After occupying two nights and three days in the north of the capital (Nicosia, also known as Lefkosia), I made my way towards the south side of the capital. By this time I’d been three times to the presidential palace only to be told it will not be possible for me to see anyone from there.
I also tried to go and see the mayor or governor of the north side of the capital but by the time I got there it was already Friday and offices are closed on Fridays in the Turkish-ruled north.
My first experience of Cypriot border crossings was unpleasant, this was at the border which had an Occupy camp for a while (Lidras St) and a policeman there was very heavy-handed with me. I went back to the north after that and then the next day tried my second crossing.
On my way to make the second crossing I talked to many people and they were quite helpful to me. After almost four hours walking, I crossed the border at 30 minutes past midnight without any problems, apart from a hostile attitude from the border police because I have entered from an illegal port (now it is called Girne, and before the 1974 war it was Keryna). I told the border police that the northern Cypriots have treated me quite well, and after that it seemed their hospitality improved.
I have been learning a little bit about the island of Cyprus, it has apparently about ten thousand years of history and civilisation.
8200-1050 BC: Prehistoric.
1050-480 BC: Geometric and Archaic periods.
480 BC – 330 AD: Classical, Hellenic and Roman periods.
330-1191 AD: Byzantine period.
1192-1489 AD: Frankish period.
1489-1571 AD: Venetians in Cyprus.
1571-1878 AD: Cyprus becomes part of the Ottoman Empire.
1878-1960 AD: British rule.
1960- today: the Cyprus Republic
In 1974 the division has started as we see it today, and it is most depressing and heart-breaking to see two communities that cannot live together side by side. I have noticed that people over here in the south are not generally minded to be helpful, especially the older generation; however, the younger generation on both sides are trying to leave the past behind and look forward into the future, and I hope to see more evidence of this very soon.
So, back to my peace mission:
After my second crossing I headed towards the centre of the capital again, this time from the south side, and after about an hour’s walk I got tired and I set up my first peace camp here in the south, and had good night’s sleep. The next day I started exploring the south of the capital, and I managed to speak to many people.
On Sunday when I woke up, I heard music and celebration coming from a park near my camp (I’d been using the public toilets in the park and had been pleased to find it was called “The Garden of Peace”). I went to see what the music was about and found it was from people who were migrant workers from the Philippines and India and Pakistan; apparently every Sunday, on their day off, they gather and celebrate and play games. I participated in some of the games, there was plenty of food, and I was given a body wash and two bars of soap! It was a good day to spread my message among these people and many of them said they were hoping that one day I can make it to their countries. I made a video clip with someone who was videoing the Sunday gathering celebration, and he said he’d try to email it to me.
On Monday, soon after waking up, I was on my way back from the Peace Garden bathroom, when I saw two police officers – a man and a woman – opening my tent and making phone calls. They told me I have camped in front of a government building and asked me to move my camp as soon as possible. I told them I am going to the municipality building to see if they can offer me a place to stay for another two days, and so they showed me how to get there.
After about an hour’s walk I managed to find the building and after speaking to various people I managed to get a booking for two nights in a youth hostel bed. I headed towards the hostel and made myself at home there. The hostel has five rooms and each room has four beds. While I was camping out, all these beds were empty, and apart from me they are still all empty now. How sad can you be? Anyway, once I had shelter I had to go out and fetch some food; after about two hours food hunting I managed to get enough food for the night and for my next day’s breakfast as well, and after this I had a good night’s sleep.
Today I started my day by going to the UN Peacekeeping offices and there I spoke to a couple of the guards from the entrance to the building; both of them were from Britain (one from Cheshire and the other from Portsmouth). I told them I wanted to report the rudeness of one of the police officers at my first border crossing and I also asked how can I make the commissioner aware of what I am doing and find out how they can help me? The answers to these questions required much bureaucracy and were very time-consuming and not terribly helpful.
Next I headed to the third and final border crossing to go back into the Turkish-run north. From the Greek side there was no problem but on the Turkish side I had to wait for nearly half an hour and then, after many phone calls and discussions amongst themselves, the border officials finally let me go.
I went back to the community cafe shop where they had helped me to find my first camp site and they were kind again and offered me food and drink again, and I had to thank them again, for the last time. I started to walk about to the places I didn’t see when I was first there, and after speaking to some more people I then went back to my first crossing point, where I had the problem with one of the police officers before, and this time there was no problem, so I crossed back to the south and am now in the youth hostel for my second night, and after writing this I have to head out again for food hunting.
I wanted very much to camp at the buffer zone which is controlled by the UN Peacekeeping forces, but after being near to the site twice I’ve found people over there aren’t very friendly so I don’t know whether they’ll flush me out as they did with the Occupy people there last year. I don’t have any answers or support, so I might skip that and head down towards Larnaka/Lemesos in the south east and south of the island. From there I hope to get to Lebanon/Palestine… so wish me luck on my journey.