Turkish Part of Nicosia

While walking, it’s very interesting to compare two parts of Nicosia – the Greek on the south and the Turkish on the north. They’re completely different, to say the least, which is reflected in all spheres of life – cuisine, lifestyle, culture, economy. For example, in the southern part, the locals and tourists walk around decently, the workshops, decent shops, tidy bars and cafes are nicely arranged. Clean streets and pavements with quality asphalt. The Greek part of the city has generally mushroomed considerably, while the Turkish one seems to have stayed in the past. There are no new buildings, and old houses vividly show that they have long needed to be repaired.

Reaching the Turkish part, you instantly see negligence and desolation. The area near the Green Line is humming: there are shops, stalls, a market, cafes, and restaurants. But as you go a couple of streets deeper, the capital gets very provincial.

There are fewer tourists in the north of the capital, however, grubby kids are running around uncontrolled, and their parents seem not to care. The streets are literally flooded with children, especially in the afternoon when the lessons are over and they come back from school. No one hurries to come back home. The kids run, play, bustle…

It’s hard to imagine something like this in southern Nicosia, where children continue learning after school and take different classes. It’s not common here for children to be by themselves, play alone, or walk around the streets without purpose.

Northern Nicosia is permeated with poverty and squalor which can almost be sensed in the air when you enter the area. Unrecognized self-proclaimed Turkish Cyprus’s life is no bed of roses. Since 1974, the sanctions, which were imposed after the Turkish invasion of the island, have been enforced. Today, Northern Cyprus is recognized only by Turkey. For example, all international trade transactions can be performed only through Turkey, and the Northern Cypriot economy is largely supported by direct financial injections from Turkey.

One of the typical landscapes of Lefkosia (Northern Nicosia)

Besides, all sea ports are closed in the north, so the only way to get here is through Turkey or by charter flights. Ferries from Egypt and Israel are of some help. But this option is undesirable, as it’s officially possible to get to the north only through Southern Cyprus. There are certainly tourists in Northern Cyprus as well, but there are remarkably fewer of them than in the south.

Nevertheless, walking around the two parts of Nicosia and comparing them, we found a couple of advantages of the northern part. It may be a trifle, but we, for example, liked an incredibly delicious ayran that far outperforms the same beverage prepared in the southern part of the city.

Robert is waiting for another exciting trip around the city

Strangely enough, there are no 3D cinemas in southern Nicosia (as well as generally in Southern Cyprus!) for some reason, while there are ones in northern Nicosia. So, when we wanted to watch a 3D film, we had to cross the border!

Furthermore, the northern part of Nicosia has casinos which are banned in the south of the city. Crowds of Greek Cypriot gamblers rush to the north to get the adrenalin flowing and chance their luck. Such an act is not respected though. It’s considered to be shameful and unpatriotic to spend your money in Turkish Nicosia, but this can’t stop the obsessed gamblers.

Casinos are forbidden in the southern part. They are surely present here as well, but these are only clandestine ones, as they have to keep their activity secret. While in the north, they rise fearlessly having an impressive design and interior.

In between walks and trips, Misha and Robert study the subtleties of playing musical instruments …

… or just having fun in a pile of toys.

You need to make about sixty steps through the neutral territory to come from southern to northern Nicosia. However, being so close, the southern and northern parts are in different time zones! Northern Cyprus is loyal to Turkey and shares the same time zone with it, while southern Cyprus has the same time as Greece does. Moving from the southern to the northern part, we set the clocks forward one hour, and coming back to south, we adjusted them backward. So, each step across the border means adjusting the clocks forward one minute. One step is one minute!

There’s one of the main Cypriot religious holy sites left in the northern part of Nicosia. It’s a huge mosque rising above the city. It used to be the largest Catholic church in Cyprus – Cathedral of Saint Sophia.

The construction of the building in Gothic style commenced in the 11th century and continued as many as a century. After it was finished, not only cathedral services were held, but also Cypriot kings were crowned here.

Mosque Semilie

Since the temple had been damaged after numerous military fights and earthquakes, it was renovated with its late Gothic style saved. When the Ottoman Empire took over the region, the Turkish treated the holy place in the usual way – they turned a Christian temple into a mosque. They got rid of all sculptures and icons, leaving only the statue of St Sophia, which was moved to the street and placed before the entrance.

New owners preserved only the stained glass from the former design, however, Gothic style was still present here, although the Turkish built two minarets onto the building to add Eastern colour to it. The walls inside were plastered and painted white. All Orthodox gravestones were thoroughly covered with carpets, and national Turkish flags were hung.