Tuesday, September 22, 2009

“The World's Last Divided Capital”



18 to 21 September, 2009 – Lefkosia, Cyprus

We've used the cliché line to title this blog entry, but it is a significant point. Lefkosia, or Nicosia. Capital of Cyprus. Not so neatly divided in two. Streets that feel like they will lead somewhere just stop. Abandoned buildings fill the gap between the part of the city which is controlled by the “Republic of Cyprus” and the other half, the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”. This is the “Green Line”. The division created when a United Nations major decided a temporary division was needed, and he used a green pencil to draw a split for the city. 40 years later, and the line feels as unnatural today as it must have when first created.

We spent a couple of days here. We followed the line as much as we could. On Saturday, we walked the southern side. On Sunday, we traced the north. Few photo opportunities presented themselves, as none of the three military presences appreciate being photographed. The Republic Greek forces, behind their blue stripes, the Northern Turkish forces with their red, and the UN looking so pure in their white posts.


A Fortified Position
A Fortified Position
Atop one of the original gates in the medieval walls, the southern (Republic of Cyprus) forces have created a strengthened position. The passage under the wall can be used. The paths and steps up the walls end abruptly at solid walls with firing slits for guns. The Turkish side, over the “Green Line”, is actually off to the right side of the photo (i.e. walking under the wall has you still on the same side of Cyprus, but outside of the old city, if that makes sense). But, this is a very significant point, as both sides hold their positions strongly, the buffer zone between them is almost non-existent, and this puts the foes within spitting distance of each other. Four flags flutter at each other here – Greek and Cyprus versus Turkish and North Cyprus. Sorry, couldn't get the flags in a photo as they were in the “do not photograph here” zones.


Temporary Barricades On The Green Line
Temporary Barricades On The Green Line
Well, when these barrels were put in place, there were assumptions they would only be temporary. After all, how long could Lefkosia remain divided? 30 something years later... The building behind is abandoned, and lies in no-man's-land.


A UN Watchtower
A UN Watchtower
There is a soccer pitch in the foreground, and then barbed wire and barrels and the United Nations watchtower, marking the buffer zone of no-man's-land. The imposing wall on the left is one of the impressive spade shaped bastions on Lefkosia's fantastic Venetian medieval walls.



If you get a chance, check out a map of Lefkosia (Nicosia). That fantastic pattern is the medieval wall that surrounds the old city. Built by the Venetians, it is a beautiful and distinctive wall with spade shaped bastions. Unfortunately, they were not enough to protect the city, but they do remain largely intact, and the shape is a work of art as much as a military strategy.

Actually, here are a couple: Nicosia Maps

Or try this one: Nicosia Walking Tour

We knew the north of the city would feel different to the south, but really, it is another piece in a giant puzzle, and to experience only one half would leave you with a distorted picture of what this city is all about. That said, seeing both halves does not fill you in on everything, it just leaves the incomplete image you get a little more balanced. Crossing is relatively painless, just as long as you use one of the legal crossing points. Remember that it's a different currency in use, re-learn “hello” and “thank you”, and that's really about it. Then wander and absorb and the subtleties that distinguish one side from the other only rise to recognition when you stop to think about it.


Once-Was-Church, Now-Is-Mosque
Once-Was-Church, Now-Is-Mosque
In the northern part of Lefkosia (Nicosia), there are a number of buildings that were built as churches but have since had their function changed. This is the Haydarpasha Mosque, formerly the Church of St Catherine.


Meow!
Meow!
Nothing beats a lovely cat. Just as prevalent north of the Green Line as south. Just as cute, too.


2 comments:

courtney said...

obviously politically incorrect of me to say it... but it always makes me sad to see a church changed into a mosque....

Richard & Jo said...

Court, we definitely agree!!