We landed late in Rhodes and met friends I had made the last 2 summers in Greece. They were there to pick up my friend that I ran into on the flight. They asked me how I was getting to my hotel as it was about 10 PM and the taxi unions were on strike. That’s right, taxis were on strike all over Greece. I guess we were going to wait for the bus, but my friends made me a deal. Because we couldn’t all fit in their car, they said they would drop the first group off and if Sarah and I hadn’t caught a bus by the time they were done, they would give us a ride to the hotel. Well, 2 busses came by but didn’t stop and about 2 hours had gone by. It was now midnight and I called my friend who told us she was now on her way for us. A bus finally stopped for us a few minutes later, but we waved it by as we were waiting for my friend. She called me a few minutes later though, saying her mom didn’t want her making another trip to the airport, so we would need to catch the bus. We were now stranded around 12:20 AM, not certain if another bus would come. And then we found the bus schedule and discovered that the last bus left at midnight. So, with no idea what to do, we called my friend saying we need a ride. She said she’d try to make it. About 20 minutes later, a bus came by. Not taking any more chances, we jumped on at 12:45 AM and told her we no longer needed a ride and she turned around.
We had wanted to go out that night, but getting to the hotel more than now 3 hours (and 1 crushed iPhone) after landing, we were tired. And when we arrived at the hotel, we were told at reception that they needed copies of our passports, but only one person could do it. So, the receptionist said they would have to hold onto our passports until the morning or we wouldn’t have a room. We reluctantly handed over our most important form of ID to the stranger to put in a cubby that practically anyone could reach. The next morning we came down to get them, and they told us to wait 15 minutes. So, we ate breakfast and came back 20 min later to a receptionist glaring at us as if we were bothering her to ask for our most important documents later than she asked. She made a copy then right there in front of us, as she was the only one able to apparently, and she begrudgingly gave them back to us. She would hate us from then on out.
After a rocky start in Rhodes, we were ready to have fun. We were out the door a few minutes later for the beach in Rhodes Town. We wandered through the streets I’ve grown to love the past few summers to the port. We went inside Evangelismos Church next to the Mandraki Harbor entrance that completely covered in color from top to bottom.
The port entrance is the famous site of the ancient world wonder, the Colossus of Rhodes. A little further walk on a medieval walkway along the crystal clear waters of the harbor to beach.
We walked by old medieval buildings converted into banks, police stations and other things. We soon reached the beach which had clear, still waters at the perfect temperature.
The coolest part of this beach is the diving board in the middle of the sea that highest I’ve ever seen. We had a workout swimming out there and tied out bikinis as tight as we could and then jumped from the highest platform. It’s the coolest diving board you can imagine.
Afterwards, we just swam in the pristine Aegean Sea. We were looking forward to the beach more than anything in the trip and I was also happy to be back to Rhodes for the third summer.
We then soaked up some much needed sun while drinking our first of many frappes. It was our first real day of summer in Europe. No rain, no constant overcast skies and we actually got to go swimming. We walked around the town. First, we walked along the port and then got cheap gyros (€1.80) that I dearly missed. As we ate, we walked by the markets lining the port and then through the Castle of the Knights of St. John (aka Old Town).
It’s a massive medieval castle whose walls line the edges of the port and has an entire town inside it’s wall. Nowadays, the tradition continues with shops, restaurants and homes, although the moat is no longer in use and the grand palace is only for tours.
We walked around the outside of the castle walls by the docked boats and we were finally ready to go home. Once I showed Sarah around what now feels like a second home to me, we went back to our neighborhood to shop around the tip of Rhodes Town and enjoy the night.
The next day we decided that we had run around enough in Paris and just wanted to keep relaxing by the beach, so we took a bus southwest to Kalithea. It’s famous for it’s old turkish baths, but we just headed to the beach.
It was down a steep hill to crystal clear water where you could see every rock underneath you, and there were boulders underneath the water that you could swim to and stand on. You could just float, too, because the salt is so thick that you float with no effort. There were also cool places to cliff jump from and a diving board as well.
