A tale of two capitols (Nicosia, Republic of Cyprus & Lefkosia, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus)
Nicosia Travel Blog› entry 15 of 26 › view all entries
Today was my day to go to
Today was another sunny one, clear, blue, and warm. I love this weather. I was up and out in just 30 minutes as I wanted enough time to explore each side of this divided capitol.
I asked the front desk about the best way to leave town since I’ve had challenges doing so, each day.
I have to make a comment as I have been in a vehicle for many days in a row which is not the norm for me. I miss driving! I’ve about gotten this whole RHD thing down. With concentration, it’s not difficult. Also, their radio stations here are awesome!!! I especially like the British Forces radio station. They play really hot current music. I miss that!!!
The drive to the capitol is north from Larnaca through a straight valley with beautiful mountains and valleys of limestone. The stone is so creamy white that it reminds me of sand dunes at times. It’s definitely unique and unexpected. Every color stands out against this color of stone.
It was about a 45 minute drive from the hotel to the city limits of
The walled ramparts that surround the city of
The ramparts completely encircle the city and make for fine walks along several sections. They were built with 11 fortified bastions which have remained pretty well unchanged.
I parked and paid for parking for 6 hours (3 euro). The government controls the parking prices. That’s great for tourists…the prices are reasonable and it is illegal to charge other prices. I parked between Constanza and D’avila bastions
I climb up the stairs to the top of the wall level. There is a farmer’s market in process at the Constanza bastion. It is a huge open space with all the veggies and fruits and treats you could want. In the far corner of the bastion is the Bayraktar Mosque. It was erected soon after the Turkish conquest in 1571.
I cross the street (the top of the wall) and then down the stairs down the other side to the
I enter near the pedestrian area of “Lidras”. The old homes are very interesting. I see a bit of Bulgarian and Maltese in the design. This area is very touristy with shops with crafts and souvenirs and cafes to lounge and have coffee or tea.
The Cypriots are known for their metal work and you will see creative window grates everywhere. They are fantastic. I walked this area for awhile soaking up the quaint charm.
Around a corner, I happened upon the
I continue through this area with the standard of construction being Cypriot Colonial and the details that go along with that. The doors and balconies and metal decoration had me click crazy. It was a real treat.
I stopped in to the tourist information center and picked up a city map which was very helpful. Also, just around the corner I noticed a shop with pottery and other distractions. I ended up with a replica of a museum piece of one of the clay tablets, and a lovely tile with a scene showcasing the beauty of
The old city is a combination of charm and desolation. Restored yellow and white stone architecture with ornate covered balconies contrasts with dilapidated, dusty concrete
buildings. Many abandoned buildings still show the scars of bullet holes, and many are homes to families of stray cats. Recent archaeological excavations have revealed
the domestication of cats on Cyprus more than 9,000 years ago, the earliest finding of cats in burial sites in the world. Some of the most beautiful buildings in
been restored under the Nicosia Master Plan, a bicommunal restoration initiative begun in 1979 under the auspices of the U.N. Development Programme. Funding came from a variety of sources, including the U.S.-funded Bicommunal Development Program. The Master Plan is a comprehensive urban planning document designed to improve living conditions.
I walked in and out of the maze of streets and found my way to
Continuing down this pedestrian corridor, I came to an unusual monument / sculpture??? It has a round base of stone with metal letters attached to the tops. The letters are Greek and Latin. In the center are long poles with cones of cement at their ends, like arrows??? In the center is also a pile of other stones with letters on them.????
The Turkish invasion of
Until relatively recently
A UN buffer zone, only a few yards wide, separates the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. The narrow streets of the old city can end in cement walls, gun emplacements, sandbags and razor wire. There is free mobility across the divide however through border checkpoints. Armed guards patrol and these are still the only places you can legally cross.
This is in front of the only pedestrian crossing from
I stopped and asked the border guards on the south side and they said with an American passport there is no issue, so onward I went. I walked a path that was maybe 2 meters wide with metal walls covered in plastic. At the halfway point, there were military on both sides with machine guns in the street watching. At the border of TRNC, they asked for my passport and gave me a visa form to fill out with my name, passport number, and nationality.
