Saturday, October 31, 2015

Kykkos and Kakopetria Tour, Cyprus

©Lonely Planet
On Thursday we had an 8,5 hour bus tour to visit Kykkos and Kakopetria.  We rode through the Troodos Mountains which is the longest mountain range in Cyprus.

At Throni Hill is the tomb of Archbishop Makarios III who was the first president of Cyprus.  At the entrance there's a massive statue of him.  Apparently it used to be at the Archbishop's Palace in Nicosia but some felt it was too large for there so it was moved here in 2008.

The actual tomb is in a guarded cave at the top of the hill.

There are nice views of the mountains and pine forest.  

The Holy Monastery of the Virgin of Kykkos is 3 km (about 2 miles) east of the tomb.  The monastery was founded in 1092 by the Byzantines.  This is where Archbishop Makarios III began his ecclesiastical career as a monk in 1926.

The monastery is the richest on the island and possesses one of the three surviving icons from Saint Luke.

The orthodox church is very ornate and well worth a visit to see all of the icons.  The icon of the Virgin Mary is the main attraction.  There's no photography allowed inside but I managed to sneak a quick pic.

Our next visit was to the small town of Kakopetria which is about 55 km (34 miles) from Nicosia.  It is home to about 1200 people.

The Stone of the Couple is kind of an odd landmark.  According to local legend, newlyweds are supposed to walk around and then sit on the rock.  This is supposed to bring a happy marriage.  However, the stone actually crushed a couple who were performing the traditional ritual. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Famagusta & Salamis Tour, Northern Cyprus

On Wednesday we had a bus tour to visit Salamis and Famagusta in Northern Cyprus.

Salamis is an ancient city that was founded after the Trojan War.  This was the first stop that St. Paul made on his first missionary journey.

It had been the capital of Cyprus back around 1100 BC.  Over time it had been ruled by the Persians, Egyptians, Assyrians and Romans.  It was partially destroyed by earthquakes and tidal waves.

It was completely lost during an Arab invasion in around 674 AD.  Salamis was looted over the next 600 years as basically a quarry.  Looting pretty much continued until 1952 when it became a proper archeological site.

Many of the pagan and Roman statues were defaced in 400 AD during the Christian period.

The ancient theatre has a seating capacity of 15,000.

Church of St. Barnabas
When Salamis was lost most of the residents moved 9 km (~5 miles) south to Famagusta.

On the way to Famagusta is the Church of Saint Barnabas which until 1976 was a working monastery.

The church is now an icon museum and there is also a small archaeological museum.

Saint Barnabas founded the Cypriot Orthodox Church and the country's patron saint.  He was martyred in 52 AD.  There is a small mausoleum built on the site where his remains were discovered. The tomb was renovated in 1953.

Famagusta was founded in 274 BC and has a population of about 41,000.  It was founded around 274 BC and I think it's the 4th largest city on Cyprus.  In Turkish it is called Gazimaǧusa and in Greek it is Αμμόχωστος (pronounced Ammochostos).
St. Francis Church

Legend has it that the city used to have one church for every day of the year which is why the old town is nicknamed "the city of 365 churches."
St. George's Church

However today most of them have fallen in to disrepair.

Sinan Pasha Mosque

The Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul dates back to 1359.  In 1571 it was converted to the Sinan Pasha Mosque.

After Cyprus gained independence the Famagusta's Varosha suburb became one of the best known jet set vacation destinations.   

Varosha, (Βαρώσια in Greek and Maraş in Turkish), was an economic center and had more than 50% of the island's hotels until the 1974 Turkish invasion.

During the invasion Greek Cypriots evacuated.  Most probably believed that they would be able to return in a few days.

The Turks fenced off the quarter and entry is still forbidden to the public.  It's basically a ghost town now.  Photography is prohibited which is odd considering it sits on a beautiful beach.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Paphos and Kourion Tour, Cyprus

On Monday we took a bus tour to the southwest side of Cyprus to see Paphos and Kourion.  The first stop was at Kourion.

Κούριον was an important area during the Roman period when it was known as Curium.

The Greco-Roman theatre was excavated by the University of Pennsylvania from 1935 - 1950.

Above the theatre is the House of Eustolios which was excavated in 1933 and 1948.  The house was built in the late 4th or early 5th century.  The house had over 30 rooms and was occupied until the mid-7th century.

