A brick in the wall part one

Nicosia Travel Blog

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Mosque in the southern part of town

I start the day super early - ok maybe it is not super early but the streets of town is pretty empty given it is January first and nobody else will be out and about until noonish. I start on some sort of walking tours around the city. The city is pretty small and completely surrounded by a huge wall built by the Venetian to prevent the Ottomans from conquering the city like they had been conquering so much else around the Mediterranean in the years which had just passed. 

 

The wall around the city is very impressive looking and it looks like a formidable obstacle to pass.

Inside mosque in the southern part of town
In front of the wall is a big trench which is currently used for different sort of activities for the city - half of which seems to be parking space and the rest is divided between parks and different sort of recreational and sporting activities. Unfortunately this impressive wall did not serve its purpose when the Ottomans finally landed in Cyprus shortly after they arrived they started moving towards the capital of the island Lefkosia with the impressive wall. The wall was soon broken and the Ottomans conquered the city in 1570 and kill lots of the nobility of the city which were never again to return to the hands of the Venetians.  It remained in the hands of the Ottomans until the British took over as the masters of the island in 1878 to get an important base in the eastern part of the Mediterranean. The Ottomans took Islam with them when they arrived and ever since the Ottoman conquest mosque has been a usual sight in the cities of Cyprus.
Inside mosque in the southern part of town

 

 I head down to one of the big mosques in the southern side of the town - it is still in use by the small Turkish Cypriot minority living in the southern part of town. The mosque probably also serve the Arab who might have moved to Cyprus form its neighbors around the southeastern Mediterranean.

 

After this I get to the Archbishops palace and it is huge - actually it is bigger than the tiny building the Danish queen calls her home in Copenhagen. Outside the palace is a lot of military I supposed it has got something to do with a service the archbishop will be performing because of the New Year but I am not sure what it is all about.

 

I walk on and get my first of several dead end experiences on my small walking tour.

Inside mosque in the southern part of town
Cyprus is in a special situation because it is a divided country - it consists of two parts - the Republic of Cyprus which is a member of EU and is generally recognized as the legal entity of the island of Cyprus. Then there is the Republic of Northern Cyprus which is only recognized by Turkey this part has effectively been controlled by Turkey since 1974 and there are no signs of an immediate solution to the issued. In fact there is still a state of war on the island between the northern Turkish supported side and the southern part of the island. There has been a truce since 1974 which has been kept with the aid from UN troops which controls a small strip of land between the two sides keeping them apart from each other.
In Lefkosia this means all street going northern souths across this UN controlled area is cut of suddenly seal by concrete, oil barrels and barbwire. Whether you are searching for this experience or not you are bound to get it when you accidently get a bit lost at one stage.

 

Well I turn back from the dead end no photo road and walk towards the Venetian Walls which encircle the entire old city. I start walking along the wall for a while following the wall more or less half the way around the city. It is indeed a very nice little sight very well preserved and it has remain an integral part of the city till this day - unlike the fortifications surrounding so many other ancient cities which were taken down as the city expanded beyond the old barrier of the old walls. When I get closer to the western side of the city I start to meet several people who are dressed in what appears to be Indian clothing and they also look sort of Asian - but then again Cyprus is on the cross road of three continents so just what exactly do a Cypriot look like? I get to the western end of the city and there is a catholic church.

Then how come so many people is killed in the name of religion? Christian - Judism or Islam?
And it is given service at just around this time of the day for the Filipinos, Indians and Sri Lankans of Cyprus.  This must mean there is actually a pretty big presents of these nationalities in Lefkosia. I guess this also explains why I could find San Mig in the convenient store down the road - it is not that common to actually find San Mig’s in Europe.

 

The Catholic Church is sort of interesting - not so much the church itself which is kind of an ordinary church. But the placement of the church is a constant reminder of the situation of the city. The church is right at the Green Line dividing the city - the backside of the church is actually in the UN controlled no man’s land between the two sides of Cyprus. The church were only allowed to keep working as a church under the condition the back door of the church would remain locked at all times and never under any circumstances be opened.

Inside mosque in the southern part of town
The back door has remained locked ever since 1974 till this very day.

 

Just next to the church is one of the three main gates into the old city - the Pafos gate. This gate were the first place where the British expanded the entrances to the old city to allow easier access for the traffic in and out of the old city - hence the gate is not really all that well preserved anymore.  Next to the Pafos gate is one of the 11 bastions around the wall. At this bastion is the place in all of Cyprus where the UN buffer zone is at its narrowest. The top of the bastion is in the hands of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus while the bottom of the bastion is in the hands of the Greek Republic of Cyprus.

