The air smells of spring and on the flowerbed a happy bee hums arounds the tulips. We find ourselves in the courtyard of the couple Kristina and Atte Perttus’ house in Karmi, but we could just as easily have ended up in a Astrid Lindgren’s story. The afternoon sun streams through the tree branches and everything is incredibly beautiful.
Kristina fills our glass with apple juice while Atte brings out a big book with old pictures and basic drawings of the house. He shows me the pages of photographs of how the building, which was originally an olive mill, appeared before a major renovation was carried out between 1979 and 1983. The pictures show a ruin-like building where weeds had begun to grow through the broken roof. He says: “The Greek terrorist group EOKA had its headquarters in Karmi. They even spent time in this house and after the war the building was virtually destroyed. So a major renovation was necessary.”
When Kristina and Atte took over the house in 2015, it were in such a good condition that they could move in straight away, but they still chose to polish it up a bit. “The woodwork on the balcony, for example, had seen better days so we changed it. And the kitchen is brand new. The renovation took a total of five weeks.”
Kristina adds that they were careful to maintain the soul of the house. “It’s an old house, therefore we wanted an antique style of the furniture as well. We found helped from a great local carpenter, he has made the big wooden table in the living room and also renovated the chairs that surround it.”
Kristina and Atte come from Borgå outside Helsinki in Finland. The couple visited North Cyprus several times before they finally found their dream home.
“We came into contact with a Swedish real estate agency at an international housing fair in Helsinki. We went on a viewing trip to North Cyprus but all we got to see was newly built properties. We wanted something original in an area where people lived permanently, not where vacationers come and go. However, we fell for Cyprus itself, its tranquil and beautiful scenery, and decided to rent a house in Bellapais while we were looking for it,” says Atte. When they finally found the house in Karmi, it was just as they had imagined.
– Was it only in North Cyprus you looked for houses or were you also interested in other Mediterranean countries?
“It was only North Cyprus we wanted,” replies Kristina. “We had thought about Turkey earlier, but we were not treated as friendly as in North Cyprus. We were also not interested in countries such as Spain or Portugal, where there are already so many Scandinavians. We also went to South Cyprus and looked for properties but it did not feel right either. North Cyprus is really perfect for us.”
– What is it you like about North Cyprus?
“The colours, the sun, the food and of course all the nice people we’ve met since we came here. We have a big circle of friends here in Karmi. Here live, among others, Cypriots, Swedes, Finns, Norwegians, British, Canadians and Scots.”
Atte adds: “It is so calm and peaceful here. And it’s safe, we need not worry about burglaries or the like.”
– What do you do in the days?
“I mostly take it easy, read and devote myself to care work,” replies Kristina. “Sometimes I go to the ocean and swim, Atte likes walking in the mountains above the village, there are many hiking trails. At least once a day we visit the Coffee Corner or go to the local pub Crows Nest. They become like natural meeting places where we hang out with our neighbors.”
– How much of the year do you plan to be in Cyprus?
“We are going to be here for three months in the spring and three months in the fall. We have three children with families at home in Finland so we also want to be close to them. They visit us here in Cyprus too, especially one of our grandchildren who wants to come here as often as he can, he loves swimming in the ocean!”
Kristina takes me on a tour of the house. We step over two sluggish house cats, soaking up the sun at the entrance, and step into the newly renovated kitchen. Everything from countertops to cabinets is new, and the fireplace gives it a really cosy and homely feel.
We move on and pass through the living room with the newly carved table. A heavy wooden door leads us down a staircase to the big hall. It was here they once pressed olives. The beautifully designed arches are well preserved and polished to their original look in stone. The windows that open onto the church of Karmi emit the daylight and make the white walls shine. And furthest into the room is the old olive press, intact from its time.
“We do not really know about the history of the oil press before 1974, but when we look at the numbers on the title-deed, we see that this part of the house was built the same year as the church. Guessfully, this was the church’s property where the production of olive oil took place. At that time there were two olive presses and they were hauled with the aid of donkeys. We have been told that one of our guest rooms was previously a donkey stable!”
Kristina continues to tell: “Last summer, an old Greek lady in her nineties visited Karmi. She had lived in the village as a child but had not been here since. There was not much she recognised from that time. It was not until we brought her home to our house as the memories really came back. When she entered this room with the olive press, she burst into tears. It was very emotional. Unfortunately, we could not understand each other very well as she only spoke Greek, otherwise we would probably have found out more.”
Last Christmas, Kristina and Atte invited all visitors who participated in the church Christmas celebrations home for mulled wine and cookies. Over 70 people came! It was an evening when the rain poured down and despite the fact that the church was only a few metres from the house, the guests were soaked. Fortunately, the two open fires kept the guests nice and warm and it was a nice evening where everyone was gathered in the big hall with a warming mulled wine.
Before it’s time to say goodbye, we step onto the roof terrace to enjoy the magnificent view of the coast. Cloudy skies look down on us from the mountain peaks behind us and not far from there we see the Crusader fortress St. Hilarion Castle outlined against the sky. I feel happy for Kristina and Atte, because they have really found their piece of paradise. Kristina agrees: “We are very pleased with our decision to move to North Cyprus, we can really recommend more to do the same!”