Nicosia (Lefkosia in Greek) is the only capital of the world divided between two states. And, although one of these states is the unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus by none other than Turkey, the border is quite real – with a wall and a single checkpoint. True, there are no problems crossing this border (at least for tourists) – it is enough to have a passport.
Border in Nicosia
Nicosia is not a very tourist destination, despite the fact that there are several times more historical attractions here than in any other Cypriot city. The reason is very simple – the capital is not on the coast, but in the interior of the island. And, although it is only about an hour to drive from Larnaca to Nicosia, few people dare to tear their bodies off the beach sand and devote the day to exploring Nicosia, which, moreover, is considered the hottest place on the island. But I did it 🙂 and I’ll tell you what you can see in Nicosia on your own in 1 day.
Nicosia Greek and Turkish
So, the Cypriot capital is divided into North Nicosia (Turkish) and South Nicosia (Greek).
Before the division, it had an international airport, which is now used only by UN forces.
Main street of Greek Nicosia
and its continuation on the Turkish side
In general, the Greek part of the city looks more decent than the Turkish one. Not that on the one hand everything was clean and tidy, but on the other there was rubbish and devastation, but nevertheless, on the Turkish side, stripped or even just destroyed buildings are found even in the depths of the city (near the wall, of course, no one lives and the houses there look the same).
It seems that the Turks in Cyprus live poorer than the Greeks. An indirect confirmation of this is the prices, which are much lower on the Turkish side.
Both the Greek and Turkish authorities are strenuously pretending that their opponents do not exist at all. On the tourist maps of the city, which, by the way, the Turks give for free at the checkpoint, and the Greeks sell, there is simply no hostile territory.
But, there is something else, or rather, someone who is present invariably in both parts of the city. Fortunately, cats are not divided into Turkish and Greek 🙂
Are the cats Greek or Turkish? 🙂
Everything else is different, incl. architecture. If in Greek Nicosia the appearance of churches, even those that have been converted from Catholic churches, tends more to the Byzantine canons, then in the Turkish part of the mosque, the outward appearance remains the same Frankish Gothic cathedrals, only with minarets and without bas-reliefs.
The old city of Nicosia is bounded by Venetian walls, once very imposing, but now, for the most part, destroyed, or thoroughly buried in the ground.
City wall (16th century)
The former scale of this building can be appreciated at the Paphos Gate, where the wall has been restored.
City wall at the Paphos gate (16th century).The gates themselves were being restored at that moment and the appearance was unpreventable.
The main entrance gates are located at different ends of the city – respectively, in the Greek (Paphos) and Turkish (Kyrenia) parts.
Kyrenia Gate (XVI century)
One more gate is well preserved – also in the Greek part – Famagustka or Giuliani gate.
Famagusta Gate (XVI century)
The walls of Nicosia are now the only thing that unites the city. So, we will consider it in parts.
Faneromeni Church was built on the territory of the convent. They write on the Internet that this is the largest Orthodox church on the island, but you cannot tell from its appearance.
Faneromeni Church (XIX century)
Many Orthodox churches in Nicosia are relatively new, as they are most often rebuilt on the site of old temples destroyed during the Turkish conquest.
Church of Saint Cassian (XIX century)
The oldest surviving one is the Chrysaliniotiss Church, built at the behest of the Byzantine princess Helena Palaeologus, who was the wife of Jean II de Louisignan and, accordingly, the queen of Cyprus. Unfortunately, it is rather difficult to understand what the church looked like before – the original building is hidden by later extensions.
Chrysaliniotiss Church (XV century)
Chrysaliniotiss Church (XV century)
Cathedral of St. John does not give the impression of the main temple of the city – a sort of modest building.
Nearby is the palace of Archbishop Makarios III – the first president of the Republic of Cyprus. But there is absolutely nothing remarkable about it – a modern building, although built in the classic Venetian style.
Cathedral of St. John (XVII century)
Church of St. Anthony is notable for the fact that it was built during the Turkish rule, which then, did not happen often.
Church of St. Anthony (XVIII century)
At the same time, which is much less surprising :), the Omeriye mosque was opened. It was erected on the remains of the Augustinian church destroyed during the siege, since it was believed that this was the place where Caliph Omer rested during his visit to Lefkosia.
