Friday, 15 October 2021

Rhodes, 2021 - Sublime Stegna



Brace yourselves, here's part 3 of the travelogue!


Our next destination was Stegna, a seaside village thirty kilometres from Rhodes Town. At the bus station, we discovered that the once-daily bus wasn't due for another five-and-a-half hours so, after studying our map, we decided to travel to the nearest town, Archangelos and find our way from there.

On disembarking some 45 minutes later, we asked a couple of elderly gents enjoying coffee & a game of backgammon in the town square if they knew of any taxis to take us to Stegna. One kindly wandered off to the ouzeri* opposite to check but returned with the news that all the drivers had jobs elsewhere on the island and the only option was to walk. After he'd pointed out the way, we gathered up our belongings and set off down the 4km mountain path, waved on by the ouzo drinkers who'd left their seats to get a closer look at us.

*Traditional ouzo bar


Less than five minutes later a great bear of a man in a battered pick-up truck pulled over, boomed Kalimera! at us and indicated for us to climb into the cargo bed, dropping us off at the seafront for free. God bless the Greeks!


Within a matter of seconds, my eagle-eyes spotted what was to be our home for the next four nights, the Alpha Stegna Sun, which, after Jon had found it online refused to consider staying anywhere else. With the mountains towering behind us, the beach two minutes from the front door, a lush garden shaded with trees laden with clementines, lemons and pomegranates and the tinkling of water from the fountain in the courtyard, the Alpha Stegna Sun exceeded our expectations. 


We were warmly welcomed by owner George and, as we were earlier than expected, we sat in the garden chatting over superb Greek coffees, expertly made for us by his dad, Constantine, whilst our room was prepared. George did ask why we hadn't phoned him when we arrived in Archangelos as he would have picked us up but we admitted that the thought had never crossed our minds and arriving in the back of a rusting truck atop some mysteriously stuffed hessian sacks, driven by a kindly Demis Roussos-lookalike, was an experience we'd always remember.



The room was gorgeous and much posher than we're used to with a power shower and an extremely well-equipped kitchenette. There were lovely touches such as locally-made olive oil toiletries and a fridge stocked with tomorrow's breakfast - coffee and herbal tea, chocolate croissants, marmalade, crispbreads and pots of Greek yoghurt. There were bougainvillaea petals sprinkled on the bed and an aloe vera plant on the windowsill, just in case we sizzled our skin in the 30°C sunshine! There were even a couple of bottles of water which, once empty, we refilled each day with tap water to take to the beach - Rhodes' water is safe to drink.


After much research, Stegna sounded like the perfect choice for our beach break. The Lonely Planet describes the area as idyllic and, this year, Trip Advisor awarded the beach their iconic Travellers Choice status. Due to its relative inaccessibility, it doesn't attract the levels of mass tourism from which many of the other beaches on the island suffer, there are no all-inclusive resorts or nightclubs and just one purpose-built tourist hotel complex, hidden away at the far end of the village. Stegna is hugely popular with Rhodians who visit in the evenings & weekends to dine in the seafront tavernas and feast on the seafood for which the village is famous.


The beach is made up of two beaches separated by a pretty harbour. Our nearest was the smaller of the two, a mix of fine golden sand and sun-bleached pebbles. We thought we'd found our dream beach in Pelion on the Greek mainland back in the early noughties. With its expanse of empty sand, crystal clear water, mountain backdrop and huge rugged cliffs dramatically plunging into the sea below, we decided that Stegna Beach was every bit as perfect as Pelion.



We'd popped into the mini-market before heading to the beach, buying swimming shoes (those rocks aren't fun underfoot) and the makings of a picnic and, after a dip in the wonderfully warm Aegean, we feasted on wholemeal village bread, tangy goats cheese, comically misshapen tomatoes as big as a baby's head and exquisite, chilli-infused olives. Later Gorgona, the taverna behind us, delivered Mythos beer served in frosted glasses direct to our sunbeds.


In The Odyssey, Homer frequently refers to the "rosy-fingered dawn". Lawrence Durrell writes in Reflection of a Marine Venus, "Where, by association, would Homer get an adjective like rosy-fingered from, unless he'd experienced a Rhodian sunset? Look! I no longer doubt that Rhodes was Homer's birthplace."  He made a fair point, neither of us had ever seen skies more beautiful than those in Stegna.



