On our second day in Cyprus, Chris and I wanted to go to Nicosia. That day was the Feast of Epiphany, however, and because it was a public holiday we ended up staying in Larnaca. I don’t have any pictures from that day, so my account of Larnaca will have to wait until Chris has sent me a few of hers.
We went to Nicosia on Saturday instead. Nicosia is the capitol of Cyprus and it is also the last remaining divided city in Europe. In the 1970s, Turkey invaded the island and now occupies the northern part of the country. Both countries claim Nicosia as their capitol, and the Green Line divides the city between them. Because we were curious, and a bit adventure seeking, Chris and I went to have a look.
Crossing the border was surprisingly easy. We walked through the buffer zone, which was occupied by protestors, and then had our passports checked by the Turkish Cypriot border guards. Our guard was really friendly and he even let Chris and I stamp our own passports! We were, perhaps, more than a little excited about this breech of normal procedure.
And then we were in the Turkish Republic of Norther Cyprus, a ‘country’ not internationally recognised and which we did have mixed feelings about being in, but was fascinating to walk around in.
This is going to be a picture heavy post, because it’s late and I don’t have much time to write. The Turkish side of the capitol was immediately quieter and less populated than the Greek side. It felt like walking into a different country, which I suppose we had. The Turkish bath that we wanted to visit was closed, as was the Lusignan House, so we chose to walk around for a couple of hours instead.
We first went to the Selimiye Mosque. The mosque was once the Agia Sophia Cathedral, but when the Ottomans invaded in the 16th century it was converted into a mosque. I had never been inside a mosque before. It was a Saturday morning, and so it was empty save for us.
You can tell the mosque is a converted building because the carpeting and placement of the podiums is all crooked. The church was built to face east, as all cathedrals are, but the niches and podiums all indicate the direction of Mecca. The bottom right photo is of a fresco painted onto the wall; Chris said she’d never seen a fresco in a mosque before.
And then we just wandered around for a bit more, passing through a folk art centre, another mosque, and generally finding it rather quiet — and yet incredibly picturesque.
We crossed the border again, receiving an exit stamp as we left, and re-entered the Greek side of Cyprus. On the Greek side of the Green Line is a monument commemorating the struggle:
I’ll post about the Greek side of Nicosia later…