A cycling tour through historic Cyprus for TEDxNicosia

(Photo: Eleni Lenga)

(Photo: Eleni Lenga)

As part of The Netherlands’s Council of the European Union presidency, the Dutch government is making an effort to promote cycling throughout Europe. This has led to the creation of the Cycling Festival Europe 2016, a two-month-long celebration of cycling throughout Europe — as a fun social activity, an economically-friendly transportation option and a way to reduce carbon emissions in the EU. Events are being organized in coordination with Dutch embassies in countries across the continent.

A poster for TEDxNicosia's "Wheels and Traces" cycling event (Photo: TEDxNicosia)

A poster for TEDxNicosia’s “Wheels and Traces” cycling event (Photo: TEDxNicosia)

One of these events was hosted by TEDxNicosia on April 23, 2016, in collaboration with the Dutch Embassy in Nicosia and the Cyprus Cycling Federation. Built around their 2016 event theme, “Traces,” TEDxNicosia’s Cycling Festival Europe event — “Wheels and Traces” — was a 15-km cycle around historic Nicosia. “With the power of TEDxNicosia’s ‘ideas worth spreading,’ the municipality’s love of the city and the Cycling Federation’s passion for cycling, Nicosia’s history, culture and nostalgic splendor can be explored on wheels –  making it a fantastic opportunity to cycle through history while being fully present in the moment,” the team wrote in a description of the event.

The tour was led by the Vice President of the Cyprus Cycling Federation, George Apostolou,who lent his cycling expertise to create a route that allowed participants to not only see some of Nicosia’s “hidden historic gems,” but also to trace Xs with their wheels. The route can be seen here. The team also invited senior cyclists to join the fun and share stories of cycling in Nicosia in decades past.

The event was recorded and a video recap will be shown at TEDxNicosia 2016 on May 7, 2016.

Below, an account of the event by TEDxNicosia blogger Eleni Antoniou:

I cradled my eight month old baby bump as I watched 150 cyclists race by me. I waved and cheered but deep down I was envious.

They were about to take part in a one-of-a-kind cycling TEDxNicosia pre-event. The type of event that is actually unprecedented. One that is so unique and so well-suited to our historical capital, it didn’t matter that I would be watching from the sidelines. As long as I was a part of it.

IMG_5098

(Photo: Eleni Lenga)

TEDxNicosia’s next big event will take place on May 7 at the Satiriko Theatre. Amazing speakers have been announced, surprises of all sorts are being prepared but before all this happens, the team decided to give an appropriate introduction to the event’s theme: Traces [ίχνη]

Cyprus is full of traces left by historical footprints, all of which are the summation of a journey, our island’s journey. In Nicosia, our capital, there are traces well-known, celebrated and visited by many. And then there are some that even locals have never heard of, never seen, never knew existed. It is these hidden gems that the TEDxers set out to explore.

A mixture and a total of ten of these traces were explored by cyclists on the day of the event so creating Wheels and Traces was most fitting and an exciting prospect that was embraced by many. Most notably the Embassy of the Netherlands, the Cyprus Cycling Federation and the Nicosia Municipality. Then the Department of Antiquities which was organising a series of events for the International Day for Monuments and Sites happened to announce the theme was called The Heritage of Sport! Older cyclists with vintage bicycles took part and families with young children rounded out the impressive interest shown in the event.

(Photo: Eleni Lenga)

(Photo: Eleni Lenga)

(Photo: Eleni Lenga)

(Photo: Eleni Lenga)

(Photo: Eleni Lenga)

(Photo: Eleni Lenga)

On Saturday, April 23 at 10 am, with the vice president of the Cyprus Cycling Federation George Apostolou at the helm, the cycling tour left the Municipal Hall and rode 10 km through the winding streets of Nicosia. Ten historical points were marked with a red X. The tour would stop at each of these points and receive a little history lesson.

(Photo: Eleni Lenga)

(Photo: Eleni Lenga)

(Photo: Eleni Lenga)

(Photo: Eleni Lenga)

(Photo: Eleni Lenga)

(Photo: Eleni Lenga)

Many cyclists were astonished to learn that the building where the Municipal Hall is now housed used to by a cabaret called Luna Park. Others didn’t know of the existence of not one but two chapels located in the city centre. Saint Thekla chapel built into the Venetian curtain wall in 1567 and the Arablar Mosque, a royal chapel for Lusignian King Henry and the royal family. One cyclist said: “I have walked past that mosque my entire life never knowing what the building was, never seeing it open and then all of a sudden there was a key and George was telling us the story behind it. Such a feeling of awe.”

That day more than 150 people on their bicycles let the sun shine down on their shoulders as they rode through the capital. I was told they chatted about getting a beer after the tour, they helped each other when mechanical difficulties arose and they waited patiently as others huddled to see and learn about the various historical sites. I was told they were ecstatic to have participated in such a unique event. “We got a work-out and an education.”

(Photo: Eleni Lenga)

(Photo: Eleni Lenga)

To learn more about TEDxNicosia, visit their website or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

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