Apparently I’m “famous” for not taking pictures of people, which should have made this weeks PhotoFriday challenge especially tricky for me. However, in practice I decided on this image pretty quickly. It was taken in Lindos.
The east coast of Rhodes has all the big name destinations, Faliraki and Lindos, but I figured that the west coast was worth a visit too.
The first thing that I passed (other than the airport which I wouldn’t be going to for another few days) was Pataloudes, better known as the Valley of the Butterflies. However, despite the name there were no butterflies.
There are two reasons for the lack of butterflies. The first is the time of year. The bugs are attracted to the damp, shaded part of the island during the main heat of the summer. The weather was decent in April but hardly what you’d describe as “the main heat.”
The other reason is more fundamental: even in summer, they’re moths and not butterflies, but they call them butterflies as that sounds much more attractive than “moth.”
But despite the lack of the animal that gave the place its (English language) name, it was still a pleasant walk. It wasn’t completely “back to nature.” There were maintained paths and bridges, making it more like Muir Woods than the Peak District.
I followed the path all the way to the end, where I found another empty ticket gate. Just after that were (closed) stalls where a little later in the year lunch could be purchased. And just beyond, I saw on a map, was a monastery. However, as I got to the top of the hill I realised that the gate to it was closed. I had no choice but to return the way I had come, back to the car park.
Next stop was “Ancient Kamiros,” a well preserved 5C BC town. It was surprisingly large and the walls were very well preserved. As an added bonus, there were great views over the sea which was just a short distance away.
Like the acropolis in Lindos, Kamiros closed shortly after I arrived. But I got lucky again and had seen pretty much everything I wanted to see before I was thrown out.
By this time it was getting quite late and I was pretty hungry, so before continuing down the coast I stopped at a water-side restaurant. They claim to have been open for several decades so I assumed that they can’t have given too many people upset stomachs!
After Kamiros the next major sight was some distance away and I wasn’t sure that I would be able to make it there before the sun started setting. Still, I thought I should continue further south for a little while longer.
It was a beautiful drive. The road mostly hugged the coast, the sun was shining and there was very little other traffic.
After a while the road headed a little inland and I decided to stop at the next town. This town was called Kritinia, which was small, hilly and looked very sleepy. The town square had two guys chatting at a table and another guy leaning into one of the nearby houses deep in conversation with, presumably, whoever lived there.
Almost everything else looked closed, including the church, and the only other activity was a man feeding all the neighbourhood cats. Seeing a “normal” part of Rhodes seemed a fitting end point to my trip down the west coast. I turned round and headed back to to Rhodes Town.
Before I left for Rhodes, I’d read that the island has a pretty good public transport system and was very tempted to try to complete the week using only buses and coaches. The bus from the airport convinced me that just getting as far as Lindos (nearly 50km from Rhodes Town), much less seeing anything when I got there, could well take a considerable chunk of a day. It also looked as though there might be some other interesting things to see on the way — something that would be tricky to do on a bus — and so I decided to hire a car.
I’d seen Greek driving while walking around town and have to confess to being a little apprehensive about driving around Rhodes Town. As luck would have it, the main road to Lindos was literally just around the corner from where I picked the car up so I had no trouble with either the directions or other traffic.
I was tempted to make a couple of stops en route. I nearly stopped at Falaraki just to see what it was like. It’s Rhodes’ “party town,” though I suspected that in April there would be tumbleweeds down the main street. I passed through part of it on the main road. The concrete, characterless hotels convinced me to continue, only slowing down at the stop signals.
The first place I did stop at is called the Seven Springs, though I called it “Epta Piggies” since I could never quite remember the Greek.
While I’d heard good things about it, I have to admit to being underwhelmed. I crossed a stream and started heading uphill and in a short time reached a waterfall. It was at this point that I realised that I’d missed the springs that gave the place its name.
I returned to where I started. Just by the cafe near the car park I notice a few sticks in the water with numbers on. If there were seven there, they were very well hidden, but it was clearly this that I had come to see.
I understand that there were other parts to the complex but I decided to press on to Lindos. I would find out later that this was very much the right choice.
When I finally got to Lindos, I took the same approach as when I arrived at the Cinque Terre: I went past a few car parks with spaces and went to the one that looked to be nearest the town. (If I’m going to go to the expense of hiring a car I figure I should try to minimise my walking!) I went past a lot of parked cars and ended up in an overflow carpark.
From the car park you could see pretty much all of Lindos, the pretty white buildings at the bottom and the picturesque acropolis right at the top.
