Monday, 8 November 2010

Greece 2010, Lindos to Rhodes

There was no particular rush to leave Lindos and we planned to catch the eleven o’clock bus to the city and this gave us plenty of time to have breakfast on the terrace and then settle up. We didn’t anticipate the problem however with the credit card payment machine which eventually managed to charge me three times and required the owner to attend from somewhere in the village to straighten matters out, a process which used up most of the spare time that we had factored in.

It took an hour and ten minutes to get back to Rhodes using for most of the journey the same road that we had taken to drive to Lindos three days earlier but on this occasion thankfully bypassing Falaraki and Kalathea and arriving at just about lunch time. From the bus stop we walked through noisy Ippokratous Square and back to the little taverna where we had had lunch on the first day for a drink, a short rest and some map interpretation. It turned out that the Sofia Pension wasn’t that far away and after our drink we found it easily within ten minutes.

Our accommodation in Rhodes turned out to be first class, functional and unexciting from the outside but with a well furnished room and a delightful walled garden and sun terrace inside. It was situated inside the old town walls barely a hundred metres from the boisterous main shopping street of Socrates and busy Ippokratous Square but was surprisingly quiet set in a labyrinth of narrow alleys and shady lanes and squeezed in between the old Turkish quarter with its abandoned Mosques and erect minarets piercing the perfect blue sky on the one side and the run down old Jewish quarter on the other. The friendly owner showed us to a nice traditional room with good air conditioning and outside a nice shady terrace with tumbling vines, the aroma of mimosa and jasmine and randomly placed pots of vibrant geraniums.

The island of Rhodes is probably one of the most fascinating of all Greek islands. It has been inhabited for six thousand years and due to its unique geographical position on the major Mediterranean Sea trade routes is at a crossroads between Europe, the Middle East, and Africa and this has given the city and the island many different identities, cultures, architectures, and languages over its long history. In the afternoon we went for a stroll through the back streets of the old town; cobbled, narrow, twisting and moody with long shadows thrown down by the tall stone buildings next to narrow looping lanes and intriguing alleyways. It was like being transported back six hundred years and it was almost possible to imagine the medieval knights swaggering, bullying and clanking through the streets. In this quieter part of the old town there were shops and tavernas but also artisans houses and small workshops next to people’s houses where whole families seemed to be living in a single room and if this wasn’t cramped enough then sometimes even shared with a motorbike or scooter as well.

Eventually we left the back streets and emerged on Socrates Street where shops were doing brisk trade selling to the rich people from the cruise ships. At a shop selling silks and fabrics Kim stopped to take a picture and was immediately chastised by the owner for not asking permission. He demanded €10, she laughed and he chased away down the street in a whirlwind of hand gestures and chattering chastisements.

Tired of the continuous uninvited attention of the traders and the waiters trying to generate business we made our way back into the warren of back streets and through the Turkish Quarter which not surprisingly all felt a bit eastern and oriental with shops selling carpets, hookahs and Turkish coffee. We walked through arches and buttresses, past turrets and balconies and occasionally a little oasis of green amongst the dusty streets and then interesting narrow roads and every one with a surprise around each crooked turn.

In the late afternoon we walked to the top of the town and climbed to the top of the restored clock tower next to Sulliman’s Mosque for some good views of the town and the harbour. There was an entrance charge of €5 but that turned out to be good value because the price included a drink in the roof top bar terrace where we sat and enjoyed the views.

The rest of the day was spent on the terrace and as evening approached we slipped again into the back streets behind the hotel and had an unhurried evening meal in a pleasant little restaurant close by. I must have had too much wine because on the way back to the room I showed unusual amounts of interest in some cheap glass necklaces and Kim took advantage of this momentary slip up on my part and spent some time choosing and then purchasing three when she didn’t really need any.

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