A Travellerspoint blog

Greece

All the World's a Stage

sunny 25 °C

Every year from March 1st to October 31st the island of Rhodes puts on a spectacular show for more than two million visitors, but as the summer season nears its end and the final curtain gets set to fall we witness the transformation. Rhodes is still putting on a performance every day, but the audience is thin and some of the actors are working hard to squeeze the last hoorah from their lines. The quayside barkers who have been whipping up the crowds to take in the expensive aqua show aboard a fleet of speedboats, ferries and fishing boats, have abandoned their booths but will happily grab a few mites from any stragglers...
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Most of the stars of the summer's 'Aqua Spectacular' have already left and are brushing up their act ready for their winter appearance in the Indian Ocean or the Caribbean, but we still got to see some of their superyachts in the harbour, and there was excitement as the daily ferry arrived from Athens...
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The restaurant owners surrounding the mainstage within the ancient city play chicken with each other as they drop their prices by the minute to clear their stock before the shutters close and the season wraps up. Lunch for 2 euros and a beer for another 1.50 as we sit under the orange, olive and palm trees listening to the bouzoukis of Mikis Theodorakis and the songs of Nana Mouskouri and Melina Mercouri...Oh, how we miss our 50 dollar lunches in the rain in Norway! But now it's November; the auditorium doors are shut; the curtains are coming down...
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However, the spotlight of the sun still brightly illuminates the stage during the day and a few of the actors hang around to take a final bow. With the main show over there are plenty of empty front row seats with unobstructed views of the 14th century Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller...
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This fortified palace was later refurbished as the summer home of the Italian King Vittorio Emanuele III, followed by the fascist dictator, Mussolini, and it is easy to imagine it as the setting for a grand opera by Puccini or Verdi...
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The palace's many stages are inlaid with ancient mosaics, all brought from third century Roman villas on the island of Kos in the 1930s, to entertain the king and his illustrious guests...
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Now, with the show over we are free to wander through the labyrinthine scenery of Ancient Greece and marvel at backdrops that were first painted several hundred years before North America even existed on a map...
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By being in Rhodes for this year's final performances we got the best seats (and beds) at knock down prices. There were no line-ups at the loos and no crush at the bar during our many intermissions. But we came to see the theatre not the show. We were happy to pull back the curtains and look into the dressing rooms We came to see the scenery and the props of Rhodes city and we loved it - although the local souvenir sellers weren't so happy...
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The lights and heating are still on so now we are heading out to explore the rest of the island. Next stop – Haraki, on the east coast.

Posted by Hawkson 06:42 Archived in Greece Comments (4)

Rhodes – Who Could Ask For Anything More?

sunny 25 °C

The Dodecanese, twenty or so idyllic Greek islands that lie off the coast of Turkey, have been fought over for thousands of years, but all is peaceful today since the bulk of the summer tourists have gone home and the flood of Syrian refugees has abated. However, we are not entirely alone as we begin our visit to the island of Rhodes. A few stragglers from Northern Europe have delayed their return to take advantage of the warm seas and the glorious Aegean weather...
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We have a couple of weeks to explore the island of Rhodes and parts of mainland Greece so we will start with a little history.
The Minoans and Myceneans overran the stone-age inhabitants of the islands nearly 3,000 years ago and then in 407 BC Hippodamos of Miletos, (the town planner extraordinaire of his day), built the city of Rhodos; the finest and best organised city of the known world at the time.

