Tag Archives: Cyprus Green Line

Cyprus, Crossing The Green Line in Nicosia

Cyprus-Map-with-Postcards

One of the places that I was determined to visit in Cyprus was the capital Nicosia.  I thought I might hire a car and drive there but I changed my mind when I saw daily coach trips advertised as a much cheaper option.  With an eye for a bargain I signed up for the tour.

What a mistake that turned out to be.  One of the first to be picked up we spent a tedious hour driving around Paphos collecting up everyone else.

Eventually however we hit the highway and were on our way.  The coach had an informative guide who entertained us with a commentary about the history of Cyprus which came to the story of the Turkish invasion and the current partition of the island into Greek South and Turkish North.

north_cyprus_2017_1

This was an interpretation from a firmly Greek Cypriot point of view in which the Turks were always the bad guys and villains but every story has two sides to it so I researched it later.  This is my neutral interpretation…

  1. During the thousand year Byzantine Period beginning in 330AD the Greeks moved to Cyprus
  2. Ottoman Empire and the Turks take control of Cyprus and suppress the Greeks in 1571
  3. 1832 and the unification of Greece and Cyprus aspires to Unity
  4. 1887 Russo-Turkish War, Turkey loses and Britain acquires Cyprus
  5. 1914 Turkey joins the WW1 on side of Germany and Britain annexes Cyprus
  6. 1955 Greek Cypriots want Britain out and a union with Greece. This is the last thing that Turkish Cypriots want
  7. 1955-59 a terrorist war in support of Union and the Turks support Britain
  8. 1959 An independent Cyprus. No union with Greece but Cyprus is one country
  9. 1974 a failed Greek backed coup d’état with objective of Union with Greece
  10. Turkey invades Cyprus and the country is partitioned and divided and remains so today. Northern Cyprus recognised by only Turkey. All of Cyprus (north and south is in the European Union as one country (very confusing). Creek Cyprus no longer aspires to Union with Greece. Diplomatic talks continue to resolve the division issue.

Facts

  1. More Turks than Greeks were killed in the troubles
  2. More British troops than Freedom Fighters were killed in the troubles
  3. The UK Government paid out millions of pounds in compensation to Greek Cypriots who fought a guerilla war against Britain
  4. No compensation has been paid by Cyprus to the families of murdered British soldiers

As I said there are always two sides to a story and in this case there are three but the lesson for anyone who wants to make a claim for anything is that if you are going to sue anyone sue the British Government because we are real pushovers!

I wanted to see Nicosia because only recently I had visited a previously divided city – Berlin.  It is said that Nicosia is the only remaining divided city in Europe but I am not certain that this is true because I recalled visiting Belfast in Northern Ireland which has a massive wall dividing Catholics and Protestants, Unionists and Nationalists and the gates are closed every night to keep people apart.

Berlin…

Berlin Wall 04

Belfast and that is what I call a wall…

Northern Ireland Belfast Peace Line

We arrived in Nicosia about mid morning and I was immediately disappointed.  I am not sure what I was expecting but this wasn’t it.  It is a grubby sort of place, grey, boxy and falling apart and in need of a lot of attention, an awful lot of attention.  Anything worth seeing is neglected and deteriorating.  A bit like Coventry.  In 2017 Paphos was awarded European Capital of Culture status and I wondered why, ten minutes into Nicosia and I understood exactly why.

We made straight away for the border where we needed passports to cross to the Turkish side.  Not so long ago it was said that if anyone visited Northern Cyprus and had their passport stamped then they would not be allowed to visit the South or anywhere in Greece ever again.  I don’t think this is the case anymore but I was relieved when they didn’t stamp the passport because later today I wanted to return to Paphos.

Kim at the border crossing…

Nicosia border

Stepping over the border there was an immediate change of culture which was impossible to miss.  From Europe we passed into Asia with minarets, souks and bazaars, a constant call to Muslim prayers and a completely different atmosphere.  The border is called the Green Line and this is because green is a neutral colour, not the blue of Greece or the red of Turkey.  That is how sensitive people are about the partition issue.  I understood straight away why the Cyprus problem is so difficult to resolve.

The Green Line is rather like the London Underground District (Green) Line that separates north London from the South, the red of Arsenal from the blue of Chelsea.

London District Line

An example.  The city map that we had been given in the south had no street details for North Nicosia.  We got hopelessly lost and I showed the map to some local people who claimed complete ignorance about their city geography and refused to help.  I think it may have been because the Greek Cypriot map referred to it as an area under Turkish occupation.  Not very smart of me to show it to them and expect any sort of assistance because they are a bit touchy about their status.

We groped our way back to the border and stopped for lunch before crossing.  It seemed to me that most people in northern Nicosia were not especially happy people.

