Walking Tour of the Old City

IMG_1798Did you know that the Municipality of Nicosia offers walking tours of the old city?  I always wanted to go on these tours, as they are given in English, and you get a real feel of the city, but with a little Linus and a walking tour that lasts up to 2 hours and 45 minutes, it didn’t seem like a feasible option for me. When Piano Man’s school offered a free walking tour of the old city, I jumped at the chance.

(Piano Man requested that I share the number of floor signs, shown above, we observed during our walking tour. Total number: 41. However, if you take the official tour, you’ll probably see more. These embedded plaques in the sidewalks tell you where to follow along on the walking tour, which I think is such a clever idea.)

IMG_2325Piano Man and I attended the tour on the morning of the announcement of the EU’s bailout plan for Cyprus. At the time, I didn’t know about the economic situation in Cyprus until we got home.

The tour went by quickly in two hours, but here is quick run down of the things we saw.

Archbishop’s Palace

The tour began at the Archbishop’s Palace, where the religious high officials reside and work. After reading about it on Wikipedia, I see why we didn’t enter the palace because it isn’t open to the public.

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(Photo, left: Bust of Archbishop Kyprianos, who was hanged by the Ottomans during the revolt in 1821. Other bishops during the revolt were beheaded. Photo, right: Bishops at the palace today.)

The Oldest School in Cyprus

The Pancyprian Gymnasium was founded by Archbishop Kyprianos in 1812, and it is the oldest high school still open today in the old city. It is situated across, caddy corner to the Archbishop Palace.

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Folk Art Museum

We didn’t enter the Folk Art Museum either, but it is located next door to the Archbishop’s Palace.

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Churches in the Old City

I think we walked into three churches, but I could only photograph two.  The church next to the Archbishop’s Palace does not allow photographs because the murals on the walls and ceilings need to be preserved. However, I did notice that the murals were redone. The bottom half of the murals, mostly along the walls, were untouched, which reflected the true state of the artwork on the walls. The murals on the ceilings were in colorful pristine shape. They treated the murals in the church as if it were the Sistine Chapel. You’d get thrown out for taking pictures there, which coincidentally we saw security do that on our trip to Italy many years ago.

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Do you see Piano Man sitting nicely in those seats? Apparently, you can lift the seats up so you an stand during service. Pretty creative, especially if people want to pass you to sit in another seat on your row.

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Graffiti in Nicosia

You can’t miss the graffiti in Cyprus. It’s everywhere, just like in Greece and other major cities around the world. I guess you can say it is this generations way of adding its historical footprint in the world.

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Architecture in Nicosia

I learned something new on the tour. If you see lots of blue embellishments on the windows and door frames of a building that is indicative of the British period. And above each door frame of a building, the builders added the year it was built so you know when the building was built.

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If you look at the left photo, you will different styles of balconies. The right photo is indicative of British-style architecture/influence.

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People in Cyprus

I think people watching is where you get to see the life and culture of a country come to life. And Cypriots playing board games on the weekend, or going to work for conscription service/duty, or having coffee with a bunch of friends is the way to see the beauty of Cyprus.

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(Photo, left: Two generations of men playing “tavli,” table or board games. Photo, right: Cypriot soldier going to work for duty.)

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(Photo: Location in the old city where young people congregate.)

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This is where all the young people hang out, according to the tour guide. I wish I could tell you what part in the old city, but honestly, I had no idea where we were going. The sheer number of mopeds and motorcycles tells you that young people must like to drive/ride these as well.

Nicosia/Old City Observatory

If you go to the top level of the Debenham’s (department store) building, you can buy tickets to the observatory for a couple of euros and see a 360 degree panoramic view of the old city and into the northern occupied territory side. The tour guide informed me that she knows several Greek-Cypriots who have never crossed into the northern side after Turkish forces invaded in 1974.

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This observatory has also added new touch screen media to gave you a better sense of the history and locale of the city from all directions.

Ice Cream Shop Review: Gelatiamo

Address: Onasagorou 51, Nicosia 1011/Telephone: 99444916

I rewarded Piano Man with an awesome two-scoop gelato ice cream cone with sprinkles. That is a rare thing for Piano Man, since the four of us usually share one scoop in a cup. =)

I don’t know if “fatty” ice cream, according to a fellow tourist mentioned, is your thing, but if you want to try some “gelato,” then this place is for you. Piano Man liked it, but I thought it was more creamy than what I have eaten in Italy. However, if my little man liked it, it’s a thumbs up in my book.

(Side note: People here, and maybe it’s a European thing, are so much more open about calling people fat than anyone would ever dare to say in the U.S. A bit of too much honesty for me, but hey, that’s how they roll in Cyprus.)

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I am so proud that my little man and I had another date. It’s nice to spend one-on-one time together.

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