Nicosia

23 July. Three cheers for Nicosia, or at least, the old part of the town. It’s a flavoursome layer cake of Byzantine, Venetian, Ottoman and modern, an unbeatable combination of twisty turny atmospheric streets where sleepy cats seek refuge from the heat in shaded corners and old mosques around the corner from sleek streets selling Gucci. Where’s that side alley where you can find that shop owned by an ancient proprietor where hidden underneath all the antiques is that ancient Venetian map showing the way to hidden treasure…..look, this paragraph started well but what a cliche-ridden douche-bag it’s becoming. Sorry.

Cypriot PotteryI’ve just come from the Cypriot Museum, which has a fantastic collection of…well, just about everything discovered from Cypriot archaeological trenches up til around 500AD. LOVE that jewellery. And the pottery! So appealing! All those concentric circles and periods like ‘Cypro-Geometric’ and ‘Cypro-Archaic’.

Until relatively recently, I simply didn’t get this ancient 162919_1572040464305_867616_npottery thing. It wasn’t until I was working as a volunteer on an archaeological dig at Pella (Jordan) in 2011 that the lights went on in my head. I unearthed a really nice piece of Middle Bronze Age high class wear (not the whole vessel, but what’s called a ‘diagnostic’ piece, meaning large enough for the dig artist to DRAW the whole vessel) that I had some insight into why some archaeologists spend their whole PhDs analysing the glaze, colour, type of material used and just about every other pottery thing you can think of, then regaling others at parties for hours about what those concentric circles on the rim really mean. The piece I unearthed was from a vessel so pretty that if you painted and glazed it and displayed it in a giftware shop in Double Bay in Sydney, someone would buy it as a really nice gift for a very dear friend. Then I realised, that, you know, maybe 4000 year old pottery wasn’t boring after all.

Nicosia, or Lefkosia, is Europe’s last divided city,a reflection of the division, since 1974, between the Turkish and Cypriot parts of the country. It’s split by the so called ‘Green Line’ and in 2003 for the first time since 1974, citizens of both sides were allowed to cross the Line, and go shopping, visit the Northern beaches and cities, and in some cases, catch up with old neighbours and friends they hadn’t seen for 30 years.

So today I crossed the Green Line to check out Northern Nicosia, which a waitress in Paphos assured me, was well worth it. And so it was, until the midday heat did me in and I crept back cross the checkpoint and headed for my hotel off Ledra Street. Mosques, twisty turny laneways that go nowhere in particular, alleys which if followed, abruptly terminate the noise of traffic, motorcycles and tourists. Partially restored Byzantine and Venetian buildings. Bargaining, silverware and long coffee pots. But not as good as the Old Cities of Damascus and Aleppo, which would both easily win Olympic Gold medals in Gorgeousness. That is, before the bombs and the miles and miles of weary traumatised refugees and yet another shitfully destructive civil war, as if the planet hasn’t seen enough of them already.

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~ by margoforte12 on July 23, 2013.

2 Responses to “Nicosia”

  1. Hey Margaret, really enjoying your blog and your descriptions of a part of the world I have not explored. Sounds like you are enjoying your time there even though it is hot! Make the most of it as winter has well and truly settled in here in canberra.
    Looking forward to catching up when you return.
    Narelle

  2. Very warming reading this in cold wet wintry Canberra with an election in the depressing depressing offing. Just close my eyes and transport myself to hot dry Cyprus. I can almost hear the cicadas!

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