So, in intervals, we laid out under straw umbrellas and swam in the beautiful sea. This was our entire day and then we finally decided it was time to head back. So, we walked to the bus stop and watched 2 busses go by ignoring the stop until we practically began standing in the road to flag them down. Once back, we began walking back to our hotel, but Sarah wanted to stop at Pizza Hut. I would normally tell her no in a heartbeat, because it’s not amazing and it’s something we can get in the states. But, an American friend I have that lives on the island of Rhodes always tells me how this pizza is better here than it is in America. So, I caved, but it was awful. In fact, we took some to go and I just threw it to the hungry dogs along the way and sides of the road for them to find later. The only good thing was they had cheap frappes, but that doesn’t go with pizza.
We got back to our hotel and we needed to find a car for the next day to drive the island. Sarah thought she could get a deal online, but Hertz was charging €80 for only 100 kilometer and not including gasoline (which is about $10 US/gallon). We said no way and wondered what to do. I had become friends with the bartender at the hotel the night before, so I asked if he could help us, and he was so sweet that he wrote a note for us and told us where to go. So, we walked a few blocks down, found the shop and gave the guy the note and he charged us €40 for the day with unlimited milage, which we could manage.
Happy that we got a good deal on a rental car during peak tourist season and with taxis on strike, we walked around shops and then headed to the beach to watch the sunset. I missed the sunsets in Rhodes. Although it wasn’t like watching it on the rooftop of our apartments or from the church at the summit of the town in Soroni, it was great just to watch a sunset in Rhodes again. Then, we headed home, thanked our bartender, Ares and enjoyed the night.
The next day we woke up bright and early to get out on the road. Saying European drivers are bad is an understatement. Living in Los Angeles, I’ve learned how to deal with these people. Suffice it to say, they got a lesson in driving, or as I like to call it, the American way. First though, we needed gas and could not find a station anywhere. Finally, we saw a police officer and asked him where one was. He just looked at us and said “if you keep driving, you’ll find one. They’re all over the island.” Apparently, he didn’t understand the point of asking for directions. Of course we know gas stations are on the island. There are gas stations all over the country, too. After looping around constantly and really running under the E on the gas tank meter, we pulled into a gas station and bought ridiculously expensive gas. We were then on our way to the southern part of the island again, but this time to Tsambika.
It’s a beautiful place far off the main highway after many twists and turns, where you are greeted by goats every time you arrive. High up on a cliff overlooking the entire beach is an old monastery still in use. The beach is the stillest I’ve ever seen and the slope of the ground in slim, so you can walk 20 feet out into the water and it will barely be past your waist. You can see as far as the eye can on pure stillness and right below you to the bottom. And in water this magnificently clear and peaceful, you don’t even need goggles to see the minnow swimming around your feet. We hung out for a little bit, but I really wanted to get on the way to Lindos.
Lindos is a famous part of the island, because it was at one point the capitol of the island. It still has the ancient acropolis from the Greeks as well as another castle built by the Knights of St. John at the top of the cliff overlooking the city.
The beach coves are also picturesque and one cove is the site where the apostle Paul landed on the island of Rhodes. There’s now a church where he landed. So, we parked the car in the sweltering heat and walked down steep roads to the town. It’s full of narrow alleys with shops and restaurants in every one.
We got some gyros and ice cream (that I’ve never seen melt so fast) and we meandered through the alleys and watched donkeys pass by and soon we were on our way to the top of the acropolis. It was easily over 100° and we were directly in the sun sweating bullets, but we made it to the top. Looking over the pure blue sea from old castle walls is perfect.
Then, climbing up long stairways into the castle, which is so big and dense that it actually become cave was awesome.
The temple of the acropolis still exists on top and the castle is all around it. You can see far into the Mediterranen, the St. Paul’s cove and much more.
Looking down on land, you see a sea of white house tops of the village below. After too much sun, we walked down slippery marble steps, which are a death threat for those in flip flops and walked through stores buying cups of ice cold orange juice along the way. Soon, we had had enough, because I wanted to go see Soroni, and we wanted air conditioning.
We stopped along different little shops along the road, mostly because I was looking for pottery for my mom, but didn’t find anything worth it’s price. After windy mountain roads in the tiniest villages that I missed so much, we were finally getting to Soroni.
It felt like coming home driving into the village. We drove straight to the beach to go to my favorite tavera, Elena where we got dolmades, fried zucchini and calamari.
