Nicosia

partial view of Nicosia by CC user 67608533@N00 on Flickr

Introduction

Most people come to Cyprus to sun themselves on the beach, and/or party until dawn in many of this nation’s world famous nightclubs. Few bother to visit the capital Nicosia, which contains many elements of this nation’s culture and history. For those looking to get beneath the surface of Cyprus, spending a couple of days here is an excellent way to do so.

The Cyprus Museum in Nicosia by CC user sergesegal on Flickr

Cultural Experiences

Being the capital of this island nation, it is well worth your while to spend some serious time in the Cyprus Museum while in Nicosia. Home to an extensive collection of antiquities unearthed from archaeological excavations from across the island, it is the best place to come to get a sense of the history of this nation if you are hard pressed for time.

With stone tools dating from the Neolithic Era, pottery from the Bronze Age, and statues from the days when the Greeks and the Romans ruled this isles, this institution is a must see for culture vultures visiting Cyprus.

In the 16th century, Cyprus was controlled by the Venetians, but they saw storm clouds on the horizon, as the power and influence of the Ottomans grew to the north and east. The Venetian Walls of Nicosia were built to defend the capital from an expected onslaught, but the urgency of their advocates came too late, as the Ottomans sent a conquering force to take the city before they were finished. As such, this incomplete fortification is in remarkably good shape almost 500 years on, making it a popular sight for military history enthusiasts.

Lovers of visual art will want to drop into the Leventis Gallery during their time in the Cypriot capital,
as it contains an inspired collection of French, Greek and Cypriot art. Also offering occasional fashion shows and programming for children, this center of artistic expression in the heart of Cyprus is an attraction that will not disappoint those with a love for the finer things in life.

Ledra Street by CC user abragad on Flickr

Other Attractions

One building that will definitely stand out to you while exploring Nicosia will be Büyük Han, which is an outstanding example of a caravanserai, or a fortified roadside inn that provided safety and security to travelers throughout the Arab World many hundreds of years ago.

Also serving as a mosque and as public housing for poor families in its 400+ years of history, today it is home to art galleries, cafes and boutiques, all of which look stunning beneath the many arches and stately pillars found within the walls of this complex.

A major point of contention in Cyprus’ modern history has been over the ownership of this island by two different ethnic groups. Greek and Turkic Cypriots both claim this island for their respective homelands, which caused tensions to boil over in the mid portions of the 20th century, leading to Greece and Turkey going to war in Cyprus against each other briefly.

The Turkic Cypriots ended up controlling half the island roughly, as well as partitioning the capital city of Nicosia into two halves in the ensuing United Nations intervention. This seal was broken in 2007, as both sides agreed to further ease tensions that had been relaxing for some time by officially opening the border at this location for the first time in 33 years at the Ledra Street Crossing Point.

Note that you will be crossing an international boundary when you visit this spot in Nicosia, so don’t forget your passport at the hotel, lest you waste an hour going back to retrieve it. In the present, it is home to shops, restaurants and political demonstrations that bring to life some of the issues that have yet to be resolved even in 2015.

These issues extend well into the past, which is a subject that the Museum of Barbarism delves into. Located on the Turkic side of Nicosia, this sombre place is a house largely left the way in was on Christmas Eve in 1963, when Greek Cypriot militia members broke into the family home of a Turkish general, murdering him, his wife and three children, as well as their neighbor. Many signs of the carnage have been left as is, from blood stains to bullet holes, while exhibits fill in the details surrounding this heinous crime.

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