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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What To Do in Korea: Sally’s List

I recently met up with two bloggers on a world trip who’d just arrived in Korea and hadn’t jumped into seeing everything yet. I was bubbling with suggestions of things to do. I then saw another Internet friend tweet that she wanted suggestions for her Korea bucket list. That’s when I decided this had to be a post. Then I sat down and made the list and it turned out to be 50% food suggestions. That’s when I decided this had to be two posts. Here’s the second list: What to Eat in Korea.

Keep in mind two things. First, I live in the countryside and don’t know Seoul as well as some. There are probably some other cool attractions in Seoul that I’m missing, so forgive me and comment with your own suggestions. Secondly, I don’t know much about clubbing or nightlife, so this list doesn’t include any specifics in that area. Once again, if you are an expert, then comment please!

Suggestions are in groups of five, the top groups more essential than the bottom groups. However, there is nothing in this list that I wouldn’t recommend doing. If my family would ever visit me (hurry up, Mom!), I would drag them on every single one of these endeavors, provided I had the time.

Without further ado, here is my list! Enjoy South Korea!

  • Go see one of the “great gates” of ancient Korea
  • Overnight at a temple (temple stay), preferably outside of Seoul
  • Overnight in a jjimjilbang (찜질방), or Korean spa
  • Go to a Noraebang (노래방), or karaoke  room
  • Climb to the top of Namsan Tower
Temple stays give you the chance to relax and learn about Korean Buddhist culture.
Temple stays give you the chance to relax and learn about Korean Buddhist culture.
  • Walk through one of the large outdoor markets, like Namdaemun or Dongdaemun
  • Visit one of the old, royal Seoul palaces located inside the city
  • See Hongdae at night or go out in Hongdae
  • Take the subway across the river (and don’t forget to look out the window!)
  • Visit a dog or cat cafe
Dogs and coffee can happen at the same time in Seoul.
Dogs and coffee can happen at the same time in Seoul.
  • Visit the Korean countryside
  • Visit a city outside of Seoul (Gyeongju, Daejeon, Daegu, Busan, etc.)
  • Walk through a Shinsegae department store
  • Visit Insadong
  • Attend any festival going on in Seoul at the time
You won't find this is Seoul
You won’t find this is Seoul
  • Go shopping for socks or smart phone cases
  • Walk through Gangnam (while listening to PSY)
  • If you have the guts, go to a service in one of Seoul’s megachurches
  • Climb Mt. Ansan for a killer view of Seoul
  • See Cheonan’s Independence Hall of Korea
This museum is both beautiful and educational.
This museum is both beautiful and educational.
  • Do the Samcheok Ocean Railbike on the Eastern coast
  • Drive down the 30 minute stretch of road between 고래불해변 and 축산리, staying close to the shoreline to see seafood hanging out to dry for long stretches (summer only)
  • Visit the Mr. Toilet Museum
  • Walk into a traditional Hanbok shop
  • Have coffee in a themed cafe in Seoul

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