So much mixed feeling s about this island/ country/ land… I didn’t get the best of its beaches because it was winter time – although 22 degrees everyday, I didn’t get the best of the Cypriot food because the locals were so hard to introduce always greek food and greek wine, I didn’t feel safe all the time since the immigrant wave is at its peak (let’s pray for that) but I got some of the history, sunshine in winter and picturesque landscapes.
So let us start!
As you can see on the map, it is very left of Europe, on the East – so close to conflict zones of Middle East but still part of European Union. And let it be like this.
Surrounded with Mediterranean sea and divided between Cypriot Turks and Cypriot Greeks but still offering beautiful beaches. Let me explain!
Landing to Larnaca was like this:
I have never seen such a crystal clean sea. Not even in my lovely Croatia – and we do have clear clear sea.
Anyhow, my friend was supposed to land from Athens to the very same airport but in the evening. So I decided to explore Larnaka while waiting.
I strolled down the city and discovered many old buildings and lazy afternoon since most of the shops and bars were closed.
The home of the Stoic philosopher Zeno – so I acted like this – stoically. 🙂
Finally I found a bar and ordered local beer called Keo. A bit of relax and decision where to go now. (I have to say, after wedding in Serbia just few weeks ago, and Athens just before that – I wasn’t fully prepared for this trip like I usually am).
The first step was the Church of St Lazarus. The church was built in 9th century in homage to Jew Eleazar that converted to Christianity naming himself Lazarus. Apparently, after being dead for four days in the tomb, he was raised by Jesus. Later, Lazarus found his refugee place here in Larnaka.
The church is considered as an indispensable supplement to the pilgrimage of the Holy Land.
The relics of the Saint Lazarus were first discovered in the end of 9th century close to this churc in a marble sarcophagus on which were inscribed the following: ”Lazarus, the four-day dead and friend of Christ”. Apparently, the Lazarus and Christ were good friends as Christ visited him at his home many times and enjoyed the dinner with him. The then emperor of Byzantium, Leo VI the Wise, according to the prevailing custom, carried the holy relics to Constantinople, the capital of the empire, and in exchange, he sent money and technicians to build the church we see today.
Larnaca castle was constructed to defend the southern coast of Cyprus and the harbour town of Larnaca and was later used as an artillery station, prison, and a museum.
As you can see on the photo below, the castle has been built by the Byzantines in 12th century.
Next stop was Hala Sultan Tekke or the Mosque of Umm Haram. She was one of the companions of Muhammad.
Most accounts establish a connection between the site and the death of Umm Haram during the first Arab raids on Cyprus in 7th century. According to these accounts, Umm Haram, being of very old age, had fallen from her mule and had died during a siege of Larnaca.
When I just arrived, I noticed so many cats around, even inside the mosque where the praying is occurring.
Walking around the mosque you can enjoy peaceful flamingos ending their day in the salt lakes around. Not even the nearby airport can disturb their presence.
Mt friend finally arrived at 20:00. I walked back to the airport to welcome him as our hotel was in Nicosia. Of course, I left my bag at the airport while waiting for the shuttle bus but luckily, the local police was nice and reactive.
Nicosia is the capital. Divided between Cyprus Turks and Greeks. A bit dirty, lazy, odd, chaotic but with very positive spirit of people.
The first stop was good local breakfast: mpougatsa filled with cheese, minced meat or spinach.
Then we started to wander the streets… it was still calm as it was saturday morning… By the way, they drive on the left side (they are still part of Commonwealth).
We noticed the culture of orthodox saints (iconas) being hanged on the walls in almost every bar or restaurant that we went.
Talking about the city being divided: Barriers have separated the Greek and Turkish sectors of Nicosia, since 1974. The Green Line makes the division across the country and forms a UN-patrolled buffer zone.
Divided territories usually create their own ugly landmarks!
A bit of the history again!
The Cyprus Museum is the oldest and largest archaeological museum in Cyprus. The museum houses artefacts discovered during numerous excavations on the island. The museum is home to the most extensive collection of Cypriot antiquities.
Nicosia has been in continuous habitation since the beginning of the Bronze Age 2500 years BC.
However, the Greeks inhabiting the land made it glorious. Did you know that Aphrodite was born here?
After the Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire the Venetians arrived and built the wall. Venetian Walls are a series of defensive walls which surround the capital city. The first city walls were built in the Middle Ages, but they were completely rebuilt in the mid-16th century by the Republic of Venice. The walls are still largely intact, and are among the best preserved Renaissance fortifications in the Eastern Mediterranean. They are a major tourist attraction.
The presence of the Venetians is seen in other architecture buildings like houses with the balconies (typical for the Venetian Republic of its time).
