Prolific author Louis
Salvator was an Archduke of Austria from the branch of the Hapsburg family which ruled
Tuscany when he was born in Florence, Italy in 1847. Still in his 20s he left the Imperial
service to devote himself to science and travel, and wrote 50 books - all but four about
He lived in the Balearic island of Majorca
or on board his beloved steam yacht and produced, on average, a book a year. His work on
Nicosia was written when he was
26, and was based on a cruise to Cyprus. It was an inspiring city in 1873, five years
before British occupation.
Salvator saw it through the eyes of an artistic young man,
and its romantic appeal enthralled him. His descriptions, and the delicate lined of his
own sketches, give the liveliest impression that remains of the life and customs of a
great city of the old Levant at the end of three centuries of Turkish rule.
The first German edition of the book, printed in 1873 in
Prague, is very rare and only three copies are known to have escaped destruction by fire.
Here is and extract:
"Nicosia is not divided into districts
in the usual sense of the word; the only divisions that could be drawn would be by the
different populations of the town. The Turks for instance, occupy the parts about the Gate
of Famagusta, near the mosque of Tahta Kale, and especially those between the Gates of
Kyrenia and Paphos. The Greeks have chosen principally the district between the
residence and Ayia Sophia for their dwelling-place, but are also sprinkled amongst the
Turkish population between the Gates of Kyrenia and Famagusta. The Armenians are mixed up
everywhere with the Turks.
"The narrow, winding streets bear sometimes various
names within a short distance, and usually the name of the street is not given, but the
various places are designated after the neighbourhood in which they are situated. The names
of the localities appear in white characters on blue tin tablets in Turkish and Greek. The
houses are numbered in the same manner. The pavement consists of rough shingle, and in
many cases there is none at all. The principle street of Nicosia, which is naturally the
broadest and the longest one, is called the next in importance to the Tahta Kale, which
leads from the Gate of Famagusta to the bazaars, thus forming the main entrance to the
city. By the side of it runs the dry bed of the Kanlidere /Pedias with several bridges.
"There are very few houses built of stone in Nicosia. Some of
these ate adorned with Gothic arched windows and flowing tracery, but nobody seems to pay
any attention to them. Most of the houses are made of big clay bricks, as they say, for
fear of earthquake. Clay houses will last a hundred years, but they must be frequently
repaired, as the straw in the bricks is plastered up and will rot and leave holes in the
"Most of the Turkish houses have prominent pavilions,
others latticework windows and are surmounted by wooden gables. Over the entrance of the
Turkish houses we often found a wooden frame in the shape of the crescent and star, or of
the star only, with little wire hoops to hold the oil cups for the illumination on the
anniversary of the Sultan's accession and other festivals.
"The entrance-doors usually exhibit three rows of
nails, one in the middle, one on the top, and one below; narrow strips of wood run down
closely from the top, each of them fastened by a nail in three places. Some of the doors
are formed in lozenge-shaped squares made in a similar manner. The cross-bars of the doors
are most elaborate in some Turkish houses.
"Now let us step in. The doors of the Turkish houses are in
most cases carefully locked, and a screen stands immediately behind, so that when the door
is opened no-one can see in. Having passed the screen, the visitor enters the paved hall,
usually facing a garden or a courtyard.
"In the absence of arches, the roof is supported by
round columns, and the beam is then adorned with carved consoles. All the windows opening
into the hall are provided with Moorish lattice-work. From the entrance, the stairs lead
to the upper floor either by a regular staircase, or steps on the outside of the wall.
"Pretty little doors with carved Moorish arches form
the entrance to the interior. The floors and ceilings are inlaid with large,
marble slabs, which come from the village of Eylence. The roof is generally
many cases it is pointed; for the most part, however, flat. Generally, the round beams are
ornamented by pretty basketwork, or else they are simply overlaid by boards. Rich people
have their floors inlaid. The doors are made of wood, often with fine fretwork.
"In the Turkish houses, we usually find a divan-room,
which is also frequently found in Greek houses. The ceilings of these rooms are usually
supported by arches resting on brackets, or simple beams. The floor is covered with mats
from Egypt, and in the middle of the room stands the copper fire-pan with glowing
charcoal. In the houses of the poorer, the rooms on the ground-floor are also inhabited,
and the light comes in through handsome-looking little windows made by apentures in the
thick stone walls, and having glass panes on the inside, like those usually found in the
Turkish inhabitants of the richer class have a reception room on the upper floor, richly
furnished with divans along the walls, and shelves garnished with various objects of glass
and china... This opens into other rooms with broad divans and pillows; sometimes in the
corners there are small shelves containing all sorts of bric a brac and slender
"Rich Turks have large latticed pavilions, which are
delightfully cool in summer if there is the slightest of breeze. They also act as a cool
resting-place, like the flat roofs of the houses. The kitchen is situated on the ground
floor, with the fireplace in the corner, or in the middle of the wall, after the Turkish
fashion. Many houses have a perfectly round baking-oven with a marble floor and stone
sides covered on the top with clay and straw. Most of the houses have their own wells;
otherwise the water is brought in by donkeys, which have two pitchers hanging on either
"Almost every house has an orange garden, with
gigantic palms towering over the fruit trees; and besides these private enclosures there
are extensive public gardens within the boundaries of the city, occupying more than one
half of the whole extent of it. All these gardens are bounded by clay walls on the side of
the street; the side adjoining the open hall of the house is fenced only by a low wooden
balustrade; and they are watered either from cisterns or directly from the aqueducts. All
sorts of fruits are cultivated there, some are very sweet, orange-shaped lemons which are
very cheap on the island and can be bought therefore by the poorest classes, but citrons
of an extraordinary size, with very few stones, and a sort of white paste inside rot very
quickly, and are often preserved by putting a coat of wax over them.
"Apricots and other kinds of fruit are equally famous; St
John's bread, pomegranates and dates, which are rather dark-coloured, but very good. The
bunches of dates are wrapped up in soft straw mats to protect them from the millions of
ravens, rooks, and jackdaws, which sometimes cover the palm-trees in such numbers that
they appear quite black.
"Vines and mulberries are also frequent: these latter
are reared for the sake of the silkworms. The ground by the side of the fruit trees is
occupied by fine vegetable gardens, watered with the help of a sort of shovel, which takes
up the water like a spoon and throws it over a considerable area. Carrots, onions,
cabbage; these are eaten raw. Prickly pears and various flowers are plentiful."