Monday, 17 October 2016

Rhodes, part one: Pink Pantser and the Rodos Hummus Rumpus

Karpathos, Greece (Κάρπαθος, Ελλάδα) 
26 July 2016
Waking up early in order to squeeze in a morning swim, we frolicked in the waters of Kira Panagia one last time before having to drive to Karpathos town to be cooped up in a ferry for hours on the way to the island of Rhodes.
We hadn't spent much time in Karpathos town, as we had wanted to explore the rest of the island's treasures, but it seemed like a lovely place that was brimming with character. As the ferry set sail, we sunk into stiff armchairs and prepared ourselves for the uncomfortable journey. Along the way, the ferry stopped at Diafani in the north of Karpathos island, where we had eaten lunch two days previous, and then a stunning port on an island that we had no knowledge of.

After frantic Googling, we discovered that the wondrous port we had seen from the deck of the ferry was Halki, and was only 45 minutes away from Rhodes via a fast ferry. As we had all been enraptured by the windmills along the hill and the pastel-coloured houses built onto the waterfront, we decided we would have to look into a day trip while we were staying on Rhodes.

Rhodes, Greece (Ρόδος, Ελλάδα) 
Upon arriving in the port of Rhodes Town, we zoomed down the east coast to the village of Masari, where we would be accommodating for the duration of our stay on the island. Masari was in close proximity to a popular Rhodes destination: Lindos, known for its ancient acropolis. Luckily our village was a little bit inland from the coast, so it was one of the few places on the island that wasn't overrun with tourists. We waited in front of the church for our AirBNB host, who rocked up a few minutes later on a scooter, wearing nothing but pink shorts, jandals and his reading glasses. After leading us to the house he gave us a quick tour, speaking very quickly and enthusiastically. He told us the opening hours of the bakery down the road, and advised us not to eat out in Lindos.

Spending a relaxing afternoon reading and surfing the internet in our new house, we were keen to go out for dinner and stretch our legs. Before we left, we had an aperitif of a sweet pink Vin de Liqueur, which was insanely moreish.
Heeding the advice given to us, we avoided Lindos and instead drove to a waterfront town that was still touristy, bus less so: Haraki. With quite a few options for tavernas, we wandered up and down the beachfront until we were happy with our choice. The hummus was so delicious that we ordered a second plate of it, but a less successful dish was that of the "horta", aka boiled greens. I thought that perhaps there would be a bit more to it than simply boiling greenery, but that is exactly what it was. Oh well. The horta experience won't stop me trying new things! Alongside that amazing hummus, the highlight of the evening was the restaurant's view out over Haraki Bay, with lights shimmering on the water and a clifftop castle illuminated in the distance. As we had just popped out for dinner, we didn't think to bring cameras so were unable to capture the moment.

27 July 2016
Revelling in the possibility of going for a swim before breakfast, we drove a short way to a beach near Masari that was recommended by our AirBNB host. Largely deserted, apart from us there were only a few locals around. Two elderly women bobbed, up to their necks in the sea, and conversed with each other loudly in Greek the whole time we were there. It seemed like a good morning routine.
Requiring sustenance for a long day ahead, we visited the local bakery and purchased a loaf. Right after leaving, we decided we should also try a small sweet roll, so returned for one of those. The baker was friendly, and popped a sesame covered mini baguette into our bag for free! That sesame baguette was one of the tastiest breads I've had, so we made sure to get more of them on future visits. That guy knows how to keep the customers coming back time and time again!
We began our exploration of Rhodes by driving south along the coast, and found that everywhere we went was inundated by tourists and things that tourists might want: massive hotels, sleazy restaurants, and stores selling nothing but 'authentic' pottery (artisanal, if you will). Frankly, this revelation was mildly shocking after Karpathos and unwelcome. For the entire time we stayed on Rhodes, I held onto a glimmer of hope that we would find somewhere (a beach, a village, an archaeological site) that wasn't awash with tourists aside from our lovely Masari.
At the southern tip of Rhodes, Prasonisi peninsula juts out into the Aegean Sea. In wintertime, sea levels rise and the sandy strip disappears under a layer of water, turning the green bluff into an island all its own. Yet when we visited in July, the long sandy beach was exposed, leaving it free for a swarm of windsurfers, caravan-goers, and sunbathers to invade. Far too busy for our liking, we hopped out of the car for a quick photo (to capture how crowded it was) and promptly left. We still wanted to swim, so we started to drive north again, this time along the west coast.

