UF Uppsala

Published March 12, 2024

When we arrived at the airport in Larnaca we were all pleasantly surprised by the warm sea air in Cyprus, having left a frosty cold Uppsala behind. When taking the shuttlebus to the capital Nicosia, it is nearly impossible to miss the massive Turkish flag side by side the flag of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on the mountainside, illuminated in the night by bright lights, looking over the world’s last divided capital city.

On our first day we took a walk through town to visit the Swedish ambassador’s residence, where we were offered the typical fika. The ambassador explained the situation on the island and Sweden’s role as a facilitator for talks between religious leaders of the parties to the conflict. After an interesting visit, we went to pick up our rental cars. It was time to drive into the UN buffer-zone for our next meeting. After driving through a crowded Nicosia in left-hand traffic, we arrived at the UN checkpoint. We drove in convoy following our UN escort car about a kilometer into the buffer zone, where their office was situated. We got the opportunity to talk to the UN officers there and had a look at Nicosia’s old airport which had been closed shortly after the Turkish invasion in 1974. After the meeting, we finished the day off by going through the world’s last border patrol dividing a capital. After crossing to the northern side, we shortly noticed major differences. In 50 meters we had walked from a Greek-influenced, touristy and somewhat sterile city into a society where we instantly were greeted with Turkish delights, tea and statues of Atatürk. We had walked from a society with a majority of churches to one with mainly mosques. We spent the evening there visiting the significantly cheaper and progressive bars there, before taking the Uber back to our hostel.

The next day we had booked a meeting with a university from northern Cyprus. They offered us a traditional citrus cake and gave us all northern Cypriot cookbooks. The TRNC is only recognized internationally by Turkey, so one could imagine that this was a way for them to show that they have a culture of their own, but perhaps to express goodwill internationally as well. We talked to the university staff and had an interview for our Uttryck magazine. They offered us a tour around the town and invited us to visit one of the mosques, of course with a Turkish flag hanging inside. The hospitality was remarkable and after a guided tour through Lefkosa, which the northern part of the capital is called, the university booked a tour bus to Kyrenia on the northern coast of Cyprus, where we visited an old monastery, originating long before the island’s rift dividing Muslims and Christians between north and south.

After a long day, we took the bus to a completely empty Ayia Napa, where we would spend our final night in Cyprus before flying to Athens early the following day.