If you could sum up a young person’s Nicosia, this would be it. There’s Zena Palace (“a cinema venue and historic meeting place for young skaters and relevant subcultures; enjoy a beer on the stairs”) and Hurricane (for the best “hot cheese pie or an almond croissant”); New Division (“architects, street musicians and accountants all gather here on Friday nights to kick-start the weekend”) and Moufflon (“out-of-print books piled on the stairway and rare first editions squeezed on the shelves”); Plato’s (“a bar full of broken glasses, famous for its massive range of beers, vodkas and rums”) and Laiki Geitonia (“where you’ll find the kitsch postcard your mum asked for”).
Even Zorbas makes it onto the list, billed as “the place to be for your breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner, after-party and hangover cure”…
In short, this is the perfect guide to the city of Nicosia for the twenty-something traveler. Not least because every sort of entertainment, facility and service one might need is right there in cartographical technicolour: from all-night kiosks to cash machines, bus stations to youth hostels, supermarkets to post offices. If I were a good ten years younger and visiting the walled city for the first time, this is the only – and invaluable – guide I would need: a Use-It map of Nicosia.
“The philosophy behind Use-It maps is no-nonsense, up-to-date, inside information tourist maps made by locals for young travellers,” explains Demetra Ignatiou, the 28-year-old Project Coordinator for Nicosia. “Use-It maps are produced all over Europe; they’re made for the young traveler by the young traveler. And they really do work! I first came across the map of Brussels when I was there alone, and it helped me discover a whole new face to the city – a face I never would have seen otherwise. And, in that I’d always wanted to create an alternative guide to Nicosia, I realised that working under the Use-It network was the way to make this possible.”
While Use-It maps have produced versions covering almost every city in Europe, it’s the people who know and love their home the most who are actually behind each version. “You apply to them, assemble a team, secure funding and sponsors, and they provide you with a template and guidelines, hosting on their website and a downloadable app of the finished map,” Demetra explains. “It’s a huge amount of work,” she adds, “but we’ve produced something that is insightful, fresh and fun – a map that gives any visitor to Nicosia the feeling that they’re walking round town with a local, getting to know the stories behind the places and the buildings; not their history as such, but the urban legends. You’re getting to see how we locals experience our own city.”
In essence, Use-It Nicosia is a guide to the hidden corners of the capital: a who’s who and where’s where of Nicosia from the perspective of the eight-member team, all of whom have lived in – and loved – their city for years. “It’s an honest guide to the city,” Demetra continues. “It’s our city and we’re very proud of it – even the ugly bits! I’m sad when I see people going only to the same five places in Nicosia and then to the beach, or when I hear visitors saying they only discovered the best places on their last day in town. But with this map, it’s like having a local friend who can show you round, take you to the places aren’t in the mainstream tourist guides, teach you what it’s like to live in the city…”
Along with the 80-odd must-sees (each accompanied by an insightful paragraph), the map also advises visitors on to how to fit in and enjoy city life to the max. But it’s also a riveting read for anyone who’s au fait with local culture: witty and absolutely spot on! The ‘10 commandments of being a Nicosian’, for example, include “Thou shalt not use street names for reference”; “Thou shalt never be on time” (there’s a ‘Cyprus time to standard time metric converter’ which blithely informs the reader that 2 minutes here equal 10 minutes in the rest of Europe); and “Thou shalt speak really loudly – we’re not fighting! That’s just how we express ourselves.”
We’re told to “Make Cypriot friends, because they all have cars and will insist on giving you a lift”; always take five hours over coffee “it’s not that we haven’t got anything better to do. We just love socialising”. Museums, tourist info, a food dictionary, a brief timeline of the city’s past, airport transfers and personal recommendations from the team all also appear, ensuring this is an exhaustive – and exhausting to produce, Demetra laughs – guide to our capital…
“The entire map was produced by volunteers,” she explains. “Nobody is paid for their work; none of the places we featured paid to be registered. It’s purely the opinion and the choices of our team: Yiota, Andreas, Andrea, Polina, Lente, Savvas, Anna-Maria and myself. We’re all between 25 and 31 years of age” – the target demographic for the Use-It maps – “and we all have an intimate knowledge of our city. We’re a group of architects, archaeologists, visual artist, educators, language specialists, designers and psychologists chosen to contribute the skills and inside knowledge that I thought might be viable to the project.
“In total,” she adds, “it took over two years to produce: 12 months to organise the channels of communication and secure the funding” – the map is sponsored by Nicosia Municipality, Friends of Nicosia and the Nicosia Tourism Board – “and then another 12 to gather everything we needed and get it published. We’ve distributed over 50,000 copies, both here and abroad, and now we’re looking at our next edition… Because part of the deal with the Use-It network is that the map can only last for a year: premises move, hours change, new places spring up. It’s very much an ongoing project. But then Nicosia,” she concludes, “is an ever-changing city. And we want to provide the best possible inside guide to the place we know and love!”
To get a copy of the Nicosia Use-It map, visit the Nicosia Municipality, Cyprus Museum, Kapnos Airport Shuttle in Nicosia, the Bus Station in Solomou Square or the Youth Hostel. You can also download the map directly from the website at www.use-it.travel, or get the iOS app. For more information, visit the Facebook page ‘USE-IT Nicosia’ or email firstname.lastname@example.org