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Cyprus - Overview and Essential Travel Information
Nicosia / Levkosia or Levkosa, like the Turkish people call the city, is still a divided city (since 1974) – there is a Turkish part, that belongs to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and a Greek part. The Greek part of Nicosia is the capital of Cyprus’ Republic and its largest city, which has a population of about 170.000. The atmosphere is modern and traditional, dynamic and calm at the same time. Its without any doubt the most interesting city on the island and very different from the tranquility of the rest of the islands towns and villages. Nicosia is the seat of government and home to all major business. What really characterizes the city is the borderline. It crosses streets, alleys and even houses and gardens. On many corners you will see small bunkers and guard posts, manned with armed soldiers.
Historically, Nicosia is divided into an old city within the ancient city walls and a new part. But nowadays the political border splits the old city in two. Many parts of the ancient city wall show you, where the city once ended. The inner streets are but narrow alleys; many of the houses are old and protected by law, but very often neglected. A big restoration plan for the old city, which started in 1981, will change the citys face. A small – and now very touristic – section has already undergone restoration: Laiki Yitonia, “neighbourhood of the people”, impresses us now with its narrow alleys, small shops and restaurants and it gives us an impression of what Nicosia looked like three centuries ago. The new city spreads southward, with only an occasional high rise in its center. The suburbs are wide residential quarters, with small cottages and private villas. The main business center is also located there – between the triangle of Stasinos, Makarios III and Evagora Streets.
Turkish Nicosia, here called Levkosa, is north of the dividing “Green Line”. There is only one border crossing in Nicosia, near the old Ledra Palace Hotel. Cypriots are not allowed to cross the borderline; only tourists can get a daily visa – without bigger complications. It is a somehow strange feeling, to be able to switch the areas more or less easily, whereas locals are not allowed to visit their old home villages on the opposite side for now more than 25 years. The difference between the Greek and the Turkish part is easy to recognize. While the Greek new city in the south is modern and lively, Levkosa is traditional in style and facilities. There are several gothic structures and sights, as Selimiye and the Bedesten Mosque or the Lapidary Museum. There is also a number of Ottoman style public buildings, such as the Arabahmet Mosque, the Büyük Han (Great Inn) or the Kumarcilar Han (Gamblers Inn).
Within an hours walk starting from Laiki Ytonia and strolling through the old city you will get a good impression of what happened to this extraordinary city during the last centuries.
Agios Ioannis Cathedral
North of the Bishopric Palace you will find this Greek Orthodox Church. Built in 1662 on the foundations of a 15th century Beneductine Monastery, its impressive interiors house a series of reproductions of 18th century works of art. Open Mon - Sat 8am - noon and 2pm - 4pm. Entrance free.
Not as its name assumed, the Archbishopric Palace is a modern, impressive mansion, built in Byzantine style (1955 - 60). Corner of Kyprianos and Zenon of Kitium Streets.
This monument on the corner of Nikoforos Phokas and Koraes Streets commemorates the release of EOKA (People's Army for Enosis) Cyprian patriots in 1959.
Panagia Phaneromeni Church
Situated in Onasagoras Street this fine Orthodox Church will draw your attention. It was rebuild on ancient remains (1300 AD) at the end of the 19th century (1872/73). In 1938 a new bell tower was added and its bells were brought from England in 1940/41.
The church was named after a nunnery of the same name, which once stood on this spot. It belonged to Panayia (Virgin Mary) Phanoromeni and the nuns were silk weavers who were engaged in charitable works.
After the ottoman occupation of Cyprus in 1571, the turks attempted to turn the church into a mosque. They were unsuccessful. What today characterises the Panagia Phaneromeni Church is its interior. The iconostasis dates from 1659 and is adorned with old icons bearing rich illustrations. The ancient icon of the Holy Virgin, after which the church is named, is kept at the Byzantine Museum og the Archbishop Makarios Cultural Centre in Nicosia. A copy of this magnificent icon was painted bz the well-known Cypriot painter Adamantios Diamantis in 1924. The icon is covered in silver with a goldplated cover made in 1851.
This restored area of the old city is the pride of all Nicosians and the center of the capital’s life. Restoration began in 1981, and included renewal and reconstruction of all structures within the target area. Now the streets are lined with small art-and-craft shops, boutiques and galleries. The project won 1988 the “Pomme d’Or”, a prestigious biennal international prize.
The urban bus transportation service is quite good. It connects the various sections of the town. Its main terminal is on Solomos Square, not far from Laiki Yitonia . Lots of private taxis cruise along all the main streets, and can be hailed at will.
By air: Greek Nicosia has no operative airport today. The old one was partially destroyed in Civil War 1974.
Turkish Levkosa is served by the small Ercan Airport, where only planes from and to Turkey arrive and depart.
By land: The only highway on Cyprus joins Nicosia with Limassol, about 50 miles south-westwards. The KEMEK bus company runs an hourly bus service between Nicosia and Limassol (Tel: 02 – 463989 or 05 – 363241). Nicosia Terminal is on Dionysus Solomos Square. Troodos is connected with Nicosia by two daily buses: KEMEK and Solea bus. Another Solea bus runs several times a day between Nicosia and Kakopetria. There are also buses between Nicosia and Agia Napa, for further information, ask CTO (see Practical Things).
Main shopping area within the ancient city walls is on Ledra Street, a narrow ending at an army post, on the Green Line. The street is lined with many small shops, and some rather good footwear outlets. Several handicraft shops sell silver, copper and lace.
For more attractive shop windows, stroll along Evagoras Ave., where you will find Stefanel, Benetton, Woolworth and Marks&Spencer.
At the corner of Digheni Street and Theodotou Street, south-east of the old city, you will find the open market.
Information provided by cctraveler2 at Travelpost.com