“About a century ago, a child perched at his beloved hill was watching the sun setting over the mountains of Paphos, drawing the coast of Aphrodite with magical colours as he was listening to the rustling of the pine trees of Troodos whispering to him secret messages over the purple valleys and blue coasts of Morfu. Bereggaria stands since then above the same exact hill, built by that same child”.*
Ioannis Kokkalis, the former owner of Bereggaria, dreamed as a young man of building a hotel at his favourite hill in Prodromos village. During 1920 he was working as the supervising engineer at the amygdal mines where he met the English architect Walter Henry Klark, an acquaintance which would stigmatize Cypriot history as Klark became a few years later the architect of the” hotel of the Kings”, one of the most important mountain resorts of the 20th century in Cyprus.
Bereggaria took its name after the homonymous princess of Nevara, and later Queen of England and wife of Richard the Lionheart. It is said that Kokkalis chose the name to honour the fact that the couple got married in Cyprus and spent their honeymoon in Prodromos village. Others say that this was a way to flatter the English occupiers who were against any business activity of Cypriots.
Nevertheless, the name reflected the hotels’ magnificence. In a time where the average household did not have the basic necessities such as indoor toilets, Bereggaria had all the luxury and amenities of a high class resort. The hotel was a main attraction for Cypriot high society, wealthy Europeans, Arabs, and Egyptian royalty for numerous reasons. To name a few, the detail and luxury in every corner of the hotel, the services and amenities in offer and the whole royal atmosphere of the hotel rendered it in high demand during the first decades of its operation. Nature trails, football and tennis courts surrounded by pine trees, possibility for horse riding and playgrounds. Various events were organised for the entertainment of the guests, such as dance nights, concerts, theatrical performances, beauty pageants and many other events. All the above rendered the hotel a huge and important cultural center unique in its kind in all of Cyprus, especially in a time when the tourism industry was fairly underdeveloped.
There’s a testimony in a book about Bereggaria* from a lady who spent her honeymoon there during the 1940s. She says the area surrounding the hotel was very alive with amenities such as a bank, post office and café. It was the center of the village. Full of luxury she says “I remember very well the heavy velvet bordeaux curtains which were hanging from the high windows of the reception, but from the other windows of course which were very high as well. There was a restaurant, a playground and two bars. I remember the water of the pool always being cold. The kitchen offered European cuisine. There were parties at the pool and the gardens. The buffet was very impressive, and the gardens beautiful, enchanting!!”
Bereggaria quickly gained glory and success from the first minute of its operation which lasted for many decades to come. However, Bereggaria started declining during the 1970s and it all ended in 1984 when the CTO decided to shut down Bereggaria after complaints from residents about the bad condition of the hotel. It is said that the owners did not protect the hotel and there were many who vandalised the building stealing tangible assets and destroying the former diamond of Prodromos. During 2001 a fire which broke out in the building caused serious damages and the original roof was replaced with a metallic one.
Bereggaria now stands tall with its long lost glory, deserted and destroyed on that same hill, surrounded by the same pine trees. Nowadays there are a number of myths and a legend surrounding the hotel’s spooky appearance and it’s mostly known by the locals as the haunted hotel of Cyprus. The hotel is still a popular destination amongst tourists and locals, who take the hike up to the hill to admire the long lost glory of the once diamond of Prodromos village.
Some of the myths and legends surrounding the “haunted” hotel are the following:
It is said that there was a rich couple who were madly in love living in the hotel. The woman died under unspecified conditions and her husband, out of despair, committed suicide by falling from the second floor of the hotel. Another similar myth says that the husband, before committing suicide, buried his wife in a room of the hotel and that the door of the room was sealed. In both myths, the deaths caused terror to the visitors who abandoned the hotel. A tree trunk in the shape of two human figures hugging each other in the area of the hotel is supposed to have bloomed where the man committed suicide. People who support this myth claimed that they heard a woman crying in the room where the wife was buried.
It is said that a young lady drowned in the swimming pool of the hotel. People claim that they saw her figure in the clear waters of the pool at nighttime.
It is said that just before the closing of the hotel a fire broke out and that many primary school children who were having their summer holidays at the hotel were burned alive at the second floor of the building. There are allegations that during the night you can hear children crying. However, the only fire which broke out in the building was recorded long after the hotel closed, in 2001.
It is said that there is a mural in one of the rooms of the hotel which depicts the dance of hell. Many claim that they saw it and that it was horrifying. Whoever saw the mural would encounter bad luck in his life.
It is said that the eldest son of Ioannis Kokkalis, who had a special bond with the hotel, committed suicide because of some difficulties with the hotel. It is said that his ghost surrounds the hotel which he so loved. Most claims want the body to have been found at Prodromos dam, whilst others say it was found at the pool of the hotel.
Asides the above aforementioned myths, there is a plethora of claims from visitors of the hotel about paranormal activities which they encountered while visiting the “haunted” hotel. There are many photographs taken inside the hotel that have white dots. People claim that these are the souls that get captured by the camera. There’s a term which calls these white dots “orbs”, and scientists say that they are elements of the atmosphere not visible to the eye. Others mention paranormal activities related to electromagnetism, such as the cell phones and cameras switching off while charged, or their cars not starting. There are also claims of people seeing something moving from the window of the second floor. It is also said that whoever tried to renovate the hotel failed to do so, and many support the view that it’s because of the paranormal activities. However, these are just myths and legends transferred from mouth to mouth and no one really knows if they are true or not. Many are those who counterclaim the above saying that nothing is true about the “haunted” hotel. Nevertheless, these stories exist and can agitate one’s mind.
As mentioned above, Bereggaria has passed through various owners since its closing and nobody managed to renovate and reopen the hotel. The relevant companies seem to avoid explaining the reasons of their failure to do so. The hotel now belongs to Michalis Ioannidis, who bought the building in 2007, and who is related to the initial owner. He also used to work at Bereggaria and he has a great vision about the future of the hotel. His plans include the hotel becoming a casino resort, unique in its kind for the area, with amenities such as villas and a heliport connecting the hotel to the ski slopes of Troodos. Undoubtedly, this will bring new life and development to Prodromos village and the surroundings. For the time being though, the government is a barrier since there is a law prohibiting casino resorts in the mountains. There has been a proposal for amendment in the Parliament but no substantial measures were taken.
For many it’s considered the most remarkable achievement of the past century in Cyprus. For others it’s considered a haunted hotel which is surrounded by various myths and legends with main characters human beings and ghosts. Almost everybody knows the abandoned hotel in Prodromos village and it’s a place that is much loved by the people. And who knows, maybe someday we'll have the chance to play blackjack with the infamous ghosts of Bereggaria.
PHOTO CREDITS: YIOTA VARNAVA
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*1 Passage from a leaflet of Bereggaria
*2 Bereggaria: The Hotel of the Kings, Andreas Andreou