Nicosia or Lefkosia - capital of Cyprus. The Walls. Museums. Sites
Nicosia is the only divided city left in Europe, not that you notice this unless you go to the green line ( so called because it was drawn across the map in the 1960's when there were already plans for a possible division of Cyprus) as the rest of it is a mix of bustling modern city centre, elegant tree lined suburbs, and still more bustling suburbs.
In 2007 the green line in Ledra street was changed somewhat. The wall that had been built there was dismantled, the line is still there, but now you can easily see through to the other side.
Then there is the old town and The Laiki Yitonia , where the paved areas with no cars and pavement cafe's is charming and full of character and a must for the visitor who wishes too see what the town looked like in years gone by. Nicosia , as all the other towns of Cyprus has grown very much larger , very quickly, and since the invasion in 1974 the population has boomed to 165,000. The growth has been outwards over the Mesaoria plain and what was once the village of Tseri has now oozed its commercial buildings and factories and joined up with Nicosia, to become the industrial area.
The walls of Nicosia (1567-70) itself and the gardens in the moat are a natural edge to the older quarters and you may find it interesting just to wander within the walls. Then there is the modern shopping centre based around Makarios Avenue, which is full of designer shops and new 'malls'. Below you will find a selection of the more popular places of interest.
The Old City and its Walls.
In Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, we can still see a fine example of a medieval wall, encircling the older part of the City with a perifery of about three miles.
The wall, designed by the military engineer Julio Savorgnano, was built between 1567 and 1570, when the Venetians expected a Turkish invasion of Cyprus to follow after a holy vow taken by the Ottoman Sultan Selim to fulfill what he saw as his duty to capture the island.
A more fragile circuit of walls built by the Lusignan rulers of Cyprus was torn down, to be replaced by Savorgnano's construction, providing a shortened defence perimeter of just one mile. This involved destroying most of the Lusignan city, but that sucrifice was clearly considered worthwhile. The new wall contained eleven bastions, named after Venetian officials and Cypriot nobles, and three gates. Despite the warning served by the Sultan, the walls were still incomplete by the time the invading force landed. The base of the wall was constructed in stone, but the upper part of the wall was a little more than glorified earthworks. A planned moat was also abandoned, the replacement trench was not deep enough, and the walls also lacked essential internal support. The Venetians boasted that the wall could withstand a two year siege. In fact, it survived less than fifty days of assault.
A Turkish force of ten thousand assembled in the plain surrounding Nicosia on July 24, 1570, and started hurling artillery shells at the shaky edifice. An all night bombardment, followed by a coordinated assault on four of the bastions precipitated the end on September 9. Over twenty thousand people were slaughtered in the ensuing bloodbath and the Turkish troops were allowed to loot for three days. Eighty years of Venetian rule was at an end, to be replaced by a Turkish occupation destined to survive more than two centuries.
Today the walls are in a fairly good condition and the three gates preserved, especially the one which connected the city with the eastern part of the island in the old days.
The Old City of Nicosia (Lefkosia) is surrounded by a complete circular wall with eleven heartshaped symmetric bastions and three gates, all well preserving their original shape. They were built by the Venetians between 1567 and 1570 to fortify the city against a threatened Turkish invasion. During the construction a great part of the city, which was left outside the three mile periphery of the walls, was pulled down by the Venetians and destroyed.
The Old City is fascinating, with narrow streets, carved balconies, inner yards with date trees, churches, mosques and Byzantine arches.
You can walk around for shopping and dining.
The center of Nicosia is an interesting place to take photos and relax in its nearby gardens.
Then called "Porta Guliana" in honour of the architect of the whole city-wall project, it was the strongest and most elaborate, but also the lowest of the three gates. The outstanding and impressing feature of this building with its gateway and its arched passage can still be visited. The entire gate was restored by the Municpality of Nicosia to its former glory and started being used as a cultural center. This effort was rewarded on April 14, 1984, when the Municipality was awarded the prestigious "Europa Nostra" medal by the International Federation of Associations for the Protection of European Culture and Natural Heritage. The Center hosts exhibitions, discussions, music and dance performances as well as other cultural events.
