Rhodes , Greece Islands
13.05.2012 - 17.05.2012 24 °C
We’ve just spent 3 glorious days in Rhodes with each day devoted to a different aspect of what the island has to offer.
Day 1 – was spent exploring the Old Town within Rhodes town. The old town is particularly atmospheric, surrounded by thick stone walls and navigated via winding alleys and lanes. In the heart of the Old Town is the Avenue of the Knights, where the various tongues of the Knights of St John resided in medieval times. These buildings are still is use, mostly in a cultural capacity (e.g. we were invited into an exhibition of photographs and stamps in the French section, the Italian embassy is located in the Italian section etc). We couldn’t help but notice that most of these offices/ centres were only open for a limited number of hours for a few days a week. With a setting that smacked of such history and a short working week we all decided that a job somewhere on the Avenue of St John should become our next career move.
The town is not just an historical tourism relic filled with medieval architecture and quaint streets, it also contains a lively community who dwell within the restored (and yet to be restored) houses that line the laneways. It must be a surreal existence to have your house and daily activities photographed by inquisitive tourists and streets invaded by curious onlookers for 5 months each year. However, the townsfolk seem to take it all in their stride, greeting strangers to their community with a smile and providing directions to those who become lost within the labyrinth and alleys. For me the areas that were away from the tourist precinct (and inevitable souvenir shops) and closer to the life of the local community were the most interesting parts of the Old Town.
Day 2 – The eastern side of Rhodes. A bit of a tourist route but made quite enjoyable by George, the effervescent cab driver who took us on a ½ day excursion to Kalithea and Lindos (including the acropolis and beach). George had the handy knack of being able to drive without either hand on the wheel. This was fortunate as he needed both hands to gesticulate during his rapid fire conversation with us, which was delivered whilst turned to his audience. Consequently, it was not only possible to drive without hands on the wheel, but also without eyes on the road. Having said that George was not a crazy driver at all, and seemed to have perfected the art of negotiating traffic quite smoothly whilst engaged in storytelling with his passengers.
Lindos was a really pretty spot but certainly a drawcard for day trippers. This was particularly true of the acropolis. The pathway to the acropolis wound through narrow, shop-filled lanes that were clogged with sight-seers. Once through the initial throng, the climb to the cliff-top acropolis gave us sweeping views of the town and beaches below. The acropolis itself was constructed during different historical periods between 200 BC and 4 AD. Again the views across the sea and of the island were superb. We also visited Kalithea. Originally the site of an Italian built spa, the complex is also being developed as a cultural centre, in a pseudo-Greco style. Not sure that the new buildings work all that well but the hohlakia (black and white pebble mosaic floors) were the best we have seen and very extensive. The beach below the complex is famous as the beach from Zorba the Greek.
Day 3 – self-drive tour of the western side and interior of Rhodes. Brian took on the role of driver for us so that we could hire a car for the day and really explore some out of the way places. It was the first time he had driven a left-hand drive car and he did a great job, even if I was a nervous-Nellie in the back seat for most of the trip. He said the most difficult part was driving through towns and villages where the roads were often at their narrowest and the traffic most congested. The western side of the island is more windswept and remote with the most stunning coastline we have seen to date - turquoise and azure blue seas that seemed to go on forever. The interior of Rhodes is quite mountainous with pine trees clinging to the rocky slopes. This is also the primary wine-producing part of the island.
We explored the ruins of Ancient Kamiros (unfortunately coinciding our time there with a couple of busloads of cruise ship tourists). These 3-4th. Century BC ruins were the most extensive we have seen so far, in terms of seeing a whole city/ community. It was clear that the city had housed 500 or so people, with house walls and alleyways still intact. We also visited the 16th.C Kritinia Castle perched high on a headland with views across to Symi. Next stop an inland winery. Good whites and a nice rose to be found, needless to say our luggage is a little heavier now. Our lunch stop was a little tavern where we were the only non-locals in the village. Then on to Fourni Beach below the Castle of Monolithos. This steep, winding road down to this beach provided us with our best views of the coast and the beach itself was nestled in sandstone cove.
Our return journey took us up through the middle of the island with winding roads, deep valleys and lakes. Peak upon peak of forested mountains peppered with olive groves and grapevines. Pretty specky stuff. Our final coffee stop was at the pretty little town of Arhipoli. George (our taxi driver from the previous day) lives in this village tending oranges and olives for 5 months a year and then an original house he inherited in Rhodes Old Town (and driving cabs) during the tourist season. Having seen both locations he seems to have the best of both worlds.
I can’t finish this entry without mentioning two fabulous seafood meals we had in Rhodes, both at venues recommended by our hotel. The first was at a traditional, family-run taverna that we were assured was not ‘touristic’. Throughout the night we were the only non-locals in the place, where only a smattering of English was spoken. It felt like we were guests at a family feast. The owner and his son kept providing us with more and more food (on top of what we had ordered). They were very keen to show us the quality and variety of their fare. The marinated octopus was the best I have ever eaten. Boiled then marinated in vinegar, olive oil and oregano it was served warm and just melted in your mouth. They also introduced us to red mullet, a small, sweet fish that we have sought out since. Everything we ate was very simply prepared, fresh and tasty, letting the produce do the talking. The second fab meal was in a more up-market, but still family-run, taverna within the Old Town. The menu here was a little more diverse. We had a great sesame-encrusted tuna with wasabi and a prawn saganaki to die for. They also served beautiful desserts, which is something we have not eaten often. Sabina and I had a pannacotta with fig sauce that was silken, sweet and syrupy.
I’m writing this entry as we island hop our way to Patmos on a local ferry. It took a while to find the ferry company as our Istanbuli travel agent told us we needed to get our tickets from Jodi, Kanises Seaways. We weren’t sure if we were looking for Jodi at Kanises Seaways or Jodi Kanesis Seaways so sought assistance from locals over a couple of days. The locals in Rhodes were flummoxed and we received plenty of contradictory advice about which of the 3 harbours might be the location of the ferry office we were seeking. We were beginning to think we had been given dodgy tickets when an enterprising man at the tourist info centre took a punt that Jodi didn’t exist but that we might be looking for Dodekanisos Seaways, which did exist. As we are traversing the Dodecanese Islands this made sense. We found the ticket office and a pleasant “JodI” who helped us set sail!