Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Postcards from Rhodes - Roaming in Rodos


Kalimera and welcome back to Rhodes! The Greek border guard exclaimed after stamping our passports, just four hours after leaving Birmingham. 


Yes, that really was the view from my window seat, with the incredible cerulean blue of the Aegean Sea no filter is necessary.


We collected our bag from the carousel, hopped on a bus bound for Rhodes Town (called Rodos by the locals) and forty minutes later we were within the walls of the Medieval Old Town, negotiating the labyrinthine cobbled alleyways in search of the Olympos Pension, our home for the next couple of nights. 


Sophia, a woman so beautiful she'd have given Helen of Troy a run for her money, showed us to our tiny two-storey, wood panelled apartment and handed over the keys. After quickly unpacking our bag and sighing over the rooftop view from our bedroom balcony, we raced off for lunch eaten beneath the shade of an ancient plane tree in a bustling square.


After an ice cold Mythos (or two), we were ready for some culture and, inspired by a couple of books I'd read by Lawrence Durrell written when he was stationed in Rhodes during the British Administration of the Dodecanese Islands between 1945 -1947, we set off in search of his former home.


In Lawrence Durrell and the Greek World he wrote, It was in Rhodes where I spent such happy post-war years, locked into the sacred garden of Murat Reis. I was indeed living in a Turkish cemetery of such beauty and silence that I often longed to die and be sealed.


A forgotten graveyard full of sedate tombs… in a sad state of disrepair. Many of the tombs have
fallen to pieces, and in places the loose drift of leaves has half obscured others. The majority 
of
those who lie buried here are Turkish civil servants. A few are political exiles.
Lawrence Durrell, Notes on a Marine Venus


Neither signposted or mentioned in any of the guidebooks, Durrell's base during his two year residency was an ochre painted stone villa set within the burial grounds of the long abandoned mosque of Murad Reis, built in 1524 during the Ottoman occupation of the island. There's a decayed elegance to the cemetery shaded with eucalyptus trees and, although locked up for decades, we were able to peep through the iron railings and admire the unusual Turkish gravestones, the ones featuring turbans being male and the pineapple shaped ones for women.


A mere stone's throw from Durrell's house, these bronze deer mark the spot where one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Colossus of Rhodes once straddled the harbour. Erected by Chares of Lindos in 280BC, the Colossus was constructed to commemorate the successful defence of Rhodes against Demetrius I of Macedonia. It collapsed after an earthquake in 226BC. The ruins remained until the Arab invasion in 653AD when the Colossus was completely destroyed and the remains sold.








At temperatures hovering at around 32°C, it was time for a frappe, a Greek iced coffee taken "sweet with milk", in The Yachting Club Cafe on Mandraki harbour which isn't as eye-wateringly expensive as you'd expect.

Our first frappe of the holiday is treated with the same reverence as the first Greek salad and bottle of Mythos, admired, photographed and sighed over.


Now, on our third trip to Rhodes Town, we were starting to find our way about (no mean feat when your sense of direction is as terrible as ours). Sitting in front of Symi Square, otherwise known as Place de l’Arsenal, is one of the main entrances into the medieval city of Rhodes – Eleftherias (Liberty) Gate and the gate nearest to Olympos Pension (there's a total of eleven gates set into the ancient fortifications). The original gate on this site dates back to the time of Grand Master Heredia (1377-1396).
 

In the shadows of the gate stands the remains of the Temple of Aphrodite, built in the 3rd century BC and once home to the statue of the Marine Venus, immortalised in Durrell's book (you'll meet her later).


And we're home!


After showers and an obligatory sunset rum & cola on the balcony, we headed back into the cobbled streets for beers and, a few hours later, for dinner at Verandah choosing a selection of vegetarian mezzes to share - feta pies drizzled with honey, pitta bread, dolmades, garlic and cheese stuffed mushrooms and tzatziki washed down with a carafe of the local red wine and followed by a complimentary glass of tsipouro, a fiery locally-made spirit derived from the grapes leftover from the winemaking process.


Breakfast was consumed on the terrace and, at 8am, the sun already so dazzling that we needed to eat in sunglasses. We'd bought locally grown peaches, grapes and nectarines from a minimarket the previous day which we ate with Greek yoghurt so thick we struggled to get it off the spoon.


We fought our way out of the maze of Medieval streets, visiting a Greek Orthodox church decorated in the most astonishing 14th century frescos (photography prohibited) and greeting every cat we encountered with a cheery Kalimera, eesta kala?* often receiving a polite maiow in response.

*Good morning, are you well?


Rodini Park is a three kilometres walk from Rhodes Town, established by the Romans in 330BC and believed to be the oldest landscaped park in the world. The aqueduct and water tower the Romans built here once supplied the water to the town.


Rodini is a hidden gem, a cool and shady paradise a world away from the crowds elsewhere. There's no admission costs, no facilities and tourists are few and far between.