Omeriye Mosque (XVI century)
Church of St. Sava, presumably built under the Lusignans. What we see now is the result of the restorations of the 18th-19th centuries.
Church of St. Sava (XV-XIX centuries)
The Church of the Archangel Michael, like many others, was built on the ruins of a certain monastery building from the time of the Lusignans.
Church of the Archangel Michael (XVII century)
Before moving on to the sights of Turkish Nicosia (the Turks, by the way, call the city Lefkosa), a few general impressions.Unlike the Greek part of the city, not only churches have survived, but also civil buildings and, even, not only Turkish, but also the times of the Lusignans.As for churches, in the sense of mosques.
There would be nothing original about them (all mosques are more or less the same) if most of them were not converted from Catholic churches. The alteration consisted in the addition of minarets and cleaning the walls from bas-reliefs and interior rooms from everything that once was there. The result is bare skeletons, which, of course, still give an idea of how it looked before, but the impression is very blurry.
One of the few surviving gargoyles on the facade of Bedesten (St. Nicholas Church)
In addition to the already mentioned ruins, in the immediate vicinity of the wall, there is a quite decent-looking restored quarter, which should show how the Turks lived in Nicosia after its conquest.
The largest of the surviving civil buildings is Büyük Hamam (bath). It is still fully operational.
Buyuk Hamam (XVI century)
Previously, this place was the Catholic Church of St. George. The only thing left of it is the entrance arch, which is now below ground level.
Church of St. George
Nearby is the cultural center Büyük Khan. It is the largest surviving Turkish inn (caravanserai) in Cyprus. The arched rooms are now selling souvenirs, and earlier there were travelers, well, they probably also traded. There is a small mosque in the middle of the courtyard.
Buyuk Khan (XVI century)
In the center of Nicosia there are two large churches – the Cathedral of St. Sofia and the church of St. Nicholas.
Cathedral of St. Sofia (XIII-XIV centuries) and the church of St. Nicholas (VI-XIV centuries)
Church of St. Nicholas was built in the 6th century. (in the Byzantine style, of course), then in the XII century. rebuilt into a large temple, in the 14th century it was supplemented with Gothic elements. Now these details are difficult to discern, since the Turks used the building as a warehouse, and then it was also badly damaged during the earthquake.
Church of St. Nicholas (VI-XIV centuries)
Cathedral of St. Sofia was the main temple not only of Nicosia, but of the entire island. Cypriot kings were crowned in it. After the Turkish conquest, the cathedral was turned into the Selimiye mosque. To be honest, in its current form – without a bell tower and ornaments, it looks squat and somehow too simple.
Cathedral of St. Sofia (XIII-XIV centuries)
Cathedral of St. Sofia (XIII-XIV centuries)
Church of st. Ekaterina (then the Haydar Pasha Mosque) is a rather unusual Gothic building. Stained-glass windows are not quite as usual, and the church itself is almost square, although not small, like a chapel. Again, it is not easy to understand what it looked like in the original – before the conversion of the church into a mosque, there were also domes and a bell tower.
Church of St. Catherine (XIV century)
Which Lusignans lived in the Lusignans’ house, history is silent. Something suggests that not directly the kings, though, who knows ….The Internet says that you can go inside, inspect the decoration and the patio, but during my visit the house was tightly closed.
House of the Lusignans (XIV century)
The road from the Kyrenia Gate to the checkpoint passes through the part of the city where the British settled when they were the owners of Cyprus. There are quite interesting colonial-style buildings.
Former British administration building (19th century)
The Venetians also noted themselves here – they put up a column. Moreover, the column, although it was crowned at one time with the eagle of St. Mark is at least a thousand years older than Venice itself. She was dragged by enterprising merchants from the ruins of the temple of Zeus in Salamis, Cyprus.
Venetian column (XVI century)
That is, in fact, what I was able to see in Nicosia. Of course, I probably missed something interesting (at least museums), but it is simply physically impossible to see everything in one day. I like it. Very interesting. The division into two parts, as sad as it is for the locals, only adds to the interest for tourists – two very different cities in one.
Maps of Nicosia
Tourist map of attractions of Turkish (northern) Nicosia