Working hours :
Monday-Friday: 10.00 am - 1.00 pm
Saturday : 4.00 pm - 7.00 pm
The Famagusta Gate, part of the fortified medieval town wall of Nicosia, is a historic relic bequeathed to us by the island's turbulent past.
Originally it was called by the Venetians "Porta Guiliana" in honour of the military engineer who designed the wall, Count Savorgnano. In those days, the Gate was also known as "Porta di Sotto" (Lower Gate), because of the difference in level from the outside. The Turks in their turn called it "Taht-el-kaleh".
Once it served no military purpose, Famagusta Gate became just one of the entrances into the city of Nicosia, though clearly a colourful one; an intriguing landmark and market place.
Throughout its long history the Gate witnessed the ups and downs of the city, and the sorrows and happy occasions of its travellers and its people. As late as seventy years ago it was still used as an "entry" to the city. An English traveller who went through it in 1855 describes his vivid impressions "....We had arrived at the Famagusta Gate, the handsomest of the three gates of the town; to all appearances it was a subterranean passage, for no sooner had we passed through its massive portals before we were enveloped in mistry obscurity. As the eye got accustomed to the darkness however, objects worthy of admiration and surprise presented themselves. Suddenly we came upon day-light again and found ourselves riding under a lofty cupola in the center of which was a circular opening which admitted the light. Round this sundry small tradsmen of speculative turn had established small booths where coffee, milk, bread and sherbet, and many other oriental dainties and requisites were temptingly displayed for sale..."
The Gate was later to fall into disuse, its wooden doors were kept closed, and its two guardrooms were used as workshops and stores.
This was the undignified fate for the venerable portal until a few years ago, when Nicosia Municipality decided to restore this particular part of the city's architectural heritage. The Mayor of Nicosia, Mr Lellos Demetriades, supervised a rescue crusade which involved private donations, volunteer work, and the use of underutilized Municipal machinery. A dedicated volunteer working group was established to complete the cleaning, restoration and preservation of the monument.
Restored to its former glory, the Gate with its two halls and the passageway, has become Nicosia's Cultural Center. Ever since, Famagusta Gate has welcomed all cultural activities whether expressions of Cypriot culture and tradition, or foreign.
In practice the Gate has the ability to function either as a whole or as three "separate" centers. While the South hall may have an art exhibition, the passage may house a theatrical performance, and the North hall may hold a lecture. The two halls have a sitting capacity of 200 people while the passageway can hold up to 350. The North hall is mainly used for lectures, conferences, film shows and exhibitions, while the South hall is used as an art or exhibition gallery. The Central passageway is used for concerts, theatrical performances, arts and crafts exhibitions and receptions.
During the hot summer months a theater is set up in the moat against the majestic background of the walls. This theater hosts annually the Nicosia Festival.
Famagusta Gate has been Nicosia's Cultural Center for the past few years, and during this time it has attracted the warm interest of the people of our city.
The House of Hadjigeorghakis Kornesios.
Patriarch Gregoriou Str.
A most imposing example of traditional 18th century domestic architecture which has survived in Nicosia. This was the residence of Hadjigeorghakis, the Dragoman to the Port.
Open: Monday-Saturday 8.00 am - 1.00 pm
The Handicraft Center.
186, Athalassa Ave., Tel. (357)(2)-305024
The Cyprus Handicraft Center on Athalassa Avenue offers items of all kinds of traditional handicraft. A visit to the center is an excellent opportunity not only to buy Cypriot handicrafts, but also to watch the traditional art skills and techniques of the artisans at work.
The Municipal Theater.
Museum Str., opposite the Cyprus Museum, Tel. (357)(2)-463028.
A spacious theater in neoclassical style. It seats 1200 persons and has a continuous programme of events throughout the year.
An oasis of greenery, with a wide variety of plants and shrubs, provides unique relaxation, especially after a tiring sightseeing day.
Laiki Yitonia (Folk Neighbourhood).