Random house in town
The wall of the bastion is the UN buffer zone though I doubt there has ever been any UN troops patrolling in this specific section of the buffer zone because they would be certain to fall down and get stuck in the barbwire at the bottom of the bastion.

 

I walk on toward the Ledra Palace Hotel border crossing. It was the first border crossing which were open in the Lefkosia area. Walking down to the crossing you go through a partly deserted area with lots of closed shops empty houses and buildings which are sealed off by the UN forces in the area. Down right at the border are several giant posters put up by the Greeks commemorating the martyrs of Derynia. That is a couple of people who were shot and killed by the Turkish troops while they tried to lower a Turkish flag near Derynia in 1996. There are also signs demanding a reunification of Cyprus. Actually I find the Greeks claims a bit ironic given the fact that the Turkish invasion where partly due to harsh Greek harassment of the Turkish minority which were also the reason for the original introduction of the Green Line in Lefkosia.

The arch bishops little house
Back in 1974 there was a lot of political turmoil going on in Cyprus with different governments being introduced via CIA sponsored coops.

 

The crossing of the border is really simple. On the Greek side you only have to flash your posh EU passport around and they will let you through on the Turkish side you need to fill out a page of paper with your name and passport number and the Turkish immigration will stamp that piece of paper instead of your passport. The entry is good for 90 days not that I am going to stay for more than a day for now.

 

After I have crossed the border I walk up to the bastion which is shared by Turks on the top and Greeks at the bottom - apparently this bastion used to be an important place to go visit because until 2003 this was the only place where you could actually see people from the other side more or less face to face - in all the rest of Cyprus the UN Buffer zone would be much wider which would prevent people from actually seeing each other.

The guard outside the arch bishops house

 

I walk on in the Turkish side of Lefkosia it is remarkably well marked with lots of plaques telling you where the different attractions are placed around the city. It is actually interesting with the maps of the city - in the south you will not get a map of the attractions of the northern part if you go to the tourist information or find any public map in the city - they will all just refer to the northern part of the city as the illegally occupied territory. In the North you will find lots of information about attractions of the south - it is like the north wants reunification while the south don’t really want reunification unless it will be absolutely unconditional on terms set solely by the Greek Republic of Cyprus without any guaranties for the Turkish minority.

 

I walk around the north for a while many of the biggest attractions within the wall will be found in the north.

Church next to the arch bishops palace
There is a grand mosque you can actually see the two minarets from the mosque from most parts of the city. The mosque is a bit strange looking - it does not look like a mosque at all - and it is not really a mosque originally it is an old Catholic Church built in gothic style started by the Franks when they ruled Cyprus. When the Ottomans conquered the city in 1570 they need a giant mosque for their new capital of Cyprus and they decided it would be too costly and take too long to start from scratch instead they just took the old main church of the city took out all that looked sort of Christian and slapped the two minarets on it - and hey they got a really big mosque in town. Unfortunately the old architect did not have enough foresight to realign the church towards Mecca hence the new owners had sort of a problem with the orientation of the new mosque - but they did not have too much of a problem they just put in some carpets which could indicate the direction towards Mecca and the faithful could use the lines of the carpet to help them find the right direction. This is not the only church the Ottomans converted into a mosque they did so with more churches in the old city.
Church next to the arch bishops palace

 

There are a couple of churches still in the northern section of the city though they have not been in much use since the separation of the city in 1974. Hence some of them have fallen into disrepair and one is currently undergoing lots of renovations hence you can neither see the church nor visit it.

 

In the middle of the city is one big building which is occupied by the old Han which was the place where traders came to Lefkosia in the Ottoman days to sell their goods on the big square at the centre of the building. The four sides surrounding the big square were used as accommodation for the travelling sales men so they did not have to stay far away from their merchandise. There is no business taking place on the square today but in the old rooms for accommodation there are a lot of different enterprises taking care of the tourist coming today to see this old market.

Arch bishops palace
Hence you can easily buy your much need souvenirs here if you want to.

 

I wonder off down to see the last gate of the city the Girne gate or Kyrenia gate depending if you want the Turkish or Greek name for the gate and the city it will lead you to eventually. It is a nice gate but this one has also been cut away from the old wall to let cars into the old city from the northern road. It’s actually getting a bit late by now - earlier in the day I had been annoyed the museums were all closed because of the national holiday for New Years day but in the end I spend the entire day just wondering around the old city looking at the old buildings and the wall.