Passing the Kastro Monolithos, a castle on a crag, we found a semi-suitable destination. The beach was extremely windy, which was definitely a contributing factor to why it was less populated than many other beaches, and also meant that the surf was pounding into the sand. I felt that swimming there would be stressful due to the powerful waves, so I stayed on the beach.
From there we carried on, our bellies crying out for nourishment. Following the advice of Lonely Planet, we stopped in Kamiros Skala, where the harbour was described as "very picturesque". This is the harbour that passenger ferries depart to Halki. Quite frankly, it wasn't at all picturesque. Sure, it was slightly nicer than a standard port, but it was really nothing to write home about and certainly nothing to warrant a photograph, which in my opinion is the definition of "very picturesque". However, we did find a taverna in which to quell our tummy rumbles and look out over the so-called "very picturesque" harbour. The area around the harbour was so much less than picturesque, with dilapidated greenhouses scattered around, their white plastic roofs torn and waving morosely in the breeze. How do you expect to grow tomatoes with shredded greenhouses?
On the road we took back to our accommodation, turning inland from Kamiros Skala, François noticed a sign reading "Ancient Kamiros" and followed it on a whim. The site cost €6 to enter, but we had been so disappointed with Rhodes so far we figured we couldn't be let down much more.

In a surprising turn of fortune, Ancient Kamiros was actually excellent! A city of Dorians, Kamiros' golden age was in the 7th-century BC, but earthquakes and competition from Rhodes Town led to its downfall before the birth of Christ. As you can tell from the photos, it wasn't a popular place for tourists, either - there were several groups of people milling about but it was nowhere near as visited as it should have been.

The layout of the ancient city was still plain to see, regardless of any earthquakes. Can you believe that this city hasn't even been inhabited for over two thousand years?! Plaques pointed out various area of interest, including a block of houses, a sundial, the main square, a bath complex and a temple of Athena at the top of the hill.

Rosemary bushes were prevalent along the pathways around the site, so I nabbed a few sprigs to spruce up our culinary efforts.

Continuing the drive back, we found ourselves passing through the village of Eleousa when our eyes were drawn to a great abandoned building. To us, it seemed like the building used to be a palace - some expansive residence with balconies and an arched colonnade facing the street.

However, after compiling some research, the building turned out not to be a palace or private residence at all, but an old sanatorium for Italian soldiers during the First World War. You see, Eleousa was a town settled by Italians. Another abandoned building nearby was apparently the old prison and police station. However, you should take all this information with a grain of salt, as I found no credible sources on Eleousa, so everything written here is merely conjecture. (But interesting, no?)

The peeling walls were an easy target for graffiti artists, some of who took the opportunity to aim a dig at Nazism.

Honestly it's difficult to believe that this was a sanatorium, as it's so beautifully constructed. Each room was designed in separate ways, with a distinct tile pattern on the floor (there was even a detailed mosaic featuring different animals in one) and walls painted cheery colours. One explanation could be that they don't make sanatoriums like they used to!

A few stairways led to the upper floor, but there was little of interest up there. I dare say this would make an excellent location for a post-apocalyptic film. After a little while spent exploring, we found that the quiet Eleousa was filling up with like-minded tourists passing through to see the deserted sanatorium and we once again retreated to our car to escape them.
Swim, rosé, sleep. The End.

Today's post was almost called: 'Convalescing in Post-Apocalyptia'