iPhone Photoessay: St. Hilarian Castle in Cyprus

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.

dog st hilarian castle north cyprus
When you get there, they’ll probably be a castle-residing stray dog that’s both super friendly and desperately in need of a bath.
architecture hilarian castle north cyprus wall
Looking up, it’s amazing to see arches that (hopefully) won’t fall on your head as you walk through.
north cyprus mountain climb hilarian castle
No, no, I’m not climbing rock formations at the top of a really tall and sheer cliff.
north cyprus hilarian castle view photo
But at the top of unsafe climbing await breathtaking views of the island.
north cyprus hilarian castle interier photo
Oh boy, these people even had interior design skills. Look at those stripes!
north cyprus hilarian castle mountain photo
If you get stuck at the bottom with fear, or only climb half, you can still enjoy the view of that top section instead of actually going there.
north cyprus st hilarian castle climb photo
Or you can climb, don’t worry, there are safety railings!
north cyprus st hilarian castle cliff landscape photo
Sheering cliffs, coastline and a panoramic view? Yes, please and thank you.
north cyprus st hilarian castle watch tower photo
A gorgeous old watchtower that was just a little out of reach for my hiking skills.
north cyprus hilarian castle wall mountain photo
The building blending in with the mountain makes it simultaneously beautiful and confusing. Am I on the mountain now or still in the castle? Hmm…
north cyprus hilarian castle photo
It’s best to climb immediately next to “danger” signs and live voltage.
north cyprus st hilarian castle cliff landscape photo
Because it’s prettier at the top of those rocks.
north cyprus hilarian castle view photo
The view is definitely breathtaking.
north cyprus hilarian castle interier window photo
I feel like a princess with really long, braided hair is missing from this photo.
north cyprus hilarian castle mountain photo
Goodbye, it’s been terrifying and fun!

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.

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write up: a trip to the DMZ (part 3)

this is the 3rd and final part of a series about my recent day-trip to the DMZ. if you need to catch up: my photo highlights, part 1 & part 2.

stop #4: Dora Observatory

Dora Observatory is an outpost next to the DMZ which sits on higher ground, lending the location a nice view of the DMZ itself and also a little bit of North Korea. it’s also across from one of the few villages near the border, as well as a South Korean factory. a few years ago, there were numerous South Korean factories in North Korea because of the cheap labor… but once again, change of government means a change in policy. the factory near the Dora Observatory is the last one that is currently still allowed to run. Continue reading write up: a trip to the DMZ (part 3)

write up: a trip to the DMZ (part 2)

this is part 2 of a series about my recent day-trip to the DMZ. read the first part here and you can also refer to my photo highlights of the trip here.

stop #2: lunch in Tongilchon (통일촌) or Unification Village

our guide explained to us along the way that the village we were entering is one of two that rests inside the civilian control zone (CCZ), next to the demilitarized zone (DMZ). from what I understand, nothing enters the DMZ, pretty much ever. (as a result, it’s wildlife has flourished, an interesting twist.) the two kilometers outside of it (at least on the southern border) are called the CCZ, where entry and exit of all persons is severely monitored. we were granted tourism entry permits and stopped here for lunch… and yet another souvenir shop. Continue reading write up: a trip to the DMZ (part 2)

write up: a trip to the DMZ (part 1)

a picture is worth a thousand words… sometimes. in the case of my visit to the DMZ, my photo highlights just don’t cut it. a write-up is definitely in order. because there is so much to talk about, I’ll be splitting it up into a few different posts. so, here we go!

I signed up with a tour group through Adventure Korea along with three of my friends. they do a bunch of trips and tours for generally just English-speaking foreigners. the meeting point was Seoul… we all piled onto two of those big tour buses and off we went! a gang of foreigners: life as usual. Continue reading write up: a trip to the DMZ (part 1)

Photo Highlights: DMZ

1: a military outpost overlooks the DMZ surrounding Freedom Bridge, where POWs from the Korean war were released. they look tough, but I got the soldiers to smile and wave back.

2: the barbed wire fence surrounds a huge wildlife area. nature has flourished, while a nation remains divided.

3: all of the different DMZ sites feature at least one tourist shop, where you can buy different North Korean “products”, NK themed souvenirs or even currency.

4: people wrote their sentiments of reunification on these cloth strips, then tied them together on one portion of the DMZ fence.

5: the Korean train system was once built over the border and operations were supposed to begin, linking the two countries for the first time in years. unfortunately, diplomatic relations shorted out and the service was stopped here, Dorasan station, the farthest north the train may run. the train station is regularly empty and now sees soldiers and tour groups.