Nicosia (Lefkosia), the vibrant capital city of 1000 years, is Cyprus' political, administrative and economic centre. The city was fortified in 1567 by the Venetians and the walls built around the city took the shape of a star with eleven bastions. The walls are well-preserved to this day with three gates; the Kyrenia Gate, the Paphos Gate and the Famagusta Gate.
Not only does it contain significant historical monuments, but it is also a modern, cosmopolitan city which continues to expand and develop. One day is not enough to take in all the city offers, but a recent visit to the old town gave opportunity to see a number of impressive sights.
In 1963, the city was divided into Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot quarters. Violence had broken out among the communities over a disagreement about proposed changes to the new Republic's constitution. After a failed coup d'état in 1974 which aimed to unite Cyprus with Greece, the island was invaded by the Turkish army. This resulted in a de facto division of the island and of the city, with an extension of the Green Line, a UN buffer zone created in 1964.
The famous Ledra Street, which is a lively shopping area, leads to the Ledra Street Crossing Point into the Turkish north. The Shakolas Tower Museum and Observatory provides a panoramic view over the northern half of the city if time does not permit to explore it as a pedestrian.
The city of Nicosia is also the cultural centre of Cyprus, offering a variety of museums, art galleries, theatres and historical churches. I took the time to visit the Cyprus Museum, which is the oldest and largest archaeological museum in Cyprus and also the Leventis Gallery. Pictured below is part of an acrylic painting on Irish linen entitled The World of Cyprus by Adamantios Diamantis and Marc Chagall's Les Fiancés au Bouquet. The gallery houses a collection of over 800 paintings from Cypriot, Greek and other European artists.
Since Nicosia is located inland, it is usually hotter than the coastal areas in the summer. A visit is best around this time of year (end of September/October) as sightseeing requires a fair amount of walking, especially in the old town.
Nicosia symbolizes a division of political and national identities. Part of its former life is frozen in time, which serves as a poignant reminder that division can cause disruption and suffering to human lives. May we always strive for peace and unity, regardless of our nationality.
Give me an UNDIVIDED heart ...