Saturday, October 30, 2010

Field Trip

Today, I joined in on a field trip with Rachel’s 4th year architecture students from the University of Nicosia to the village of Φικαρδου (Fikardou), which is located in the foothills of the Troodos Mountain Range.
The village is named after a medieval ruling class family who oversaw the surrounding lands, but the landscape today is a settlement of typical 19th century masonry mountain homes that are broken up by a series of intimate pathways between them. Much of the village has been preserved by the Department of Antiquities, which owns a few of the structures as “A” list of monuments. Those buildings have been restored to be used as a museum of rural culture, which shows how the residents of the village would once have conducted daily life and work. There is also a heavily restored 18th century church that sits on the foundation of an earlier structure.

Roof tiles, masonry, and mud brick make up the urban fabric here
The settlement is nestled within a mountain pass

Another village church where a local old man holds the key
Church of Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul

Intimate streets
The view from the mountain village to the North overlooks Nicosia and the Mesaoria Plain. A perfect vantage point for a noblemen in charge of the rural village.

Οχι Day

Thursday, October 28th was Οχι (No) day for Greek communities all over the world. The day represents supports the response of the Greek PM, Metaxas, to Mussolini when faced with the decision of whether or not to allow Axis troops into the country during World War II. His response was simply, “Ohi”, and in a matter of hours, Italian troops moved in on the country from Albania forcing Greece to defend itself and drawing the nation into actively participating in WWII.

Nicosia hosted a parade to commemorate the event that followed a route along the outside of the city walls with school children from the surrounding area marching with the Greek and Cypriot flags side by side. Although Cyprus was not a Greek island at the time of World War II, sentiment for “enosis” (a term that means seeking union with Greece) ran high in many Greek Cypriots. In my opinion, the student march would have been more appropriate on Independence day, and the military parade, if it must occur, would have been better on this day.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Road Trip - St. Hilarion Castle

Last Sunday, a few of the other Fulbright students, Bahar (a Turkish Cypriot who studied architecture in the US on a Fulbright Grant), and I went to St. Hilarion castle. The mountaintop fortification is located at the supposed site of where Saint Hilarion sought asceticism and where a 10th century Byzantine monastery and walls were constructed in his honor. The castle was further developed by the Lusignan's (a Frankish ruling class who owned Cyprus from 1192 to 1474) in the 13th century as a stronghold on the northern coast of Cyprus. It was also occupied by the Turkish military during the war of 1974.

According to my Lonely Planet guidebook, this castle inspired Walt Disney's Snow White. As I walked the castle from one room to the next, I felt as though I was on an adventure and could imagine how magical it must have been before it feel to ruin.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Photo of the Day - "Decay in the Core"

This photo was also taken within the Buffer Zone at the Ledra Palace Hotel checkpoint. This once handsome building has sat vacant since for over 36 years and now is left to the elements with no roof and temporary wood bracing to keep it from collapsing.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Photo of the Day - "Seeking Recognition"

The northern portion of Cyprus, although considered land of the Republic of Cyprus, has been occupied by the Turkish Military since 1974. Ever since, the Turkish Cypriot community has struggled find international recognition and remains only supported by its “motherland”, Turkey. This photograph was taken in the Ledra Palace Hotel checkpoint where one can pass through the Buffer Zone to “North Cyprus”, or the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” as they call themselves. Notice the dominance of signage seeking recognition of a separate territory.

Documenting Heritage

Part of my project will be to document the rich architectural heritage of the Old City. As I continue to develop more ideas about what form my project could take, I have been looking to previous documentation efforts by other institutions. Here are links to the Visual Media Center at Columbia University, which has produced a lot of interesting, interactive, and thorough work:


For a taste of what the UNDP does in Cyprus, check out this article.

Students from both Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot communities were funded to go to Bosnia and Northern Ireland as a community building exercise. As I mentioned when talking about Peace Players in the previous post, I truly believe in the ability of events like this in breaking down borders because the younger generation of Cypriots were not directly displaced or angered by the division in 1974 and have the power and responsibility to lead Cyprus beyond its divided state.