"Laiki Yitonia" is part of the heart and soul of the walled City. It covers an area of about 2000 sq. meters and forms a world of its own, away from the hustle and bustle of modern life and yet only 100 yards from the capital's main square (Eleftheria Sq.). Laiki Yitonia is the excellent result of the Municipality's initiative to revive the fascination of the Old City.
Most of the buildings have been restored and new ones were also erected. The reconstruction followed very closely the typical elements of traditional Cypriot folk architecture which were preserved through the centuries. It constitutes a pole of attraction for both locals and foreigners to entertain themselves and do their shopping in the narrow and picturesque streets of the neighbourhood.
The oldest documentation we have concerning Nicosia within the walls, dates back to 1567, when the Venetians took over the island, and built the fortification with the eleven bastions, that one can still see today. Nicosia though, has a history dating long before that period, and has been the capital of the island since 1192, when a French Royal family, the Lusignans, made it their capital. We know, that they built an important number of monuments, such as churches, monasteries, palaces etc. We also know, that Nicosia had 250 churches, and that the town was much larger than the one built by the Venetians, who had destroyed a large number of original buildings to construct the fortifications. Nicosia today, has nothing really left of the French period, except the churches, and what one still sees is the structure of the town after the Venetians.
The town planning was a result of a way of living: narrow streets with houses built next to each other.
The buildings we see today basically date from the end of the 18th and 19th centuries, and they have all the characteristics of houses built within fortifications. Their design is also proof that architecture has managed to combine both worlds, the East and the West. Greek, French, Venetian and Turkish details, all mix in a typical Cypriot expression. The basic materials used for the buildings were wood, sandstone, and mudbrick. The combination of all these different materials gives us today an example of fine architecture.
Until 1960, old Nicosia still retained all these characteristics, which gave the city its architectural character. In the next 20 years, Nicosia experienced a series of transformations both in the natural environment, as well as in the social environment, due to the demanding pressure for the development of the city.
The sudden change, found the city unprepared and unable to cope with the new needs. As a result of this change, the sudden development caused serious destruction to the historical character of the city.
The "green line" divided the walled city, and aggravated the situation, by litteraly cutting in two the historical center, thus creating a problem to the city itself, and to all those who had to abandon their homes, because of the proximity of the green line. Gradually, the old town, - that once was full of life and commercial activity, is abandonned, and people look for solutions outside the fortifications. The old part of our city, our historical center, was withering away, and problems within the walls just increased every day - traffic, lack of green areas, difficult living conditions and other problems. The Government of Cyprus, being aware of the problem the old city faced every day, decided in 1977 to expropriate the area of Laiki Yitonia, a small area not bigger than 1000 square meters. The main aim was to breathe new life to the city within the walls, by creating a nucleus with a very strong folkloric character, that would combine, commercial and cultural activities.
The basic scope of our government was to give a real example for the revival of the old city that would guide the way to a development of Nicosia, that would also safeguard in this way, its architectural character and its tradition.
The Nicosia Municipal Arts Center.
Associated with the Pierides Museum of Contemporary Art.
19 Apostolou Varnava Street, Tel. (357)(2)-432577.
The Old Electricity Generating Plant
has now been transformed into Cyprus' most avantgarde center for contemporary art. It hosts prestigious exhibitions from home and abroad.
There is an Art Library, a Restaurant, a Coffee shop and a gift shop selling books, posters, replicas, souvenirs, crafts, artwork and other gifts.
Tuesday-Saturday: 10.00 am - 3.00 pm
5.00 pm - 11.00 pm
Sunday : 10.00 am - 4.00 pm
The Nicosia Municipal Arts Center
19 Apostolou Varnava, Tel. (357)(2)-432577.
The Nicosia Municipal Arts Center is operating in collaboration with the Pierides Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens, Greece, and it is housed in the building of the old Power Station that was granted by the Electricity Authority to the Municipality of Nicosia.
