The UN “Buffer Zone”, Nicosia.

Despite another really crap night with barely three hours kip I have had one of the most surreal and interesting days for a very long time, in fact as far as weird days go this will take some beating I think. Today I stake my claim (until I am corrected) as the first SERVING paraplegic to roll through the United Nations “Buffer Zone” in the DMZ of Nicosia in his wheelchair which must have caused some confusion to the Greeks and the Turks who man `sangers` either side in their respective `territories. If I am not the first then I will add to the claim that whoever may have been the first, I bet they were not with a blind guy! Karl and I (and the rest of the Op Nightingale group) were VERY fortunate today to be given a guided tour of the “Buffer Zone” that exits through the DMZ (De Militarised Zone) of the capital city, Nicosia. There are serving personnel who on tour in Cyprus who although they patrol the “Buffer Zone” have not actually had the tour where various points of interest are explained. I would love to have been a fly on the wall in the sentry positions of the Greek and Turk soldiers when they saw me in a wheelchair roll past with Karl using his white stick due to his blindness. If they radio in and write in the log books of the sentry position as we do then I would lvove to see what was written. A compulsery drug test would most definitely be on the cards I reckon”

The day began for me at stupid o’ clock with more of the same shit but there was no way I was going to let anything ruin today. I have been looking forward to the day trip today since we arrrived and so I got on with this mornings little tester I had been sent and took it as a blessing; I would at least be ready for our early start and to that end I would be the first to breakfast and not, as I had been concerned about, the last or missing it completely. It was 07.00 that we actually left for Nicosia but we were still on time. The sky was a glorious blue as seems to  be the majority of the time here and there were very few clouds in the sky. This was going to be a very good day. Traffic was free flowing for the most part of the journey and only slowed when we reached the towns as people were obviously driving in to work. We did manage to navigate our way to the Ledras Palace in Nicosia where we would meet up with our escorts (british soldiers working as part of the United Nations before the word escort is taken the wrong way!) but only because of the map app on the phone if we are honest. Anyway, apps or not, we got there and were soon in the car park meeting our guide, immediately there were signs of the fighting.

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We were given the tour by an Officer who had clearly done the research (or been given the script to learn) about the various points of interest. He gave us a brief on where we could and could not photograph and we headed off. I am going to let the pictures speak for themselves only occasionally writing about them. This really did take me aback. Enjoy.

Hole for firing through.

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 This building had many rounds hit it of different calibre.

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Again, bullet holes a plenty.

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This is a street which would have been used normally, just difficult to fathom that one side is Greek and the other is Turk. Only UN troops are permitted where we are in the picture.

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This is the wall of tea chests built by the Turks. The chests were originally the other way around, that being with the opening facing in. The Greeks complained to the UN that they believed the Turks were filling the chests with concrete, sand and stone to effectively create a solid wall to hide behing offering protection from bullets. It transpired that they were indeed doing what the Greeks thought and so were ordered to turn the boxes round. The UN however did not stipulate a time frame and so one box a month was ceremoniously turned around with a full military ceremony. It took fourteen months if I remember rightly for the boxes to be turned around. The UN built the solid wall with permission from both sides. Mental eh?

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This is known as “Blue Tractor”. When the fighting was on, there was a Blue tractor here left by a farmer. Ten years after the ceasefire the farmer ws told that he could enter the “Buffer Zone” to retrieve it but was not allowed to take a vehicle in to get it. He had 24 hours to get it running and roadworthy to be able to get it out…with 4 hours to spare he drove it out having stripped what needed to be repaired and rebuilt again. As it is known as “Blue Tractor” a childs toy was put in its place and evey five years the resident unit replaces it with a new childs ride on tractor…blue of course.  It just gets more and more mental.

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This white line was painted by the UN. Here is the story (shortened) about it. There was a wall, one side told the UN that the wall was getting taller and on inspection it was. So the UN painted a white line to show the top of the wall. The top layer of bricks were being removed and then replaced on top of the newly laid bricks. Again the UN were told the wall was getting higher and indeed it was and so the UN painted a line of bricks ten down from the top of the wall. The only way that the wall could now get taller was if ALL bricks above the white line were removed and then replaced so that the line was still ten bricks from the top. The wall never got any taller. Told it gets more and more mental.

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 People left in a hurry.

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Left as it was all of those years ago.

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Exactly as it was.

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 Car has 40km on the clock.

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Car also has 40km on the clock from delivery mileage. Insides are IMMACULATE  but only the owner is allowed to get them and he can’t because it is in the “Buffer Zone”

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 Same deal. How is your head coping with this?

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It really is like going back in time.

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Televisions from the shop. Everything untouched since the “Buffer Zone” was put in place.

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A heart warming but tragic story behind this house. Annie exercised her right to live in her house. She could not go out of the door here as it is in the “Buffer zone” but she did not have another door. Her family abandoned and disowned her because she would not move. Because she was exercising her right to stay, the UN troops would escort her through the “Buffer zone” so she could go in to the town to do her shopping and then would escort her back to her house on her return. She would only leave the house with an escort which was agreed by both sides. She died but had no family to attend her funeral and so the Turk and Greek leaders attended together. This was the first thing that the two sides did together and is still referred to today. Sad.

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The barbed wire had to be errected as it was being used as a run through.

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 A UN tower which is now disused.

 Trip to Nicosia 12 November 2014 DMZ (17)

There was so much to see and as I had to keep stopping I asked James to take pics and I went on to…

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MOUTH CAM!

Time is not on my side to get all of the videos of the day uploaded this evening but I will try to get them up before I leave at the end of the week. Until then though here is the first of the MOUTH CAM videoes starting with James taking the above picture.

From here we had lunch at the British camp and then were taken to the Nicosia International Airport, guess where that is? Oh, yes, INSIDE the “Buffer Zone”. This simply has to be the most mental part of it. If you want to make a Zombie appocolypse movie then this is the place. It is unreal.

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This is on the Turk side. The flag on the left was done by students and apparently read “Last time you ran, next time you’ll swim” but they were told to remove it by the Turk leaders. The big Turk flag could not be more of a middle finger flick and that is how mental it is.

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 The terminal building.

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Lots of Pigeon poo!

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The runway is 2.3km long but is disused. A massive piece of real estate but unusable. Something I did not manage to get a picture of was a truck ON TOP of a building. When the fighting was on to prevent either Army getting hold of and using the truck, the owner hoisted it on to the top of the building. When the ceasefire etc was in place he was told he could go and retireve the truck BUT he was NOT allowed to use a crane, so that buggered things up and so it remains on the roof of the building. Have a look at Paul Blinkhorns Blog as he has alot more pictures than me, it will give you more of a look inside the DMZ as there were areas I could not get to in the chair. A big thank you to Graham the driver who helped me and gave me a lift for the part of the tour I couldn’t do in my chair, and to Jake who was assigned to us both of which were really helpfull and great to have around for the day. So I have had a really interesting but very surreal day today. How was yours?

Goodnight all.

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