Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Cyprus - Nicosia

Having completed my childhood education in the Texas Public School System, I was completely not aware of Nicosia, Cyprus. Nicosia is the capital of Cyprus, situated in the middle of the small island country.

I was surprised when I read that the piece of the country above, and including half of, Nicosia was "occupied by" the Turks. Apparently, in 1974 there was an invasion of Cyprus and since that time, the northern third or so has been "occupied." It wasn't even possible to cross the border until two years ago. It's the "last divided captial in the world." It was totally wacky to see that. It was like out of some film from the seventies.

When we left the hotel, I asked F is he was taking his passport. He rolled his eyes a bit. He said it seemed like too much trouble. It's totally like going to another country - an unfriendly, non-EU country. The guidebook said, "Don't let them stamp your passport."

So I was walking down a street with F and it was an odd mixture of closed up buildings, small factories with welding and sawing going on and then an occassional design shop or cafe. I turned a corner and said, "Wow!" and I took a picture of a building which looked like it had had a bomb dropped on it thirty years ago and then it was just left. After snapping, I walked a little further and saw a guardpost. In the shelter stood a young soldier holding an automatic weapon and looking mean. Behind him was a sign saying that taking photos is forbidden. This was the "Green Line."

The Green Line is not a real line (although I did look), but a line through the country where on one side is a normal life with people walking and working while on the other side is burned out buildings behind chained link fences and slap-shod barracades. It's like the Berlin wall with absolutely no budget. I wanted to take another picture just to be bad, but you never know how bored commy teens with guns are going to react.

Later, we came across a little platform where you, along with way too many other people, could ascend a staircase and peer over to the other side. At the top, there was a small hole and I did take a picture, which was pretty good. It had the feeling of a museum exhibit. It was just a little too perfect. It was the other side of the street we were on on the free side. The houses were abandoned and the street was deserted. There were dried weeds in the street an everything looked like it had been sitting and getting dusty since 1974. A woman stood and took a picture and then a few minutes later a man tried to take a picture with his phone and the guard, another kid with a gun, told him not to. He pointed to a sign which said, "Only tourists with breasts can take photos." Only kidding. But I think that timing and gender had something to do with it.

I descended the stairs and told F, "Okay. I've seen enough of it. We don't need to cross the border." It was hot and getting late. We had a bus to catch.

Nicosia is not a great town. It's difficult to believe it's the capital of an EU country. You think: Paris, London, Amsterdam, Berlin. You don't think of this dusty little town where people refer to the Turkish invasion and shake their heads. So Turkey invaded an EU country, but wants to be accepted into the EU? Please! Behave!

We saw almost everything we wanted to see in Nicosia. There was one big doorway that was a "don't miss" that we did miss. But when we were standing at the bus sticky with sweat, given the option of seeing it and missing our bus, thus not getting to take a dip in the swimming pool, we opted for the pool. When we were deciding, I asked F, "When are we going to be here again?" He said, "Never." To my mind, that means: See everything. We didn't.

I would actually like to visit again in 15 or 20 years, just to see how things have changed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

well, unfortunately you missed a lot by not crossing the border, what a pity! You came to Cyprus all the way from Texas/Amsterdam and you still missed Turkish Cypriots because you were focused on the 'Turkish Invasion' and thought you've seen 'all' when you saw the empty buffer zone!

Well, you missed Turkish Cypriots which had to leave their houses at South (just like Greek Cypriots leaving their houses in North) and living in North now. We are pretty nice people, looking and asking for peace in Cyprus, unhappy when people ignores us because North Cyprus is publicized as occupied and there are soldiers there only! Sorry you missed our rich culture and people... Nice picture from the buffer zone!