When you enter from one side, they stamp your passport. When you enter from the other side, they just wave you in, no stamps. Because they don’t consider it a country. When you’re in one part, you feel like if you cross the divide, you’ll fall off the face of the Earth. No information is available. There’s a black hole on the other side. The map of the capital city is different depending on where it’s printed.
Cyprus is not only cute friendly cats and beautiful beaches. There’s a dark side to this seemingly luscious Mediterranean paradise. A gaping wound splits the island into 2 parts. A wound full of UN troops, check points and abandoned buildings. Greek Cyprus to the south, Turkish Cyprus to the north. AKA: free Cyprus and occupied Cyprus. The Turkish Republic of North Cypress (TRNC) is considered illegal by the UN, therefore they don’t stamp passports on entry, even though you have to do everything else (pass through 2 borders, show your passport, your data is checked…etc). But if you enter from Türkiye, they add the stamp. Car insurance from one side doesn’t cover you on the other side. You need to buy insurance at the border crossing. The Turkish North has bidets (butt rinsers) and “Ayran” (salty yogurt drink) which I missed in the South.
Nothing symbolizes this gaping wound better than the Ghost Town: Varosha or Maras (pronounced Marash).
5 pm the ghosts take over. Policemen on bikes kicked us out. What used to be the bustling rich resort town of Varosha 50 years ago (think the French Riviera), is now Ghost Town. Abandoned cordoned off buildings. Ruins with broken facades and broken hearts. Standing in the face of time hoping to tell their stories one more time before time turns them into dust. The rich and famous Cypriots and Europeans lived and vacationed here. After the Cyprus wars in 1974, when Türkiye established the Turkish Republic of North Cypress, Cypriots split along ethnic and religious lines: Christian, Greek speaking Cypriots to the South, Muslim, Turkish speaking Cypriots to the North. Abandoned houses and neighborhoods appeared on both sides of the divide. Homes of people who, because of their ethnic identity, had to flee to the other side. Even though they’re only a few miles away from their homes, barbed wire, guns, fear and blood keeps them away. Some blame this ethnic zealously on the British “divide and conquer” policies which produced similar results in other parts of the world.
After 40 some years of hope for a peaceful resolution, which never materialized, the Turkish Republic opened parts of the abandoned Varosha to tourists, free of charge, till 5 pm. We can walk around empty eerie neighborhoods witnessing first hand what the aftermath of war looks and feels like.
Another heartbreaking episode in the neverending human saga of fear and scarcity.
Cyprus is full of ruins. Ancient as well as more recent. The ancient ruins, which probably saw more bloodshed than the modern ones, didn’t invoke as much pain though. I guess it’s true that time heals all wounds.
Maps of the capital, Nicosia show only the relevant half of the city. “We’ll pretend the other side doesn’t exist” way of coping with pain. But “What you resist, persists”. Pretending it doesn’t exist, will never make it go away.
Greek and Turkish, Cyprus is one of the friendliest, safest and most beautiful countries. Even in the most deserted dark dirty alleys that would be off limits in the USA, I felt completely safe. Cats are very loving which makes me believe that they had never been mistreated by humans for many cat generations. I wish the rest of the world copies that. Beyond the walls, separation and fear, all sides are essentially the same.
Can we, as a human race, write a different story? One of love, unity, abundance and peace?
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2 thoughts on “Riviera to Ghost Town”
You know what really brought home this post? – This is the first time ever I think that there is no picture of you smiling and embracing the world.
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Very observant of you. I didn’t take any pictures of me there. It was depressing.