If you’re heading to Cyprus then you’ve got to check out Nicosia. It isn’t the most technologically advanced or largest city out there but the history and pure way that it exists is fascinating. It is essentially a city divided between Turkish and Greek Cypriots. The two areas are passport control divided and feel like different worlds from language used, food and people.
Starting with the Turkish side which felt more alive with bustling people, markets and wafts of food from vendors. You instantly notice a difference through the change of language on signs but also how people dress. It felt much more homely and in a weird way I got Israel flashbacks to the busyness of the shuks there and found it quite warming. The Selimiye Mosque is a must see as it is a converted cathedral. Firstly from the outside it is so grand and dominates your view when you look up. The flags and towers really do tower over the rest of the city. It’s tardisesque (if this isn’t a word it should be) and much bigger on the inside than you think. There are some beautiful spots and the contrast between the cathedral decor/interior but the mosque styling is really gorgeous.
My next stop was the Buyuk Han. It’s a stunning complex known as a caravanserai and I believe it’s the largest one still intact. Now it houses little restaurants and souvenir shops (I picked up some bargain bits). The different levels are really lovely with vines and flower decor. It really felt like I was in a little village oppose to a city whilst being there.
Little mid-post snack here for you. Not really sure what makes these particular crisps ‘Cyprus’ ones or why there’s a kangaroo on the front but it gave me some giggles. I particular like the packaging for bugles and skips in the background which is nothing like the western versions.
Now to head to the other side and the border control is a narrow alleyway that really feels like somewhere you could get mugged. There are a few officers in little booths and they give you a once over and stamp you across. I really wasn’t sure what to expect but just having it out in the open air really threw me. Whether people do this daily for work or to get certain groceries I’m not sure, but the whole division and judgement isn’t a nice feeling. Clearly it’s something that still causes tension but a lot of street art around the border is anti it and pro getting together. I wonder if this is what it would be like if Scotland ever left and how they might handle the crossing.
The Greek side did feel a lot more open and weirdly cleaner. They had a bunch of modern shops, recognisable brands and people seemed calmer. I really enjoyed the architecture here as it felt like a weird middle eastern/Spanish fusion and the sunshine made everything worthwhile to me. Oh just to add that seeing part of the Nicosia wall was really interesting and I’d recommend venturing out a little to catch a glimpse.
Of course I had to hit up a museum. I love sculpture and visiting the Cyprus Museum satisfied that craving. They have a great collection of pieces and the coolest part is that everything on show has been discovered on the island. You don’t need too long here as it is quite small but a great place to get some shelter and learn some Cypriot history.
I’d say give yourself a weekend and you’ll see most of the sights. There is a main shopping street full of the usual high street giants but really I think the charm is getting lost down the sideways and truly embracing the outer city. If you missed my other Cyprus posts you can find them here.