A Visit to Nicosia

 

This morning we drove up to Nicosia for some sightseeing.  The journey takes about 40 minutes over the mountains and down onto the great plain at the heart of Cyprus.  It was a very hot day, and Nicosia is always hotter than anywhere on the coast, so we decided to go early.  Left home at around 820 and were parking by 915.

The old city is within lovely sandstone walls and there are still plenty of historic buildings surviving, built in the same sandstone.  We parked centrally, near the Great Hamam (now restored and in use again) and walked through the quiet streets to the Great Han.  The Han is an early tourist hotel of sorts, built for pilgrims and travellers in the 1500s.  It is a double storey series of individual rooms, built around a large central courtyard with a well and a washhouse in the centre.  There are little cafes in the courtyard and the rooms have been converted to artists workshops and shops.  It’s a lovely spot and we always make it our first port of call.  Had drinks in one of the cafes and then explored some of the little shops.  The rooms are intriguing.  Apart from a window, they all have a fireplace and a bed platform.  Very nice accommodation in my opinion!

After that we walked through part of the bazaar street to the Haghia Sophia cathedral that started as a mosque and is now a mosque again.  We had a look around and then explored the historic streets and squares around the cathedral.  It’s always quiet in this area, and just beautiful, with so many golden stone buildings and old houses.  We visited the Lapidary museum which holds a small collection of carved stone objects found around this part of Nicosia.  We also visited St Nicolas’ church and the central market, built by the British in 1939.  That is filling up with shops selling tourist stuff, sweets, antiques, fruit and veg, meat, cheese and fish.  They seem to be renovating a large extension to it.,

We then explored down the main bazaar street towards the Ledra Street border crossing.  It was so very hot by then.  Not crowded though.  Needing a drink we doubled back to a little café called Mosaic which is very near the cathedral.  We’ve been there before and they offer wonderful little meze snacks in their internal courtyard garden.  It was cool in there and we were ready for something to eat and drink.

Then, on to the 12 midday Whirling Dervish demonstration.  This takes place in St Nicolas’ Church.  The Dervishes are not dancers, they are Sufi scholars and the whole thing is rather moving, very devotional and well worth seeing.  Some Sufi philosophy is explained and also all the (Many) symbols of the Dervish dance and gestures.  Bob and I have seen it so many times and yet we always enjoy it.  It’s not touristy and I would honestly recommend that you take 30 minutes or so to go along if you are in Nicosia.

It was about 1pm by the end and we were ready to get out of the heat so we headed back to the car and drove back to Kyrenia.  On the way, we took the short detour up to St Hilarion, the Lusignan castle, high above the town.  We stopped at a viewpoint just below the castle, to take in the view and some photos.  It’s a lovely spot.

Back home and the pool was beckoning strongly.  We spent a great few hours in the water, wallowing and reading.  The paragliders are very active on the mountain behind us at the moment and that was fun to watch.,

John wants to come diving later in the week and he had a bimble in the pool with some of Bob’s kit.

So tonight, after the obligatory g&ts on the terrace, we headed down the hill to a local favourite restaurant of ours, Tervetuloa.  It was gorgeous.  We sat in their lovely garden under the vines to eat.  For about a tenner, you get an enormous meze – maybe 12 cold starters, 5 hot, then your mega main course, then a dessert plate, coffee and brandy.  It’s a feast.  I have learned over the years to go for something very plain for the main course, like lamb chops, or a grill of some kind.  Otherwise it is just huge.  We came home with doggy  bags as it was.

Amazing stars out tonight.  The sky was absolutely studded with them.

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