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 explore Nicosia: one city, two countries, in one go, 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. 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 quite 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 courteous 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 on signposts 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.
As I’ve mentioned, I had lost my iPhone (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. This is the first photo I took in Nicosia, and I had to talk my friend into taking it for me.
In our defence, we can’t really be blamed for getting lost this time. The yellow line of the tourist walk was nowhere to be seen! We later realised that this was because the yellow line depicted on the maps was actually a blue line painted onto the road (you can just about make it out in the video below).
(If you can’t see the video, use this link: http://youtu.be/N78DOEf5Ukk)
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 one of the ‘Nicosia Walled City’ signpost in the shot – we would probably have been twice as lost without them!
The tourist walk took us through neighbourhoods that were full of contrasts.
Houses in ruins and elegant villas were almost side by side.
We also found an area with some rather ritzy restaurants, where we stopped for a yummy lunch. Then we turned a corner, and suddenly we 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.
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… 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. Going through a demilitarised zone to cross into another country sounds quite scary. Until you realise that you can literally wave to the people queuing on the other side of the border. And that they accept Euros on both sides. Another fact we had somehow missed, but I had fun familiarising myself with Turkish Lira. In South Nicosia we did some top-notch sightseeing (i.e. walking around haphazardly) and a little more shopping.
Then we decided it was time to sample some traditional Cypriot Meze.
We found a lovely restaurant near the bus station, and ordered a vegetarian meze for two. 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.