Ah, Famagusta! The queen of cities, the jewel of the seas! Okay, down to earth. We liked Famagusta very much indeed but this may have something to do with the fact that there are few places in northern Cyprus that don't look either like a war zone or like a construction site (or both). Famagusta has an old walled city, Venetian style, it has a harbour and it has many churches. Sure, the latter are almost all in ruins… but what ruins!
- However, let's start with the ex-cathedral of St Nicholas, nowadays better known as the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque and most certainly not in ruins. If the front reminds you of Reims cathedral… yes, it was designed that way. The minaret (only one, not two as in Nicosia, and a pretty small one to boot) doesn't distract too much from the Gothicness of the pile, we thought. It's impossible to describe how incongrous it felt to see this French fašade in the midst of an oriental city, surrounded by oriental trees. We loved it.
- By the way, it was here in St Nicholas that the Lusignan kings, after being crowned kings of Cyprus in the Ayia Sophia in Nicosia, went through a second, purely symbolic coronation: they would receive the crown of the kingdom of Jerusalem — which had been lost decades ago to valiant Saladin and his Muslim hordes. (Isn't it refreshing to see that political correctness is not an invention of our time?)
- The next photo shows the church of St George of the Latins (which means there must a St George of the Others, err, the Greeks). A romantic ruin against a deep blue sky, a bit like Tintern Abbey (on a good day) transported to Cyprus.
- This window and wall are part of the other St George church, the Greek one. Grander than its sibling but overall not as impressive.
- The Venetian walls. Our guide book lamented about the fact that they're all closed (For military reasons! The Greeks might invade! Or the Russians!) but in fact they were open, at least after we coaxed the key-keeper into actually opening a couple of locked gates. Getting onto the walls is always more difficult than getting down so we ignored his warning that we might get stuck. (We didn't anyway.) Some people think that Famagusta's walls are more impressive even than Istanbul's, but we disagree. They are more complete, that's true, but then Famagusta is a pygmy of a city compared to Istanbul. The hugeness and sheer length of Istanbul's walls remains unsurpassed in the Middle East.
- An amazing view from the top of the walls: the cathedral-cum-mosque easily dominates city and skyline. And what a strange thing it is: it looks more like a space ship (Frank'n'furter, anyone?) that's come down in the wrong place!
- The proud Venetian lion. There are many in Famagusta (this one's in the city walls, overlooking the harbour) as this was a thoroughly Venetian place before the Ottomans overran it in 1571, after a long and bitter siege.
Go on to the Karpas Peninsula.
$updated from: Famagusta.htxt Sat 18 Jan 2014 13:14:23 thomasl (By Thomas Lauer)$