Nicosia Within the Walls walk – Sunday 20 December

Podocataro Bastion

Podocataro Bastion

Our walk of Sunday 20 December 2015 explores some parts of Kaimakli and Old Nicosia Town you know, as well as those you thought you knew. Here is your chance to get to know places better, and discover some hidden treasures. This is an easy stroll, with a strong cultural aspect.

We start on Athinas street, outside the garden of Chrysaliniotissa (also known as Toufexi garden). There are enough spaces to park your car on the side of side streets in the vicinity. The walk starts at 10:00 am. Mary is leading this walk, which will go ahead even in light rain; if you need to, call 99805285. The walk will take about 3 hours, is on totally flat ground and is classified as easy. The distance to cover is estimated around 8 ½ km.

We first visit Kaimakli, stroll around its old centre and return to Nicosia Within the Walls, for the rest of the stroll.

Here is a list of places of interest, in Old Nicosia; we shall probably walk past most of them, on our itinerary: Agios Kassianos church, Chrysaliniotissa church, Agios Ioannis cathedral, the Pancyprian Gymnasium, the Archbishop’s Palace, Agios Antonios church, Hadjigeorgakis Kornesios museum, Omeriye Turkish baths, Omeriye mosque, Phaneromeni church, Onasagorou, Ledras, Pallas theatre, Casteliotissa hall, the Holy Cross Catholic church, Nicosia municipal hall, Bayraktar mosque, Liberation monument, the aqueduct and Famagusta Gate.

At the end of the walk we shall sit down for a meal in a taverna in the Old Town.

How to get to the walk start:

Directions start from the very central Solomou square and Omirou Avenue just outside the Medieval Walls. Follow Omirou Avenue eastwards. You are driving along the Medieval Walls. Keep going straight, with the Walls steady on your left. Omirou Avenue eventually changes name to Stasinou Avenue, then Salaminos Avenue and then Spyrou Christodoulou Avenue. The distance from start to the junction between Spyrou Christodoulou Avenue and Pouliou Kapota Avenue is about 1.9 – 2 km. At this junction there are traffic lights. Facing you on your left is one side of the Chrysaliniotissa garden. Turn left at the traffic lights, and then right at the next junction, a few hundred metres up, into Athinas street. Athinas street is an extension, northwards, of the road that passes outside Famagusta Gate.

Google Maps: Here is a map taking you from Solomou square (the central bus terminal on Omirou Avenue, in Nicosia city centre), to the meeting place (Chrysaliniotissa garden), where we start our walk

About the Medieval Walls: The first Walls surrounding Nicosia were built in the 14th century by the Francs and enclosed a larger area than the 16th century Venetian Walls that still surround the old town. When the Venetians occupied Cyprus, they decided to demolish the Frankish Walls, because they were old and did not offer adequate defense against new weapons, such as artillery. The Frankish Walls were also too big to be manned by the Venetian army and too close to the hills in the east and southeast of the city. Forming a circle, the Walls built by the Venetians were fortified by eleven heart – shaped bastions and protected by an 80 metres wide moat. They were built of mud – brick, with the lower part only buttressed by stone. When the Ottomans occupied Nicosia, they repaired the walls and covered the upper part with stones. In present times, the moat around the Walls now has many different uses, serving as sports fields, public gardens, an open – air sculpture exhibition, car parks etc. In 2013, a new installation of lighting makes the Walls an attractive sight in the evenings.

A few notes about some other sites:

The church of Agios Kassianos was built in the 18th century.

The Chrysaliniotissa is the oldest surviving church Within the Walls, was first built in the Byzantine times, and has received several damages, repairs and additions in the ages, to the effect that presently it has an asymmetrical shape, with a greater width than length.

The cathedral of Agios Ioannis was built in the 17th century and is decorated with frescoes of the 18th and 19th centuries. It is named in honor of Saint John the Theologian, one of the 4 evangelists.

The church of Agios Antonios dates back to the 17th century and has a particularly significant 18th century wood-carved iconostasis and a carved sandstone bell tower. There was a Monastery on the site, in previous centuries, and presently there is work in progress to restore the damaged surrounding buildings, converting them into a new Monastery.

The Omeriye mosque was originally a church of the Order of the Augustinians dedicated to St Mary. The door of the main entrance belongs to the original 14th century building. After Nicosia fell to the Ottomans, the Ottomans rebuilt the walls and added a wooden roof and a minaret, converting the building into a mosque in 1571. The name of the mosque is associated with the 7th century prophet Omer who, legend has it, visited Nicosia on his way to Egypt, and spent the night in the porch of the ruined church.

The church of Phaneromeni (Panagia tis Phaneromenis) is the largest church Within the Walls, was built in the 18th century on the ruins of a Medieval nunnery and received drastic renovation in 1872. The miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary dates to the 14th century. In its courtyard, the church includes a mausoleum with the relics of the Archbishop and 3 Bishops who died at the hands of the Ottomans in an uprising in 1821.

Kasteliotissa Medieval Hall, with its strong gothic elements, was part of the Lusignan palace and dates to the 13th-14th century.

The Holy Cross Catholic church is situated at Paphos Gate, and was built in 1900 on the site of an older church dedicated also to the Holy Cross that was constructed in 1642.

The Bayraktar (flag bearer) mosque was built at the place where the first Ottoman flag bearer succeeded in placing his flag in 1570, as Nicosia fell to the Ottomans after the siege. The flag bearer was said to have been killed on the spot by the defenders of Nicosia and was buried there.

The Liberation Monument was erected in 1973 to honor the liberation of EOKA fighters from prison in 1959. It depicts the goddess of victory looking upon two fighters liberating the Greeks of Cyprus from British power. The monument is a symbol of the struggle for liberation from British rule, 1955-1959.

Famagusta Gate is the prettiest of the 3 Gates of Nicosia, and was leading to the port of Famagusta. Originally it was called Porta Giuliana, as a tribute to Giulio Savorgnano, the Engineer who designed and built the Venetian fortifications in the 16th century. The Gate has an impressive façade, with a decorated arch. On either side of the pass there are rooms for the guards. The Gate presently operates as a Cultural Centre.

Conquerors of Nicosia:

Lusignans or Francs 1192 – 1489 AD

Venetians 1489 – 1570 AD

Ottomans 1570 – 1878 AD

British 1878 – 1960 AD

Disclaimer: If you attend a Cyprus Strollers walk you do so entirely at your own risk. The Cyprus Strollers is a social club and neither the organizers nor the leader of the walk are responsible for the health and safety of those taking part.