Written by Diana Darke
The heavily guarded perimeter fences of Çamlıbel’s army camp hide a secret whose precise origins, though hardly ancient, have been lost in an obfuscating mêlée of conflict and hastily rewritten recent history. To investigate the mystery you’ll need photo ID, TL2 for the entrance fee, and just two words, ‘Mavi Köşk’, to pass beyond the gun-toting sentries and into a twilight zone of Cyprus’s past. Mavi Köşk or the Blue House is testament to one man, Byron Pavlides, though for all their amiable manner it’s likely that your Turkish military guides will be unsure even of this fact. The army’s story is that Pavlides was a gunrunner for Greek Cypriot EOKA terrorists and the house was sited in its lofty position in order to oversee the arrival of weapons shipments at the coast below. They will also state that the building contains secret escape passages and storage rooms concurrent with its usage as a hub for terrorist activity. It’s further suggested that rather like a paranoid pharaoh, Pavlides ordered the house’s architect, his own brother, and the unfortunate workforce to be shot upon its completion. Given extreme circumstances one could perhaps sympathise with Pavlides’s sentiment if not his actions in this excess. However, there’s little evidence to support the story. What’s beyond dispute is Pavlides’s eccentric nature, manifest in the unique design and colour scheme of Mavi Köşk. Exploring the house, it’ll be for you to judge whether the blue walls, blue-painted furniture, kitsch mock taverna with colour-coded tables and chairs, combined with a multitude of 1970s-style bathrooms, sunken fountains and, for its time, sophisticated air conditioning reflect a ruthless and violent criminal mastermind. What is known is that Byron Pavlides was a wealthy businessman, holding the dealership franchises for a number of automotive manufacturers across Cyprus. The house was built in 1973 and was not the first ‘coloured’ house that Pavlides was responsible for, having first conceived the ‘White House’ near St Hilarion, now also in the domain of the Turkish military. Returning to the myth, following the 1974 invasion Pavlides escaped from Mavi Köşk by the skin of his teeth via a bespoke escape tunnel. All Turkish soldiers found was a locked safe that proved to contain a single golden key, whose significance remains tantalisingly unknown to this day. Byron was not Mheard of again till 1986 when a rumour arose that he had died in Sicily, shot dead at a Mafi a meeting by a Turk.