One City, Two Countries

DSCN0505For the last several days, I have been in Nicosia, the capital city of Cyprus. Since the reunification of Berlin, Nicosia is the only city in the world that is divided between two nations. (Istanbul is divided between two continents but, unlike Nicosia, it is one big happy family). I am staying on the Greek side but close enough to the Turkish side that I can hear the call to prayer from the Mosque on the other side of the “green line” while I am listening to the chanting from the local Greek Orthodox church.

Nicosia has been a nice surprise.  My little apartment is in a beautiful historic house in a neighborhood that is being restored with the support of the European Union and the UN. My host, Paulo, has shared information about local points of interest and his career as an airline pilot. I have met several neighbors, including Itala (Italian) and Inga (Icelandic) who own a really good vegetarian restaurant down the street and have been together here for 23 years.  I have already spent many hours at the cafe hanging out with them and their local patrons.

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Paulo in front of his lovingly restored house. He and his wife live part time in Rome.

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Inga’s Vegetarian Cafe


Itala making bread while I am distracting her. I finally had to leave so she would have the food ready for opening time

Nicosia has a small but thriving arts community, lots of outdoor cafes and a lot of older men playing tavli on the sidewalks.  The economic situation nationwide has certainly hurt local businesses and there are signs that the restoration has resulted in more infrastructure  than the economy can sustain. For example, many upscale new restaurants appear to have very little business. Still, Nicosia seems to be a city that will recover because it is livable — people I talk to mention how members of the community try to support each other and the economy relies less on tourism than other parts of the island.

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I watched this cafe owner make dolmas when I was super hungry but she wasn’t going to give me any samples before they were properly baked. So I went back for a to go box


Lots of wall art like Buenos Aires but typically more serious than playful because of the political strains over the division of the city and the flailing economy.

The North side of Nicosia is Turkish, mostly Muslim. Casual access to and from the north part of the City for tourists and local business is quite recent. A walk through its old town suggests that this part of the city is struggling, although making some progress with historic restoration.  I was hoping to find some public celebrations of Eid Al Adha, which honors Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac (also celebrated by Jews and Christians)  The Muslim tradition is to sacrifice a goat or lamb and barbecue it. In Nicosia at least, it is a private holiday of prayer and family feasting.


The main mosque sponsors a daily performance of whirling dervishes, who are disciples of Rumi, the great poet and philosopher who preached joy and acceptance in an offshoot of the traditional Muslim faith.


Originally lodging for travelers, this has been restored and houses offices, cafes and souvenir shops.

The Cyprus Museum has a great collection of archaeological artifacts from all over the island.  I only had 40 minutes before the museum closed so I focused on one thing.


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  1. All the pix so wonderful and illustrative through your eyes. The feet made me smile and think of times past and collections we’ve known. Yes, Vic, Rumi one of my faves too. Whirling worlds.

  2. This summer in Italy we made a study of sandal fashion in the ancient world – almost every Roman statue has something different on his or her feet.
    Just catching up with your posts today Kim as I changed continents last Thursday and started working the next day! I think I am getting too old to do this and should really factor in a week to get over jet lag gracefully. Loving your posts!

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