There's wild peacocks, waterfowl and fish galore. We even spotted a turtle!






















...and there's absolutely loads of cats - if you visit take treats!



 We ambled back into the town, walking along the 14th century fortifications which The Knights of St John enhanced utilising the original Byzantine walls.







The Hafiz Ahmed Agha Library had been closed last year so we were excited to see the gates open when we got back into town. Founded in 1793, Hafiz Ahmed Agha was from a wealthy established Ottoman family and paid the librarians he employed to teach Arabic to the literate public of his home town in order that his collection of 1256 Arab manuscripts could be understood. 








All that walking (and culture) had given us an appetite so we stopped off at The Island of Lipsi taverna for lunch. I stuck to the traditional Greek salad whilst Jon opted for one with roast chicken.


Path of Gods is a fascinating museum showcasing Ancient Greek culture and set in a Medieval building itself built on the site of a third century BC aqueduct and amphitheatre.


 


Check out those kittens!

Jon kept calling me teacher's pet as I knew most of the answers to the questions the guide posed the tour group we were part of (my grammar school education & A Level in Classical Studies wasn't completely useless after all) although I had no idea that the Ancient Greeks invented the automatic door!



Back in the modern world it was beer o'clock so we headed back to the square where we'd had lunch the previous day.


It's rare to get a photo of Jon & I together when there's only the two of us - and we can't be arsed with selfies - so took advantage of a kind tourist's offer to snap us awaiting our ice cold Mythos.





After a siesta we headed back out and stopped for a photo in our next door neighbours' doorway where several of their feline family decided to photobomb me.

 
We fell in love with this bar last year, a 15th century former Turkish pasha's house crammed full of antiques and repurposed bits and pieces.





The boutique opposite is fabulous, selling dresses by Greek designers, Moroccan lanterns, leather sandals, straw bags & hats and huge statement pieces of jewellery...but that's for another post!


Dinner was another feast of vegetarian mezzes eaten at Vasilis accompanied by a carafe of the local red and followed by a complimentary slices wedges of his mama's homemade orange cake and his papa's ouzo and pomegranate cocktails. 


Yamas!

More to follow very soon.....

43 comments:

  1. Rhodes is an absolute wonderland! Thanks so much for showing off the place, inside and out. Do you know what the canopy plant is over Jon's head on Path of Gods? I could get lost in my thoughts in that bar ;). Welcome back, this was worth the wait. -Karen-

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    1. Hello Karen! Thanks for the warm welcome home. I think it's a bougainvillea, it seems to grow like a weed all over Greece!
      That bar is gorgeous. There's a really stubborn cat that hogs the seats and a twenty-one year old dog who shows no sign of slowing down. xxx

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    2. Thanks for the plant ID, I thought so, they grow like weeds here too! -Karen-

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    3. Thanks, Karen! You must live somewhere a lot warmer than the UK! x

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  2. Welcome back, Vix and Jon, although I'm sure the weather must have been a shock!
    After about two weeks of back-to-back rainy days, it's an absolute delight to see your post full of sunshine and brilliant blue skies!
    Your two-story apartment sounds lovely and Rhodes town and its labyrinthine alleyways a delight to explore - and get lost in. Tranquil Rodini Park looks like my kind of place for a wander, and how lovely to have it almost to yourselves. The food, as always, has me salivating ... Can't wait to read what you did next! xxx

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    1. Thanks, Ann! I'm looking forward to catching up with your travels - I had a sneak peek at today's post but shall start at the first and savour every moment when I've sorted myself out.
      I can't believe how horrid the weather is here, such a shock to the system!
      Sending Jos lots of birthday love from us both! xxx

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  3. I've wondered. how you were Vix - Looks like you've had a very happy relaxing time - and you both look so at home there x

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    1. Thanks so much, Flis! Coming back to this chilly weather is such a shock to the system! xxx

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  4. Vix is back! Hooray! So glad to see your and Jon's smiling faces again! It looks like you've had a wonderful time - I love that you go to the same places over and over, to really understand them and get to know the locals and the culture. Finding places off the beaten path, seeking out unadvertised but meaningful sites...to me, that is the best kind of vacation. Welcome back! Thanks for all the cat pictures and for letting us vacay with you vicariously! XOS.

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    1. Hello, Sheila! It feels like an age since we left the UK.
      I'm not one of those bucket list travellers, I want to get to know every corner of a place and get to know the people who live there - I even recognised a few of the cats although I'm not sure if they recognised me! xxx

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  5. Thank you for sharing your travels with us! I love seeing pictures of Jon smiling. When I first started following you I wondered if he ever smiled. You both looked so relaxed and healthy and just wonderful!

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    1. Thanks so much, Claudia! Jon feels a bit awkward in front of the camera rather than behind it but when he's on holiday (or at a festival) he can't help but smile! xxx

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  6. What a beautiful place-no wonder you keep returning. Can't wait to see what you left the boutique with.

