Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, may be the world’s last divided city, and a fascinating place to see how war cuts through a nation.
In 1974, Greeks on the island of Cyprus staged a coup to unite the island with Greece. In response, Turkey invaded, capturing the northern part of Cyprus. Greek and Turkish Cypriots quickly moved to opposite sides of the island. To this day, they are separated by the Green Line, a buffer zone that cuts through Nicosia and is maintained by the United Nations. Most tourism is on the Greek side, to the south of the line.
Head to the Shacolas Tower to get the lay of the land from its 11th floor. Pop into the museum to learn about the city’s history.
Then walk to the Byzantine Museum to see its awesome collection of religious icons from the ninth to the 19th centuries. Within an easy walk is the Archbishop’s Palace, the Cyprus Folk Art Museum with its sun-kissed white courtyard, and the Modern Art Museum, whose entrance is a haunting symbol of the way the island lives in stability and chaos.
Enjoy a Turkish bath at Hamam Omerye, where you will be pampered as the steam gives your skin a healthy glow.
Now cross over into the Turkish area, North Nicosia, and you’ll feel like you’ve crossed into Turkey — even though no other country recognizes North Nicosia as a country. The Ledra Street Crossing is pleasant, with plenty of places to taste Turkish cuisine. But a walk along the Turkish side of the Green Line is the real eye-opener. Many buildings are still empty, a sign of the war that divided Cyprus. (T)