Joining us for an evening rum, George told us about their rare night-blooming cactus. Imported from Columbia by his father over thirty-five years ago, it used to flower once every fourteen years but, in recent times has bloomed more often, prompting numerous visits from botanists & research scientists from all over Europe. 


We managed to catch the huge flower in all its glory at bedtime and again, just after sunrise. Isn't it amazing?


We followed the narrow pathway behind the beach, clambered over some rocks and found ourselves in this tranquil bay with just the sound of the waves lapping the shore and the distant clanking of goats' bells on the cliffs above us. Perfection!








We stumbled across a ramshackle beach bar, owned by Martin from Stuttgart who lived alongside a menagerie of animals and who bore a striking resemblance to Doc Brown from Back to the Future. There was a choice of water, beer or frappe - all priced at 2 euros. After one of the finest frappes ever, we handed over our 20 euro note but Martin had no change and told us to pay another time, waving us off with a handful of figs he'd just plucked from the tree in the garden.


Our days at Stegna were spent on the beach, mostly with a picnic lunch but we did treat ourselves to a Greek salad at Gorgona, the bustling seafront taverna behind our beach. By day the clientele were beach-goers (and cats) seeking refuge from the sun and by night, almost exclusively Greek.



The evenings would invariably start with a rum and walk to the harbour, to again be mesmerised by the rosy-fingered dusk.


The Meltemi (the Aegean's summer breeze) was rather fierce one evening, just look at my hair!


We'd move on from the harbour for a few beers, either bottled Mythos or draught Alpha, before choosing from one of the seafront tavernas for dinner. We were never disappointed with the food - or the ambience - and the prices were a lot lower than Rhodes Town. We didn't encounter any Brits for the four days we were there, the other tourists were predominately German & Scandinavian with, of course, lots of Greeks. Despite Stegna being such a low-key and relaxed seaside village, by night everyone dressed well, no schlepping around in beach gear or sportswear. 



Early one morning George brought us a loaf straight from his mother's oven, we ate half  - still warm - slathered in marmalade for breakfast and the rest with sheep's cheese and tomatoes (and ice-cold beer) on the beach.


Just like at home, we ate fresh fruit with Greek yoghurt for breakfast, buying fruit from the well-stocked (and very friendly) mini-market on the way back from the beach. Those are the figs from Martin's tree, far superior to any you'll find in a UK supermarket. 
 

We'd go for a walk every morning before settling down to a hard day on the beach, lying in the sun and reading, with plenty of swimming in between. I read seven books in the fortnight we were away with Madeline Miller's Circe and The Song of Achilles being my absolute favourites. If you enjoyed Pat Barker's The Silence of the Girls, I think you'll love them.











Stegna was one of the loveliest places in Greece we've stayed, made all the more special for George, and his father's, hospitality and kindness.  In fact, we rather wished we'd booked six nights there rather than at our next destination but I've got a sneaking suspicion that it won't be long before we return. Archangelos has a 15th-century castle built by the Knights of St John, an olive oil museum, a rich history in ceramics (the dome of Istambul's Hagia Sophia is built from bricks from the town), a folklore museum and also has a sanctuary for miniature Rhodian horses, an endangered species, which all need exploring. Maybe next time we'll hire a car rather than arrive by pick-up truck! 


I'm not being sponsored but if you love peaceful, unspoilt and authentic, I think you'll love Stegna as much as we did. If you want to say with George you can book on the Alpha Stegna Sun website HERE or on Booking.com 


We bade George a fond farewell, loaded our bag into the boot of Stegna's only lady taxi driver's car and continued along the coast road to our next destination, the village I'd fallen in love with on a day trip over thirty years ago and returned to with Jon in 2001. Would it be as spectacular twenty years later? We'd soon find out!

See you soon.


PS. Dear Cee, thank you so much for the incredible box of delights which was delivered safe and sound by My Hermes this morning. I'm deeply touched by your beautiful letter and thoughtfulness. xxx

50 comments:

  1. Every experience you are having is part of the wonder of travel isn't it. I hope I meet hosts like George an dhis father that rrul just want the best of life for them and those in their presence. The pictures are beyond stunning.