The building is one of the finest examples of industrial architecture in Cyprus. It was built in the late 1920s and meets with the principles of the Bauhaus movement. The intention of the architects was to restore the building to its original state with very few alterations and meet all the needs of a contemporary cultural center. The center covers approximately 3.000 sq. meters, and it is the first in a series of projects by the Municipality to upgrade and regenerate this part of Old Nicosia, so close to the Green Line.
The center which is unique in its kind in Cyprus, aims to promote contemporary creation at the highest level. Its policy is to organise important and prestigious exhibitions, thematic, retrospective or others, from home and abroad.
The Center also organises specialised seminars and cultural programs for young people and students of the newly founded University of Cyprus.
The Center is in the process of establishing and promoting close cooperation with other similar institutions abroad, especially in Europe, so that there will be a constant flow and exchange of ideas, proposals and experience in the field of contemporary creation.
Furthermore, the Center is interested in experimental expression and all the latest movements connecting Art and Technology.
The Large Exhibition Hall. Its area covers approximately 1.000 sq. meters. International and Greek thematic exhibitions are staged here as well as retrospective exhibitions of recognised artists. Other cultural International events of a very high standard will also be hosted.
Library of the History of Art. This specialised library, consisting of 6.000 volumes of books on Art, is unique in Cyprus and has been donated to the Municipality of Nicosia by Mr Demetris Z. Pierides, founder of the Pierides Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens, Greece. This collection of books contains rare art publications and a large variety of international art magazines and periodicals. The Library will be computerized and linked to similar Centers abroad so that it will operate as a research and study center and a point of reference for artists and students. It is not a lending library, but a reference library, and it has established close collaboration with the University of Cyprus.
Restaurant - Coffee Shop. The Center would like to attract art lovers by offering, among other things, delicious traditional home made food in a pleasant and distinguished environment. The Restaurant and the Coffee Shop stay open until late in the evening every week-day and until noon on Sundays. They serve as meeting points for art fans and intellectuals.
The Center's Shop. At the Center's Shop the visitor can find posters, prints, art publications, small sculptures, artifacts and other souvenirs for sale.
Exhibition Hall and Coffee Shop
Tuesday - Saturday: 10.00 - 15.00
17.00 - 23.00
Sunday morning: 10.00 - 16.00
Tuesday - Saturday: 10.00 - 14.00
17.00 - 20.00
Admission to the Center is free.
The Leventis Municipal Museum of Nicosia
Hyppocratous Street in Laiki Yitonia, next to Eleftheria Square. Tel. (357)(22)-451475.
Tuesday-Sunday: 10.00 am - 4.30 pm
European Museum of the Year Award, 1991
Periodical exhibitions are taking place in the Museum. There is a gift shop in the Museum selling books, replicas and other interesting gifts.
The Leventis Municipal Museum presents the history and social development of the city of Nicosia from the Chalcolithic period (3.000 B.C.) to the present day. The Museum was founded in 1984 after the initiative of the Mayor of Nicosia, Mr Lellos Demetriades.
The Museum is named after its donor Anastasios G. Leventis Foundation which bought and restored the building and its administered by the Municipality of Nicosia.
In 1985, the Association of the Friends of the Museum was established. Its main objective is to assist in enriching the Museum's collections. Anyone may join this association at an annual subscription fee of 5 Cyprus Pounds.
On April 20,1989, the Municipality of Nicosia and the Anastasios G. Leventis Foundation opened the Museum to the public, the first historical museum in Cyprus. The collections displayed in its permanent galleries represent over 5.000 years of the capital's history. The collections are of a wide range and include archaeological articrafts, costumes, photographs, medieval pottery, maps and engravings, jewels and furniture.
The collection of the Museum were established after 1984. Most of them were gathered from donations, private collections, sponsoring and special funding from the Anastasios G. Leventis Foundation. Donations related with the history and social development of Nicosia are always welcome.
The exhibits are arranged so that visitors are guided from the present days of Nicosia, the capital of the Republic of Cyprus, through to the Ancient period (3.000 B.C.).
Every year the Museum organises and hosts a number of temporary exhibitions, lectures, educational programmes and other events.
