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The Other Side of Rhodes

sunny 27 °C

A few days ago we left the ancient capital of Rhodes to drive down the east coast past dozens of multi-starred resorts, complete with casinos, strip-joints and bars, catering to the planeloads of holidaymakers who stream here from Northern Europe and around the world for some guaranteed sun. But beyond this fringe of fun there is another world: a peaceful pastoral world of orange and lemon groves; a mountainous world where goats and mouflon scratch a living from the sparse vegetation; a world of olives...
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Petrified olive leaves more than fifty thousand years old have been discovered on these islands and the goddess Athena is said have given the Athenians the first-ever olive tree, the Moria Elaia. So, after travelling south some 5,000 kilometres from the land of Odin, we have arrived here in the mountains of Rhodes to discover the fabled land that gave birth to the the legend of Athena, the olive and the liquid gold that flows from it.

With this summer's temperatures topping 45 degrees, and no rain since February, it has been a stressful year for the Island's grapes and citrus fruits. However, the centuries old olive trees have thrived. But many islanders have abandoned the groves as they seek to harvest greater riches from the Island's tourists. Unfortunately, in their effort to cash in on this bonanza they have seen their dreams turn to dust. There is a side of Rhodes never featured in the glossy brochures and rarely seen by tourists...
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Thousands of abandoned and unfinished holiday complexes litter the island and even the promise of mile after mile of pristine beach along the north coast is not a big enough draw...
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The biggest beach is at the most westerly point of Rhodes where the Aegean meets the Mediterranean and here we discovered the world's largest free parking lot with room for hundreds of thousands of cars...
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Our little hire car was not entirely alone. A small yacht bobbed in the gentle surf just offshore and the owner of a beachside cafe served us coffee while saying that we would be her last customers of the year. But all is not well at this end of the island. In order to power the thriving tourist industry, and keep the casino wheels spinning, the government has built a huge heavy-oil power station just behind the beach which threatens to pollute the water and air. It is an ugly sight so instead we will show you the ruins of Monolithos castle...
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This fortress was built in 1480 by the Knights of St. John and was never successfully attacked due to its location high atop the insurmountable cliffs on the north coast of Rhodes. The view from the castle is spectacular....
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From Monolithos we drove across the mountainous centre of the island and discovered the charming village of Siana on the slopes of Mt. Akrimitis...
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The church of St. Panteleon, a fabled healer who was a martyr of Nicomedia of Bythynia during the Diocletianic Persecution of 305 AD, (Thank you Wikipedia), must be one of the most elaborate and best preserved small churches in the world. Yet the village it serves has all but died. Only 70 people still live in this once thriving community and now survive on producing honey and a potent local drink called souma which is distilled from fermented figs. However, we couldn't help but wonder if the numerous roadside shrines alongside the tortuous mountain roads weren't in some ways connected to this allegedly potent alcohol...
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The mountain roads may, in places, be somewhat scary and potentially dangerous, but the views of this starkly beautiful land are well worth the drive. Equally beautiful is our next stop - the picture perfect castle of Lindos.

Posted by Hawkson 08:38 Archived in Greece

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Comments

Trust the two of you to find the hidden treasures. Thank you for this beautiful road trip. The fig wine sounds intriguing. Did you taste it of course after a stop over for the night?

by Sue Fitzwilson

Laughed at the free parking sign in the middle of that deserted beach. Couldn't read the other sign. Was that reserved parking?
Wonderful colours in that shore scene--the sky, the different blues of the sea, the distant hills and the dark brown streaked with red on the beach. Some palette!

by R and B

An interesting island and certainly worth the visit. By the way, don't tell me you have never been in a strip joint and bar.

by keithandhelen

I hope you have not seen too many shrines, knowing your taste for out of the way roads !

by Christine Lloyd

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