Oct 9, 2009
|Along with all the other pedestrian Aegean mariners we had been directed to the main car deck in the bowels of the ship and were awaiting our escape; lined up in battle formation before being released onto the local population. The flashing amber warning lights flashed and the deafening warning sound repetitively sounded, whilst the two giant gangways were slowly lowered. Daylight appeared. It was as if we were disembarking from some alien ship newly arrived on some far flung planet in a galaxy far, far away. But then a little view of the docks appeared, soon followed by a clunk which reverberated through the ship as the two metal gangways hit concrete.
We aliens then briskly strolled off and into brilliant blue skies and perfectly tuned warmth.
A multitude had gathered to meet the ship’s arrival and amongst them, as suspected, was a beaming Greek woman touting her guest house. Within minutes we had been driven into a tucked away part of the old town after passing through the formidable ancient walls and were settling into ‘Sofia’s Hotel’ with its 10 nice clean comfortable rooms, floral wrapped courtyard and a cup of tea on its way from Sofia’s lodgings below. I could see that this would not just be an overnight stay.
The city of Rhodes is the largest town on Rhodes, It has played host to nearly all Mediterranean powers both ancient and modern in its very, very long history. It was here for example, that Tiberius, the adopted son of Octavius Augustus, the first ‘emperor’ of Rome, banished himself (I don’t blame him), only to be recalled on Augustus’ death to take up the mantle of tyrant himself. Here also, the Knights of St John established themselves after losing their ‘Kingdom of Jerusalem’ to Islam in the 13th century. These Knights were an order of monks devoted to caring for the sick but they then also took up arms ensuring that they had a constant supply of customers. Ah, the days of The Crusades are truly missed. They did however rebuild the town and put up that pretty serious wall around the whole thing.
This old town consists mainly of small houses of two or three floors all closely knitted together and linked by very narrow lanes requiring a well honed sense of direction to navigate as they twist and turn this way and that. Vigilance is also required because, although mainly too narrow for cars, the lanes are infested with motor bikes and scooters which can suddenly appear around a blind corner or from within the shadows of many a lane that strike under the houses.
Now another thing to be vigilant about here is the Greeks – in a nice way of course, but as is said ‘Beware of Greeks bearing gifts’. Nearly every Greek seems to own and operate a restaurant or café so as soon as you stop to survey their menu, you are given the sales pitch that they have the best fish, the best salad, the best beer, the best everything. It doesn’t take long to establish that every restaurant offers virtually the same food and that it is only price and ‘ambience’ that become the relevant selection criteria. We decided on the price of beer as a handy measure and didn’t go hungry, thirsty or broke as a result.
Still a further thing to be alert to are the swarms of ‘cruisy folk’ that invade the old town when they escape for half a day from their cruise liner ploughing the Mediterranean ports. The booming American voices don’t penetrate much beyond Sokratous Street, the main pedestrian thoroughfare lined with overpriced restaurants, gold merchants and mass produced souvenirs, but negotiating a path through the masses of flesh without tripping over walking frames and sticks can be downright dangerous. Occasionally a few step away from the comfort of the crowd and more than once, a misplaced American asked me where he could find his ship. I should have said ‘Down near The Colossus of Rhodes’ but didn’t have the guts; some of these guys may well have believed that the 32 metre high copper statue that straddled the ancient harbour and was one of the seven wonders of the world still existed. Thankfully, the liners pulled out by dusk laden with their happy punters sipping Pina Colladas as they ticked off another day of travel and cultural experience.
The comfort of Sofia’s hideaway and the very comfortable weather along with the discovery by hired moto (read scooter of the Vespa type) the nice sandy beach at Kallithea upon which to laze, seduced us. We stayed on for three days.
We lunched on calamari and Greek salad, dined on barbequed fish and prepared our breakfast on the court-yarded terrace at Sophia’s. We unloaded goods to Australia via Hellenic Post with the amiable aid of the ‘parcel’s manager’ and accepted Metaxa and Ouzo from restaurateur’s upon the culmination of our meals. We enjoyed the smiles of the locals and the company of a tipsy French couple in an alley café who were also enjoying their liaison far removed from their homes in wet and cool Brittany. We swam in the azure sea, hired an umbrella and sun lounges and drank ice cold beer in the shade of the trees over looking the baking tourists. Pierce Brosnan, about to burst into ABBA song mode, did not appear. We basically vegged out.
It was time to move on to Turkey.