Cobalt. Cerulean. Azure. Bluest of blues. After all there was to do in Athens, we flew to the island of Rhodes. I had always wanted to see Rhodes, or as the Greeks call it: Rodos. Flying into Rhodes (Rodos) from Athens was spectacular because you could see Turkey as well. Two continents in one glance –Europe and Asia. We rented a car and drove to Pefkos which was forty five minutes away. We didn’t mind being “lost” or unsure of directions because Rhodes is so mind-blowingly beautiful.
This gave us an opportunity to observe the terrain of Rhodes. We were so surprised at the greenery of this island! It resembled Colorado with its pine trees everywhere! I remember thinking I smelled eucalyptus trees, even.
Top things to do in Rhodes: (for those of you who want quick info and may not want to read my sentimental thoughts below)
- Medieval Town. Palace of the Grand Masters of Knights
- Acropolis of Lindos
- Donkey rides in Lindos
- Rhodes Ferry ride to Marmaris, Turkey;
- (day tour over there of gold center, rug factory, loukoum factory and bazaar)
- Monolithos Castle
- Mandraki Harbour
- Valley of the Butterflies
Villa rental: Milos Villas in Pefkos
Restaurant: Nikolas Tavern and any restaurant!!
I seem to remember reading somewhere about this “island of Helios (sun)” because it gets 300+ days of bright sunshine a year. Our rented villa’s garden was full of fruit trees which excited our six year old so much. He checked to see if the figs were ready. He’s learned this skill from his Papou (grandpa). We relaxed on our villa balcony while the boys played ball in the garden. In perfect timing, a billy goat from the adjacent property came right up to our fence. How perfect!
We found a Panorama Cafe which remains one of the best views of Greece I’ve ever seen. The royal blue water turns purple out in the horizon. Rodos takes my breath away like so many places in Greece. I know it’s the top three of islands for me. Our youngest son found lizards everywhere we went—this was his mission on the trip. While we absorbed other cultural highlights, our youngest remained focused on the flora and fauna of this geological wonder called Greece.
We bought local honey at a street side food stand–native Rodos honey–which is inexplicably delicious due to the unique cultivation of the area and the herbs from which the bees pollinate. A dollop of this clover honey became part of our breakfast ritual—in tea, on biscuits, etc. and of course, we brought some home as gifts. Rhodes has a uniqueness to it because of its Medieval influences. We walked through Medieval town’s cobblestone paths, fortifications and we saw where the Colossus of Rhodes once stood in the harbor. Although it’s not there anymore, to envision where this statue (one of the seven wonders of the world) stood, was a moment!
Our daily walks included a stroll to the zaharoplasteion (a bakery of artisan sweets), a purchase of tiropita (cheese pie) and spanakopita (spinach-cheese pie). One day, the boys all went to the beach in the late afternoon while I stayed at the villa in Pefkos, called Milos Villas. I wrote in my journal, tidied up the villa, walked through the garden and enjoyed the sea breezes, ocean view, safety, tranquility, and privacy of this existence. At night, I listened to the crickets and the late night parties in the distance as well as the occasional odd bird or animal sound.
Our favorite memory of Rhodes was riding the donkeys up through the village of Lindos. Looking into the shops and villas gave us an idea of the town combined with a recreational activity! I gasped as I peered into each shop or home. Rhodes was utterly beautiful and delightful. At night, we danced in Nikolas’s Taverna in the city of Pefkos (not far from our villa). As we ate our dinner and heard the soulful Greek music beating out of the speakers, the feeling overcame us to just get up and dance. The waiter called out to the owner inside, in Greek, saying, “The Greek- American mama is dancing with her sons” as my husband took our video. He eventually joined in the dance line along with the waiter and owner, too. The other customers enjoyed this spectacle. It was a great impulse in the middle of my journal writing while the family ate dessert. It was a revelation that crystallized the epiphany that the Greek school lessons, the Greek dance lessons, —they shouldn’t just be lessons—they should be a lifestyle; moments in reality. I knew my sister, back home, would be thrilled because she is our sons’ Greek dance instructor. This moment wasn’t about costumed dancers on a stage at the Greek Festival back home in Tulsa, but about feeling the impulse to get up and dance, in casual clothes, out in the sea breezes in a taverna atop the sea.
It was hard to comprehend how blue the ocean was on these Rodos beaches. We parked our rental car on the side of a village road to take photos. Outside of a restaurant called Panorama Cafe, we stood there in disbelief to take in the panoramic view.
It was at that moment that I first realized that the ocean water in Greece has layers to its hues. Closest to the shore, the water is clear, then green, then mediterranean blue, then navy blue and then, miraculously, purple. Together they make that Grecian blue but if you look closely, it’s layers of blues, (except on the island of Lefkada, where it is solidly the most turquoise blue the eye can ever absorb.) It was opaque, thick, sensuous and shockingly turquoise blue.
