A City Frozen in Time

Turkish Nicosia

Dec 29, 2022

Most of Nicosia is like any modern city with its bland concrete blocks and the most interesting part is the old walled city. Originally begun in the 13th century AD, the current fortified structure with its eleven pentagonal bastions date from the Venetian period of 16th century. Almost a perfect circle, this city has the dubious distinction of being split through the middle, each half belonging to a different country since1974. The southern half in Republic of Cyprus and the northern part belonging to Turkey, or rather, the Turkish republic of Northern Cyprus.

Predictably, the southern part of the walled city with its glitzy shops and restaurants failed to incite any interest and I and a couple of other travelers crossed into the Turkish side. I suppose this is what Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin used to be like. With me were Adrian and Maria from Spain and Dimitri from Crete. Our passports were scrutinized by officials both on the Greek and the Turkish side and no doubt the departure and the arrival registered but peculiarly, there are no stamps on the pages. There is no record that we ever left Greek Cyprus.

Called Lefkosia, the difference from its Greek half was immediately apparent. Gone were the glitz and glitter and in its place were older structures like a caravanserai. There are neighborhoods peppered with abandoned buildings, likely left in the same state as when the occupants fled in 1974. Mixed among them are homes still occupied but in sad states of disrepair. Some of the walls that separate the parts sport dire warning and barbed wire.

But this part of the city retains a charm that the other half lacks. Narrow streets akin to ones in southern Spain wind at random and it is a delight to get lost them. A bustling market is housed under one roof, reminding me of the souks of Morocco. Intriguing paintings grace some of the walls and hip cafes dot some of the streets. An area of quaint council houses are built around a communal watertank, used in the days of old.

But best of all were the warm welcomes and smiles that I have missed so far. Racking my brains for the Turkish I once knew, I tried to speak but could only remember odd words that surfaced at random, usually innappropriately. I may have to come back to Cyprus, if only to visit this part of the island again.

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