Did you know I went to Cyprus? And I barely even told you about it, shame on me. Almost a year later, I’m going to make this up to you. While I was in Cyprus, I wandered through the ancient ruins of Salamis (I just probably put those pictures up, too…) and spent lots of time with some family friends that live on the island. They introduced my mom and I to a gorgeous castle on a mountainside: St. Hilarian Kalesi. I can’t help but say the word “hilarious!” immediately following mention of the castle’s name. I dare you to try it and not do it ten times in a row.
Some history (thanks Wikipedia): the castle began as a hermitage site and then a church during the 10th century, and finally it became a castle. Once it was a castle, you know how castles with excellent lookout points go… people fight over them, over and over. Some 500 years later, people starting taking it apart to reduce the upkeep of the building. I presume the ceiling was about to fall in and they figured it was easier to just pull out the ceiling and give everyone winter coats than build a new one. Jerks.
In order to get to the castle (located in Northern, Turkish Cyprus), you need to drive there and past several military installations and soldiers. If they’re doing training in the mountains, you may have to choose another day to head up to the castle. If they’re not, you’ll probably have the entire place to yourself, except for the random Brit that seems to show up at all those deserted European sights, alone. Uncanny.
Looking back, I really wish I would have bought a DSLR camera already, my iPhone does zero justice. I guess I’ll have to return! And to anyone thinking of visiting the Turkish side of Cyprus, it’s highly recommended and although Wikipedia describes it as “illegal and internationally-unrecognised”, I can assure you it’s also quite safe.
My vacation in Germany lasted 13 days total, and I expected it to rain at least once. No one can hope for clear, blue skies for two straight weeks, right? Well, I was treated to day after day of exactly the opposite of dreary weather. Occasional clouds framed by a bright, clear, beautiful blue sky rolled above me. Every day was dry and gorgeous, until finally at 9pm, the night before my flight back to Korea, a huge thunderstorm rolled in. And it was one of those rare, strong but beautiful thunderstorms.
So while practicing the deceptively difficult field of architectural photography, I kept finding myself taking the same photograph, just different. And they were all gorgeous, because of those bright blue skies behind the subject at hand. Looking through my pictures, I was blown away by how many gorgeous skies made their way into my documentation. So if you’re having a rough, rainy day, maybe you can use these photographs to take you back to sunnier times. They definitely do that for me.
It’s true: not many Westerners think of vacationing in Korea at all. And it’s even more true that those who do come to Korea spend the majority of their time in Seoul. As for short excursions out of the city, famous temples and mountain hiking tend to be the way they go. Rural Korea? Why would anyone go there?
In Korea, this past month, it was an important time of year: cherry blossom tree blooming time! Japan may be most famous for cherry blossom trees, but Korea definitely doesn’t disappoint. Because the trees only stay flowered for a few weeks, if you’re lucky and it doesn’t rain, it’s important to pay attention and not miss it.
So, one weekend in April, I researched the cherry blossom tree festival in Seoul and made solid plans to go. I didn’t want to miss out!
I woke up early, packed my bags and camera and headed out to Seoul. Two hours and some wandering around later, I found the park and festival. Imagine my disappointment (with myself) when I forgot to pack the battery for the fancy camera. Even more disappointing, though? The trees were barely blooming! What?! And it was still crowded… go figure, Seoul. Continue reading Photoessay: Cherry Blossoms in Korea
Every so often, the education office in my area organizes a little outing for the English teachers. This outing was a particularly nice one; we stopped at the Chunguisa Buddhist Shrine, visited this traditional village and then headed over to Sudeoksa Temple.
Korea is full of reconstructed traditional villages and many of them are quite beautiful, with blooming trees, streams and flowers. This particular one is located between Dangjin and Yesan, across the street from the Chunguisa Buddhist Shrine.
The little villages outside of famous temples are sometimes serious tourist hubs, in stark contrast to the zen-like feeling just a few miles up the road. This particular village sits at the foot of Sudeoksa Temple (수덕사), snuggled against Deoksung Mountain (덕숭산).
Edit: I finally figured out the name and got some information about this building. It’s a Buddhist shrine and is named Chunguisa.
Occasionally, the foreigners from my town will go on a short day trip sponsored by the office of education. This lovely Buddhist Shrine, named Chunguisa (충의사), was one of those stop offs on the day trip. My group stopped here on the way to Sudeoksa, a Buddhist temple in the area.
I love the pale yellow colors they used on this building. It’s built in the same style as Buddhist temples, but while photographing it, I forgot to listen to what anyone was saying and completely missed all of the information about it, including its name. Thank goodness for my impeccable googling and research skills, or we’d never know it was called Chunguisa and I’d have been forced to call it “that yellow Buddhist… place”. (By the way, you can find all the information about Chunguisa here, on the Visit Korea website.)
Next time I’ll have to try to listen and take pictures. Challenge accepted.
The warm weather is really making me happy again. This past weekend, Saturday’s weather was perfect and beautiful. Sunday was markedly chillier, but still bright and sunny. It was the perfect weekend to make a short trip: Gongju + Daejeon. If you’re in travel range and have a free weekend, visiting cities like this can be really refreshing and I definitely recommend it. Here’s what I saw:
My mom and I had been talking about visiting the Asian side of Istanbul for the entirety of our trip. We’d seen it shortly, on a guided tour, and we’d taken a bunch of ferries here and there, although not by ourselves. We woke up on a Saturday, a beautiful day, and had our plans in hand, literally, in the form of my Frommer’s day-by-day book: an Üsküdar walking tour.