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    1. You're right, it's so much more than ticking off places on a map. The people you meet along the way are what makes travel so wonderful. xxx

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  2. I am loving this trip - the rosey sky makes me think of coconut ice my mum made with pink streaks in it - so beautiful! I was delighted to see my favourite dress making an appearance against that fabulous rocky scene, you looked so pretty and relaxed. I would absolutely lock that kind of holiday (although for hubby it would be a little too quiet methinks!) that amazing flower too, how lucky that it bloomed when you were there. The food is just what we like to eat and I would have enjoyed the journey to Stegna - much more fun in an old truck than in a taxi. Can't wait for more.

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    1. Mmmm...coconut ice!
      The skies were absolutely amazing, I was transfixed. Worth all the mither over pre-booked covid tests and expired passports.
      I though I was going to lose "our" dress that night, the wind was ferocious ar sunset! xxx

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  3. Absolutely love the look of Stegna, just my kind of place - quiet and not too commercial. Looks like you hit gold with where you chose to stay.

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    1. We did get lucky with Stegna. I hate over-devoped and purpose-built "resorts", too. xxx

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  4. Sublime, utterly sublime - and that such beauty and kindness still exists in the world of commercialism and mass tourism.

    You might want to rein in some of your effusive praise however - it would be a damn shame if George was fully booked when you & Jon want to return because of you!! 😬

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    1. Jon says I should have said it was a dreadful place, full of lager louts in football strips and high rise hotels with swimming pools! We just loved Stegna, it was holiday perfection for us but I bet the lack of "entertainment" and a lack of internet connection might be hell for a lot of people! xxx

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  5. Wow, this makes me want to go to Rhodes - nothing but cats, reading on the beach and that amazing Greek food! Sign me up! Wonderful post, Vix!

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    1. Let's have a blogging convention there next year! xxx

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  6. Looks like Jon and you are having a wonderful time.
    Coffee is on and stay safe

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  7. Looks like you had a wonderful and safe time. One day in the future I would love to visit. But I would love to get home again first!

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    1. There's you desperate to get home and me desperate to leave! xxx

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  8. Stegna does seem like an amazing place to visit. Your host sounds so hospitable! I love your story of how you two arrived there (to your accomodation) with the help of a truck driver. Quite an adventure!
    Rhodes is a beautiful island. Love your maxi dresses! You look fabulous in your summery dresses. Gorgeous photos of you, Jon and the island.

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    1. Thanks so much, Ivana! It was the perfect place for total relaxation. I do keep thinking about the man in the truck and giggling away to myself! xxx

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  9. Well I am super glad I made it back to Part 3. My family do not seem to understand that although I am here in physical presence, I am actually traveling through Rhodes with you!....I so long to have a beer at that ramshackle beach bar.

    Vix, that photograph of you in the rosy sunset by the harbour rocks is the most glamorous picture. You look like a movie star!

    George and his family sound like total luvas. God bless the Greeks indeed. I've never met friendlier folk. The fact that the rusty truck driver looked like Demis Roussos makes the story all the better. Aphrodite's Child '666' - one of my favourite all time albums -
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KCbqhJt16k

    Lulu xXx



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    1. p.s. The night blooming cactus is AMAZING! What a treat :)

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    2. Hello Lulu! I absolutely loved that link to Aphrodire's Child, I'd not heard it before. Thank you!
      Funnily enough, our 1970 VW Variant Ebbie only plays eight-tracks and we've got two - a Rolling Stones and a Demis Roussos - makes for great fun on long journeys!
      Rhodes was absolutely fabulous and Stegna was amazingly lovely! xxx

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  10. Before I forget, This week's Style imitating Art is a corker.... click this link to see the piece and do join in if you can!!!x
    https://14shadesofgrey.wordpress.com/2021/10/11/sia-inspiration-faith-ringgold/

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    1. That's a brilliant piece of artwork! I'm a bit strapped for time over the next couple of days otherwise I would play, maybe next time. xxx

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  11. Goodness, you did find a special place to stay. CBC and I would love to go there as this is the type of place we would like and we always do nomadic holidays like this (like we did in mainland Greece and Corfu and Croatia, Switzerland and Germany).
    I am envious of the figs- I used to have a gig tree in my childhood home and I loved eating them whole off the tree. I love the idea of you arriving in a truck. Oh for a beach holiday!!

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    1. We love authentic, low-key places and were delighted to come across Stegna, we loved how peaceful, unspoilt and friendly it was.
      I do hope travel is a bit more accessible for more people next year! xxx

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  12. I feel so zenned out reading your posts (apart from the Flinstones-type arrival!lol). Thank you.xxx

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  13. Hi Vix and Jon! So enjoying your trip to Rhodes, what a spectacular country! It seems like out of the tourist areas are always the best trips aren't they? The blooming cactus is awesome, your photography is so professional! And the weather looks wonderful, so glad ya'll were able to travel again!