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    1. I never tire of wandering those alleyways or gazing out at the Aegean.
      That boutique is dreamy - I'd buy everything in there if I could! xxx

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  7. Welcome back. I really enjoy your travel posts, beautiful pictures and loads of history. I, also like going back to a place and getting to know it. Loved the pictures of Rodini park. Looking forward to seeing the clothes shop !x

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    1. Thanks so much, Amanda! Like you I love getting to know a place properly, exploring every nook and cranny and chatting to the locals (and the cats!) xxx

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  8. I have noted the beautiful guest house you stayed in for our bucket list, it's fabulous. I want to know what was in that shop across the road and what you bought!! It was an interesting tour of a very beautiful place and thanks for sparking my interest in a visit :)

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    1. Hello Betty! Looking forward to seeing how you found Malta! Rodos is incredible, there's so many gorgeous little pensions and boutique hotels dotted around the Old Town and the sunsets will take your breath away.
      That boutique was an absolute dream, I wish it was my wardrobe! xxx

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  9. Another super duper holiday. Some fantastic photos Vix, I especially liked Rodini. What a lovely way to lead into Autumn xxx

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    1. Thanks, Lynn! It's a bit of a shock to the system coming back to this cold weather! xxx

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  10. Hello!

    Rhodes looks extremely fabulous and will be put on my list of 'where to visit in Greece' places! The food, as always, had me drooling...

    I hope you bought something wonderful things in that boutique.
    xxx

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    1. Hello Vronni! I'll be nipping over to see what you've been up to shortly! I can highly recommend Rhodes, so many incredible museums, reasonably priced places to eat and stay (despite the terrible state of the £) and utterly breathtaking scenery! xxx

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  11. I love the way you write, you give lots of information and history. This is so interesting!

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  12. I live your writing style, very informative and interesting! Beautiful photos!

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  13. Hi Vix, I follow your posts but have recently moved house so haven't been commenting for a while sorry. Rhodes looks amazing! I wish Australia wasn't so far away but would love to travel to Greece one of these days, it is definitely up there on my bucket list. Thank goodness the Covid nightmare is behind us now! I love your blue and white 'Monsoon' outfit and your gorgeous silver jewellery, you look like Aphrodite herself! Thank you for the history facts behind these villages, it makes for riveting reading! XX

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    1. Hello Vicky! Lovely to hear from you. I expect travelling to Greece to you would be the equivalent of some of the flights we've taken to India at around 17 -22hours - doable but you'd need to spend at least four weeks there to make it worth your while!
      We've certainly made the most of our freedom to travel since the nightmare that was Covid!
      Thanks so much for your kind comment. My Monsoon co-ord really was a great buy, lots of Greeks told me I looked like a goddess!! xxx

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  14. Hello and welcome back! Sorry you've had to return to such chilly temperatures - someone switched off summer! I can't quite get beyond the ancient Greeks inventing the automatic door! Once again, your photos scream paradise. Love the cats, the park, the architecture, that amazing bar and I so want to lose an hour or three in that boutique! xxx

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    1. Thanks, Claire! I can't believe the change in the weather, I was hoping to get a few more weeks of wear from my Summer wardrobe. Weren't the Greeks a clever lot? xxx

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  15. Oh, you're back 🤗 - it's so dull when you are away, hope you are happy and had a safe flight home. Thanks for the gorgeous reminders of Rhodes Town, some years back I stood in exactly the same place as you under the bronze deer, and ate a very similar breakfast 😜 . (Sighs - so many nice memories.)

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    1. You say the sweetest things, Jayne! I wondered if you'd roamed the alleyways of Rodos when you visited. I bet you'd not see any difference at all if you returned! xxx

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  16. I'm so glad I waited until I had time to properly read and view your post. I always feel like I've experienced just a bit of your holiday.

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed your trip with us, Sam! x

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  17. Rhodes looks like paradise. Thank you for taking us there with your photographs and texts. Your outfits were wonderful and so summery...love the 2 photographs of you and Jon snapped by the tourist.

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    1. It's absolutely lovely, I'm still wondering why it took us so long to discover Rhodes Town! xxx

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  18. Ah, it warmed the soul reading this! You had a lovely day! I was interested to read about the Colossus. The park looked a great place to visit with all that fauna.
    The food looked delicious! Those cheesy aubergines and filo triangles!
    I do hope you bought something from the boutique! Kezzie x

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    1. Hi Kezzie! Rhodes is warm from May through until the end of October so plenty of opportunity to squeeze in a trip to suit school holidays. The architecture and history in the old town still take my breath away, its like being on a film set! xxx

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  19. What a beautiful old cemetery!

    You are looking so lovely in your sundresses!

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    1. Thanks so much, Laura! I can't resist a decaying cemetery. I wish i could have climbed over the rails to take a proper look.

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  20. Welcome back Vix, a super fab post :) xXx

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  21. It all looks so beuatiful, such handsome cats and I love the peacock mural!

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Lots of love, Vix