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NICOSIA

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Overview

Cyprus’ diminutive size is greatly disproportionate to the wealth of treasures that you will discover during your visit to its capital. Dating back to the Bronze Age, Nicosia is perhaps the only area of Cyprus that has been continuously inhabited since the Chalcolithic Era (3000 B.C until present day), with its first inhabitants settling in the fertile Mesaoria Valley. Nicosia’s illustrious history and geographical uniqueness have made it a crossroads for some of history’s most important civilizations. Imprints left by greats such as the Ptolemies, Romans and the Byzantines, the Franks, Venetians, Ottomans and finally the British may be encountered in one’s travails through the Old Town area of Nicosia.

It may surprise some to discover that Nicosia was not always the impressive capital that one encounters today. Historians believe that that it was built over the ancient city of Ledra, a small town that existed around 7th – 8th century B.C.

It was only when the monarchical institutions fell at the end of the 4th century that Nicosia was able to take advantage of its natural resources and geographical position at the centre of the island. Cyprus’ last days as a monarchy ended with the Franks when Catherine Cornaro, the last queen of Cyprus, was forced to give the island to Venetians. Old Nicosia is surrounded by the Venetian Walls, behind which one may discover the city’s historic past unfold into a magical labyrinth of museums, old churches and medieval buildings. The Nicosia Walls were built by the Franks in the 16th century after the Lusignan kings arrived on the island. The Venetians realized that the walls did not offer adequate protection from invaders and tore them down, replacing them with the walls that remain until present day. The Ottomans repaired the Walls and covered them with stones during their occupation of Nicosia. Until today, the Walls are the most well – preserved construction in the city.

Do not forget to take a walk through Laiki Geitonia, where you have the opportunity to see some remarkable examples of traditional urban architecture as well as other small art workshops. In the same area, one will also encounter the LeventioMuseum with its collections of architectural findings, medieval armours and other documentation of Nicosia’s evolution. Seek out Trypiotis Church that dates back to 1695, Phaneromeni Church and the Cross of Missirikos, an old Byzantine church with gothic Italian elements that was converted into Araplar Mosque in 1571. Also noteworthy is the Armenian Church and Monastery (Notre Dame de Tyre) that was originally a nunnery during the 13th century. This particular church also has architectural elements from the 14th century, since renovations taking place were never completed the Ottoman siege. The Church only took on its present form after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The Omerie Area lies at the heart of the inner wall city and includes important examples of urban architecture, including the notable landmarks Omerie Mosque and Baths. While you are in Laiki Geitonia, stop by the Nicosia Local Market which is located next to the Arts Centre and the old inns. This area once made up the socioeconomic centre of the inner – wall city and continues to be a meeting point for Nicosia’s multi-cultural citizens.

Food Must Try

Halloumi (Hellim)

Probably the most famous Cypriot dish, Halloumi’s popularity now extends to many countries throughout Europe and the Middle East. Because of the cheese’s high melting point, it possesses the rare ability to be easily fried or grilled, completely redefining the expectations of ‘grilled cheese’. Distinguishable by its mild salty flavor and rubbery texture, the delicacy has become a favorite among vegetarians and non-vegetarians all around the world. The cheese is produced by combining a mixture of goat and sheep milk before then being set with rennet. This is an unusual practice due to the absence of acid-producing bacteria in any part of the process. Halloumi can also be served cold alongside freshly sliced watermelon, and this is commonly eaten as an appetizer or a dessert in Cyprus.

Cyprus-Style Souvlaki

A spin-off from the famous Greek fast food dish, the Cypriot style souvlaki consists of small chunks of charcoal-grilled meat on a skewer, and a large amount of fresh salad filling. The pita bread used is thinner and larger than the Greek version, and usually contains a pocket to hold the ingredients, rather than wrapping the filling in the traditional way. The meat is commonly pork, lamb or chicken. However, vegetarian options such as mushroom and halloumi are also sought after choices. The sauces popular with Greek souvlakis are a rare feature of the Cypriot version. On the island they are instead commonly served with lemon quarters, a pickled green chili pepper and piccalilli on the side.

Oven Macaroni (Makaronia Tou Fournou, Pastitsio, Firinda Makarna)

Popularly known in Greece as Pastitsio, the Cypriot version is an emblematic and authentic dish especially popular during the island’s Easter celebrations. Large pasta tubes, béchamel sauce and minced pork are the main ingredients used. Thin curls of anari cheese are often sprinkled on the top to give it a crispy crunch. The dish is usually prepared in a large oven pan. Portions are cut into characterful square pieces, charmingly allowing the layers to be seen upon eating. When being served as a main dish, this Cypriot delicacy usually comes with a side of salad.

Excursions

Nicosia, one of the last divided capitals in the world, offers something for every taste.

Start you Nicosia day tour with a pick up from a centrally located hotel in Ayia Napa, Protaras or Larnaca area. As you travel through the inland Cyprus, your guide shares all you need to know about Nicosia the Capital of Cyprus.

Arrive in the south part of Nicosia, a partially car-free old town within the Venetian Walls. Embrace the lively modern city life, as well as its history and culture. Let your guide show and give you all the interesting facts about this town.

Stroll around Ledra’s street, the most prominent shopping area in the city of Nicosia with many shops lining either side. You will be able to find all sort of shops, from large department stores to smaller shops and boutiques. Or wonder through Laiki Geitonia (the traditional neighbourhood), a pedestrian area which has been restored to its traditional character to give a glimpse of the old days. Visit Leventis Municipal Museum of Nicosia where the history of the city from antiquities to the present era unfolds in a complex of traditional buildings.

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