Guess who fell ill on day 3 of their holiday? Yup. Such fun. This was on top of the fact that I managed to lose both my iPhone and my card the night before our flight. I must admit that at this point I was starting to feel just a little bit sorry for myself. Still, I was determined to visit Nicosia, so I headed to the Mini Market at our hotel in Paphos and stocked up on tissues and throat lozenges. I wasn’t going to let illness stop me from exploring a capital city!
Though, of course, Nicosia (or Lefkosia, as it is called in Greek) isn’t just one capital city – it is two. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the beautiful walled city of Nicosia is the world’s last remaining divided capital, and it is split between two countries – The Republic of Cyprus and The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. It is the capital of each respective country, so we actually visited two capitals by exploring one city.
By means of getting lost in Paphos a few days previously, we had already located the bus station, so getting to Nicosia was easy. Crossing the UN buffer zone between the two countries felt a bit scary, but that was just because we opted for the Ledra Palace crossing rather than the Ledra Street one – the internet at our hotel was a little sketchy so we weren’t able to do much research in advance; we just found the name of a crossing that we could also locate on a map, and off we went! (Actually, we did get a little lost – as you should when you’re exploring a city – and headed straight for the buffer zone, rather than the crossing point. It wasn’t a problem, the handsome and curtious UN Peacekeeping soldiers were happy to point us in the right direction.)
Once we had crossed the buffer zone, we followed a tourist walk outlined on the ‘Nicosia Walled City’ maps. These maps were everywhere, and we would probably have been lost without them – in fact, we did get lost without them. We accidentally strayed from the tourist walk and ended up in a children’s play park. Though, in our defence, the yellow line of the tourist walk was nowhere to be seen, and we later realised that this was because the yellow line shown on the maps was actually a blue line painted onto the road (actually, you can just about make it out in the video below).
The tourist walk took us through neighbourhoods that were full of contrasts. Houses in ruins and elegant villas were almost side by side, and we also found some rather ritzy restaurants (where we stopped for a yummy lunch) before we suddenly entered a tourist area with a wonderful bazaar. This area turned out to be a continuation of Ledra street in South Nicosia, which is why that crossing would have been so much more practical. Also, here the buffer zone was only about 10 metres wide, whereas we had to walk quite a way to cross it. Going through a demilitarised zone to cross into another country sounds quite scary until you realise that you can literally wave to people queuing on the other side of the border, and that they accept Euros on both sides – another fact we didn’t know, but I had fun familiarising myself with Turkish Lira.
The area around Arasta Sokak was great, and we both bought lots of souvenirs from the bazaar – there were so many goodies to choose from; Turkish Delight, Turkish tea, Turkish halva – and I may have lost it a little when I discovered a store full of amazing Turkish towels!
After my towel theatrics, we ambled back across the border and into South Nicosia, where we did some top-notch sightseeing (i.e. walking around haphazardly) and did a little more shopping before we decided it was time to sample some traditional Cypriot Meze. Five dishes and some pita bread was brought out, and it all looked lovely – then three more dishes came, then another two, then three more, then… I may have lost count, but I’m pretty sure we had 17 dishes (18 if you count the pita bread). No wonder there is a 2-people minimum to order it! It was absolutely delicious, and full of impressions – but mostly food – we made our way back to the bus station and to our hotel in Paphos.
As I’ve mentioned, I had lost my phone (it was safely restored to me after the holiday, though!) and had to rely on a disposable camera. I am usually very snap happy, but with a limited amount of photos, I had to be a bit choosy about what I actually photographed. I think you will agree that I passed this task with distinction when you see the picture immediately below, which I talked my friend into taking for me.
Join me and my friend for a walk through Nicosia: One city, two countries.
My friend filmed this short video in the Turkish part of Nicosia. Hearing the muezzin call to prayer creates a very special atmosphere that just takes me right back. I love that she included the ‘Nicosia Walled City’ map in the shot – we would probably have been lost without them!
(If you can’t see the video, use this link: http://youtu.be/N78DOEf5Ukk)