I walked down from the car park into the town. Up close the streets are prettier than they are practical, being narrow, winding and hilly. It was a little tricky to get oriented and a spend a while walking in circles as I tried to find something to eat.
After lunch I went straight up the hill to the acropolis. The walk looked far worse from the bottom than it actually was and only ten minutes later I was at the entrance buying my tickets.
I found that there were two sides to the place. Not only were there lots of ruins — in pretty good condition actually — but there were also views back down over the town and over the bay.
Even at this time of year, when the sky looked a little overcast and where the wind was strong enough that I actually took my hat off to avoid losing it, the water was a beautiful, almost unreal turquoise colour.
Tourist-wise this was probably the busiest place I’d been to so far this week. It meant that taking some pictures turned out to be more tricky than I’d hoped for. But, then again, taking pictures of tourists was fairly straight-forward…
By the end of my time looking around, the person that sold me the tickets started wandering around, shouting that the attraction was closing and would everyone mind leaving now please. I was very pleased that I didn’t stay any longer at the Seven Springs or even dawdle around during lunch. As I sat outside considering my next move, a few other visitors were not so lucky. I still think it’s odd that it closes mid-afternoon but I’m glad that I managed to look around.
Back in town I went to look around the amphitheatre and then down to the beach for a quick stroll. Up close the water looked much less inviting, though I’m sure it would have been really nice to swim in a couple of months!
I had originally been thinking about staying in Lindos for dinner but it was now four in the afternoon and I’d seen pretty much everything I wanted to. Another two or three hours just lurking around seemed a lot so decided to hit the road. I could always stop off somewhere en route.
I arbitrarily picked Stegna as my stopping off point. I knew nothing about it. That the name was a bit like “smegma” may have factored into my choice.
It was late in the day and it was cloudy and overcast. Plus even the restaurants that were open (including the one pictured above) looked closed. I took a quick wander up and down the promenade, but it was very blustery so I cut my losses and got back on the road to Rhodes Town.
The next day I would tackle the west coast of the island.
I was determined to make at least one boat trip to another island and there were no shortage of options from Rhodes Town. There were some other famous locations within range, Kos and even some Turkish resorts, but in the end I decided on Symi. It’s a much smaller island, known for its attractive harbour, and I thought it would be a good contrast to what I’d already seen in Rhodes.
Maybe it was the tides, the time of day or the phase of the moon, but the catamaran rocked about uncomfortably for ten minutes1 before calming down to a relatively smooth ride for the rest of hour-long trip.
I could see that its reputation as a beautiful destination was well-founded as soon as I started the approach to the harbour. Clear turquoise water, coloured houses stretching all the way up the steep slopes.
What was less clear was how to get up the steep slopes — the best views are almost always from the top.
I walked all the way around the harbour, partly taking in the sights, partly trying to figure out where the Kali Strata, the “magnificent stone staircase” mentioned in the guide-book started.
Fortunately the waitress in a cafe that I stopped in for a coffee (it was still pretty early, at least by my standards, so I needed a caffeine boost) knew the way. All I can say is that I would never have found it without help. Even with pointers it was a bit hidden.
The route up was steep at times but the views down to the bay were always spectacular. The route was also shared by locals, both the two and four legged kind.
I followed signs to “the Symi Museum.” The route was not always obvious. After the wide steps near the harbour, the path gradually narrowed to the point where the entrance to someone’s house looked a lot like the path further up-hill.
When I eventually got there, I sat outside the museum for a while deciding how much further to go. The shade was nice, but I thought that I should press on a little further. The route mentioned reaching a small church a little further on, but the directions had been rather deceptive so far. Some parts that read as though they should be miles apart were just a few steps, and others were far further than the writing suggested.
As it turns out, the church wasn’t too far. It was pretty but I couldn’t get in to take a look around, not even inside the grounds. Instead I wandered around the outside wall and gradually started the walk back to the harbour. As attractive as it was up there, it was getting on for lunch time and away from the water there was little in the way of food or shops.
After lunch I went away from the water and then around the bay, past the clock tower where the catamaran had dropped me off.
The next bay was quieter. By the water were boats either there awaiting repairs or boats that were long past repair.
After that bay things became even quieter. There was one small resort with sad looking umbrellas and not a lot else. The emptiness was glorious. The main part of Symi was hardly buzzing at this time of year but it was amazing to feel so isolated from the main part of town while being only a few minutes walk away.
I sauntered back to the main harbour and got another bite to eat while waiting for the boat back to Rhodes.
I left as the sun was low in the sky, leaving a fittingly pretty image of the place in mind. The sea was much smoother on the way back which was just as well since I had just eaten!
