Cyprus – In which I visit the only divided city left in the world
Today I visited the only divided city left in the world. Nicosia, or Lefkosia as the locals refer to it, is located in central Cyprus and is divided by the UN’s green line which separates Turkish Cyprus (north) from Greek Cyprus (south). It’s easy to tell where you are because the predominant flag being flown is not that of Cyprus but that of Turkey or Greece. The overt nationalism but not for your own nation strikes me as quite strange.
Nicosia is a great little city. Superb motorways make it a short trip from my base in Larnaca. I drive through outer Nicosia until I enter it’s heart. I know I’m in the heart because I’ve had to drive through the city walls that encircle the old town. Decrepit, decaying, small streets, shops, cages, mosques and churches make it a great delight to walk through this part of Nicosia. Occasionally I am brought short by sandbags, a barricade or barbwire that reminds where I am but mostly I just wander the old streets. I admire decaying buildings, watch old women in black scarves hang washing over balconies whilst two stories below people shop for Hermes bags.
I stop before an old orthodox church only to see three rows of soldiers arrayed outside it’s front door. From inside I hear a priest sing the Kyrie Eleison and I wonder if I am the only one who finds this juxtaposition, between soldiers with automatic weapons and bayonets fixed standing outside a church as a priest inside sings a haunting tune, a little peculiar. I ask a policeman (of whom there are many around) what’s happening. He’s friendly enough and tells me the president is visiting the church and that it is for a ceremony that commemorates the anti-Turkish uprising in 1821. I should have known.
I stay awhile to watch and take a few pics but I’m soon draw away by the thought of wandering the ages old streets of Nicosia. For the rest of the day the beautiful sound of the priest singing follows in my thoughts. I cannot think of a finer soundtrack to the old town of Lefkosia.