Northern Cyprus, the Homeland of Wild Donkeys – Part 2 Apkmusk

When the Gothic church is converted into a mosque

The Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque (formerly St. Nicholas Cathedral) is sure to attract the most attention, as the mosque is located in a former church, where the bell tower was replaced with a minaret and the interior was rearranged and a huge carpet laid in the middle. The cathedral was built in the early 14th century and converted into a mosque two and a half centuries later. Today’s mosque is thus one of the few mosques in the Gothic style.

Next to the mosque or the former cathedral, it is necessary to mention Othello’s castle or tower, which was built in the 14th century and was restored by the Venetians after the sale of Cyprus to the Venetian Republic. The mention of the restoration at the end of the 15th century is important mainly because one of the greatest artists of all time, Leonardo da Vinci, also took part in it. Of course, it goes without saying that the name of the tower is much younger than the tower itself, as it is named after Shakespeare’s Othello.


The most beautiful port in Northern Cyprus

When mentioning any place in Northern Cyprus, one has to be very careful with the names as most of them bear a Greek and Turkish name. Girne or Kyrenia is no exception. What’s more, in addition to both names, the city is most often mentioned as the crown jewel of Northern Cyprus, which was certainly helped by the port with the mighty castle, which is a real treat for castle lovers. The castle has a carefully arranged museum, which is worth a visit in any case, and from the castle itself we have a beautiful view of the medieval port, which today is intended for smaller fishing and especially tourist boats, offering shorter and longer trips with lunch and refreshments in the crystal clean sea. But if you do not have enough time for a boat trip, there is a wide selection of restaurants in the port itself, where you will definitely find something to your liking.

Above the city, two more treats await us, namely the castle of St. Hilarion and Bellapais Abbey. The castle of St. Hilarion is one of the best-preserved crusader forts and is located so high that on a clear day we can see all the way to mainland Turkey. Bellapais Abbey is located a little lower, but still offers a beautiful view of the city of Kyrenia or Girne. Unlike the castle, the abbey is located in the romantic village of the same name, where every corner is said to have its own story.


The last divided capital in the world

For the end, we will move slightly away from the coast and focus on the last divided capital in the world – Nicosia or Lefkosa. The demarcation line between the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus also runs through the capital. The old city, located within a mighty wall, was split by the division of Cyprus in half in 1974, and the inhabitants of the capital were separated for 34 years, until the opening of the border crossing at Ledra Street at 9 a.m. on April 3 2008, allowing passage between both parts of the capital. To enter the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a passport or even an identity card issued in one of the EU member states is sufficient, but not during the COVID-19 pandemic. As already mentioned in the first part, as many as three proofs were required for crossing the border, namely a vaccination certificate, a certificate of a negative result of a rapid or PCR test, and proof of a stay of at least ten days in the Republic of Cyprus which was colored red according to their epidemiological scoreboard. Of course, the latter condition is completely pointless, as the virus probably won’t go away after ten days, but we’re obviously going to have to get used to the pointless measures.

A walk through the Turkish part of Nicosia or Lefkosa

Luckily, my companion Dušan and I successfully crossed the border by car, and so we reached the Turkish part of the capital, where we spent several hours. The city offers an abundance of historical and cultural attractions, among which I would like to highlight Büyük Han, which is the best-preserved caravanserai in all of Cyprus and dates back to the late 16th century, when it was built by the then Ottoman governor Lala Mustafa Pasha. Since its renovation in 1990, Büyük Han has once again been the center of events, especially for visitors, as there are souvenir and handicraft shops, restaurants and much more in the inner courtyard.



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