Cyprus: Page 1 | Page 2
The difference between the North and South can be seen most vividly in Nicosia/Lefkosa. From the Woolworth's tower in the south, from which you get a commanding view of the city and the Girne mountain range to the north, I snapped the following pictures. While northern Nicosia has little plumbing, hardly a building more than a few stories and almost nothing remotely new, the south could be any European city with western stores, a long shopping street, very high prices and modern infrastructure.
Walking through the unpaved streets of northern Nicosia, past the chain smoking groups of men playing backgammon, the women carrying their loads on top of their heads, the occasional rubble and bullet holes, I saw this young girl:
Having been assured by many people that the border was finally open between north and south. I ventured towards the buffer zone. To my delight, the border between north and south had opened around two months before I arrived. Previously, it wasn't possible to cross nor to visit S. Cyprus or Greece if you had a stamp from the TRNC. Luckily, those days are gone. The Turkish side of the border was fairly uneventful.
The Turks stamped a piece of paper with my name and passport number on it and told me to go on. Similar to Israel I thought. However, having no intention of going to Greece anyway, I politely asked for a stamp using the universal language of hand signs. The border however, lets you out into the buffer zone through which you must walk around half a kilometer until the Greek "border." This was by far the most interesting part as it is currently occupied by the UN and is a virtual time machine back to the 70s as nothing has changed. Empty stores which still have "open" signs hanging in the window make up a virtual ghost town.
The Greek side of the border, was a different story though. Two officialls sat on the porch of a small passport control building, looked at me and waived me on, without even seeing whether I had a passport. Not wanting to miss out on the chance to get a unique stamp, I approached him and after English and German failed, reverted to the sign language of asking for a stamp, which he refused. After a few more attempts, I gave up, disappointed. Yet, a few steps further was something which would shock yet entertain me, outrageous anti-Turkish propaganda. Jumping on the chance, I pretended to take a picture with my hands asking the official whether it was allowed. Surprisingly, he didn't care and waved me to go ahead. I immediately whipped out my trust digital camera to document the insanity. One sign has pictures of missing persons, others of Greeks wo died and my favorite was the island of cyprus crucified and nailed to the cross.
This sign, however, took the cake.
For a block or two on the Greek side of the buffer zone were barbed wire, sand bags, bullet riddled buildings and former sniper posts.
At this point, at the very end of the European-style shopping street, was an observation point where you could look over at the Turkish side of the city. Very Berlin like. There was an armed Greek guard there with whom I talked. Considering Turkish soldiers were all over the TRNC (i.e. Turkish soldiers from Turkey), I wondered if this was a Greek Cypriot solder or a Greek soldier. His English didn't quite lend itself to much conversation but he did confirm he was Greek Cypriot. I peered over at the other side through the sand bags and barbed wire. Nearby, there were a number of monuments, one listing more missing persons and sporting various anti-Turkish slogans which talked about genocide, clearly demonstrating it's loose usage these days.
Below, you see one point of the border with the buffer zone on the Greek side. Throughout the entire city, Greek Cypriot soldiers sporting western weapons patrol the area, though all are free to walk through the area. Here I met a young couple. The husband worked for the State Department and was assigned to the embassy in Ankara. He'd spent around 10 months travelling through Turkey, covering the entire country learning more about the culture and local issues. He'd learned Turkish at the Defense Institute in California. I asked for tips on applying to State.
This final picture was taken during sunset in the mountains outside of Girne from a car window.
Cyprus: Page 1 | Page 2
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