Nicosia is the largest city on the island of Cyprus and has been its capital since the 10th century. Since 1974, the city has been split, with the northern part recognize by Turkey as the capital of the TRNC. Since 2016, Nicosia has also become the only capital city to have two time zones after the TRNC abolished daylight savings. As we were staying here two nights, we took a morning and afternoon to explore the city, focusing on the National Struggle Museum, the Famagusta Gate, the Eleftheria Monument, and the Hadjigeorgakis Kornesios Mansion.
Opened at this location in 2001, the National Struggle Museum displays documents, photographs, personal belongings, and other memorabilia from the 1955-1959 National Liberation Struggle. There is a huge focus on naming the British perpetrators of violence (labeled as terrorists) and naming the EOKA heroes of the struggle. At the top of the museum is a memorial showing pictures next to candles of all the “heroes” who died in direct contrast to three gallows hanging from the ceiling meant to represent the British executions that took place.
Across from the National Struggle Museum is one of the most famous schools in Cyprus: the Pancyprian Gymnasium. The oldest secondary school of Cyprus, it was established in 1812 by Archbishop Kyprianos. Notable former pupils includes two past presidents of Cyprus: Archbishop Makarios and Glafkos Clerides.
In 1567, during Venetian rule, Nicosia was re-fortified, the new walls taking the shaping the shape of a star with 11 bastions. Included into these walls were numerous gates into the city, the chief one being Famagusta Gate, originally called Porta Giuliana. Today, the gate is used as a cultural centre.
Walking along the city walls to the Eleftheria Monument takes you past the Nicosia old aqueduct, the oldest in Cyprus. Built in the 18th century, it was part of an old water supply system that brought water into the city from the northern mountains.
The Eleftheria Monument was built in 1973 to honour those who fought against British colonial rule from 1955-1959. More specifically it commemorates the release of EOKA fighters from prison in 1959. The monument depicts Lady Liberty overseeing two EOKA fighters pulling on chains in order to open the prison gates and release the Greek Cypriot prisoners, peasant, and clergy. No Turkish Cypriots are portrayed as they were seen as allies of the British during colonial times.
Our next planned stop was the Hadjigeorgakis Kornesios Mansion. Unfortunately GPS directions were a bit vague and we ended up walking around the block a few times before thinking we found the place. However, what we thought was the mansion turned out to be an ethnographic school. Luckily, staff there gave us directions to the actual mansion and gave us a beautiful book titled Customs of the Dodekameron Holy “Twelve Days” in Cyprus.
The Hadjigeorgakis Kornesios Mansion is named after the owner who was a dragoman, the official interpreter for the Divan (Council) of the Sultan for 30 years from 1779. The house was built in 1783 with local sandstone and is a two-story building. The structure surrounds a central garden with a fountain and a private bathhouse. On the ground floor the servants’ quarters and the kitchen were situated. Upstairs, the official reception rooms were located.
All throughout the city were demonstrations of street art. Messages ranged from political to simply celebrating the city’s relationship with tourism.
Unfortunately, we only had time to explore South Nicosia, but it was still a good half-day of exploring.