos, Grivas died of a heart attack, thus avoiding the disastrous Turkish invasion that his actions had done so much to precipitate.