It’s the third night of my short stay in Nicosia, and I’m getting enamored with this quite peculiar place. Because it is indeed a particular city, and we did indeed not get off on the right foot when I arrived two days ago. Let me start at the very beginning.
So the first day’s misfortune started already when I’d just disembarked the plane and was standing in line to immigrations, and I realized that my phone charger was still left onboard the aircraft. I just sighed a tired sigh and met the jovial immigrations officer with a lifeless glare as he asked for my passport. This is not the first time this has happened to me, and this unorganized feature of mine has led me to an impressive collection of both chargers and adapters since I know they won’t be with me for long.
The shuttle bus into Nicosia was very much reminiscent of a public school bus in an unprivileged country. The ride was quick through the mountainous landscape, sparse in both vegetation and construction but somehow still vibrant under the scorching sun. Before I knew it we reached Nicosia bus terminal; an installation other countries would’ve referred to as a bus stop in the countryside. At some point during the short taxi ride into the center, I accidentally pressed the wrong button on my phone, and I ended up in the review section of my chosen hotel. “Worst experience that ruined my whole trip.” said the first headline and the ones that followed were of similar character. Reluctantly I read review after review which touched upon everything from moldy furniture to inoperable air conditioning and loud neighbors as well as inadequate service. My gut feeling hit rock bottom, but it wasn’t until the cab driver charged me 10 euros for a 5 euros trip and gave me a handwritten receipt in my euphemistic attempt of asking for my change back, that I realized that there are some lessons I will probably never learn. Regardless of how seasoned as a traveler, I am. It is tiring to be me at times.
It took me approximately three seconds of looking at the exterior of the hotel to understand that every review I’d just read was true. Dirty windows and balcony rails cover in bird feces smiled towards me. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but the reason why the bible is normally one colored could be a hint that it’s not hilarious reading. Finally, inside, the building seemed derelict, and with no elevator, I had to drag my overpacked suitcase up to the top floor while cursing myself for always doing this to myself. Always. To my despair, no one came to open as I pressed the loose hanging door bell, and in that exact moment, I got an email saying that my booking had been annulled. Apparently, arrangements for pick up of keys has to be done a day in advance, and I missed the curfew. Amid all misfortune, I saw this as a blessing. A second chance was given to me. Long story short, I did find a new hotel a stone’s throw away from the first one. A typical three-star hotel, with tacky font choice, plastic palm trees and Nescafé of poor quality. But even if the man at the front desk suggested that I’d use the glass desk in my room as an ironing board, and even if the plug to bathtub was missing and even if the wall to wall carpet had seen more in life than I have, it was alright.
Apart from precursory events, though, Nicosia has turned out to be a pearl. It’s by no means a big city, less than 300 000 people reside here. There’s not a sign of the typical boasting architecture you’d otherwise come across in capitals; instead, most buildings are old and only a few stories tall. Walking down the many meandering streets of Old Nicosia is like a therapy session. There’s a quietude in between the stone houses with adobe roofs, hued doors with rigorous knockers and flaking facades in canary and offwhite nuances, and occasional Wisteria in full bloom spreading its scent as you walk by. Not even the Cypriots quite boisterous way of talking to each other disturbs the peace. Everything moves slowly in this city. It’s like there’s not a worry in the world. No one’s in a rush to do anything. And it’s extremely contagious. It’s almost like I could feel my pulse slowing down.
On the Greek side, the residents seem to have understood there’s little point in worrying, for whatever the reason. And since all the pressure’s off, Nicosia is indeed the perfect place for solitude. Sitting down in one of the countless cafés with mismatching furniture and fresh cut flowers on every table has quickly turned into a habit. The coffee is strong, but not as strong as Cypriot coffee which I only tried once. A muddy broth strong enough to resuscitate the dead. The waiters serve the table with no haste, and to see one of them puffing on a resting smoke in between clearing tables is actually quite refreshing. It’s so easy just to be; enjoying the slight scents of cigarette smoke, freshly mowed lawns and fresh air; as pleasurable in the rising morning sun as in the setting evening sun. Spring has come early to Cyprus.