Sunday, 28 April 2013

Sangria in Nicosia - Cyprus

Sangria in Nicosia

It's been long while since I saw any sunshine, so my recent trip to Cyprus was a real god send. My friend Ashleigh is lucky to have generous parents willing to let us go and stay in their beautiful apartment. Their second home is situated in the small town of Peyia, around 30mins drive from Paphos. This gorgeous place is a laid back cluster of local grocers, bakeries and bars including 'The Jail', a one time prison and more recent rustic looking public house where the expats like to meet and greet. The owner is forthcoming with stories, historical paperwork referencing his pub and a collection of British police constable hats behind the bar!

Now, a girl can while away a fair few hours around a pool with cocktails and snacks, but then you begin to feel a little guilty for not absorbing any local culture. So we took the Jimmy 4x4 two hours up the road to Nicosia - locally known as Lefkosia. Interestingly it is the only remaining divided capital city in the world. Halved between southern Greece and northern Turkey, it was once a controversial barbed and armed affair which has become much more relaxed in recent years. Once we arrived in the city and parked up we really just meandered around aimlessly, a little unprepared without a map. We found the old city wall bustling with people and public transport but safely headed into the old city streets. Much of this area is pedestrianised with high street names and food chains, but some boutique stores are mixed amongst. We walked through the souvenir and craft stalls right up to the passport control point without even realising. Strangely the atmosphere at the check point was like a queue in a theme park. One stamp in your passport by a jovial official and off you pop into Turkey. What an adventure!

Buyuk Han - Great Inn, Nicosia.

Within the old crumbling buildings on the other side of the line, we found a beautiful courtyard known a Buyuk Han, or Great Inn. This place was once an 18th century Ottoman tradesman pit stop. It later served as a safe house for the homeless, and lent itself well as a prison. Now it simply offers great food, spirited service and handicrafts behind each quaint little doors. We panicked a little when we realised the currency had changed into Turkish Lira, but the friendly waitress explained the two currencies were interchangeable within such close proximity of the border. 

Ladies who lunch in Buyuk Han, Nicosia.

With the sun beating down and the atmosphere a quiet calm, we ordered a fresh jug of sangria and some alfresco lunch. One fresh a fruity cheese platter, a token portion of halloumi and pitta and some marinaded prawns. What a treat! Ash had made it her mission to eat halloumi everyday and to be honest Amy and I were not far behind. Halloumi is a Cypriot hard cheese made from goat and sheep's milk, sometimes cow's too. It is perfect grilled or barbecued as it retains it's firm texture when cooked.

Cheese board platter, Buyuk Han, Nicosia

Alfresco Halloumi, Buyuk Han, Nicosia

Lunch in Buyuk Han, Nicosia

Sangria in Nicosia

The friendly locals wanted to chat to us and ensure we were enjoying our surroundings. The waitress was most kind acting as interpreter with this fine fellow. What a magnificent moustache!

After lunch at the height of the afternoon sun, we browsed the handicrafts before hopping and skipping back across the border for a spot of shopping. We later found that the main shopping area we were perusing was the Lidras or Ledra Street, formerly linking north and south as the UN buffer zone. Further refreshment! We rested at Heraclis Cafe and Restaurant along the Lidras and shared a couple of ice cream sundaes. They have a wonderful choice of flavours and again offered a lovely outdoor table on the pedestrian street. We could people watch while enjoying the sunshine and even made a little friend who was pleased to greet those passing by.

Cherry ice cream sundae, Heraclis, Nicosia.

Chocolate ice cream sundae, Heraclis, Nicosia

Parrot friend, Heraclis, Nicosia.

Later in the afternoon we spotted a cafe offering flavoured shisha, it looked pretty chilled and seemed a nice way to end a day of relaxed indulgence.

Hookah, shisha cafe, Nicosia.

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