There is some wildly thrilling about being in two places at once, seemingly so as you are defying the laws of science and brushing on the cusp of something magical. Even more so, when both of sides of one place are so vastly difference from one another it’s like entering a whole new world within a single step….which happens to be the ever so famous capital of Cyprus: Nicosia.
Nicosia (officially known of Lefkosia) is divided into two: Greek and Turkey; and it so happens to the be the last divided capital in the world. A landmark surrounded by barriers and wires that has frozen, in time, the conflicts and scars of the past between the two cultures.
Nicosia, geographically, happens to be landlocked on the island, located in the north and secluded from the glimmer of the beaches. Despite being an island notorious for the beaches and sand, if you have the opportunity to peel yourself out of the sun beds, allow yourself to get lost in a fascinating city, as though stepping through time. And, there are few places in the world where you can defy the law of science and physically be in two places at once!
The border has been in place since 1974 when a Turkish invasion caused a construction between ethnic and religious disputes, hence creating a line: The Green Line; the division between North and South, Turks and Greeks.
Breakdown of the Wall:
The capital is a star (geographically speaking *see photo above), a starred wall around the city. These Venetian Walls (Cyprus became a part of the Republic in Venice in 1489) are a series of defensive walls built around the capital in order to ensure protection from outside invaders. There are eleven bastion (named after Italian families) and three gates around the walls:
Crossing the Border:
There are two ways to cross the border between north and south Nicosia: Ledra Palace and Ledra Street.
Ledra Street is a pedestrian only crossing located in the center of the city, you will be required to show your identification twice (passport or ID cards for European citizens) — word to the wise: be sure to check online what documents are needed to cross these borders.
once you have shown your identification through both immigration stands and have crossed the Green Line, you are essentially in Turkey or the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. (in the photo below, can you spot the two flags?)
for a better look at the two flags:
NORTH CYPRUS – TRNC – TURKISH REPUBLIC OF NORTHERN CYPURS
When first crossing over the border into TRNC, you kind of feel like a bad ass spy with the ability to go into unchartered areas (regardless of the number of tourists standing behind you in line); it’s a thrilling feeling with slight nerves wondering why AK-47s are guarding the area. Regardless, flash that America passport and tiptoe (why? because it’s cooler) across the Green Line.
The first thing we could possibly think of after crossing the border was FOOD. After a quick hangry decision we settled for some beer and Turkish Pizza!
After your stomachs have been fueled, I’d recommend just wandering around Old Town with camera in hand.
Bedesten, St. Nicolas Church:
Located in the Selimiye quarter (next to the Selimiye Mosque); the importance of this church is its history. Spanned across one thousand years; this building was originally built as a Byzantine church and over the years it has experienced drastic construction being transformed into a cathedral but the Venetians, a market by the Ottomans and British, nowadays it serves as an ancient monument.
Markets: Old Bazzar
There are a few markets around Nicosia and loads of beautiful things to buy! (make sure you check the hours (if possible) of some of the markets, when we went they were pretty empty). Take a peek at the Cyprus tile, it is gorgeous!
Largest caravansary (an inn with a courtyard) created in 1572; also said to be one of the finest buildings on the island. History Fact: the Ottoman styled courtyard has a total of 68 rooms divided between two floors. The ground floor housed various shops and stables and the upper rooms where sleeping quarters for travelers and merchants. When the British took over the island, this courtyard served as a prison. Until 1893, when it became a more public sleeping quarter. Now, it serves as a cultural center for arts and crafts, souvenir shops and delicious cafes.
SOUTH CYPRUS – just CYRPUS
We spent the rest of the day wandering around the city, (un-bordered side) bought some groceries (tried to go some places but they were closed), made some dinner & stopped to have a photoshoot at every piece of artwork graffiti and with every cat.