The first thing that you notice is that Lefkosia is not as prosperous as
The first little square was very touristy with cafes selling Turkish foods and coffee. There were a few shops with souvenirs but not many. I found a cool t-shirt with the Turkish-Cypriots whirling dervishes on it.
Next, I found Turunclu Mosque, building, which is constructed by cut stones and is located at the
I continued to walk this rundown area due to the amazing buildings that I kept finding. There was a Medieval Kumarcilar Khan. It’s a multi-domed, really architecturally fascinating building. The khan’s entrance consists of an interesting 17th century apse. Its difference to the Buyuk Khan is that this building’s balcony is covered with a wooden roof supported by thick stone columns whereas in the case of the Buyuk Khan the ground floor’s arched colonnade is repeated in the upper floor.
The grandest building came next, the Selimiye Mosque, which was originally the Gothic Church of St.
Along with the Muslim flag, the flag of TNRC can be seen here. This building, once great, is now a mess with alterations and patches and modern roof things. I don’t know what they are doing. It’s a shame, in my opinion.
I went inside to see what this Gothic jewel had become. In typical mosque fashion, everything was painted white.
As I walked back out and put my shoes back on, I noticed a shop with intriguing antiques. I would have loved to have purchased something but, my money was all gone until I could get back to
On the south side is the St. Nicholas Church which is under restoration. Built in the Byzantine and mediaeval styles, it is called The Bedestan, meaning covered market, and this it was, until the municipal market moved to buildings on the other side of the road. The Bedestan is now preserved as an ancient monument and the interior has many fallen marble and granite columns, probably Roman, and it shows that the Bedestan was once a much larger church.
The next square revealed a nicely kept row of traditional houses and cafes. At the end of this square was a monument with the flag and the symbol of the country, a howling wolf.
I was on my way to a mosque with the ruins of a great cathedral that is very famous. I had thought that I was lost……really lost. I even ran across a really cool door, great design and rough with age, and a little boy sleeping face down on the threshold.???
I pass another Gothic church, roof gone, now converted to a mosque, minaret at one corner.
Finally just down the street form this, The Yenicami Mosque, built in the 18th century. The church is from Middle Ages, and probably it was constructed in the 14th century. In 1571, after the Ottoman’s conquest, it was converted into a mosque and was used until it collapsed in 18th century.
Now my time was becoming limited. I wanted to see the
I found more than I thought there would be, of interest. I had enjoyed my discoveries so, whatever I miss, it’s okay.
I made my way back to the border.
I made it to the border but stopped for a moment at a bench to take a picture of my stamped visa. I didn’t know if it would be taken or not.
I was processed on the TRNC quickly and
Ok, so now, I’m in a hurry and trying to navigate the maze of streets to get to the opposite side of the
I stopped for a final site. It’s an Orthodox Church across from the Pancyprian Gymnasium. I could find no name on it or information online. It was a beautiful church and I had to take pictures of it.
I noticed, while walking through a passage, that their are metal tiles embeded in the stone streets. They are part of the city walks that take you through the historical areas of Nicosia and Lefkosia, within the Venetian Walls.
So, now just past , I need to head back to the car.
I get in the car….as I’m being watched by a strange man that is hanging out near the toilets. Actually, I recognized him from when I arrived, almost 6 hours ago..???!!!
I speed away and am able to reconstruct the great directions, in reverse. The drive back to Larnaca was spectacular. The sun was setting and the colors across the limestone mountains and the approaching
Upon my return to Larnaca, for the first time, my navigation to the hotel was simple and there was an open parking space.
I went in and had a wonderful conversation with the lady at reception about travel,
I returned to my room and looked through my treasures from the day. I thought about the two capitols that I visited. How different and not really understanding why they can’t just get along. The people in
I wrote a bit, talked to Rob, still in