On Rhodes, we discovered the lovely city of Lindos. The donkey rides up the winding roads through Lindos beckoned to us. We waited on the town square for this magical donkey ride but what happened during that wait was even more magical for me, as a mom. My oldest son, eleven years old at the time, was conversing in a slow and carefully thought out Greek speech with a nine year old native boy. I listened carefully and intently from a few feet away to hear them. Luke asked him, “Pos se lene?” (how are you called/what is your name?) and the boy answered, “Me lene Nikos.” (I am called Nick) Success! Luke built up to “Poso hronon eisai?” and Niko answered, “Emai enaia hrono” (I am nine). Lastly, Luke asked him “Apo pou eisa?” (Where are you from?) and Niko answered, “Apo etho —Lindos” (from here, Lindos.) Three sentences! A conversation, nevertheless. My Greek-American son was communicating with a foreign child in Greece….a complete stranger; not a relative….and he was understanding him!
The boy, in turn, asked Luke some questions and I assisted Luke in his answers. This exchange could not have made me happier; not only as a mom but as a Greek School teacher, too. My sons were my Greek School students and this was the ultimate field trip for us! We were immersing in a culture of one of the most beautiful countries in the world which happens to be one of the most influential civilizations in the world.
What was a simple conversation, verbally, was really quite advanced and multilayered for us, emotionally. The local boy from Lindos and my son were patiently trying to understand each other. The native boy seemed impressed and respectful, almost paternal, with the efforts of my son who was carefully and calculatingly choosing his words and phrases. The Lindos boy was clearly in the driver’s seat with this exchange and my son was the guest in his country demonstrating a brave moment and encounter where he took a risk of stumbling on “broken Greek” with an Oklahoma accent. As the mom, I stood back and tried not to rush in with the rescue of my fluent Greek. I quietly guided my son from afar with possible vocabulary to interject but basically let him choose the questions and directions of the rudimentary conversation.
The global awareness symbolism that unfolded was the understanding that two boys who could look so similar in ethnic features were living different lives on different continents. Is there a kindred spirit between the native Greeks and the ones who descend from families who immigrated to America in the last century? Yes. In my experience, both citizenships of Greeks are fascinated with each other.
This was a full circle moment for me. I grew up speaking two languages in the home; English to my parents and siblings and Greek to my grandfather who lived with us. The receptive vocabulary of a bilingual childhood is uncanny and difficult to explain. There are words banked up that one might never use but you can always retrieve their definition and meaning and some are not even precisely translatable to English. Greek School classes at our church filled in the grammar, handwriting, poetry, songs and plays that home conversations could not. Witnessing this actual brief conversation between a local boy and my oldest son was rewarding and exciting. While my sons are not fluent in Greek and might never be, their effort was admirable.
The conversation that took place in the city center while we waited for our donkey ride was the first of several splendid moments in Lindos. No one could have prepared us for what was about to transpire next. The trail of donkeys lined up for us and others to join was so exhilarating for me, vicariously, with the boys. My husband trailed behind us on foot, as he preferred to run up the hill beside us. Each shop or pension we looked into on the right and left of us as we rode up the hill was a perfect lesson in Grecian architecture. The design of each alcove was a stunningly simple but breathtaking aesthetic of art and living. Everything about the shop or residence we peered into was designed to look out onto the view of the sea. Atop our donkeys, we looked through each shop, home or art gallery with a view that spilled out onto the open navy blue sea of Rhodes. I kept looking back at my husband, gasping at the beauty and asking him if he was catching all of this.
When we reached the top of the hill, we explored the Acropolis of Lindos -Temple of Athena which is a Doric structure and archeological site. We stretched our legs and caught our breath after that visually stunning donkey ride up the hill of this most posh town of Lindos. The donkey ride was a perfect excursion for the boys and a little archeology is always fascinating but ending the day at the beach in Lindos was perfectly appropriate. While the boys ran off ramps and jumped into the water, I caressed the sea shells and ran my toes back and forth in soft sand. I showed my husband each piece of what seemed like sea glass. The shells and glass were as clear and vibrant as the water. Lindos was a gorgeous surprise but it was time to return to our rented villa in Pefkos.
Our time in Rhodes ended with an enchanting day meandering through the streets of the Medieval town, sipping sweet and cold cafe frappe in a taverna and buying an ornate gold ring with a medieval cross on it for my birthday. The handmade ring was full of intricate details, Grecian royal blue lapis and enamel and even the band had details on it. The ring is always a symbol to me of our time in atmospheric Old Rodos Town in the middle of a majestic medieval fortress town draped under magnificent bougainvillea.adapted from the book, A Magic Carpet Ride. Click on link: