Saturday 9th October 2010
We made up our minds last night that we were leaving today for Rhodes so when we saw Luna, the manager, we informed her of the decision as well as getting her to book the ferry tickets. Judy, negotiated a 'complimentary' transfer from the hotel to the ferry. This was a good idea because the ferry could berth at either Agia Marina or at Lakkes, depending on the weather, with the captain making the decision when he wanted. These two ports being on opposite sides of the island and about 4 kms apart could have made this a problem for us.
The morning was spent packing and getting ourselves organised, including catching up with a couple of the expats to say farewell. We have enjoyed the 9 days in Leros, it not as touristy as some of the islands, and even though our original accommodation was disappointing the hotel made up for it.
By 2pm we were ready to go, Luna advising that Lakkes was the chosen port because of the strong winds. She dropped us off and there we were, the only people waiting for the boat! We spent some time either reading
or watching several semi trailers having bottled water loaded onto them from a freighter, before other people started to arrive. They too seemed a little unsure they were at the correct port. When a 4wd with a port authority lady driver arrived we relaxed a little, the ferry then being about 30 minutes late.
It was 7pm when we finally reached Rhodes, having stopped at 2 or 3 other islands on the way. As it was nearly dark we were thankful there were a few touts around, otherwise we could have ended up looking for a room in the dark. The first offer we had didn't have wifi but the lady next to her said hers had. Sofia Pension was high on the list Rags had already researched and when the rate was dropped without even asking, we dutifully followed her. We made our way through the massive entrance to the Old Town walls and wound our way past the many brightly lit shops and cafes on cobbled streets. After many turns we came to the pension, set amongst some ruins. Inside it was remodeled with modern fittings and looked very flash. Judy still managed to have the price
dropped if we stayed for 8 days! We had a ground floor unit for the night, an upstairs unit which was larger being promised from then on.
After settling in we wandered along the nearby lanes being offered meals at many of the cafes and generally just looking at all the glitzy tourist outlets. Judy was a liitle peckish so we stopped for a crepe and a little bit of wine. Bed was now becoming more inviting but with a disco nearby and the noise of people and cars moving about, Rags didn't have a great night. Judy took something to ensure she slept, still trying to throw her cold.
Sunday 10th October 2010
Rags was determined to check out another hotel he had researched, the 7 Palms, this being outside the Old City walls, had cooking facilities, a pool, and was in a residential area. Somehow we managed to follow the mediocre map we had to this establishment, finding our way along narrow streets lined with cars on both sides. The apartment was large as advertised, was clean, but it was a little gloomy, the pool was closed, there wasn't a good outdoor area to sit
in, and it was a long way from the sights. More or less 'winging' it as we had done has turned out once again to be the way to go!
Our new room is much larger, has a pergola area to sit in and is in a quiet area so music, cars and people should be no problem. Our hosts seem very pleasant, the husband, on being asked if we could make a cup of tea obliged by bringing the hot water up to us. All is good.
The morning was spent walking around the area we saw last night, retracing our steps to the harbour. Here, we were turned away by security because we weren't going on a ferry and we think also because there were a couple of very elegant, private boats moored there.
On the other side of the harbour a huge cruise ship was moored, this explaining all the better dressed tourists walking around. All the shops were open therefore, they hoping to cash in on the hundreds of passengers in the city just before the close of the tourist season.
We made our way past the walls to the commercial marina,
there being yacht after yacht moored there, many the same as the one we had sailed in previously. Loud music was coming from the other side and when we reached where it was coming from found it was the entertainment at the finish line for a "Cancer Fun Run". From here we continued along the beach with its lines of umbrellas and people roasting in the sun, many making us feel almost skinny!
After a lunch of beef stifado and meatballs in tomato sauce, we walked through some of the 'new' town with its many cafes and shops. We enquired at several the cost of hiring a car for a day, we intending to do this to see other parts of the island later in the week. At this stage we are tossing up whether to lash out and have a sports car, a 'Smart' car, or just a small one.
The rest of the afternoon was spent snoozing, reading etc, as usual, before going out for tea.
Yianni's, a small cafe nearby was where we spent the evening, this seemingly more authentic than most. After putting in our order for beef stifado and another dish we
couldn't pronounce , we were given a complimentary bowl of delicious vegetable soup. The meal itself was also very tasty as was the carafe of retsina which we had accompanying it. The final bill was very reasonable, accompanied by a piece of peanut brittle and a smile. We'll return here.
Monday 11th October 2010
We decided to walk in the other direction from the gate this morning, towards the local marina and commercial area. The intention was to find a nice beach and go for a swim. The laneways were noticeably quieter this morning, we deducing there was no cruise liner in. How wrong we were. Just outside the gate we ran into crowds of people coming from the opposite direction, they all coming from a local ferry but more to come from a cruise ship which had replaced yesterdays overnight. It can be seen how much this economy depends on the tourist trade.
