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Crossing a border to change district

CYPRUS | Friday, 30 May 2014 | Views [291]

Nicosia looks quite like a normal city when you arrive there. You may be shocked by the fact that you may find more Greek flags than Cypriot ones, but actually except for the fact that they drive on their left it looks completely like a Greek city. The Old Nicosia looks exactly like any other Greek city centre you may have visited, with plenty of cafes, restaurants and fashion shops.

Λήδρας (Ledras) is the name of the main commercial street. It is not very long and has nothing special, but it is quite nice for a small capital like Nicosia. However, the surprise comes at the end of it: a border. Two small police cabins signal the border of the Republic of Cyprus, inhabited mainly by GreekCypriots and other minorities, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a state backed only by Turkey and whose existence is ignored by every other country.  A border that exists there since 1974 and has only been open since 2008. Once you have walked the 100 metres decorated with plants you arrive to a passport control where you need to show your Identity card and fill a visa that will be stamped by an authority that almost nobody recognizes. Once this is done you have travelled in time.

Northern Nicosia, how the Turkish controlled area of Nicosia is known welcomes you with a small square where the prices are announced in euro and not in the local lira and where you hear more English and Greek than Turkish. If you move a little further you can follow a blue painted in the pavement that leads you to the most interesting parts of this side of the city: a collection of mosques that in the past were churches, the remains of the city walls and a couple of statues of Atatürk, the founder of the modern Turkey.

Nothing that any other city does not have, but the fascinating about this border crossing is to realize the huge difference between the two sides of the border called Green Line. Walking around Northern Nicosia you may see inhabited houses in a state that could be called ruin. The living room is completely visible from the street and you can listen how their TVs are not able to connect correctly to the signal, with evident interferences. Abandoned cars are on the street, and according to Greek Cypriots they are cars left there by the people who ran away. Something quite hard to believe, but when you see all the soldiers that are deployed in the border you understand that this was a serious war.

Now that you are back in the Southern Nicosia, drinking your KEO, the local beer, while seeing everyone carrying bags from Zara, H&M or Bershka, enjoy a souvlaki and smile while listening your table neighbours talking in Turkish carrying a bag from McDonald’s. What a better reason to cross a border than to go and eat fast food?

Tags: border, cyprus, greece, greek, lefkosia, nicosia, travel, turkey, turkish

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