By Bejay Browne
AS HOME to the island’s first casino and the birthplace of the 18th century dragoman Hadjigeorgaki Kornesios, the Paphos village of Kritou Terra has much to boast of.
Its many attractions have just been given a very incongruous boost, for dotted around a number of prime locations in the village are a series of painted gypsum penguins, kitted out in ‘penguin suits’. They were all made by the mukhtar’s brother.
“My brother, Andreas Charalambous, has a fascination with penguins and he decided to make some and place them around the village. They are mostly down by the stream, the springs and the picnic area, and are for the children to look at,” said community leader Dervis Charalambous, a retired police sergeant.
He added that his brother donated them for free to the community and won’t be making any more.
The penguins are proving popular with visitors, and the residents seem to have accepted their bizarre neighbours, according to Chalarmabous.
Kritou Terra has a population of only around 80 or so villagers, though numbers swell to around 150 during weekends and holidays.
The village is found in an idyllic setting about 30 kilometres from Paphos and is steeped in history. Along with Kornesios, the community board lists a number of prominent personalities from the village including the poet Tziapouras and EOKA fighter Savvas Petrides and has numerous old buildings.
“We also lay claim to having the first ever Cypriot casino built in 1878, the 16th century Ayia Katerini church, the 12th century Ayia Paraskevi church and the village church was built with the funds provided by our most famous and influential resident in history, the dragoman Hadjigeorgaki Kornesio who died in 1804,” said Charalambous.
For the last twenty years Kritou Terra has also become synonymous with the Environmental Study Centre (ESC), an NGO housed in the old village school, which, according to the director Lyndon Taylor, aims to educate children on environmental issues. Up to 3,000 students under 18 visit the centre each year.
“We get many private groups of all ages from Cyprus and abroad who visit us for studies. We are involved in numerous eco and bicommunal projects,” he said.
Taylor added that Charalambous, who took over as village leader two years ago, is a proactive mukhtar who is aiming to attract more visitors to the area.
“Work has already been undertaken along a nature trail to give greater access to ramblers and there are plans to undertake other work in the area. People have got used to the penguins dotted along the way,” he said.
Charalambous noted that upgrading works in the last few years include pathways, tree planting and building stone walls.
“Further work is needed at the waterfall and includes a picnic area, nature trails and restoration of the old watermills. So far we have spent around 500.000 euros.”
He said a further half million euros is needed to successfully complete all the projects.
“We may try to get these funds from Europe, or locally,” he said.
The mukhtar hopes the upgrading works – aided by the village’s new black and white residents – will encourage visitors to seek out the village.
“Our goal is to attract as many people as possible and not just tourists, but also potential future residents,” he said.
“Kritou Terra is one of the prettiest villages in the area, it has fantastic climatic conditions and because it’s located by the third biggest spring in Cyprus it’s green all year round.”