On his way to the Holy Land during the Third Crusade in 12th century, Richard I of England‘s fleet was plagued by storms. He himself stopped first at Crete. Three ships continued on, one of which was carrying Joan of England, Queen of Sicily and Berengaria of Navarre, Richard’s bride-to-be. Two of the ships were wrecked off Cyprus, but the ship bearing Joan and Berengaria made it safely to Limassol – another city in Cyprus. Joan refused to come ashore, fearing she would be captured and held hostage by Isaac Komnenos of Cyprus, who hated all Franks. Her ship sat at anchor for a full week before Richard finally arrived a few weeks later. Outraged at the treatment of his sister and his future bride, Richard invaded the island and became ruler of the island, but sold it to the Knights Templar.
Frankish rule of Cyprus started from 1192 and lasted until 1489. During this time, Nicosia was the capital of the medieval Kingdom of Cyprus, the seat of Lusignan kings, the Latin Church and the Frankish administration of the island. During the Frankish rule, the walls of the city were built along with many other palaces and buildings, including the gothic St. Sophia Cathedral. The tombs of the Lusignan kings can be found there.
I found the cathedral on the turkish side of Nicosia having the later added minaret (the muslim symbol in architecture) and being completely empty from the inside.
On 1 July 1570, the Ottomans invaded the island. Since then – the battle takes culturally, politically, including religion. However, they left something nice: turkish baths called hamam!
However, the dominated religion there is greek orthodox so we stumbled upon the Archbishop’s Palace. The statue of Makarios lll is in front as he
was a Greek Cypriot clergyman and politician, who served as the Archbishop and Primate of the Church of Cyprus (1950–1977) and as the first President of Cyprus (1960–1977). In his three terms as president he survived four assassination attempts and a coup d’état. He is widely regarded by Greek Cypriots as the Father of the Nation or “Ethnarch”.[
St John’s Cathedral (Agios Ionnis), compared with the great cathedrals of Europe, is tiny. Its interior, however, is no less magnificent Dating from 16 th century, from the times of Lusignan (I will explain later!)
Nicosia came under the rule of the United Kingdom in 19th century.
The old Ottoman administrative headquarters (the Saray) was replaced in 1904 by a new building containing Law Courts, the Land Registry, and the Forestry, Customs, and Nicosia Commissioner’s Offices.
In 1955 an armed struggle against British rule began aiming to unite the island with Greece, Enosis. The struggle was led by EOKA, a Greek Cypriot nationalist military resistance organisation and supported by the vast majority of Greek Cypriots. The unification with Greece failed and instead the independence of Cyprus was declared in 1960. During the period of the struggle, Nicosia was the scene of violent protests against British rule.
As we were hungry after all these walks and wanders, we tried to find the restaurant. My friend told me to lead by following the map. We went in different direction from the city center where the restaurants are, but this is what we captured:
Sometimes is really good to get lost! 🙂
The last day my friend left back home. I encouraged to go on the turkish side. I crossed the border being briefed about the safety and items I am allowed to purchase.
However, when I crossed this border which is the UN buffer zone – I realized I am in Istanbul.
I entered the Selimiye mosque historically known as Cathedral of Saint Sophia, converted into a mosque.
INext to it is the old market called turkishly bazaar. However, the architecture is mediaval catholic. Seen everywhere!
The third day we took the bus to Paphos. W actually wanted to rent a car and make so much more of exploring through the island but the rental companies were rather asking the reservation at least 48 hours before the renting. Also, since it is the winter time, we discovered that the island is not so good connected and that the traffic circulates without the time table. Huh! That was a lot of improvisation. But we arrived!
Paphos is a city on the southwest coast of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. Inhabited since Neolithic times, it has several sites relating to the cult of goddess Aphrodite, whose mythical birthplace was at Old Paphos. New Paphos is the modern city that incorporates the harbor, and the ancient ruins of tombs, fortresses, theaters and villas at Paphos Archaeological Park.
We visited the Tombs of the Kings.
This large necropolis – the underground tombs, many of which date back to the 4th century BCE are carved out of solid rock, and are thought to have been the burial sites of Paphitic aristocrats and high officials up to the 3rd century CE (the name comes from the magnificence of the tombs; no kings were in fact buried here).
Then we visited Paphos Archaeological Park which contains the major part of the important ancient Greek and Roman City.
The park, still under excavation surprised us in many ways. Like the sandy surface, marked with the robe mentioning it is the early christian house only it hasn’t been escavated yet but the certain is that there are some frescos under the sand which are representing the Biblical story of Jesus multiplying the fishes.
However, the dinner was lovely, Even though we tried couple of times to have wine from Cyprus and the waitress was returning twice each time bringing us the bottle from the Greece.