To Hel and Back :: Edit your Template To Hel and Back: May 2004

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Postcard from Cyprus

Arriving in Nicosia was exciting as Fran's friend dropped me just outside the old town. I didn't know where I was but I had a lot of engery and even though I had my pack I was happy to walk around the back streets. Before long I came to a dead end and at first I thought there was work being done on the buildings but I realised they were damaged by gunfire. The UN marks were still there as well as lots of warning signs. Suddenly I realised there was no one else around and I didn't know if I was allowed there - would someone say if I wasn't etc... I kept wandering and found myself at the end of the old town, the check point where Greeks could peer over and beyond the barb wire look at the part of town that might have belonged to them. It was quite moving as you realise that for more than 20 years, this glimpse was all people had.
All the checkpoints are manned by young guards still doing military service. I was kind of terrified of them at first but they are really friendly and want to learn all about you and what you do and where you are from and by the end of the day I was sitting in checkpoints, talking to them sharing food and stories. At one point I was in a very quiet street, all the beautiful houses were riddled with bullet holes and the windows were full of sandbags. From across the Turkish side was the call to prayer, a beautiful sound (to me) and it was eerie to walk the empty streets and listen to the sound...
The Turkish side is very different. There were some very beautiful historic houses near the Green LIne which now house refuguees. The place is less developed commercially and is occuppied by some 30,000 troops. You can only imagine what this number of men looks like but along say 100 metres of street there would be 50 men and I the only woman. They looked so bored. They would look at you so interested but not ask anything and they seemed to have little to do but stand on the streets and spend their pay on clothes. For me it was also nice to be back somewhere I could speak the language and appreciate the religion even in such odd surroundings.