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Published: July 10th 2016
North NicosiaDay 167 Sunday 3rd July 2016 – Pafos to Nicosia
Selimiye Mosque - a cathedral with minarets
Up at a decent time to catch our 9.30am bus to Nicosia, had a quick breakfast and a very easy pack now we have sent a lot stuff home. Got down to reception at 8.30am to find the doors closed and no sign of anyone even though the opening time is 7.00am – OH NO! We rang the bell a few times, then I found some cleaning staff who located the man from the office. He checked us out and then offered us a lift to the bus station which was fantastic and saved us the hassle of a taxi.
The bus was there waiting so we asked the driver if it was OK to put the backpacks in the cargo bay and he nodded. We seemed all set and then he started going off that we had to put the camera bag in there too, we tried to explain that it could not as we had valuables in it but he walked off saying “NO NO”. Scott and I were left there looking at each other wondering what that was all about
The Kennedy Harleys
and remembering a similar incident in Batumi. We had a quick discussion and we had three choices plead with him again, offer to pay for an extra seat for the bag or get the bus to Limassol and then another to Nicosia. Yesterday on the way back from the beach the bus driver refused to let on two families with children and a pram saying “get the next bus” and then refused to stop when another family pushed the button meaning they had to walk miles back with small children, so I guess there is an attitude problem here with some bus drivers. Today’s driver walked back and other people started to get on some with day packs the same size as ours, he half challenged one man who said “no” and walked on so we slipped on and did not hesitate. So after all that angst it was no problem he was just an arsehole and yesterday’s driver must have been his son.
We got to Nicosia in under 2 hours mainly because the driver had his foot to the floor beeping at everyone to get out of his way. Got off at the bus station
Signs of war are still here
to 39 degree heat put our packs on and walked to the hotel just down the road to drop our bags off as the room would not be ready till 1.30pm. Walked around grabbed a huge doner kebab and then stopped at a café for a mango smoothie, while waiting they were giving everyone water with ice but before you could drink it the ice melted and the water was still warm.
Got into our room and relaxed for a few hours before looking around again and stopped at a café that does a good fresh lemonade with lots of ice and watched some of the colourful local characters go by and can I say there are a few. Moved on and found another place for dinner, the food choices are much better here and the servings are tasty and huge so much so that a lot of the meals you could share just one. Day 168 Monday 4th July 2016 – Nicosia
The hotel is nice and breakfast had a good selection so it was a good start to the day. On the way
Hey Dude, It's Septimus
back to the room we asked about laundry prices to which he said just bring it down no problem, I should say so far we have only paid 5 euro for a bag in Cyprus but we insisted on a price list. The list was delivered to our room by housekeeping and no wonder they did not want us to see it here is an example of prices:
T-shirts – 6 euros each
Underwear – 3 euros each
Socks - 3 euros a pair
Let’s see I guess the answer is no, we checked on google and there is a laundry in town so on our walk we will check their prices. The first laundry mat does not exist anymore but passed another one who also charges per item though better at only 1.5 euros per t-shirt, so it will be hand washing for us.
Continued our walk to the motorcycle museum which has a small display but apparently has hundreds more in a basement somewhere not on display which is a shame. LP says the museum is free but it is now charging 5
An "OLD" New Hudson
euros which is on the high side for the display. The star attraction for me was a pair of Harley Davidson bikes that President Kennedy gave to the Cypriot leader back in the early 1960’s, he also gave a Cadillac as well which is in another museum. The Harleys are a bit battered but still in original condition. Nearly all the bikes were discovered on Cyprus and restored and as you can imagine just about all the bikes are British, but it is an impressive collection. Had a chat to the son of man who has collected all the bikes before moving on for more of a look around town.
Whilst going through the mall I brought some new t-shirts as mine are starting to look a bit beaten after 5 months on the road and these cost 5 euros each so it would be cheaper to throw clothes away than get them washed. Which brings me to the next exciting thing today handwashing at the hotel, the good thing is with having a balcony which is in full sun so everything will be dry in an hour or two.