If you get a chance, check out the award winning documentary called Promises, which follows a number of young people involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

October Update

For those who avidly follow my blog, I apologize for the lapse in posting over the last two weeks. I have been extremely busy so I have a lot to catch you up on. Here are some of the highlights:

One of my everyday activities, when I am not walking around the Old City, has been finding more sources and reading them. I have created a large bibliography of sources I still need to find, so I will be scouring the local libraries over the next few weeks.

On October 7th, everyone involved in Fulbright in Cyprus were invited to the residence of the U.S. Ambassador. It is a well-fortified home within the U.S. Embassy compound, but within the 2 inch square iron bars there is a beautiful courtyard area where we at and visited with others. While I was there, I had the opportunity to meet with the people from USAID (US-funded aid organization) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Each of these organizations have funded many of the Nicosia Master Plan projects and continue to support bi-communal projects in Cyprus.

On October 8th, I met with the Nicosia Master Plan leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, Ali Guralp. He has been involved in the project for a very long time and is passionate about the positive development of Nicosia. I look forward to working with him more in the future.

I was connected to an organization called Peace Players International recently because of my love for basketball and interest in working with the younger generation of Cypriots. This is a bi-communal organization that coaches small teams of 11-15 year old boys and girls in villages in the Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot communities. They are brought together multiple times during the year to participate in basketball tournaments and other events, where they make friends with their peers on the other side of the division and have fun doing it. I have offered my help in any way they think they may need it and I plan to attend some practices in the near future to see what it is like. Peace Players also operates in Northern Ireland where I plan to continue my activity in the organization as part of my Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship.

Two days ago, I moved out of Rachel and Nikos’ apartment and into the University of Cyprus hostel in the old city. I have my own single-room on the upper floor with a balcony! The hostel is beautiful as you can see from the pictures I posted when I stayed here last year. Unfortunately, bathrooms must be shared, showers work when they choose and sometimes don’t give me warm water, and I don’t have internet (No Skype = Big Problem). The price is right though and the other people that live here are involved in academics somehow and are from all over the world so it makes for an interesting place to stay. I continue to watch for apartments and will look into other forms of internet connection.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Panorama/Photo Joiner

I recently stumbled upon this new website/program called, powered by Microsoft. I think it may be a powerful tool to showcase some of the most architecturally, socially, culturally and historically significant spaces in the Old City of Nicosia.

Check out what I did on my first try with the Chrysaliniotissa Church, which is approximately two blocks south from the Green Line and a block away from where I will be staying. You can click from picture to picture, use the arrows to move around the building, or view a general outline of the building from above and choose where you want to look.

I will post more as I complete them.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Independence Day

50 years and two weeks ago (celebrated today to allow Cypriots to escape the island during the hottest part of the summer in mid-August), Cyprus gained its sovereignty from the British as the Republic of Cyprus. This holiday is only celebrated by the Greek-speaking community of the island because it was their citizens who became members of “EOKA”, a movement whose “freedom fighters” rose up against British forces on the island in the late 1950’s.

When I attended the parade this morning in Nicosia, I found myself uneasy with the celebration. One would hope that a celebration of freedom after centuries of foreign rule would bring about a festival of culture and identity. On the contrary, a military parade heads north on a main thoroughfare towards the Old City of Nicosia and the Buffer Zone. The buzz of military helicopters in the airspace above and the tremors produced in the wake of Renault tanks on the hot asphalt only a few feet in front of me was alarming. The stone-faced soldiers at the helm of this heavy artillery and lines of armed marines chanting Greek phrases in unison marched down the wide road in the direction of the  massive land flag representing the unrecognized occupation by the Turkish military in the Turkish Cypriot community, which they call the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” or “TRNC”.

For me, the parade was a scary display of how serious the tension and nationalism is on this island. With the Greek and Cypriot flags hanging from parade route’s lampposts on one side and the massive flags representing Turkey and the “TRNC” on the other, I see this parade as more of a muscle-flexing display of partition than a representation of coexistence in a sovereign nation. After all, this celebration only began about 20 years into the 50 year history of the Republic of Cyprus, after the Turkish military claimed occupation over the north third of the island.

Here is the opinion of the local paper.