Day four in this magical land was a buzz of energy and a rush to beat the clock. The goal was to drive all the way to the capital of the country, some 2+ hours away, cross the border to the Turkish side of Cyprus, find the fairy castle St. Hilarion, cross back into the Greek side of Cyprus, drop Scott off at his mysterious accommodations, and make it back to Larnaca in time for a 9pm flight. It doesn’t sound like too much, but when you’re the one in that position it sure feels like trying to get a lot done with not a lot of time.
So after all is said and done with a couple road bumps along the way, we did it, and with time to spare at the airport for me to beg some ibuprofen off a kind old English gentleman sitting next to me in the airport terminal to kill the random fever I had acquired within the past couple hours. (Though I try to avoid taking any sort of medication unless absolutely necessary, I ate ibuprofen like candy for the next few days to avoid any possibility of having to go to the doctor while in Lebanon. I’ve heard some not so great things…).
Anyways, once we crossed the Metehan/Agios Demetios (the main crossing in Nicosea for vehicles and pedestrians) border into the Turkish side and exchanged some cash (at which point I had four different currencies at use in my wallet), the exit for St. Hilarion castle came up surprisingly quickly on the highway.
After about 20 minutes, we started the descent up the long, winding mountain road. A few hairpin turns and a couple military bases later, where you’ll be in a lot a trouble and out of a camera if they catch you taking photos, we made it to the castle. The small entrance fee was completely worth exploring this hidden, massive, magical castle. Supposedly where Walt Disney found inspiration for Snow White’s castle and a few other creations, St. HIlarion Castle was originally a monastery where Saint Hilarion himself resided before eventually being taken over by Byzantines and others after them to protect the mountain pass and the sea.
Though you can’t really see much from the outside, the ruins themselves are extensive and we spent the entire afternoon climbing staircase after staircase, exploring rooms tucked away and crumbling arches, and getting lost in the views of the mountain range hugging the coast of the Cypriot coast with the town of Kirenia, or Girne, tucked in-between. The fogginess of the day just added to the mystery surrounded the castle and though there were quite a few other visitors there, it was easy to avoid them in the hushed tower of Prince James or the overlooks where guard kept an eye on the mountain pass and coastline. It was really gorgeous and the pictures don’t do it justice, if only because they don’t capture the mysterious and quiet atmosphere that surrounds you when you’re standing among crumbing brick walls riddled with exotic flowers and weeds.
Eventually, a light drizzle signaled to us that we had to leave this magical land behind and return to reality. It was time to enjoy our last couple hours in Cyprus, get lost a few times in Nicosea (of course, a ritual by now), and make a few more wrong turns on the drive back to Larnaca International Airport. Check-in was thankfully easy and before I knew it I was back in my bed and trying to mentally prepare myself for another week on the grind, wishing I could spend every day just exploring the unknown and relaxing in exotic locales.