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Political Cyprus

Cyprus - Nicosia & Famagusta

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Although the first day going to Kourion was busy, it was the second day that was the real exploration day of the holiday.

Setting my alarm for 6:20am (despite it being a holiday) I got up and ready, and then went up for breakfast as soon as it opened. Eating as fast as I can, coming back down to grab my bits, I then legged it through the McDonalds next door to the bus stop to grab the 8am bus to Nicosia. Luckily I had enough time to spare, as after arriving at the bus stop I found that for the second day running, the stop had moved around the corner. Nevertheless I made it, and just over an hour later I had arrived in the Cypriot capital of Nicosia.

Nicosia is the last divided capital city in the world. The southern side being the Greek Cypriot side, whilst the north side is the Turkish Cypriot side. Closed until 2008, it is now possible to cross in the city centre and visit both halves.

Where North meets South

Where North meets South

I started by city exploration by walking along the edge of the UN controlled buffer zone between the two sides, walking along the only part where both sides meet - the Roccas Bastion, where I noticed I was being watched from the north side, and I then walked along the boundary line seeing the entrance to the UN headquarters, as well as a watchtower, reminiscent of pictures I had seen of Cold War Berlin.

UN Buffer Zone

UN Buffer Zone


Ledras Street

Ledras Street

Heading back towards the centre, I walked along the city walls on the south side, before heading through the winding streets towards Ledras Street - the city's main shopping and pedestrianised street. Heading up the Shacolas Tower I was instantly given views over the whole city and beyond, particularly at the northern side, and in the Kyrenian mountains the large Northern Cypriot flag carved into it. This flag is 450x200 metres in size, and despite being located 12km away, is clearly visible from the capital.

The TRNC flag

The TRNC flag


Views of the North

Views of the North

After taking a view over into the north side, it was now time for me to enter it, and walking back down the very westernised Ledras street, with it's posh shops and very European feel, it was not long before I made it to the border crossing. Handing in my passport to be checked I then walked the short distance through the UN buffer zone and reached the north side. Almost immediately the difference between them becomes clear. Not only do the languages and currencies change, but the whole feel of the area. This was not just a different land (my 60th, incidentally), but a different world. The streets are windy, shops bursting with products, and secular Islamic culture beaming from every angle.

Northern side

Northern side


Inside the converted mosque

Inside the converted mosque

Taking a walk around the, in my opinion, far more interesting side, I took a look inside the mosque, the bazaar, and the caravansarai.

Büyük Han

Büyük Han

Having explored the centre of the city, I continued north, walking towards the Kyrenia gate and the Whirling Dervish museum before making my way to the bus station.

Whirling Dervish Museum

Whirling Dervish Museum

After working out how, I purchased my ticket for Famagusta, and once again hit culture shock getting on the bus. Whilst in the south the intercity buses are spacious coaches, in the north they are minivans, that when the seats are full, pull down expandable seats appear in the middle that block in everyone behind! Thankfully I was staying until the end so didn't have to ask for people to get up!

An hour later, and after driving past a huge mosque in construction, I arrived in Famagusta, on the eastern coast, just north of the UN buffer zone at Dhekelia. The city was historically one of the most important in the region, with it's port being the closest to the Middle East. Arriving just outside the city walls, I walked past the huge dilapidated city walls through the Land Gate, and into the city centre, walking past historical ruins before arriving at one of the most peculiar sights in the world - a former Gothic Cathedral, with its top blown off, and a minaret added to the side converted now into a mosque!

Former cathedral

Former cathedral

Walking towards the city walls again, I climbed up the stairs to get a view of the port on the other side, before walking back towards the Canbulat Gate, and the memorial to the civil war.

Varosha

Varosha

Famagusta was in the 60s one of the world's top resorts, with the majority of people staying in the tourist resort of Varosha. Located just to the south of the city centre, and mostly populated by Greek Cypriots, when the island became split, the northern side, who now controlled Varosha closed it off from the world, creating a ghost resort falling apart and stuck in 1974. One of the most peculiar things about this resort, is the fact that a handful of hotels and restaurants on the boundary of the resort remain open, but to get to them means travelling along a single coastal road from the city centre, that on both sides contain military buildings where photos are not allowed. Therefore these hotels just north of Varosha are effectively closed off from the rest of Famagusta with just the beach and sea for company. Not my ideal holiday destination, but certainly an interesting experience. Walking back towards the city centre along the cracked roads it was easy to see how this would have been a lovely resort many years ago, but due to a lack of investment has since become dilapidated and shabby.

Varosha

Varosha

Having now seen all I had wanted in the north, it was time to make my return to Nicosia, and eventually Larnaca. Having arrived back in good time in the capital I quickly hurried through the city centre to catch my bus, leaving from a very eastern world straight into western in a matter of a minute or so. An experience previously only witnessed in Sarajevo.

Despite spending over four hours on buses, travelling 140 miles, and getting back to Larnaca almost 10 hours after leaving, it was a brilliant, if tiring day. So much history and culture to see that is highly recommended.

Luckily my final full day was going to be my 'relaxed' day, and I could at last have a lie in!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Cyprus Tagged mosque beach religion history island cathedral border war islam

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