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Green Line Tour

One of the most interesting geo-political aspects of Cyprus is the "Green Line" that divides the country into two very different sides. I was fortunate to get a tour of this UN-administered no-man's land that runs through the heart of the old city but hasn't been inhabited for decades.

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We had heard that one of the things we must do in Cyprus if given the opportunity, was to take the Green Line Tour. The Green Line is the U.N.-administered area of Nicosia separating the Greek Cypriots in the South from the Turkish Cypriots in the North. It's called the Green Line because the British Commander, Major-General Peter Young, implemented it in 1964 using a green grease pencil to draw a line across the city, dividing it into two parts. However, it's a rather thick pen, and some areas getting marked translated to being dozens of meters wide, so there's one point of contention. The current line is somewhat different than it was initially, since over time certain changes have been made due to the activities in 1974 that caused the United Nations to get involved.


I should also point out that this trip almost didn't happen. Originally, both Greg and Kacey were signed up to go, but the UN recently changed its tour policies and restricted who could receive them. I was told that the opportunity has been reduced such that only ambassadors and one-star generals (and higher) could take the tour. That said, Greg got to go as an Embassy employee, but Kacey and several other spouses were denied.

Anyways, the tour started on the east side of town, near the Orpeas Stadium. After signing some liability releases (the neglected buildings are crumbling and our guide even saw a balcony fall once), we passed into the Green line at UN 75, also nicknamed the "Jeeps Gate"

  • Beaver Lodge - old Greek school (can force at the time of Turkish attack). 1000 died Turkish cyp
  • Church next to the school - St George's. The Canadian contingent was serving at the time the Green Line was established (verify?), so they named things after fairly Canadian things. Our British guide intoned that the names were rather unimaginative, but I suspect that's just some dry humor between allies.
  • Annie's house - cb121: 74 yr old, only door into the buffer. Un escorts to leave thru Jeep's gate (un 75). Bi-communal funeral, in 94. First of a kind. Barbd wire to stop illg imms
  • Pop-can outpost, (did not take photos, unremarkable). Turkish conscripts tied cans to the barbed wire so they could nap...
  • Monument to the moon - an incident of the stolen Turkish flag (proud symbol), not worn like a cape. soldier memorials hold up flags even when dying. I imagine that back in the day, it would have rivaled the tension I felt during my visit to the Korean DMZ.

  • Spear alley,  bayonet on broomstick stabbed sleeping Turkish.
  • Greek move forward, into greenline. named Rogers pass, for a controlled demo area of the Canadian Rockies, a drive was created for the un patrol track thru a shop.
  • Cb 90, saint jacobs- out-of-wedlock children orphanage.
  • Tea-chest wall - a wall built out of tea chest (think pirates of the Caribbean), originally had openings facing the Turkish side. Greeks thought they would be filled with concrete, and asked them to turn them around so they could see. Turks did...one a week to face the Greek side for 14 months. that wall now has a support wall to keep it from falling over
  • Patricia's way - UN armor car driver "lost control" and rammed a building to create a patrol track. The terms of the ceasefire are that no construction can occur to give either side an advantage. this includes demolition. reference case of the monument to the Moon, both sides agree bad things can happen when outposts can see each other. but the UN needed to make a patrol track due to other changes. coincidentally, the accident occurred in a place that would enable that.
  • Blue tractor - Turkish cyp farmer left the tractor, and asked the UN to reclaim it. They said ok, but Gave him limited access. he Did. Since it was previously used as un waypoint, the Scots Put a model tractor there. then when the princess showed up, they kinda tricked her into dedicating it by having it prepped without her knowing what was underneath.
  • white bricks: another example of pushing the limits of the ceasefire, there was a wall with a fighting position behind it. The UN noticed the wall seemed to grow taller, so they painted a white line on the top row, but it kept growing. Apparently, the Turkish side was removing the painted bricks at night, adding a layer, then putting the white bricks down again. The solution was to put the white line  10 layers down,  making it practically impossible to add courses undetected.
  • Grizzly bunker - slowly grew into a road, preventing armored carrier (called grizzlies) access. "Rogue driver" caused it to rebuild in its original location.
  • The deserted streets are clean, yet the rusted metal and overgrown foliage indicate that no one really ever comes through here.
  • one of the few buildings we were allowed to enter was dubbed "Magic Mansion" for the magic shop that used to be there. It reminded me of the time I went into an abandoned Iraqi facility.
  • we ascended to the roof and got a great view of the divided city and our guide talked about a few peculiarities of the line. No photos from this position as the Turkish side is said to view it as a kind of intelligence gathering. The view of the Selimiye Mosque, historically known as the Cathedral of Saint Sophia, from here was quite impressive.
Selimiye Mosque / St.Sophia (Source: Wikipedia)
  • On one corner, you could see where some Greeks had spilled a bucket of white paint on the road, but rather than clean it up, they used it to paint a map of Cyprus. Part of that paint entered into the UN zone, so the UN painted a blue line on the Green Line side of the painting. The Greeks wrote something else in response, something like "You can't tell us where our borders are".
  • stepped out of the UN-controlled area to cross the Ledra Street crossing. kinda weird. Kinda felt like saying to the tourists walking on the street "Don't mind us, we're just U.N.ing."
  • Almost stepped in dog poop west of Ledra crossing. people still living there, they just can't access the back of their property (and from the looks of it, use it as a dumping ground). 
  • had to walk thru a building, the "Maple House" to avoid a disputed area (UN not allowed to enter the disputed area) because of where a Turkish position is. The Maple house also had cars that were brand new in 1974...but were basically trapped in the showroom and decayed there. the UN units that have been stationed there have their "I was here" boards up on the walls (panorama), and consolidated all of the old items in the building into one room that feels like a museum time capsule.
  • tour ended at Yello car - the previously mentioned disputed area. The ceasefire line was defined as the  "rear of the car".  which to almost everyone means the rear bumper end (boot/trunk). Turks leverage relative position to say that the rear of the car was the part farthest away from them, ie, the front bumper. So there's this section of road that is about as long as a car, where two white lines run across the width of it. No UN personnel are allowed to set foot in that particular area, but a vehicle or even a bike could ride through it...just don't fall off. Couldn't take pictures because it was too close to the Turkish positions and there was a camera looking right at us.

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