Rhodos, (or Rhodes to us), has had many names and many different rulers over the millenia including the Ottomans,Turks, Italians, Germans and Brits. It has been firmly Greek since 1947 when the British gave it back after liberating it from the Germans at the end of WWII. Despite numerous conquests and countless earthquakes, the bulk of the fortified city built over a period of two thousand five hundred years has survived...
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Unfortunately, the earthquake of 226 BC destroyed Rhodes' greatest monument – the Colossus of Rhodes. This enormous bronze statue of the Greek god Helios was erected to celebrate Rhodes victory over Cyprus. It was over 100 feet tall and in Medieval times it was fancifully believed that it had straddled the harbour entrance of Mandraki. There are plans to replace the statue but for now there are just two columns surmounted by a bronze doe and stag – the city's emblems
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Much of the city we are visiting today was built about 700 years ago by the Knights Hospitallers – a religious order of Knights Templars who established their headquarters on Rhodes in 1307 when they left Cyprus and were given Rhodes by the Pope. The fortifications and walled city are the largest and best preserved Medieval constructions in Europe and we barely skimmed the surface as we walked around the dry moat...
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...climbed some of the battlements...
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And took a first look at the maze of streets within the walls...
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It is easy to see the Turkish coast from the fortress of Rhodes and ferries make the crossing daily. We have no plans to re-visit Turkey but we took to the sea in a glass-bottomed boat to view the somewhat sparse sea life and to visit the windmills that once ground the city's grain...
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There were thirteen windmills at one time but only three survive today and they no longer operate.
Both the city of Rhodes and the island seem to have much to offer and as we dine under the stars on freshly caught fish we can already see why it is a very popular tourist destination... Sun, sea, culture and a plethora of authentic Greek restaurants – who could ask for anything more?
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Posted by Hawkson 10:23 Archived in Greece Comments (3)

Laid Back Paros

sunny 30 °C

The Frankish Castle in Parikia is one of the most enduring monuments on the island of Paros. It was built in the 1200s by the Venetian Sanoudos. Scholars believe that the castle was built from the vestiges of an assortment of ancient sanctuaries that were scattered in and around the island of Paros and grindstones from windmills are clearly visible in the walls...

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Windmills are still a feature of the island...

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All life in Paros centres around the port and the daily comings and goings of the ferries...

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Like many of the Greek Islands, Paros is scenic though a little stark. The quaint whitewashed houses and laid back lifestyle of the locals makes them interesting. Life hasn't changed much for the locals in generations - although most of the money now comes from tourists and from islanders living abroad. people still shop in the same way as their parents and grandparents...

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There are no supermarkets here. But it's a lovely place to spend a few quiet days. One event that we attended was an art collective's opening night where corrugated cardboard featured widely...

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A day trip to the caves on the neighbouring island of Anti-Paros ended somewhat scarily when the sea turned rough and the small ferry we were on took a beating. This cat wasn't perturbed...

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And Paros is a great place to stop and smell the roses, (and the bougainvillea)...

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Posted by Hawkson 12:52 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Agios Nikolaos

sunny 30 °C

Agios Nikolaos at the eastern end of the island of Crete is a bustling tourist resort surrounding a pretty harbour...

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We had not planned on visiting Agios but were forced to do so when we were unable to quickly return our hire car in Iraklio and as a result we missed our fast ferry to the island of Santorini. Our only alternative was to keep the car and drive to Agios Nokolaos to catch the giant car ferry later in the evening. With several hours to spare before the evening ferry arrived from Rhodes we spent a pleasant afternoon strolling around Agios and taking in the views...

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With its quayside bars and flotilla of picturesque boats bobbing in the sheltered bay It is not surprising that Agios is popular with tourists.

Posted by Hawkson 15:07 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

The Palace of Knossos

sunny 30 °C

The northern area of Crete was inhabited at least 7,000 years BC and this is all that is left of the 3,000 year old Palace of Knossos in Iraklio, Crete...

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The palace of Knossos was the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. The palace was abandoned at some unknown time at the end of the Late Bronze Age, c. 1,380–1,100 BC. and although it is often said that it was destroyed by the eruption of the Santorini volcano and subsequent tsunami, it seems more likely that it was destroyed by the Mycenaeans or other rival civilizations...

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Visiting the ruins of Knossos turned into an interesting experience when several English speaking guides almost came to blows when deciding whose turn it was to take us on a tour. The guide who eventually agreed to take us was harassed throughout the tour by one of the losers. However, we got to see the site which, it turned out, was little more than a pile of old rocks. We also saw some interesting pieces of Minoan pottery of indeterminate age...

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The ruins of the Palace of Knossos were of particular interest to us as Greek mythology suggests that it is the place of the labyrinth where the minotaur lived. Apparently, King Minos dwelt in a palace at Knossos. He had Daedalus construct a labyrinth in which to retain his son, the Minotaur. However, our guide was unable to show us a labyrinth or explain where it had been, but we saw lots more Greek urns..

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We also saw one reconstructed building with murals...

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And lots of cats...

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James has a sad story about a cat in the ruins of Knossos, but it is best left untold.

Posted by Hawkson 14:46 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

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