Back in the south we had two dreary hours to wait for the coach. We walked the walls, found the rather impressive Liberty Monument and the less than impressive City Cathedral and came to the Museum about the struggles which warned that it wasn’t really for British people who might be offended by the content so we walked on; strange really because after dodgy Russian investment the Cyprus economy relies heavily on British tourism.  Rather unnecessary in my opinion, it could have been worse they could have had the Russians!

We weren’t disappointed to meet the coach for the return trip to Paphos. We dined at a cheap kebab taverna later.  We had walked eleven and a half miles.

Kim joins the line of Cypriots released from seventy years of British oppression.  It isn’t often that I get defensive but I really don’t think so, without the British Cyprus might still be part of the Ottoman Empire or worse still, the Third Reich!

Nicosia Liberty Monument

Cyprus, Preparation and Arrival

Cyprus Postcard Map

I was tired of the long dreary English Winter, especially this Winter with almost two months of continuous wind and rain I was in need of sunshine so cheap flights to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus at only £45 return were just too good to turn down.

I had been to Cyprus before in 1998 but that was a family holiday spent at the hotel swimming pool and on the beach at the Olympic Napa Hotel close to the noisy resort of Ayia Napa and I rather foolishly neglected to see anything much of the country on that occasion so this time I thought that I would put that right.

Ayia Napa has a reputation as a sleazy sort of holiday destination so as this time we were to be staying on the opposite side of the island I had no plans to return there on this occasion.  In a 2017 survey it was in the top ten of European destinations that are spoiled by boozy Brits.  The others (in no particular order) were Kavos in Corfu; Red Sea resorts in Bulgaria; Magaluf, Barcelona and Benidorm in Spain; Malia in Crete, Riga in Latvia and Hvar in Croatia.  Such surveys make me ashamed to be British.

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In preparation for travel I carried out my usual research and used my favourite benchmarks to try and understand the country that I was visiting.

I started as usual with the Human Development Index which ranks countries by level of ‘human development’ and the statistic is composed amongst other criteria from data on life expectancy, education and per-capita gross national income. Cyprus is ranked thirty-first, out of one hundred and eighty-nine, one place ahead of Greece and which is regarded as quite high.

Next I look at the Europe Happiness Index and it is rated at only twenty-second out of thirty which is not so good.  Finland is the happiest and Albania (no real surprise) the least jolly.

The Country has three UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the entire Paphos region which is where we would be staying.

Paphos 04

Cyprus is famous for its Mediterranean beaches which stretch for roughly four-hundred miles and along this coastline are sixty-five Blue Flag Beaches which means an award winning beach every six miles or so.

My next measure is always the Eurovision Song Contest and Cyprus has participated in the annual contest thirty-six times since its debut in the 1981.  So far it has failed to produce a winning entry and the best performance was to finish second in 2018.

Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea after Sardinia and Sicily and together with Malta one of only two independent European countries. Both were previously ruled by Great Britain and as a consequence drive on the left hand side of the road and have a UK electrical system which means no need for European adaptors.  This would later be an inconvenience but I will come to that.

Every Greek Island has its own special Deity and Cypus has Aphrodite who it is claimed was born in the sea close to Paphos.  In Greek mythology Aphrodite was the Goddess of Love and Beauty.  She was married to Hephaestus but was frequently unfaithful to him.

In truth she was a bit of a slapper –  in the Odyssey, she is caught in the act of adultery with Ares, the god of war. In the First Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, she seduces the mortal shepherd Anchises. Aphrodite was also the surrogate mother and lover of the mortal shepherd Adonis and along with Athena and Hera, she was one of the three goddesses whose feud resulted in the beginning of the Trojan War. She was also the patron goddess of prostitutes.

Aphrodite 01

In 2019 I visited Berlin in Germany twice.  Berlin was once a divided city and I saw the remains of the wall.  Cyprus and its capital Nicosia remains a divided city, the last divided city in Europe (for the time being because history teaches us nothing).  After visiting Berlin I was interested to visit Nicosia and if possible cross the Green Line between Cyprus Greece and Cyprus Turkey.  I will come to that later.

We arrived in Cyprus early in the afternoon and a complimentary taxi transfer whisked us the ten miles or so to the Capital Coast hotel, just a short drive north out of the city.  A 1980’s hotel in need of some refresh and attention but we didn’t complain because we were given an upgrade room to a sea view (I had only booked a cheaper garden view) so we unpacked, settled down, sat on the balcony in the sunshine and opened a bottle of Cyprus beer and popped the cork of a bottle of a local wine.

This was light years away from the wind and rain and late winter gloom of the east of England.

Paphos 01