May 28, 2019
This is our third time in Cyprus – so today we took a tour to the center of the island – to Nicosia – which has been the capital of Cyprus for over 1000 years.
The port of Limassol is the second largest city and has a population of 200,000.
Nicosia is the last divided capital city in the world after the fall of the Berlin wall. The northern side has been occupied by Turkey since July 1974 and the southern side by Greece. The division is called the Green Line. Nicosia is the largest city in Cyprus and is still encircled by the old city walls.
Our guide today was Angela and as with most guides we have had, she was a wealth of information.
Cyprus was a British colony until 1960. It is the third largest and third most populous island in the Mediterranean with 850,000 people.
Tourism is their largest source of income, mostly British and Russian visitors previously but now many are coming from Hong Kong and Japan. They are very worried about the effect Brexit will have on their country.
They export potatoes, citrus fruits, olive oil, carob, halloumi cheese and wine as well.
In 2013, their largest bank collapsed and caused a devastating effect on the economy. Prior to that, they realized the problems in Greek economy but it had never affected them. Their unemployment rate before that was a low 3.5 % but it soared after the bank collapse to 18% and has never really recovered.
Angela talked a lot about how it affected her own family. She has two sons who were unemployed for a long time and now one has work but makes very little money. We really unaware of the extent of the problems here.
Here are some pictures from the trip to Nicosia. It was about a 60 minute trip.
The last picture is from an excavation site. The one above that shows the water tanks that seem to be on top of every structure.
Our first visit in Nicosia was to the Cyprus Archeological Museum where the most significant collection of Cypriot antiquities is housed. There are artifacts dating back to the Neolithic Age (7000 BC), Mycenaean relics and also early Byzantine. There are ceramics, tomb monuments, bronze statues and coins that span 5000 years of the island’s history. The most famous exhibit is the statue or Aphrodite from Soli, now the symbol of Cyprus. It is amazing what has been recovered from the excavations. Most of the statues are made from limestone which is prevalent here.
The last one is the Aphrodite.
Here are some of the views of the old city walls.
We then visited the Cathedral of St. John, built in 1662 by the Archbishop Nikiforos. No pictures are allowed inside but every inch of the walls is covered by 18th century frescoes that depict biblical scenes. Angela told us that people of that time could not read, so this is how the stories were told. It is just beautiful. The outside just looks like an ordinary building, you wouldn’t know that it is a cathedral. Due to the religious persecution of the time, people wanted a place to pray but wanted to disguise it.
Here are some shots of the outside, the bell tower, the Archbishop’s Palace and the courtyard. You can see bullet holes on the outside of the nearby Archbishop’s Palace from the 1974 Turkish invasion.
After this visit, we went to the area of the Green Line checkpoint but are not allowed over into the Turkish side. We had free time at Ledra street in the Laki Yitsonia area where the narrow streets are lined with shops, restaurants and galleries. Great gelato here, and also some fun signs.
Great day – tomorrow we will be in Greece.