Day in Rhodes
You know the moment on holiday when you imagine what life would be like if you were always on holiday? If you could just up and leave and live a sun-kissed delight every day? On a recent holiday to the large Greek island of Rhodes, the moment came to discuss this very subject as we sat on our balcony out the back of the villa. We were staying in easy breezy Pefkos, on the east of the island. ‘No way,’ said one girl, ‘I would miss the things we take for granted at home, like the Daily Mail.’ ‘I don’t like ouzo,’ said another. ‘I would get bored,’ said a third. With no affinity to the Daily Mail, a penchant for ouzo, and perfectly capable of entertaining myself and discovering new things, Rhodes, and its second city, Lindos made a persuasive argument for me.
As a big fan of sunshine (not sunbathing or beach bumming but feeling its warmth lick my shoulders) I was well aware that, named after the Greek sun god Helios, Rhodes has a reputation (presumably backed up by the relevant scientific stats) of being the sunniest island in the Mediterranean. From beautiful sunrises to glimmering sunsets, and the hours in between, the stunning landscape and its whitewashed towns that punctuate the hills, mean that the whole island radiates a lustrous light, highlighted by the cornflower blue sky.
The main city, Rhodes, was built by those architectural whizzes, The Knights of St. John, and its warm grandeur is of their style and elegance. Narrow roads, winding walkways and bustling squares nuzzle against each other, a soft cacophony of life and living filling the four kilometres of walls that envelope the old town. They are a delight to stumble around. The archaeological museum that once houses the Knights Hospital and the beautiful Palace of The Grand Maters and its imposing arches, stonewashed walls and steady decorations of grand mosaics and bronze statues are two of the historical highlights of this World Heritage Site. On entering the city through one of the eleven gates that punctuate the walls, one finds themselves in the moat, a cool green calm in limbo between the bustle of the new town and gentle hubbub of the old.
Before the merger of three cities in the early fifth century to create the grand city of Rhodes, Lindos was the main site on the island, and still holds a gentle grandeur. ‘Lindos is its rock,’ a local saying goes, and when you see the ruined acropolis on the rugged cliff, its sheer face overlooking the sea and the snowy colored buildings nestled in its grooves, you can see why.
The tumbling steps up to the Doric temple can be traversed on foot or via local taxi – donkey, the animals and their owners congregating in the main square at the nape of the town. Steep and sunny, the climb is rewarding, with views across the sea impressing, lulling waves lapping and churning far off into the distance. In the coves that surround the coast, white beaches provide a playground for local and foreign visitors alike; parasols on the sand and sails on the boats flickering all around.
The slippery yet stunning streets that wind the town are full of roof-top restaurants and bars where local delicacies can be indulged in. And a cool tzatziki duo followed by a soft lamb kofta turns out to be a winning combination after a day sightseeing. And a roof-top setting means we can keep “seeing sights.”
My trip to Lindos started with me doing something I do often – missing my bus. Rather than wait for the next, I decided to walk the few kilometres from Pefke, the small but sweet tourist resort just down the coast on the east side of the island. A steep and unsteady staircase leads up the road leaving Pefke to the small concrete chapel of Prophet Illios. Apparently a model of the contemplative life, he was also the prophet who in folkloric tradition represented hail, wind and rain, things that this sunshine island must have rarely seen. A humble homage, the chapel was simple and charming, candles, matches and scents left in an old baklava box, and the worn statue bases coated in foil, and the whole feeling was one of calm and serenity.
There were still four kilometres of blistering sunshine and sandy roads to go.
But on entering Lindos, I did something I never do. Clearly flagging from my walk in the midday sun, I went straight into the first cafe I saw and was glad I did. Settled on a sofa, fresh salad, homemade bread and chilled lemonade on the table, and a breeze slightly skimming the roof top, I asked the South African owner how long she had been here. ‘A few years ago, I was traveling around Europe, and well…just look at it.’ I smiled and nodded. ‘And I fell in love,’ she winked.
At that moment one of the many tanned, toned, dark Greek men whizzed past on his scooter. So if the 300 days of sunshine, the ouzo and the lazy life wouldn’t persuade my friends….
Francesca Baker is a freelance writer currently wandering the world with her eyes wide open and scribbling about. Partial to music, reading, culture, walking, cycling, travel, wine, off kilter events, smiling, and life, you can read her musings at www.andsoshethinks.co.uk and follow her at www.twitter.com/andsoshethinks