5. Nicosia: Bordercrossing with lunch in eastern part
Nicosia is the last bipartite capital in the world. It lies roughly in the middle of the island of Cyprus and is the capital of the independent Republic of Cyprus, while its northern part (tr. Lefkoşa) is the capital of the internationally unrecognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Whereas a few years ago it was extremely difficult to cross the border, nowadays it is easy to switch between the "Greek" (mainly Greek is spoken) southern part and the "Turkish" (mainly Turkish is spoken) northern part of the city. All you need is the entry document (passport, identity card) that you presented to the border authorities when you entered the island of Cyprus. Nicosia's Venetian Fortifications Totally impressive are the Venetian walls that enclose the old town. Although they have been the landmark of Nicosia for so many years and the city is now modern and full of life, much of the original three-kilometre length still remains. The Paphos Gate and the Roccas Bastion are famous for their role in modern history. Here the UN buffer zone between the Republic of Cyprus and Northern Cyprus is less than the usual 200 metres, and until 2003 this was the only place on the island where Greek and Turkish Cypriots could come close. Today, the flags of all four countries involved in the unresolved conflict (Greece, the Republic of Cyprus, Turkey and Northern Cyprus) flutter in the wind as a reminder of the island's unresolved problems. Ledra Street Ledra Street winds through the historic old town of Nicosia, divided into a Greek Cypriot southern part and a Turkish Cypriot northern part. In the larger Greek-Cypriot part, there is a lively shopping street with international chain stores. It ends in the south at the Platía Eleftherías, i.e. at the edge of the Venetian city wall. The 50-metre-wide Green Line separates the smaller Turkish northern part of the street from the southern part. Pedestrians can cross back and forth between the two parts of the street, as a border crossing has existed on Ledra Street since April 2008. The street, which was once a symbol of division, now connects (again) and is today the most popular promenade in Nicosia. Many large department stores have set up shop along it. Büyük Han A han (caravan station) was in ancient times accommodation and storage for traders passing through the city, often with stables for their horses (or camels) and sometimes with recreational facilities such as restaurants and hamams (Turkish baths). Büyük Han was built in 1572 and today is an excellently preserved and fully restored example of the architecture of the time and is one of the most beautiful historic buildings in the city. The Han is home to a variety of shops, cafés and craft studios and is perfect for a short shopping trip during our tour of Nicosia. Büyük Han is located in the north of Nicosia, but is only a short walk from the Ledra Street Green Line pedestrian crossing.