Lefkosia


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Lefkosia or Nicosia is the capital city of Cyprus. Lots of people asked us whether we would go to Greek Cyprus or to Turkish Cyprus. For people from West-Europe it is easier to travel to Greek Cyprus (direct flights, lots of hotels), but it's possible to take a daytrip to Turkish Cyprus in Lefkosia. So, that's what we did.

This is not the proper way to cross the border

The six apostels First, we had a look around in Greek Lefkosia. This mosaic of six disciples can be found next to the door of one of the churches. At the other side of the door are the other six disciples. In Lefkosia you can also find an Armenian church and a mosque.

As well the Greek Cypriots as the Turkish Cypriots have their government here. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is one of few places that is divided in two parts. The Green Line that separates the north and south may be green on a map. In the city itself it looks more like a wall with a lot of barbed wire. Strangely enough the wall is more evident and frightening in the south than in the north.

Lefkosia is an old city, and parts of it are neglected. The reason is found in the separation in 1974. Turks living in the south had to move north and Greek from the north moved south. Both of them left properties at the other side of the wall. Private ground is important and only used by the owner. This had as a result that properties left behind were not confiscated (as might have happened elsewhere), but neither were maintained.

Garages

Macharios' statue

In front of the palace of the archbishop you can find the statue of archbishop Macharios. He was not only archbishop, but also president of (Greek) Cyprus after the Brits left. We presume the liberty statue in the pictures below was made after the British occupation ended. They  wouldn't have allowed it when they were still here, that for sure.

A door Statue of Liberty

At the south the government has started to restore some of the abandoned places. The north has less incomes of tourism and that makes it harder to finance the restoration.

Freedom !

The second day, we went to Turkish Lefkosia. This is quite an experience. First, it was hard to find the right crossing, as it is not included on most city maps in the guidebooks we brought. Then we had to pass the NATO-checkpoint, where our names were written on a list of the day-visitors. After that we walked to the Turkish police. Here our names were inserted in the computer. As the one-finger-typing system was used, this took some time. At the next stop we had to pay for our visas and our professions were listed. The English of the lady who had this task was not so great, so the most wonderful professions appeared on our visas. Unfortunately, we had to return the paper at leaving, so we have no evidence of Mirjam being a ger instead of a geohydrologist (which is a very difficult word) and Leon being an information-gynaecologist.
The North of Lefkosia looks like a real Turkish city, with a Turkish bath.

Hamam

Caravanserai

The old caravanserai is filled with lots of small shops. Most of them sell things to tourists, like clayware and clothes.

The big church is in use as a mosque. At first we thought this change was made after 1974, but it looked not quite like that. Our guidebooks told us it was already converted in 15something, so over 400 years ago. The keeper shows the burial-stones of some knights, hidden below the carpets. The church was not directed towards Mecca, so the carpets, decorations, etcetera, lie at an angle to the walls. This way, everyone knows exactly which way he has to pray.

Inside the mosque

A Turkish city is not complete without a bazar. The one of Lefkosia lies close to the mosque. It stocks mainly fruit and vegetables, but you can also buy decorations for your home or car. The vegetable salesman thought it was very strange that we wanted to take his picture. Maybe he thought we took him for Saddam Hussein ???

Bazar

A few weeks after our visit to the North of Lefkosia, the border between North and South opened. This was a very memorial day for every Cypriot. As Alexander wrote us: "Now, 28 years of waiting, I finally managed to go back there. Everything wasn't the same, everything was destroyed, abandoned, inside my mum's house even the sofa, the beds, the pictures, the mirrors, the carpet were the same! 28 years later ! .. I cried, I remembered. I lied on my knees and in front my houses ruins I prayed, for this country that suffered all these years, for those that lost their lives defending the values called home, land and country, for these people that are no longer called Turkish Cypriots or Greek Cypriots but just..Cypriots ! The fade brought us together centuries ago, a mistake took us apart, but the willing, the desire and the destiny will bring us together again! As we used to be before! We no longer hate them and they no longer hate us! We only hate the guns and the barbarians who did this! The rockets and the knifes that injured our lonely island! The only thing we want is the reunion...the peace!"


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