Nicosia: Along the Blue Line

No, this ain’t yet another division line in the tiny island that Cyprus is although I wonder naming “it” the blue line was in some way taking a dig at the Green Line that divides the Republic of Cyprus and the occupied Turkish part of the island. Also known as the Nicosia trail, “it” actually is a 4.5 km long physical blue line painted on the streets of Nicosia, or rather should I say Lefkoşa, to lead tourists to the main attractions in the city.

nicosia1

We hitchhiked from Girne (Greek name: Kyrenia) – which actually is quite easy – and got dropped off Girne Gate at the massive statue of Atatürk (seriously, I can’t seem to get rid of this guy), behind which the tourist office is located. Amongst the remaining Venetian structures, newer buildings had been erected over time but it still felt to me that time had somewhat stopped. You definitely notice it more if you’ve been to the Greek side, which feels like leaping through a time warp into modern period.

Girne Gate, the current tourist information centre
Girne Gate, the current tourist information centre
We meet again, Ataturk
We meet again, Ataturk

We went inside the tourist office, which is the actual Girne Gate to find a very helpful lady who highlighted everything that was a must-see in the capital. When I mentioned the blue line, she said that it was probably better to follow the map than the actual line, which is flaked on some parts as it is quite old and also tended to run through old small streets and residential areas. She did mention however that in the case that we got lost, then following the blue line would probably be the best idea. Which we ended up doing because apparently between the two of us, we couldn’t even read a very simple map – also some places, such as the Armenian Church, was off-limits because it was now considered a military zone, something not mentioned on the map.

We made a quick stop at the Mevlevi Museum (The museum of Whirling Dervishes) but only looked around the courtyard where different Ottoman tombstones were on exhibit.   We kept on walking until we reached the Judicial Building, a beauty on its own, which served as a good rain cover for us as we wandered around its corridors. We were not having the greatest luck with the rain that week (I’m a bit unlucky in that department – says the geographer). We even ended up at an organic cafe at some point where we played some tavla (backgammon) whilst waiting for the rain to pass.

Ottoman tombstones
Ottoman tombstones
The Judicial Building
The Judicial Building
The Courtyard of the Judicial Building
The Courtyard of the Judicial Building
Up for some tavla?
Up for some tavla?

From the Judicial Building we made our way to the Büyük Han (The Great Inn), which definitely is my favourite spot in Nicosia. It was built back in the 1500’s when the island was seized by the Ottomans, then became the first city prison under British administration, after which it was converted into a hostel for poor families. Now, local artisans use it to showcase and sell their handmade artwork and souvenirs.

In all its glory
In all its glory
The Mighty Han
The Mighty Han
Quirky exhibits
Quirky exhibits
As well as aromatic
As well as aromatic

Just behind the Büyük Han is the Büyük Hamam (The Grand Turkish Bath) where I had my horrible embarrassing but amazing hamam experience, which I can’t wait to repeat.

Built 400 years ago, it's still standing
Built 400 years ago, it’s still standing

Our next stop was Selimiye Mosque, which was a cathedral converted into a mosque by the Ottomans – as they do –, next to which was the St Nicholas Church now used for Whirling Dervishes performances.

2015-02-10 11.03
One of the most famous landmarks of Cyprus
Just love the architecture
Just love the architecture
Entrance of the mosque
Entrance of the mosque
Once a symbol of Christianity on the island, it's now a symbol of Islam.
Once a symbol of Christianity on the island, it’s now a symbol of Islam.
The St Nicholas Church on the side
The St Nicholas Church on the side

And that’s when we started going in circles as well a little bit off the tourist path – which lead to the “Can you spot the blue line?” game.

Taking a detour - feels like a fairytale
Taking a detour – feels like a fairytale
The Samanbahce Quarter (I think)
The Samanbahce Quarter (I think)
Not entirely sure what they tried to do here
Not entirely sure what they tried to do here
Do you see a blue line? I don't.
Do you see a blue line? I don’t.

Despite everything, I quite liked getting lost in this small divided city. It does get tiring sometimes to just run from one attraction to another, so yay for freestyle sightseeing. We navigated through some neighbourhoods, some as dodgy as they get, and ended up at the most southern point of Lefkoşa, where the Greek flag could be clearly seen.

Oh we found it again
Oh we found it again
The old bazaar
The old bazaar
The grass is always greener on the other side.
The grass is always greener on the other side.
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4 thoughts on “Nicosia: Along the Blue Line”

  1. First, I am impressed that you hitchhiked. I accidently hitchhiked once [I kind of stuck out my thumb and couple stopped for us] because the bus was stuck in a traffic jam and I didn’t want to walk 14 km.

    I agree with you that The Great Inn is my favorite as well [from the photos.] I just love the stunning architecture, especially the arches.

    1. I rarely hitchhiked (Turkey has really put me off that) but Cyprus was very friendly, plus I was accompanied so I had less reservations.

      Yes! It was great to walk along its corridors and just admire the beauty of it all.

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