Went for a walk
Ledra Street Mall
late in the afternoon and stopped at the same café for lemonade, yesterday we had noticed the café next door seemed to have interesting platters come out. The lemonade café mainly has drinks and a few snacks so we wandered over and checked the menu and a platter for two was 15.50 euros with a meat, chicken or vego choice. Got a table outside and ordered when it arrived at the table it was huge and very good all fresh and tasty, we got 2 beers and water all for 23 euros it was amazing. At the end they gave us desert on the house and a liqueur. The difference from Pafos is amazing there it was a lot of overpriced microwave tasteless food and here it is great. Before coming here everyone we spoke to in Pafos about Nicosia told us “there is nothing there”, and “You’ll only stay a day and return to Pafos”. So far we are both loving Nicosia mainly for the food but also because it feels like Cyprus. Day 169 Tuesday 5th July 2016 – Nicosia
Today I am making Scott walk
The UN are still here
to Turkey well down the end of the mall to the Green Line through the Greek checkpoint and a few steps to the Turkish checkpoint. Now if anyone out there doesn’t realise already, the city of Nicosia has been divided by the “Green Line” since 1964 and the island since 1974. Cyprus gained its independence from England in 1960 and after that ethnic tensions between the Greek majority and the Turkish minority flared to the point that the UN got involved and divided the town with a buffer in between. It is called the Green Line because Major General Peter Young from the UN used a green pen on his map to define the two zones. Things settled down till 1974 when the CIA (aren’t they always involved in these things) tried to assassinate the Cypriot leader because they thought he was going commie, and Turkey overreacted by invading to defend their citizens. Horrific crimes were committed on both sides and a simmering hatred has meant that the UN has stood between the two sides for over 40 years. In recent years the UN sent the Australian Politician Alexander Downer to get the guys talking and settle the peace, it
Inside the Selimiye Mosque
worked a charm as both sides hated his guts and figured they would rather talk to each other than him. In April 2003 the border was opened at set hours in one spot and since then six other openings have appeared. Reunification of Cyprus is still a long way away but both sides are talking and the two current leaders are old school friends so things are looking up. The UN still control the ground in between and soldiers still patrol so this is very serious. For some reason despite everyone living on top of the Green Line you cannot take any photos.
We had read that you needed to fill out a form at the Turkish side and you received a slip of paper with a stamp that you need to carry with you but no more your passports are scanned and within a few minutes you are on the other side. We crossed at the Ledra St crossing which has only a short no man’s land of course you can’t take photos but on the Greek side just as you get to the checkpoint there is a café with a wall of sand bags and
Haydarpasha Mosque that used to be St Catherine Church
barbed wire with people sitting enjoying a cup of coffee.
We are still in Ramadan so it was very quiet on the Turkish side with most things closed. One of the main attractions was opened the beautiful Selimiye Mosque which was originally the gothic Church of Agia Sofia. Building started in 1209 and continued very slowly much to the annoyance of Louis IX of France who stopped here in 1248 to give them a kick up the bum on his way to the Crusades but it did not help, it was another 78 years before it was consecrated in 1326. It has had a rough history with the Genoese, Mamelukes and two earthquakes, then in 1571 the Ottomans arrived and it was changed to a mosque complete with two new minarets. Strangely enough the minarets seem to work well with the Gothic look and it is an amazing building even though the interior has been whitewashed.
The rest of the museums and markets were closed so we had a stroll around looking at all the interesting buildings only crossing paths with tourists near the checkpoints. On this side of the border the buildings are
The Iron gate at the end of the road is the "Green Line"
more original and the ones near the border walls still have the bullet holes. At the Roccas (Kaytazaga) Bastion is where the Greek and Turkish Cypriots could stand and see each other before the border controls were eased. It has a park at the side which had the gates open and a few people sitting in there despite the sign saying prohibited area so maybe the restriction have eased a bit more.
Walked back through the checkpoints to the Greek side and because we were not sweating enough decided to walk to Famagusta Gate checking out the city walls but will hopefully do more tomorrow. Finally made it back to the hotel mid-afternoon for a rest.
Early evening same café for lemonade and then onto a different restaurant for basic but good feed. Day 170 Wednesday 6th July 2016 – Nicosia
Decided to revisit the Famagusta Gate but it was still not open not sure why and if it is a permanent thing or just a “day off”, so continued onto the Church of Panagia Chrysaliniotissa built in 1450 and possibly the
Famagusta Gate in the old city walls
oldest Byzantine church in Nicosia. It is quite small and squat but full of beautiful icons so worth the stroll.
Then walked back across to other side of the old city with a quick stop at the bus stop to check our exit times for tomorrow and then onto the Cyprus Museum. To our surprise this is a good museum with great displays, Scott even stopped for a few minutes to look at the pottery then sat down and waited for me. There is a restored bronze statue of Septimus Severus a Roman Emperor who had no feet when they found him but they have fixed this and stuck him on a pedestal so he now stands here in all his glory (see photo). It said that Septimus was in the pose as if he was in the middle of a speech, which I would think is everyone’s bronze nightmare of public speaking in the nude. Unfortunately, the mosaic of Leda and the Swan which LP says is here has been moved back to Pafos somewhere.
Another 37 degree day so when we got out of the museum at 2pm the only thing was
Greek outpost in the foreground on the old city walls with Turkish flags in the distance
to buy a mango smoothie and head back to our Air Con room till it cooled. For dinner we returned to the restaurant we were at two nights ago and once again got a huge meat platter to share that was sensational. The Chef/owner came out and even had a chat to us and once again we got a complimentary dessert and shots of the local liquor.
Tomorrow we are moving on back to the coast and to be honest we sort of wished we were staying here. Nicosia is everything we wanted and hoped for from Cyprus, People, history, culture and food, this is Cyprus. What the coast has to offer is just a shallow tourist infested parody, but unfortunately we have some more time back amongst the beach lovers before we leave Cyprus. If you should come to Cyprus, ignore what the coastal dwellers will tell you and head to the heart of Cyprus Nicosia.
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