On seeing a couple of shipping agencies we enquired on getting to Turkey on Sunday, finding there was a catamaran at 8am. We booked this as this would allow us to stay here as originally negotiated and mean we wouldn't have
to spend a night in Marmaris, as we were coming in late.
There was no beach in sight as we continued along the coast, just lots of earthworks where new roads and marinas are being built. Many of the projects are at a standstill at present, this reflecting the economic crisis Greece is in at present. From what we have observed in our travels, they are spending a lot of money on capital works. As these don't provide a return for some time it appears that the government is having problems servicing the loans for all this development.
Just on the point of turning back we saw a beach in the distance and there we joined a small group of people in the at first chilly, clear water. We spent about half an hour there before the cold sent us back to shore and then on our way. We walked back more inland from the beach, walking through streets which reminded us a little of the old North Perth area, it probably being a similar vintage. Eventually we reached the area we were in yesterday looking at the other possible hotel, continuing on to the Old City.
Walking the walls.
Amazing how wide they are!
Lunch was at the same little shop we had our crepes, this time we having gyros in pita bread. Everything goes slowly here with Mama & Papa doing their thing as they have done for years. We sat at a table set in a laneway watching the world go by. An elderly English couple sat nearby, they in the sun, we in the shade. They told us they came here regularly to get away from the cold winter at home. The British and Europeans are able to get holiday packages to Greece, similar to what we can get to Bali, they too only about 4 hours away.
The afternoon followed the normal pattern although Rags didn't have a long snooze as this is affecting his night's sleep. We spent the late afternoon on the patio, with vines over it, reading and doing our normal computer thing. We did renew acquaintance with a Dunsborough couple we met at breakfast, she a retired teacher, he a former forensic psychologist, they now running some units down there. We agreed to catch up for dinner.
Dinner was at Captain's Garden Restaurant, the motivation for going there being we had a voucher giving
us a free litre of house wine if 4 people dined there. This was one of the only few things good about the place, the setting being ok but the food not nearly as good as any had so far. The meals obviously catered for the tourist trade. We did enjoy Noel & Lauraine's company however making the evening successful.
Tuesday 12th October 2010
The Palace of the Grand Masters, a fortress within a fortress, our objective for the day and a most interesting place to see. Human habitation of the area it stands on has been dated back to 500BC, the fort was first built by 14th Century, survived an earthquake and seige, blown up by an accidental explosion in 1856, and restored by the Italians in the 1930s for Mussolini.
Firstly though, we walked along the 3kms or of the wall surrounding the Old town of Rhodes. This is only opened twice a week so we picked the right day for our visit. These walls are a masterpiece of late medieval fortification stretch for 4kms and are 12 metres thick. On the landward side the walls are safeguarded by a over 30 metre wide
moat which you get to down a wall as high as the walls of the fort. One can understand it being impenetrable with the weapons they had in their day.
The palace itself has been much restored, Mussolini wanting it as a summer palace but never getting to live in it, and is divided up into chambers or big rooms. These chambers now have exhibitions of mosaics brought from Kos as well as from ancient Rhodes. We spent some time in the palace, wandering from room to room, marveling at how it was built without the help of modern equipment. We felt quite humbled and privileged to be able to walk around it today.
We made a cardinal error choosing our lunch spot, no prices shown outside in a very touristy spot. The lunch and service reinforced our normal criteria of having plenty of customers with a good proportion of locals. Still it was food!
Yiannis' at dinner time once again didn't let us, (Noel & Lauraine as well) down, putting a spaghetti dish in front of the 4 of us as a complimentary entree, then we all choosing a dish and sharing. With a litre of
Retsina, followed by a litre of house white, a few of us are going to suffer tomorrow as we were then given a complimentary local liqueur. (If you are coming to Rhodes you'll need to find Yianni's. It's small. From Socratous, turn into the street where you see the SENSO sign in gold letters. It's just 50 metres from here.) We're going to have to dry out soon but it has been fun! Food and drink have certainly been a highlight of the trip.
Wednesday 13th October 2010
High on a hill, Monte Smith, about 2 kms to the west of the town the Italians excavated and restored a 300 BC stadium and a 200 BC acropolis with a small square theatre. We caught the local bus there and joined the throng of tourist bus people. Luckily, not many of them even left their buses, the others just looking at the most obvious sites such as the remaining 3 columns of the temple of Apollo. We spent some time walking around the ruins before continuing downhill to the square amphitheatre and on to the large rectangular arena. Walking on further through a park we passed various piles of
rocks and pieces of pillars, this whole region full of what must have been an extensive development.