The next stop was Paphos, with a population of about 33,000, is the 5th largest city on the island.  Πάφος is is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Paphos Castle is located at the edge of the harbour.  Originally it was a Byzantine fort, built in the 7th century, but over the years it has been a fortress, a prison, and even a salt warehouse.

The House of Dionysus was the first house discovered in Paphos with mosaic floors.  The house dates back to the 2nd - 4th century.

The Narcissus mosaic is from the late 2nd - early 3rd century.

The mosaics in the House of Aion date back to the 4th century.

The House of Theseus dates back to the Roman period during the 2nd century.

Sarasota Kolones was a Byzantine castle that was most likely built at the end of the 7th century.  It was destroyed in 1222 by an earthquake.

Ayia Kyriaki Chrysopolitissa Church was built around 1500.

In 45 AD, the Apostle Paul visited Cyprus as a missionary.  Before he converted the local Roman proconsul to Christianity, St. Paul ran in to trouble being a Christian missionary.  He was tied to this white pillar and flogged 35 times.

After Paphos we made a quick stop in Geroskipou.  Γεροσκήπου is home to about 7,000 people.  It's also home to Ayia Paraskevi which is a rare five-domed Byzantine church.

The town is also well-known for "lokum."  Turkish Delight is a confection of starch and sugar that is eaten in small cubes dusted with powdered sugar to keep it from clinging.  Some of the most common flavours are rosewater, organic, lemon, liquorice, pistachio, mint, cinnamon, and orange.

The Rock of Aphrodite is a popular tourist stop.  Legend has it that this is where the goddess Aphrodite was born.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Nicosia, Northern Cyprus

Turkish Cypriot side of the Ledra Street crossing
The northern part of Nicosia is the largest city and capital of Northern Cyprus.

There are almost 83,000 people in the metro area.

The Turkish part of Lefkoşa is a bit more weathered than the Greek Cypriot side.  And for sure less expensive, with lots of discount shopping.  The northern side also seems to have more of a historical feel.

Büyük Han, the Great Inn, was built by the Ottomans in 1572.  It's the largest caravanserai on Cyprus with 68 rooms and a small courtyard mosque in the centre.  It was renovated in the 1990s and is now home to galleries, souvenir stands, and cafes.

Kumarcilar Han, the Gambler's Inn, was a caravanserai believed to have been built in the 17th century.  The inn contained 56 rooms but is currently closed.  The building is in a sad state of disrepair as there has been a shortage of funds for reconstruction.

Büyük Hamam is the local Turkish bath.  The building used to be the Church of St. George which opened in 1309.  In 1590 it became a Turkish bath.  It was renovated in 2007-2008.

At Atatürk Square is the Venetian Column.  The Venetians, who were here prior to the Ottomans taking over, brought it here from Salamis in 1550.

Haydarpaşa Mosque is in a Gothic building built in the 14th century.  It used to be St. Catherine's Church before being converted into a mosque following Ottoman rule.

The Selimiye Mosque was originally the St. Sophia Cathedral.  The Gothic building was constructed from 1209 - 1228.  In 1571 it became the largest mosque on the island.  Although I'm not sure if it is still the largest or not.

The Mausoleum of İttik Dede is the tomb of a nameless man who was martyred in 1570 when the Ottomans took over Nicosia.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Nicosia, Cyprus

Nicosia is the largest city on Cyprus with a population over 300,000 people.  The U.N. peace line runs through the city dividing it in two.  The southern side is called Λευκωσία, in Greek, and it is the capital of the Republic of Cyprus.  The northern side is called Lefkoşa,  in Turkish, and it is the capital of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

The area has been continuously inhabited since the Bronze Age in 2500 BC.  Nicosia has been the island's main city since the 10th century.
The Panagia Phaneromeni church was built in 1792.  It is the largest Orthodox Church inside of the old town.  The church was built on the site of a former nunnery.
The Agios Savvas parish church was built in 1850 - 1851.
The Archbishop's Palace is one of the city's biggest attractions.  It was completed in 1961, a year after Cyprus gained independence.  There's a statue of Archbishop Makarios III who was the first president of Cyprus.
The Liberty Monument honours the island's struggle for independence.  It was built in 1973.
The Omeriye Mosque used to be an Augustinian church and monastery.  It was converted in to a mosque in 1571.
The Ledra Street crossing was opened in April 2008.  Today this is the border crossing between Cyprus and Northern Cyprus.  I just had to show my passport on each side.  Fortunately no one stamped my passport because I'm running very low on blank pages.