The Green Line
, the UN
-controlled buffer zone between Greek Cypriot South Nicosia
and Turkish Cypriot North Nicosia
, can be seen from both sides. Those iconic stacks of sand-filled ex-oil barrels used as roadblocks, however, can only be seen in the south, but the north also has some aspects that make it worth checking out this last capital-city-dividing border from the other side.
What there is to see:
In North Nicosia
the Green Line has a somewhat different character compared to the south side
. Here you do not get to see those stacks of barrels, nor are there wire-mesh gates to peek through or any (visible) observation bunkers. And everywhere you hit the Green Line in the north you see those Turkish red signs saying “forbidden Zone” in a few languages plus a no-photography sign. So you have to be even more discreet here when attempting to take pictures. In the end, though, I was neither told off nor prevented from taking photos.
I started my walk along the northern side of the Green Line (access to the inside of the buffer zone is of course indeed forbidden) at the eastern end of the Old Town. On the Flatro Bastion (called “Zeytinli” in Turkish) you can see a military post and the first of a series of pairs of flagpoles flying the Turkish and TRNC
flags in parallel, as they do in so many places along the Green Line and beyond (in fact all across the TRNC).
Instead of heading straight to the Bastion you should turn into Ertuğrul Ahmet Sokak. After a short walk there’s a right turn into Tuncay M. Salih Sokak. On this corner stands a ruin of a two-storey house whose windows have been bricked up while the entrance is blocked by a metal door. So this must be standing right on the borderline. It’s perhaps the starkest sign of that border on the northern side
As on the southern side
I then tried to work my way westward along the border as much as that is possible, now always trying to find blocked streets that used to run to the south. Often these dead ends have become residents’ backyards. At one point it had become a joiner’s open-air yard, with pieces of furniture and two wooden scale model ships/yachts.
At the corner of Uray Sokak and Kütüphane Sokak is a largish car park along a low stone wall, so you can get a bit of a glimpse of the empty houses in the buffer zone. Right next to the car park is the largest metal gate I’ve seen on the northern side. Next to it is another pair of flagpoles flying the usual colours. A bit further west you come to a dead-end wall with a large mural of a black man looking away “into” the forbidden zone.
Eventually you pass the border crossing point at Lokmacı/Ledra Street – no photography here! From Baf Caddesı further west you can get glimpses of some taller buildings within the buffer zone. At the end of Salahi Şevket Sokak you can see a ruined building just behind a metal fence with the usual signs on. The covered balcony of the ruin is barely held together and looks like it could come crashing down at any moment.
The last blocked road with the usual signs within the northern Old Town is at the end of Tanzimat Sokak. From that street you can enter the park that sits atop the Roccas Bastion (“Kaytazağa” in Turkish). From its southern end you can peek out towards the Paphos Gate in South Nicosia
Just outside the northern end of the Roccas Bastion stands a tall UN watchtower. You can view it well from a bit further up Zahra Sokak – and from here it is quite easy to photograph too. When I was there a UN jeep was parked at the bottom of the watchtower, so I presume it was staffed.
From the same street overlooking the wide empty moat you also get the best view of the Ledra Palace ex-hotel (see Green Line south
) and the UN installations around it. The wide moat in front of the Venetian Wall that Zahra Sokak runs atop of is sometimes used for events such as motocross races. But when I was there a green but empty football pitch almost filled the moat just north of the UN watchtower.
Further up Zahra Sokak you can access the Mula Bastion (“Zahra” in Turkish), now mostly another car park, for more good views of the Ledra Palace and the UN installations. At the westernmost point of the Bastion is an old partially damaged concrete bunker. From here the Green Line continues west outside the Old Town. So that concludes this northern Green Line walk.
On balance: compared to the south, the northern side of the Green Line often looks less dramatic, except where you can get glimpses of the ruins beyond inside the buffer Zone. The best bit of it all, I found, was the good views from the western end between the Rocca and Mula Bastions along Zahra Sokak, especially of the Ledra Palace. From this safe enough (but almost unobstructed) distance you can also easily photograph it without attracting the unwanted attention of some UN soldiers.
running east-west right through Nicosia, thus dividing the Walled Old Town into north
Selected Google Maps locators:
Access and costs: no access to the buffer zone as such, but various points just outside are visitable; free.
Details: You basically have to fiddle along the north side of the Green Line as best you can either in an east-west direction or the other way round, always trying to get to the (mostly) southern end of blocked streets. At the Roccas Bastion and Zahra Sokak that leads north from it you get farther views over more open territory. Here there are also several street cafes, so you could even take in the views over a coffee or other drink.
The inside of the buffer zone is, however, off limits to non-UN civilians. But outside/alongside it you are free to walk as you like. But respect residents’ privacy, especially at those points where the dead-end alleyways have become people’s backyards.
Time required: about an hour.
Combinations with other dark destinations:
obviously the Green Line
seen from the south would be the most natural combination.
- Green Line north 01 - Turkish position on the Flatro Bastion
- Green Line north 02 - barricaded-up house on the frontline
- Green Line north 03 - back yard on the border
- Green Line north 04 - workshop on the borderline
- Green Line north 04b - major gate to the buffer zone on the northern side
- Green Line north 05 - border wall and mural
- Green Line north 06 - glimps of an abandoned building within the buffer zone
- Green Line north 07 - falling apart behind the border fence
- Green Line north 08 - ex-staircase
- Green Line north 09 - football field within the buffer zone
- Green Line north 10 - UN watchtower and jeep by the Roccas Bastion
- Green Line north 11 - looking down from the Roccas Bastion towards the Paphos Gate in South Nicosia
- Green Line north 12 - old bunker
- Green Line north 13 - former Ledra Palace Hotel
- Green Line north 14 - people using the Ledra Palace pedestrian border crossong