Crossing a check-point has always made my trips exciting and adventurous. And in this case it has never been weirder and easier than the Green Line of Lefkosia. The check-point and Green Line of Nicosia are fascinating; while barely visible, when you do notice them you kind of get a bizarre and odd edge about the city. The check-point I’m referring to is the one located in Ledra Street (not to be confused with Ledra Palas). Ledra Street was sealed in 1974 during the Turkish troops invasion on the North and was reopened in 2008 following recent defrosting events in the South and North relations. Now almost everybody can cross the border regardless the point in which you entered the island. They might ask for further controls if you’re not an EU citizen but normally it doesn’t go beyond that (for Turkish people who wish to visit the Southern side they are basically asked to enter via any legal entry point in the South). The Ledra Street check-point, the only one made for pedestrians, was opened in 2008 it is located in such way that it appears out of nowhere right in the middle of the market. So, back to my adventure. It was on our fourth day of travelling around that we finally decided it was time cross to the North, I wanted to do that sooner, but I was not alone to decide. As we planned on a road trip starting from Paphos, we were warned that the same car rented in Paphos was not allowed to cross to the North. In spite of additional insurance that are normally offered before crossing the Green Line, it was better to avoid further risks. So we drove to Nicosia (Lefkosia) and left our car in a parking lot and we started walking towards Ledra Street, the only check-point for pedestrians, right in the middle of the city. And when I say right in the middle I really mean it 🙂 Lefkosia is a touristic stop and often crowded, especially if you go towards the market and the Old City area. Plenty of tiny streets filled with shops and people
We knew that the check point would be just in Ledra Street, at some point, but as we kept walking I saw no sign or anything that will indicate “Check-point, 50 mts” or “Passport Control this way”. Nothing. So we kept walking with a Starbucks coffee in our hands. Not even 30 meters later, we finally see the UN signs of Green Line
A corridor of 30-40 meters with a handful of people, leading to the actual Passport Control
As I stood back in the line I saw that the control was very quick and simple: the visa form is basic and requires only full name, document number, and signature. No more than that. The officer doesn’t ask any questions as per “Why are you here?” or “Where will you stay in the Northern side?” or “Are you carrying any dangerous items in your bag?”, none of that, which seemed strange to me as most countries with partition lines will at least put you through a minimum interrogation. But this wasn’t the case. After you fill in the tiny document they stamp it and let you know that this piece of paper has to be given back once you return.
So my mother and cousin took 2 minutes for the whole thing and got their stamp on the piece of paper, but I wanted it on my passport 🙂 !
So when it finally came to my turn, this was the dialogue:
Me: “Can I have the stamp on my passport? 🙂 ”
Me: “Sure, why not, I mean what could possibly happen if I have it, right?”
Lady: “Why do you want it on your passport?” she took her reading glasses off which made me laugh a bit 🙂 seemed like my request surprised her.
Me: “I collect stamps…” I was a bit emarrased, I knew how childish I sounded and she looked so serious that made me feel silly. But damn I wanted my stamp!
Lady: “Then give me back the piece of paper, you cannot have two stamps, one is enough”
Me: “Oh, ok, I was hoping I could keep both, but sure, no problem 🙂 ”
Lady: “One stamp is enough madam”
Me: “You are right. Will I get the stamp on my way out when I return?”
Lady: “No, you will not. One stamp, is enough” She was visibly annoyed and I was amused, normally they stamp your passport twice 🙂 ! So why would she say that? Is it because I was crossing to an unrecognized area that one stamp was enough proof? Some sort of bad feeling? Or she simply didn’t like me? In the meantime I didn’t realize that behind there was a huge line of people waiting and probably wondering why it was taking so long (they must have thought “Ha! Another Italian complaining about something”). My mother and cousin approached me worried and asked what was going on, so I said “The lady said she can stamp my passport, but only once :/”. To their annoyed reply “And that’s why you’re taking so long?!” I thought yes, maybe I was being the Italian who often complains… But who cares, I have my stamp 🙂
And then welcomed to North Lefkosia