North Cyprus Holiday Journal - Newbies in North Cyprus - Day 7
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Newbies in North Cyprus, Day 7

Day 7: Monday

Nicosia Bazaar

Nicosia (Lefkosa) is the only divided capital city left in Europe, with the northern part of the old city the capital of North Cyprus, and the southern half the capital of the Republic of Cyprus (south Cyprus). Everywhere we looked, there were reminders of the city's past; the law courts housed in a former pasha's mansion, the Venetian column topped with a brass globe by the British, and the original Ottoman houses with their elaborate ironwork balconies. A short stroll brought us to the bazaar, a network of tiny streets lined with shops and stalls selling everything needed in everyday life  - not tourist tat. As I admired some gorgeous gold fabric, the shopkeeper informed us that if we wanted it made into curtains, she would do it within the hour!

Great Inn in Nicosia

Next to the market lies the Büyük Han, the Great Inn, now a craft centre. Beautifully restored, it's easy to imagine weary travellers bringing their animals and carts into this great courtyard, before bedding down beside a warm fire in one of the 68 upstairs rooms. Here we discovered the Cypriot craft of silk worm cocoon work, the creamy white cocoons cut into delicate shapes for pictures and jewellery.

By lunchtime, we discovered ourselves outside the former Gothic cathedral of St Sophia Cathedral, converted into the Selimiye Camii (mosque) by the Ottomans in 1570. Alongside it, the EU had put money towards the restoration of the Bedestan, two former churches that had been used for centuries as a grain store. The restoration was superb, creating a cool and airy space for concerts and meetings.

Beside the mosque, we took a table under the trees at the Müze Dostleri restaurant, offering authentic Turkish Cypriot cuisine. I can't tell you exactly what we ate, because you simply go into the kitchen and the friendly owner points out the eight dishes on offer each day. My partner ended up with a mixed plate of vegetarian items, including aromatic stuffed courgette flowers. My Kibrisli kolokas was a vast plate of chicken stew with kolokas, a root vegetable that looks like a giant radish and tastes like sweet potatoes. The total bill for lunch came to just £20 for the two of us including drinks, and we were absolutely stuffed!

Driving back to our North Cyrus villa, we turned into what had already become our favourite pit stop on the way home, the shiny new Mardo ice cream parlour. All along the new coast road east of Catalkoy, shops are being built in new air-conditioned gleaming white parades, that reminded me strongly parts of Florida and the United States. In one of these blocks. Mardo’s ice cream had set up an air-conditioned parlour, with gleaming white tiles and brightly coloured ice creams to tempt many passing motorists, and most of the local taxi drivers! These ice creams are utterly delicious, totally irresistible, and incredibly cheap.