The Shop of the Museum is run by the Association of the Friends of the Museum. Their task is to increase the sales of the shop, so that they buy and then donate to the Museum new objects for its collections. One may buy various souvenirs, copies of antique objects, books and unique gifts for friends.
Every school year, since 1989, the Museum organises special educational programmes for school children of all ages. A school visit can be arranged only with reservations. Special workshops and educational programmes for children and adults are also organised during the year.
A small library with publications and other material on the history of Nicosia as well as rare and old publications on Cyprus is open for researchers only by appointment.
The Cyprus Museum.
Museum Street. Tel. (357)(2)-302189
The richest and best archaeological museum in Cyprus.
Treasures of art from the Neolithic Period (5800 BC) to the early Byzantine Period (330-1192AD). Also Cypriot pottery, terracotta, clay and stone sculptures, bronze and jewellery.
Monday-Saturday: 9.00 am - 5.00 pm
Sunday : 10.00 am - 1.00 pm
The European Art Gallery.
Presents 120 oil paintings of various European Schools of Art of the 16th to the 19th century, with mainly religious themes. The paintings represent works by Van Dyck, Rubens, Tinoretto, Lorrain, Delacroix and others.
Monday-Friday: 9.00 am - 1.00 pm
2.00 pm - 5.00 pm
Saturday : 9.00 am - 1.00 pm
The Greek Independence War Gallery.
Contains maps, copper engravings and paintings featuring persons and events from the Greek War of Independence (1821), as well as paintings by Greek artists and other paintings with subjects derived from Greek mythology.
The Byzantine Art Museum.
Archbishop Makarios III Foundation Cultural Center within the Archbishopric, Plateia Arch. Kyprianou
Monday - Friday: 09.00-13.00 14.00-17.00 Saturday: 09.00-13.00
Largest collection of icons on the island, covering the period from 9th to 18th century. The Art Galleries contain oil paintings, maps and lithographs.
Presents the largest collection of icons on Cyprus with 220 pieces covering several periods from the 5th to the 19th century. The masterpieces include the icons of "Christ and the Virgin Mary" (12th century) from the Church of Virgin Mary of Aracas at Laghoudera, and "The Ressurrection" (13th century) from the Church of St. John Lambadistis Monastery at Kalopanayiotis. There are also six pieces of Kanakaria Mosaics.
Cyprus Jewellers Museum.
7-9 Praxippou Street, Laiki Yitonia
A display of the jewellery tradition from the end of 19th-20th century. The exhibits include ornaments, religious items, silver utensils and old tools.
Monday-Friday: 10.00 am - 4.30 pm
The State Collection of Contemporary Art.
Corner Stassinos Ave. and Crete Street.
The collection houses 124 paintings and sculptures by 73 Cypriot artists covering the period 1930-1989.
Monday-Friday: 10.00 am - 5.00 pm
Saturday : 10.00 am - 1.00 pm
Dedicated to Virgin Mary named after the icon of Virgin Mary which is covered with gold , also called Our Lady of the Golden Flax. It is believed to be the oldest Byzantine church in Nicosia and was built in 1450 by Queen Helena Palaeologos. It is reputed for its rich collection of old and rare icons.
St. Kassianos Church.
The precious relic is a silver helmet believed to have been used by St. Kassianos. Also holds a gilt covered gospel of St. John the Divine, in Greek, printed in Venice in 1781.
Founded in 1695 and dedicated to Archangel Michael, it has an impressive interior with silver and gold covered panels separating the High Altar from the body of the church.
Achillios Municipal Library
30 Constantinou Paleologou St., Tel (357)(2)-473033
Achillios Municipal Library is housed at an old-style building, reconstructed by the Municipality after a grant offered by Costas Pikis, and named after Achilleas Makrides. The library carries a large number of books and periodicals on many subjects (General Studies, Philosophy, Religion, Social Science, Language, Art, Literature, Geography, History) as well as Educational Toys and Audiovisual Aids. The visitors can also go through various local and foreign newspapers.