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Mosque in the southern part of town
Mosque in the southern part of town
Mosque in the southern part of town
Mosque in the southern part of town
Inside mosque in the southern part…
Inside mosque in the southern par…
Inside mosque in the southern part…
Inside mosque in the southern par…
Inside mosque in the southern part…
Inside mosque in the southern par…
Then how come so many people is ki…
Then how come so many people is k…
Inside mosque in the southern part…
Inside mosque in the southern par…
Random house in town
Random house in town
The arch bishops little house
The arch bishops little house
The guard outside the arch bishops…
The guard outside the arch bishop…
Church next to the arch bishops pa…
Church next to the arch bishops p…
Church next to the arch bishops pa…
Church next to the arch bishops p…
Arch bishops palace
Arch bishops palace
Byzantine museum next to the arch …
Byzantine museum next to the arch…
Byzantine museum next to the arch …
Byzantine museum next to the arch…
Museum next to the arch bishops pa…
Museum next to the arch bishops p…
Museum next to the arch bishops pa…
Museum next to the arch bishops p…
Museum next to the arch bishops pa…
Museum next to the arch bishops p…
High school in Nicosia - looks ver…
High school in Nicosia - looks ve…
Little old church in the south
Little old church in the south
Little old church in the south
Little old church in the south
Little old church in the south
Little old church in the south
Little old church in the south
Little old church in the south
Little old church in the south
Little old church in the south
Little old church in the south
Little old church in the south
Random street with deadend going t…
Random street with deadend going …
The friendly border area - trying …
The friendly border area - trying…
The friendly border area - trying …
The friendly border area - trying…
The Venetian walls of the city
The Venetian walls of the city
The Farmagusta gate
The Farmagusta gate
The Farmagusta gate
The Farmagusta gate
The Venetian walls of the city
The Venetian walls of the city
The Venetian walls of the city
The Venetian walls of the city
The memorial of the strugle agains…
The memorial of the strugle again…
Arch bishops palace - now the guar…
Arch bishops palace - now the gua…
The Venetian walls of the city - n…
The Venetian walls of the city - …
The Venetian walls of the city - n…
The Venetian walls of the city - …
The Venetian walls of the city
The Venetian walls of the city
The mosque for the standard bearer…
The mosque for the standard beare…
The mosque for the standard bearer…
The mosque for the standard beare…
The Venetian walls of the city
The Venetian walls of the city
The phasos gate
The phasos gate
Chatolic church with a locked back…
Chatolic church with a locked bac…
Chatolic church with a locked back…
Chatolic church with a locked bac…
People going to the mass
People going to the mass
The phasos gate
The phasos gate
The phasos gate
The phasos gate
The phasos gate
The phasos gate
The phasos gate
The phasos gate
The Venetian walls - this spot is …
The Venetian walls - this spot is…
Wall and houses in the north
Wall and houses in the north
Northern streets
Northern streets
Northern streets
Northern streets
Home of the pasha of nicosia
Home of the pasha of nicosia
The old Han merchants resting plac…
The old Han merchants resting pla…
The old Han merchants resting plac…
The old Han merchants resting pla…
The main mosque in town - it does …
The main mosque in town - it does…
The main mosque in town - it does …
The main mosque in town - it does…
The main mosque
The main mosque
The main mosque
The main mosque
building just outside the mosque
building just outside the mosque
The main mosque
The main mosque
The main mosque
The main mosque
Nice old houses
Nice old houses
Nice old houses
Nice old houses
Nice old houses
Nice old houses
Inside the mosque - the carpet is …
Inside the mosque - the carpet is…
Inside the mosque - the carpet is …
Inside the mosque - the carpet is…
Inside the mosque
Inside the mosque
Inside the mosque - the carpet is …
Inside the mosque - the carpet is…
Inside the mosque - the carpet is …
Inside the mosque - the carpet is…
The two minarets the ottomans slam…
The two minarets the ottomans sla…
The two minarets the ottomans slam…
The two minarets the ottomans sla…
The walls of the city
The walls of the city
The Kyrenia gate
The Kyrenia gate
The Venetian column
The Venetian column
Cyprus museum
Cyprus museum
Entrance to the presidential palac…
Entrance to the presidential pala…
Cyprus tree close to the president…
Cyprus tree close to the presiden…
Watch out for those damn pelicans …
Watch out for those damn pelicans…
Traditional orange tree
Traditional orange tree
Traditional apple tree
Traditional apple tree
Nicosia Sights & Attractions review
Crossing the Green Line
One of the most bizarre tourists in Lefkosia is the Green Line. The Green Line got its name from the color of the pen the British officer used in 1963… read entire review
Nicosia
photo by: JP-NED