Green line, Nicosia
Nicosia is the only divided city in Europe after the invasion of the Turks in 1974. The ‘green line’ is the United Nations buffer zone and divides the north part where Turks live with the south.
The crossing over the green line is nonstop mostly from tourists. Even Cypriots have to present their passports to cross this line something that I found weird, but it is a fact.
I cannot say that goods are much cheaper at this side but just for the change it’s worth visiting. There are lots of small businesses selling souvenirs like in every touristy place and goods are more or less the same on both sides. Bags, clothing, goldsmiths’ shops, groceries, and restaurants are what you come across 200 metres from the line.
Turks are friendly and I was impressed. You see, when my friend had a stumble and fell on the ground in seconds locals offered to help her and somebody brought her a bag of ice cubes in a plastic bag for her knee.
Nicosia is the last divided capital of Europe and the Green Line is the line that divides the island it between the north (theTurkish Cypriot part) and the south (its Greek Cypriot counterpart). There are a few passages, with "real" borders between the two sides: the one I used is the Lhedra Palace Hotel check point - which is a pedestrain only passage, fenced by barbed wire.
The Green line came into existence in 1964, after the ceasefire and, when Turkey took over the norther part of the island in 1974, it closed and became off-limits to everyone. It has since been re-opened and it is now possible to cross into the north again. Keep in mind that photography is not allowed anywhere near the Green Line - and there are signs all around it to rmind you of it, so if you want to snap a coupe of illegal photos, you really have to be discreet and, particularly, quick.
Cross the green line to the other side of Nicosia. The pedestrian crossing is near the famous Ledra Palace hotel. You will first pass the Greek border police, then go through the green line. On your left you will see an imposing building which Ledra Palace. Time is at a standstill with the abandoned houses from 1974. Many have sand bags and are falling apart. Then you will reach the Turkish border police which needs to supply you with a visa.
Since 2003 the "borders" have been opened to allow movement for Greeks and Turkish and there is no restriction on time spent on each side. You will find a small form at the Turkish booths which you need to fill in and present with your passport or ID card. They will only stamp the paper and not your passport. Don't loose that paper as it will be needed on your way back.
Although I have been to the North of Cyprus on quite a few occasions, I have never stayed a night there. Until very recently, not staying overnight had been a condition for crossing the Green Line.
The process was:
(1) - Check on at the Greek side who would check your passport
(2) - Walk past the Greek checkpoint, UN checkpoint and get to the Turkish checkpoint.
(3) - Buy a nominally priced visa using Greek Cypriot pounds making sure you didn't get your passport stamped as you may not be allowed back into the South otherwise. This was on the assumption your passport was not Greek!
(4) - Make sure you returned to the South by late afternoon with no shopping and no extra stamps on your passport.
These days things are a little more relaxed (as of about a year ago), and it is now possible to stay the night.
This photo shows the Turkish checkpoint at Ledra Palace as you arrive in the North.
Here you can see the same part of the Green line, but this time from the North. The wall here is much more ramshackle and it is purely functional here rather than decorated. It is possible to see bomb damaged buildings in the UN patrolled buffer zone, and behind them, the Greek and Republic of Cyprus flags flying on the South side.
It is typically a very quiet area round the wall here on the North side and there do not tend to be many people about.
Since Cyprus became a divided country in 1974, Nicosia also became a divided city. The UN inhabit a buffer zone inbetween the Greek South and the Turkish North.
From the Greek side, if you go to Eleftheria Square and walk down the now pedestrianised Ledra Street (a.k.a. the Murder Mile in the 1950's on account of the number of British soldiers shot there) until you can go no further, you will reach this bit of the Green Wall. This is the most decorated bit I have seen - in many places it is just a ramshackle old wall with no sentries at all. Here however you will normally find a sentry with a rifle, a mini museum about the conflict and rifle slits that you can look through towards the North side.
Flags of Cyprus and Greece fly side by side and maps of Cyprus can be seen showing present day boundaries.
LEDRA (LIDRAS) STREET
It's the most important shopping street in the downtown. It is entirely pedestrianised so you do not have to watch the traffic. The street ends in the Green Line where you can find a small memorial to those Greek Cypriots who perished or disappeared (there are 1619 of them) during the 1974 military coup and the subsequent Turkish military operations. You can also sign a guestbook and write down a few thoughts about the division.
It's also one of those few spots where you can actually take a look to the other side. It is however not much more than a piece of propaganda since you can only see a rather depressing view of war-torn and almost crumbling abandoned buildings and a flag of Turkey and one of the (internationally unrecognised) TRNC. It is deceiveing because the buildings are in the UN buffer zone and it is only behind the flags rhat the real North Nicosia begins.
As the last divided city in the world I would highly recommend walking along the green line. Some of the place have been kept as they were in 1974, use your own judgement here....
You must visit the green line in the capital
You have a feeling of being so near and yet so far from the area occupied by the Turks