Lunch was pita gyros, again at what is becoming our favourite lunch-stop, Noel & Loraine joining us at the end, they making their way to the ferry for their trip back to their unit in Turkey. We intend keeping in touch and eventually seeing them again on one of our caravan trips in the South West. Its been great meeting people who have a similar love of travel and being able to exchange information and share experiences.
Judy continues to conscientiously put in the hours for her uni tutoring, Rags certain she is putting in many more than what she is paid for. She does enjoy doing it though, and the students certainly benefiting from her efforts, many acknowledging this. The afternoon was therefore spent with both of us using our laptops to complete our complete our usual tasks.
Being a little tired of going out to eat we bought a few bits and pieces for dinner after which we watched one of the movies Judy had on her hard drive. The new micro speaker we bought the other day
So many boats
Apparently it is only another week and the cruise liners stop coming to Rhodes.
performs really well and gives a good sound as well as the volume we were missing from the built in speakers.
Thursday 14th October 2010
It had to happen sooner or later but today we woke up to rain. We've been so lucky so far this trip with only a couple of days rain and that at a time when it affected us very little. By about 10am it stopped so we risked it and were able to walk around the town, this time through the moat, without getting wet. Just being in between the two walls made you aware of how good this was as a defence in those days, explosives not being what they are now. In fact, we walked among many round, stone projectiles they used in their catapults.
The rain set in again and we spent the afternoon reading/working.
Friday 15th October 2010
Woke to a beautiful blue sky, heralded by what seems to be the only rooster in Rhodes. Rags loves the sound but its life would be in danger if Judy lived here for a long time! After breakfast we caught the bus to Lindos, the
next largest town here, about 50kms south of the Old Town.
The trip took well over an hour, the modernisation of the main highway being incomplete and from the look of it nothing was being done. The highways here are strewn with rubbish and it wasn't the most scenic ride although the bus wound its way through a few old towns stopping for passengers in the most unlikely places.
Lindos' main claim to fame is another lot of ruins again at the top of a hill overlooking the town. The bus terminus is also on a hill, the town being in the valley and a free shuttle bus takes you down into it. Many steps upwards and you reach the partially restored walls and fort. Some of the restoration was done by conquerors in the 18th century, some done by the Italians in the 1940s, and in years to come tourists will read a label saying it was restored in the 21st century. There were actually 4 guys doing some work on a wall, justifying the 2 cranes and all the scaffolding there!
We spent some time in the fort and then wound our way through the
Us with our friends from WA
Judy, Lauraine, Noel and Rags
maze of narrow streets, finding the main square eventually and then finding a place for lunch. We were served by a young, chatty, Scottish lass, partnered to a Greek policeman, who has lived here for over 7 years. She told us Lindos has the highest temperatures in Rhodes, it reaching 55 degrees celsius in July and many British tourists there for a week were taken to hospital for dehydration as they sunbaked and didn't drink enough water. She told us how some even died! She loved living here, not missing the Scottish winters, and enjoying the local people.
The trip home, through more villages and groves of olive trees gave us enough of the other side of Rhodes, we agreeing that we didn't need to hire a car to see more of it. Rags was secretly relieved, not looking forward to driving amongst the locals especially on the 'wrong' side of the road.
Dinner was at Yiannis again, we having the Greek plate to share. Complimentary soup was followed by a couple of plates of various 'tasters'. At first we were a little disappointed by that as there didn't appear to be a lot served. In the end
though, the only criticism we had was that for a shared dish there should be 2 of everything, you shouldn't have to cut pieces in half. When we asked for the bill, it came out with a complimentary ouzo and a glass of 'cherry' liqueur. During dinner we struck up a conversation with a Dutch couple who were going to Symi Island tomorrow. As this was to be our last day here we decided we'd be at the wharf by 8am to do the same.
Saturday 16th October 2010
Up at 6am and by the wharf at 8am to ensure we got onto the boat. As it was there were 2 boats going, but both were pretty full, so it was worth coming early. The first boat quoted 23 euros, but as we had been told it was 20 we started to walk toward the next boat. A chap nearby blocked our way, dropped the price to 20 and we were in!
We didn't do any research on the trip and had 20-30 minutes in mind fir the trip. Two hours later we reached Panormiti and given an hour to be back on the
boat. This town is a monastery where many sailors worldwide go as a pilgrimage. We walked along the foreshore and admired the buildings, not entering another monastery, before reboarding.
Another hour later we arrived at Symi. By this time it was lunchtime and a we were very hungry. A gyros and a little later, an icecream, killed the pangs.
We then set off to walk the 500 steps to the church overlooking the town.These 500 steps turned into many more, not only were there many sections of sloping up ground in between the steps, we also turned left rather than right. We met a Russian couple on the way, he specialising in English interpretation, who were as lost as we were. A few laughs and we continued exploring, eventually getting to our destination. Great view.
