Nicosia Off The Beaten Path Tips by easyoar Top 5 Page for this destination
Nicosia Off The Beaten Path: 18 reviews and 23 photos
Ayia Sophia - Nicosia
Ayia Sophia is a cathedral/mosque in Nicosia. She can trace her roots back as far as 1209 and was built during the crusades by French stone masons (Cyprus has been invaded many times over the years and has influences from all over Europe and beyond). Construction lasted 150 years, although the church was consecrated in 1326. Some parts of it were never finished.
In the 1500's, the Ottoman Turks conquered the city, and converted the cathedral into a mosque (this included burning the pews and the pulpit) and whitewashing the walls.
It is not unusual that if you wander past and go inside (taking your shoes off first) that you can have the place to yourself. On one occasion I was inside taking some photographs believeing I had the place to myself when I heard a strange sound coming from a corner. On further investigation I realised that whilst I wasn't the only person in there, I was the only conscious person - I was sharing the place with a rather large old lady who was snoring away soundly in the corner...
Bellapais is a charming little village on the edge of a mountain, that is built around what is now a ruined abbey. This village was made famous by lawrence Durrell (brother of the more famous Gerald Durrell) who lived here in the 1950's when Cyprus was experiencing a lot of internal turmoil as relationships between the Greeks/Turks/British boiled up. A lot of British were assassinated during the troubles, but Durrell semed to be perceived as a neutral as he lived with the locals away from the British and taught in a school where he was friendly with the local kids.
These days of Course, Lawrence Durrell is long gone (and long dead), but some of his legacy lives on. He famously describes in his book about a large tree (that was appropriately nicknamed the "Tree of Idleness") which all of the villagers used to lounge around under in its shade and drink all day. Although there is some debate as to where this tree is today (or whether the original still actually exists).
The Abbey is definitely worth visiting and is very close to Kyrenia. It is also possible to walk up the hill and see the outside of Durrells old house (although whn I visited it, it belonged to a German couple!). There is a commemorative plate up on the house, although you will probably need to ask directions to find it!
Kyrenia is a staggering beautiful town on the North Coast of Cyprus. It also a more Mediterranian feel than any other part of the island. Kyrenia is decidely quaint, and has none of the hustle and bustle or larger towns or cities. You won't find a traffic-jam here!
The attached picture shows me standing on top of Kyrenia Castle with the classic view down into the harbour. The harbour makes for a great walk around, smelling the fresh food being prepared and looking in at the little souvenir shops. At the far end of the harbour you often find fishermen trying their luck. The pace of life here is really slow and it is a very relaxing place to visit.
Kyrenia is also the home to one of the oldest known shipwrecks in the world. This shipwreck is preserved within the castle and can be visited for a charge.
The Church in the Rock
This is a little way outside of Nicosia in the South, and is a very small cave type church that is actually quite high up in the rock face.
I am trying to remember precisely what it is famous for, some miracle occurred there from memory. I have been there twice, and the first time I went there was a huge festival going on there with a big street market outside. The second time (when this picture was taken) was much quieter and inside the church you see people leaving personal effects inside the church. It is supposed to help with things like marriages that are not working or with conception problems.
Armed Guard at the official residence of Denktash
Just before stumbling across the cannon in the previous tip, I had wandered up some steps by Kyrenia gate into a small garden. I was suddenly aware I was being watched quite intently by an armed soldier through a barbed wire fence.
My first thought was 'Ooopps I shouldn't be up here'. So I went to have a chat with him. He spoke no English, and I spoke no Turkish (other than some rather impolite phrases that I learnt from some Turkish Cypriots at University, but something told me that these weren't a good idea to use right then!).
He seemed friendly enough, and when I gestured at my camera and then at him, he was happy enough to pose for a picture. The blue cap can be a little misleading as the UN soldiers wear blue caps, but this is most definitely a Turkish (Cypriot) soldier guarding the residence of Rauf Denktash, the President of the North of Cyprus.
Old British Cannon near Kyrenia Gate
If you go to Kyrenia Gate in the North side of Nicosia, and climb up the wall using the steps, you will see a bardbed wire fence in front of you. Alongside the small garden area here you will see an old British cannon (there may even be two) pointing straight towards the fence and the official residence of Rauf Denktash which is the other side of it!
I've been trying to make out the motif on the cannon to see which monarch was ruling Britain when the cannon was made, but I cannot make out the elaborate script, but I can see enough to know it is an old British cannon left behind when the British left Cyprus in 1959 when Cyprus was granted independence.
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