I would stay on Rhodes for the rest of the week but travel out of Rhodes Town.
- B continues to claim that it was far longer and far worse than this. I would just add that I was awake for the whole journey. [↩]
Can anyone explain the significance of this? I was in Rhodes Old Town and stumbled across this scene. Why would you put a plant on a door like that?
Travelling out of season has its pros and cons. On this plus side it’s cheaper and not as hot. I’m not sure I would have liked Rhodes when it was in the high thirties. Twenty something in early April suits me just fine. There are also fewer tourists which is mostly nice, but does mean — and this is the major disadvantage — that not everything is open. So to head off the same kind of problem I experienced in Porto, where I arrived only to find that the hotel was closed, I decided to stay in the biggest town on the island. Even in hindsight I think that this was the right move.
While everyone sung the praises of Lindos, Rhodes Town is not without its charm. It’s split into two obvious parts with a third just a little out of town.
The first part, and the only part that I suspect most visitors get to see, is the Old Town. It’s near to the harbour and surrounded by some impressively thick walls and a surprisingly dry moat. Inside is a maze of narrow, twisty-turny, cobbled streets, shady squares and rows of tables with enthusiastic and persistent waiters trying to pressgang passing foreigners into taking a drink.
In this sense it contained both the best and worst of the city: the history and culture and the crowds. But the history is impressive and the crowds were comparatively small at this time of year.
Just outside the walls is the harbour. As an island is has a great sea-faring tradition, from the sponges that brought early riches to the sea-food that populated the menus of most of the local restaurants.
At the start of the week it quickly became clear that most of the people there were either locals or just taking a few hours on shore while their vast cruise ship remained implausibly floating in the harbour. By the end of the week a number of restaurants and hotels opened and the whole place was starting to look a lot more lively.
The second part of town is, creatively, called the New Town. This is a fairly nondescript Greek town, mainly populated with locals (and cats) as far as I could tell. I ate in the New Town most of the time since a lot of those in the Old Town looked, well, a bit lowest-common-denominator (though, to be fair, the food I did have there was perfectly good).
On the first night I stopped at a bar that was so new that they hadn’t printed the menus in English yet! Elsewhere they also seem to have a bit of a Nordic theme going. Just around the corner from the hotel was a (closed) Norwegian bar. I had breakfast in a Swedish cafe on a few mornings and near the beach I stumbled across both a Finnish bar and a Danish cafe. With an Icelandic restaurant they could collect the full set.
A few kilometres south of the New Town is the oddly named “Monte Smith,” an acropolis and amphitheatre. It is, of course, not its original name. Its real name is Agios Stefanos but the name of the Brit somehow stuck. (Don’t worry, Greece, you can have the Elgin Marbles back soon.)
As you walk up from the town you get to the amphitheatre first.
Then further up hill you get to the acropolis.
I saw a few dates noted here and there, but 5C BC seems to be the most common. It’s pretty complete for something that old! One of the nice things about it was that it was just sat there in a field outside town. No ticket office; no gift shop or mandatory tour guides. Just amazing old stuff sat there waiting to be seen.
Throughout the week I’ll see older stuff, prettier towns and areas that are less built-up, but Rhodes Town not only made a great base for the week but had a lot to recommend it in its own right.
My challenge for this weeks PhotoFriday, “Primary Colour,” was that the picture I really wanted to use has been used at least once already. The appeal with that one is that it has all three primary colours rather than just the two that you can see in the above picture, taken recently in Symi (a Greek island near to Rhodes). But, as they say, two out of three ain’t bad.
In a poll of two, my parents, one hundred percent of participants recommended Rhodes as a great Greek destination, with a nice mixture of beaches, history and places to eat and drink. I’m not much of a beach person but the rest sounded good so I very quickly booked a week off work and took an Easyjet flight to Diagoras airport.
I didn’t know a huge amount about the place before I got there. I quickly realised that, like Alexandria, the one thing that Rhodes is most famous for, the Colossus, is no longer there. In the place that it is rumoured to have been located are two statues of deer. This sounds odd until you realise that deer are considered to special.
Okay, that’s still odd. The story is that the deer scared the snakes away from the island. I’ve seen no mention of how deer could scare away snakes so you’ll just have to use your imagination.
The other thing that Rhodes (and other nearby islands) are sort of famous for is sponges. They made much of their original fortunes and riches by harvesting and selling the contents of the Med. I guess synthetic sponges won out eventually.
But I’m not really going to talk much about either of those things any more. Over the next few days I’m going to have a few most posts, with pictures and brief commentary about the highlights of what I saw on my week away.