We found our way back to sea level quite easily, had a quick look at a few of the stalls on the other side of the harbour before returning to the boat.
As it had been raining whilst we were out sightseeing the lower deck was packed so we found a seat in the open on the 2nd deck. Just as
well the weather had cleared. We had a group of Germans next to us who ignored us until we pulled out a couple of Heinekin beers we had bought to toast returning. A friendly chat then ensued.
On returning to Rhodes at 6pm we were glad to get to our room for a break before we went out to dinner. Dinner was at Yiannis again, our 5th visit. We were welcomed with open arms, given the customary free soup, then a plate of a delicious eggplant dish, followed by our main course, then a complimentary rake followed by watermelon. If we stayed any longer the meals must come free!! Lovely place, lovely people.
Sunday 17th October 2010
Rags woke at 3.45am when his phone sounded off to remind him it was his father-in-law's birthday! Not a good way to start a day especially when he couldn't get back to sleep and did so about 30 mins before the alarm went off as at 6am. We had to be at the harbour by 7.15am to go through Immigration on our way to Turkey but at 7.30am, with no-one at the terminal, we started to get worried. On
checking with the harbour police we were told the ferry no longer ran on Sundays, the next one being on Monday at 4.30pm. As we had a voucher for the trip we were not impressed to say the least.
We returned to Sofia's Pension, Sofia and her husband sympathetic and we kept our room for another night. We were lucky as they ended up fully booked later in the evening. On going to the travel agent when they opened at 9am Rags was informed they received a fax a couple of days after we made a booking canceling further trips on Sundays as it was the end of the season. Nothing we could do about it, except rebook for tomorrow, but the agent must have been aware it could happen and should have taken contact details so that we wouldn't be in this position.
After having no success in ringing our home exchange contact in Turkey by mobile, (we continue having problems with this) we used Skype to get in contact, they being most amenable and saying it didn't matter which day we arrived, the key was in the door! They have been so very helpful and we
are looking forward to meeting them.
After a couple of hours of needed rest we spent the day discovering little streets and shops we hadn't found before, Many of the shops had closed for the day as it there were few tourists so it was very pleasant wandering the streets taking in sights other than shops. Even with some closed shops, Judy still managed to buy a cotton Indian style top and gold earrings.
The Turkish mosque was our next stop. The rust-coloured, candy striped Suleymaniye Mosque was rebuilt on 16th century ruins in the 19th century and was an interesting place to visit. We entered bare-footed and walked on soft rugs which covered the floors inside. Never having walked on Turkish rugs before we will now have to think twice when asked in Turkey; "Want to buy a rug?" It would be lovely to get one home depending on transport costs.
Another sight we hadn't got around to seeing was the Roloi or Clock Tower. This tower was also built on ruins, first at the end of the 7th century as part of the wall, then it was destroyed by an accidental explosion in the nearby
Medusa Head in mosaics
forms the centrepiece of a late Hellenistic mosaic.
church of St John of the Knights. Why a church should house explosives is another question! It was rebuilt soon after. For a cost of 5 euros each you may enter the tower from which you have views all over the Old Town and here we took quite a few photos as well as a video of the area around it. We could also see that we'd been correct in our theory that there were no cruise liners docked today as we'd noticed how quiet the streets were.
Included in the price for entry to the Bell tower is a free drink at the small bar attached to the tower, we spending a relaxing half hour or so over a potent scotch and coke. Interestingly, you can have the drink of your choice, and while there we watched people have coffee, softdrinks and juice, not many opting for the spirits. An interesting gimmick to get people in.
By this time it was nearing our meal time, even though the locals don't eat until much later. We returned to the area we had lunch in and sat at the cafe we chose to return to. Then we found that
This palace was renovated as Mussolini's summer residence although he never made it here.
the meal and drink specials had 'disappeared', they being lunch specials. Off we went, to be accosted by the people who ran the place we had lunch at. They wanted to know why we weren't returning. After showing them we had been overcharged at lunchtime (we were charged the evening prices) they offered to check the bill and adjust it if we came in now. They seemed offended when we didn't take up their offer and on being told they had their chance then!
We ended up checking out a few places, eventually going to one which had great promises but it didn't deliver. They served a good Greek salad, a reasonable baked cheese called saganaki, and a very small dish of cuttlefish cooked in ink. All they had to do was serve it up with a bit more, such as chips, to make the meal a little bit of value. Good old Yiannis, where we have eaten now for at least 5 meals, aren't as flash but you are replete at the end and happy with the little extras they provide. We can see why they are full every night and restaurants such as this only had us!
We can see how places like this get repeat custom, year after year from nearby visitors, whilst the rest only get people once during the peak season.
Back to our comfortable room where we spent the rest of the night getting the blog up to date as well as sorting some of the hundreds of photos we have taken.
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