By Constantinos Psillides
Overlooking the village of Prodromos on Troodos mountain, deep within the pine forest, lies the Berengaria hotel, a former luxurious resort that used to be one of the crown jewels of Cyprus’ mountain tourism.
Opened in 1931 and closed down in 1984, the stone-built Berengaria today stands desolate, its rooms and halls that once entertained even royalty are now home to dust, obscene graffiti and exposed to the elements.
Having withstood the passage of time, Berengaria has now become an unofficial and rather dangerous tourist attraction.
Like all self-respecting abandoned old buildings, Berengaria also has its share of myths surrounding it, most passed down during family gatherings around the fire. All the “ghost great hits” are here. A former manager who killed himself and now wanders the halls in search of new victims, a merchant’s wife that was supposedly found dead in the swimming pool and now seeks to avenge her death and a fair maiden with black raven hair, dressed in white linen and visible only during the dusk hours leaning against one of the windows.
Its reputation as haunted was also boosted by the fact that until the 1990s at least clothes had been left in wardrobes, beds in the bedrooms and piles of crockery – bearing the hotel’s insignia – were left in the storerooms, untouched. Dusty postcards with photographs of the hotel lay scattered on the entrance hall floor.
Adding to its legendary status is that the hotel was named after Berengaria of Navarre, the queen consort to King Richard I of England. Richard was to wed Berengaria but a ship taking her to the Holy Lands was shipwrecked off the Cyprus coast and she was taken prisoner by the island’s ruler, Issac Komnenos. Richard did not take the insult lightly, taking a break from crusading to conquer Cyprus and taking Komnenos as a prisoner for good measure. Richard and Berengaria were wed at a chapel in Limassol.
Berengaria’s aesthetic, its stunning location, eerie atmosphere and abundance of legends make for an irresistible combination.
Locals who are curious to see a hotel that attracted an international clientele in its golden days, tourists who stumbled upon its story online or merely a passerby who got a glimpse of the impressive building in the distance all come to visit.
According to the hotel’s current owner, Michalis Ioannides, on weekends anywhere from 100 to 200 people visit the site.
“You just can’t keep people away. They flock from all over the place, intrigued by the hotels’ rich history. Imagine if the hotel was still operational,” said Ioannides, explaining that he repeatedly took measures to stop or at least discourage people from entering the grounds but with little success.
He is concerned about safety. Parts of the building are certainly dangerous, particularly for young children.
“Over time I’ve fenced the area, put up warning signs and barriers even surrounded the place with police ribbons. Nothing works. Visitors keep tearing them down and ignore the warning signs. Nothing can keep them from visiting the hotel, wander its halls and marvel at the architecture.”
Ioannides is related to Berengaria’s original owner Ioannis Ioannides Kokkalos through his grandmother, who was Kokkalos’ sister. Ioannides didn’t inherit the estate but bought it in 2007 with the goal of renovating it.
Some very basic work has been done. A temporary roof and essential support structures have been installed, original fixtures and fittings removed and plaster stripped from the walls. But despite this, the original building is relatively unchanged.