Monday - Friday: 9.00 am - 2.00 pm
Thursday : 9.00 am - 2.00 pm and
3.00 pm - 5.30 pm
The main shopping areas in Nicosia are Arch. Makarios Avenue, the parallel street behind it, Stasikratous Street., and Ledra Street with the narrow streets around the old city, including the well known Laiki Yitonia (Folk Neighbourhood). In addition to shopping for handicrafts, embroidery, pottery and other local made items, visitors to Nicosia might like to take advantage of the capital's modern commercial centers to buy such items as the latest design fashions, prescription eye wear, perfumes and liqueurs, many of which are less costly here than in Europe. Spend a day window shopping at Marks & Spencer, Woolworth, D. Tsaousis 1.000.000 Items or visit one of the local shopping centers such as Galaxias, City Plaza and Capital.
Stasikratous Street, is known for its attractive and rather expensive boutiques, selling high quality clothes and shoes as well as silverware, fine porcelain and imported oriental clothes.
If you follow Makarios Avenue until the end and then turn right, you will get to Eleftheria Square which leads to the central part of the town.
Most of the shopping area in the old part of Nicosia is now pedestrianised so it is easy to ramble through the zigzag streets of the town especially Laiki Yitonia which is of particular interest to travelers who want a taste of Cypriot culture. Laiki Yitonia is a renovated eighteenth century enclave where local artisans and craftsmen display their wares along coblestone lanes. Here too bougainvillea laced restaurants beckon with the aroma of roast lamb and Greek coffee.
If you go back to Eleftheria Square and follow the walls past the Town Hall and Post Office you will arrive at Eleftherios Venizelos Square, otherwise known as "OHI" square. There, an open market takes place every Wednesday. It is partcularly colorful and worth a visit.
It is a good idea to shop around before buying and once you begin you will realise just how much there is to see. Take your time and relax while shopping. From shoes to spectacles to clothes, you are bound to find something to suit your taste and pocket and at the same time you will discover a little of the daily life in the capital.
Before shopping remember that in winter, shops open from 8.30-13.00 hrs and from 14.30-17.30 hrs. They are closed on Wednesday and Saturday afternoon. In the summer, shops open from 8.30-13.00 hrs and 16.00-19.00 hrs; again no shops in the afternoon of Wednesday and Saturday, except sometimes in Laiki Yitonia.
Nicosia offers a wide range of restaurants, pubs, tavernas, clubs, and discos not to mention "bouzoukia", "local boites" and cabarets where you can dance the night away.
The island's many tavernas and night clubs are especially great places to combine good food with entertainment. Floor shows include singers and musicians performing classical and contemporary Greek music. "Bouzoukia" generally charge admission or a minimum fee for first drink.
A less expensive and more informal alternative to either tavernas or "Bouzoukia" are the "local boites". Here visitors can meet the locals, join in sing-alongs, and dance the night away in an unbeatable atmosphere of camaraderie and joviality.
A walk down to the old city at Chrysaliniotissa area, near Famagusta Gate, is highly recommended. This area abounds with cosy boites, cafes and music bars with a local color, promising a nice time.
Restaurants offering international cuisine including Chinese, Italian, French, Indian, and American are also in great abundance in the island's capital. Most of Nicosia's international restaurants afford their guests fine food and service and are well-appointed, elegant and romantic.
After enjoying dinner and drinks, visitors to Nicosia may want to mix and mingle at one of Nicosia's many discotheques. Most are located within easy walking distance of one another along Grivas Dighenis Avenue in Engomi suburb.
Full day or half day trips with cyprussite.com
Our tour will take you to see the only divided capital in the world and our first stop will be at the Cyprus handicraft centre where you can browse and see the many locally produced products and souvenirs. We'll visit the green line, the line that divides the island and the capital in two parts. Our tour will cover the Venetian Walls of the 16th century by the Famagusta Gate, the Monument of Liberty and the Archbishopric with the Statue of Makarios.
We'll visit the Cathedral of St. John, a painted Church of the 17th century and the Byzantine Icon Museum with some of the most beautiful icons (8th-19th century).
Free time is given for lunch and shopping in the restored part of the Old Town (Laiki Yitonia).
