Walking the Green Line – Touring the Buffer Zone

May 21, 2024

Join me on a fascinating walking tour through Nicosia's UN buffer zone with local guide Eleni Ellinas. We explore the erratic green line dividing the Greek Cypriot south from the Turkish north, abandoned buildings, and Eleni's hopes for reunification.

Meet Eleni Ellinas, a Cypriot who really likes to walk and talk. Both in her work as a tour guide and in her coaching business.

Before we started the walk of The Green Line – the buffer zone that divides Nicosia, I asked Eleni to tell me something about herself and what she does.

Her tour company is called Walk Talk Cyprus, and she’s specialising in cultural trips, where she unveils the real heart of Cyprus, sharing the stories that often go untold. When she won the Cypria Filoxenia Awards it was with these words:

“Eleni Ellina truly redefines the role of a guide, elevating sightseeing to an experience steeped in personal connection and rich understanding.” 

So, I’m with an expert and I feel so privileged that she agreed to spend a few hours with me.

A Cypriot Identity

Eleni began by explaining that as a Cypriot, she embraces being of mixed Greek and Turkish heritage – an identity unique, different from Greece and Turkey. The green line dividing the Greek and Turkish sides is not a simple line. Instead, it zigzags erratically, cutting right through properties, roads, and even houses.


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The Divided City of Nicosia

Nicosia is the last remaining divided capital city in the world. A green line administered by the UN splits it into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north. But this line doesn’t follow a straight path – it cuts a crazy zigzag through buildings, properties and roads in a chaotic pattern.

The Old City portion of Nicosia lies within historic Venetian-built walls and bastions. Here you’ll find narrow, twisting alleys lined with old sandstone houses, artisan workshops, tavernas, and shops selling traditional pottery, copperworks and leather goods. The atmosphere makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

Our walk took us right through this buffer zone, giving an up-close look at the division’s lingering impacts on the urban landscape.

The Buffer Zone

We started our walk at the Home for Cooperation, a cafe and co-working space that serves as a hub for bringing the two communities together through events, festivals and dialogue. Eleni pointed out invisible lines where we transitioned from the buffer zone to Greek or Turkish territory without even realizing it.

Abandoned Landmarks

One striking sight was the abandoned Ledra Palace Hotel, which used to be a thriving resort but now houses UN personnel. They can only perform basic maintenance, leaving bullet holes from 1974 untouched. We also passed eerie abandoned houses that once belonged to Greek Cypriots, now slowly being reclaimed by nature in the buffer zone.

Hope for Reunification

Eleni expressed hope that Cyprus can one day reunite, despite nearly 50 years of division. She misses the days when Greek and Turkish Cypriots lived in harmony – cooking together, celebrating each other’s holidays, and even merging words from both languages into the local dialect.

While a political solution seems unlikely now, Eleni believes ordinary people can still build bridges. I’m grateful she opened my eyes to this hidden world within Nicosia’s buffer zone and Cyprus’s complex, intertwined cultures. It was a fascinating glimpse into a past most have left behind, but that Cyprus is still struggling to move forward from.

I’ll be back with more from our walk next week. And here we also talk about what happened when the Turkish army invaded in 1974. She and her family had just moved to Varosha in what is now Northern Cyprus.

She was only four and was standing on some moving boxes in their kitchen looking out over the ocean when she spotted some ships approaching.

Varosha is now a ghost town, and in the next episode you can hear the full story of how they had only five minutes to pack and never since have been able to go inside their abandoned apartment.

My name is Palle Bo, and I gotta keep moving. See you.


Instagram: @walk_talk_cyprus

Facebook: Walk Talk Cyprus

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