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    1. Thanks so much, Chrystal! You're right, the places you have to make a little more effort to get to are always the best! xxx

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  14. Stegna looks like absolute heaven - thank you for sharing xx

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  15. Stegna looks utterly idyllic, and I'm sure nothing beats the adventure of arriving there in the back of a truck driven by a Demis Roussos lookalike! The Alpha Stegna Sun looks and sounds like the perfect place to stay, no wonder Jon was so insistent. Martin from Stuttgart's beach bar sounds delightful too! I'm loving the spectacular scenery and that blooming cactus. How lucky you were to catch it. I'm swooning over those lovely photo collages too! xxx

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    1. It certainly was a memorable way to arrive! I didn't let the one bus a day put us off, I knew we'd find a way of getting to Stegna, and we did! xxx

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  16. One can smell that fresh-baked bread, even here...in fact, one can smell the beer, the fruit, the trees, the rocks, the sea...even the sun-baked cat. What a skilled photographer you've become! There is nothing still or two-dimensional about your travel snaps!

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    1. Thanks so much, Beth! The clarity of the photos were by luck rather than judgement. The light was so intense it was a matter of shooting and hoping for the best! xxx

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  17. It looks so pretty, even if you had to get there in the flatbed of a truck.

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    1. Not my most dignifief of entrances! xxx

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  18. the destination of my dreams!!!
    love the mix of rough mountains and pretty beaches, silent bays and authenthic hospitality..... if i ever will get out here again, i book into georges´ for 2 weeks minimum :-D
    showed the pics to the BW - he said: "the greek mermaid" when seeing you in your pretty dresses......
    xxxxx

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    1. A greek mermaid! I'm honoured!
      Stegna really was the perfect place, like being amongst Greeks with a few, well-behaved and respectful tourists. xxx

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  19. Good evening Vix! catching up on your gorgeous travelogue EVERY SINGLE PICTURE IS BEAUTIFUL! So glad you got away and thank you for your lovely posts . Lot of hugs Shazxx

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  20. I've never had any desire to go to Greece, but these posts have changed my mind, especially this one about Stegna. I would have wanted to take that handsome grey tabby home with me. Beautiful sunsets, gorgeous scenery, great food, nice people, cats - sounds like heaven to me.

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    1. Greece is on eof the most beautiful places on the earth and all the better for the millions of cat that inhabit it! xxx

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  21. What a perfect place to read Madeline Miller's books. Your post has made me feel relaxed.

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    1. I could almost imagine Helios passing overhead! xxx

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  22. Dear Vix, you've made me feel nostalgic for this island where I've never been!. Love this post, love your beautiful photos and evocative writting!. And Love particularly the reference to the 'rose-fingered dawn' from Homer to describe the light and atmosphere of sunset, which made me miss Portugal too!, and CĂĄdiz!. The southern light in the sunset is so special. And I'm reading 'The War That Killed Achilles' now! ;DD
    Glad to read that people were so kind and provided you with plenty of fabulous food!. Figs and goat cheese are some favourites of mine too! ;D
    Thanks for taking me with you in this travel (even vicariously, I'm enjoying it a lot!)
    besos

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    1. I'm obsessed with Achilles, I think I need to check out that book!
      Rhodes is wonderful, so much history, perfectly preserved. The sunsets were magnificent, the atmosphere completely changed and we couldn't believe the absolute silence as we stood and watched! xxxx

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  23. I like the sound of Stefan, George and is father. I did chuckle at you arriving by truck though.
    It all sounds very relaxing and a good place to just be.
    Proper time out xxx

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    1. It was such a wonderful four days, the people we met and the scenery were just perfect! xxx

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  24. Oh what a lovely place to stay! Stefan, George and his Dad sound like wonderful people and it's often the people we remember the most; I find!

    The night blooming cactus was amazing!
    xxx

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    1. It really was wonderful but it was the people we m,et that made it.
      I was amazed by that cactus! xxx

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  25. That looks utterly lovely - I'd look as smug as that cat if I lived there! It's so nice to see you had such a good time free of frantic mass tourism.

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Lots of love, Vix