Those that wish to stay at the shoping area for the afternoon are welcome to do so whilst the rest continue to Nicosia's fantastic Cultural museum.
The Green Line
Nicosia is today divided in two, one half being under foreign occupation. Here, in Nicosia, the capital city, the clock stopped in 1974. Europe is called upon to choose between justice and political opportunism. The city still stands here, with the knife of partition in its heart, expecting that international law will prevail here too and that UN resolutions will be implemented in this instance as well. The international community and European countries cannot implement UN resolutions selectively. Resolutions cannot be good and bad, strong and weak, applicable and inapplicable. Nicosia, a rampart and bastion of Europe for thousands of years, is entitled to peace and freedom. This is what its history and civilization dictate.
In 1960, Cyprus became an independent country with a bicommunal (Greek and Turkish) character. The constitutional framework was provided by the Zurich and London agreements which unfortunately contained the seeds of partition and grounds for intercommunal conflict.
In December 1963, the city became the scene of intercommunal riots and clashes, as a result of Ankara's policy, which aimed at the self-enclavement of Turkish Cypriots. The British Secretary for Commonwealth Relations, Dunkan Sands, rushed to Cyprus in a bid to restore calm. A contact committee of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots was set up and met at the British High Commissioner's residence under Sand's chairmanship. At these meetings, General Young, who with the help of British troops had undertaken to supervise the ceasefire, marked in green color on Nicosia's map the confrontation line that would serve as a buffer zone. Thus ths Green Line came into being.
The treacherous coup and the Turkish invasion in July 1974 has had tragic consequences on the city and the whole island. The crown with the golden suburbs of Agios Dometios, Egkomi, Strovolos, Agioi Omologitai, Aglantzia, Pallouriotissa, Kaimakli, Omorfita, Trachonas, Mintzeli, was reduced to half a wreath with half the city and the three latter suburbs under occupation. The city's streets have since been cut in two by ugly roadblocks. A wall of sandbags and gun emplacements have split the city in two. In 1974, tanks extended the line outside the city, dividing the entire island in two. The Green Line is no longer a line on the map of Nicosia, it's a line on the whole map of Cyprus. A line on the map, grim barbed wire on the ground that you can touch and see every day, a tangible sign of occupation. Behind the barbed wire the painful realities of invasion: occupation of 37% of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus, 3.000 dead, 200.000 refugees in their own country, that is the whole Greek Cypriot population of the occupied areas. 1619 missing persons, who were alive at the end of the war and for whom Turkey has persistently refused to give any information, enclaved Greek Cypriots expelled from the Karpass and Kyrenia, despite a commitment undertaken by Mr Raouf Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot leader, under the Third Vienna Agreement of 1975 to protect their lives and properties and respect their rights. Greek Cypriot property situated in the occupied areas has been distributed and sold. Churches have been destroyed and turned into mosques or warehouses. Archaelogical treasures have been pillaged and sold to smugglers and antiquity dealers. Greek books from schools, municipal and private libraries have been sold by the kilo at public auctions. Greek Cypriots are banned not only from returning to their homes and properties but even from visiting their towns and villages, their homes, their schools, their churches, the graves of their parents. A program of ethnic cleansing has systematically been applied in the occupied area, coupled with the alteration of its demographic character. It is to be noted that the settlers brought over from Turkey have by now become more numerous than Turkish Cypriots whose number has been dwindling due to emigration to Europe and elsewhere, because even they cannot endure the reality of the invasion. Turkey's claim that its invasion of Cyprus aimed at protecting Turkish Cypriots is thus shown to be a big lie. The presence of 40.000 Turkish troops, a force disproportionate to the area and population of the island, which is within a small distance from Turkey, as well as Turkey's military installations in Cyprus, indicate not only possible expansionist plans but also psychological blackmail.
Behind the Green Line barbed wire there lie the painful realities of the occupation, which are in sharp contrast to the declared principles of democracy and freedom adopted by the United Nations, the European Union, NATO and all free countries. These principles are being put to the test in Cyprus. On the Green Line, history will be the judge of the credibility of the free world.