Friday, 1 August 2008

The UN Green Line in Nicosia, Cyprus

Nicosia (Lefkosia if you’re Greek and Lefkosa if you’re Turkish) is the world’s only divided capital city.
The political problems on Cyprus mean that the city is split in two, with the south controlled by the internationally-recognised Republic of Cyprus. The north is under the control of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognised only by Turkey.
Between the two, there is a narrow buffer zone under the control of the United Nations. This strip crosses the entire island and is known as the Attila Line elsewhere, and the Green Line in Nicosia.It’s a sad sight, but a fascinating one.
It’s possible to walk along the streets that are by the side of the Green Line – as long as you don’t go taking pictures of the army checkpoints, barbed wire and painted oil barrels.
There are some signs of life – crumbling houses just outside the line have occasionally been converted into workshops. On the whole, however, the Green Line is eerily abandoned.
Take a peek over the military posts, and it is possible to see what would have been the city’s most upmarket buildings. But since the Greek sponsored coup and Turkish invasion in 1974, the buildings have remained untouched.
Walking along the Green Line, therefore, offers a sombre but fascinating look into history.
The one place where you can cross within the city’s Venetian walls – and the difference between the two sides is instantly noticeable – is at Ledra Street. Hopefully, in future, the two communities can resolve their differences and the Green Line will be no more.

Getting there
Nearest international airport: Larnaka International Airport is Cyprus’ main point of entry.
By public transport: By taxi, it’s about 45 minutes from Larnaka airport to Nicosia. Regular buses are available from the centre of Larnaka, however.


travelrat said...

I think Nicosia is now officially Lefkosia, and Limassol is Lemesos. However the message seems slow in getting through ... the only places these names seemed to be seen was the road signs.

(I wonder if it's a bit like Ho Chi Minh city ... which is still Saigon to many people, including its inhabitants!)

David said...

Yep, it is (on the Greek side at least - it's Lefkosa on the Turkish side). But as most people still know it as Nicosia, I went for that.

The Cypriots seem to vary what they call it - there's not much consistency.

Many Cypriot towns were renamed a few years ago. Larnaca is now Larnaka, Paphos is Pafos, Famagusta is Magusa, Kyrenia is now Girne. The list goes on and gets rather confusing.

I was in two minds which to use, but decided to go for the one most people know.

It's something I always find odd though - why on earth do we call Firenze "Florence", for example?

travelrat said...

I wondered about this, too. After all, nobody insists upon Bruxelles, Torino or Athinai ... Liege can be called Luik or Luttich and I take no exception if someone refers to our capital as Londres or Londino.

>>Larnaca is now Larnaka, Paphos is Pafos,<<

That's really a more accepted form of transliteration from Greek characters. I've seen Xania spelt Chania or Hania ... and an old wartime map I have spells it Canea, although I'm told that form is rarely used today.



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