We then went to apartments where I had stayed, but no one was home, so walked the town.
We first went to the church, walking through all the back alleys, finally reaching the top. We then walked through the cemetery, which was gorgeous. It may be odd, but Greek cemeteries are beautiful. Graves are so taken care of with flowers on top and candles always lit. On the way down, we headed to the sweet shop and got some dip cones I really missed and then walked back to the car passing the school where we had class and the old guy that always sat out in front of his house waiting for us to say “yassas” every time we passed. As we walked back, I ran into the director’s daughter who was loading all the students up to take them to the town’s paniyiri.
A paniyiri is a festival for the church and town once a year. So, we said we’d but wanted a few minutes to sit first. We sat on the porch for a few minutes just soaking in Soroni and then the director’s son pulled up. I know him the best, so we talked for awhile and then his mom showed up. Finally, we were ready to go and so me and Sarah followed them to the festival. There, we watched Greek dancing, kids’ races, adult races, donkey races, sack races and more. But, we had to return the car, so we had to leave. We said goodbye and began driving home. I found one last pottery shop though and finally found the plate I had been searching for for my mom. We returned the car unscathed vowing never to drive again in Greece and went home to enjoy the night.
The next day we woke up tired and I was sick. Sarah needed new luggage though as hers had fallen apart, so we had to get some before we had to check out. We wandered to old town again, through the castle alleys looking for a suitcase. She picked one out of ‘Greek quality’ as the shop owner said and we headed back. I was completely sick, so once we checked out, we just walked around. We bought some souvenirs, but I needed to sit. After a frappe and many European music videos, I still wasn’t up for walking around. The one day I didn’t have a bed was the day I needed it. The only place I knew we could really relax was Soroni. Everywhere else would try to charge you money, tell you to move on, or you would be forced to simply sit on a curb. I now understood how homeless people feel.
So, we took a bus to Soroni and went to my much-missed cafe, Da Luz. I couldn’t drink anything at this point. I needed water though, so I forced myself to deal with the nausea and drank in small doses. Once I felt that I wouldn’t throw up, we walked to the apartments. No one was there though, but we were happy just sit in the chairs on the porch. We fell asleep on and off and ended up spending the rest of the day there running into people here and there. In the evening, Peter came and hung out with us and a bunch of students followed. We hung out with them and then went to dinner with them. I was not as sick anymore and could actually eat and drink now. The director of the study abroad program, Ilias, being so kind, brought us to dinner, then to back to the paniyiri and offered to drive us to the ferry that night. I was so happy to be back there and so we had a great last dinner, where I felt I was back in the study abroad program and then went to the paniyiri for some Greek dancing.
We hung out with the students, but mostly with the director’s son. Our ferry was at midnight, Ilias told us to leave 10 PM or 10:30 PM at the latest. His son though, said to leave at 11 PM. I didn’t want to chance it though, so 10:30 was my time to go. We only had 1-2 hours at the festival. So, as it was nearing the time to go, I said goodbye to my friend and was going to go to Ilias to ask for the ride. His son stopped me saying we didn’t have to leave yet and then told his dad that he would drive us. So, I sat uneasily, not sure if he right. At 10:45, I was too nervous and said we needed to leave, even if I was being too cautious. So, after saying lots of goodbyes, we were on the road.
There was traffic though and with one-way streets, it was hard to get to our hotel to pick up our bags. We rushed in, said bye to Ares and looked for my friend and his car, because we were short on time and had to make it over to the port and on the ship in 15 minutes. We saw him walking down the street though and realized he had parked the car. He saw us and ran back but we followed hoping to just get out of there.
The ride to the port was excruciating. We had to find the right dock and had less than 10 minutes before it left. My friend at one point said to call his dad, so he could ask the mayor of Soroni to call the ferry company and ask them to hold the ship. I called but got no answer. He was at the paniyiri where loud Greek dancing was going on. So, he then took some drastic steps in the last 5 minutes before our ship was set to leave and started dodging into the other lane, blowing red lights (as cars were coming — drivers are crazy in Europe) until we finally found our dock. We saw the ship from the road, but it was so far away and we had less than 2 minutes to be on it. So, he took some crazy corners and then punched in this pedestrian area.
When we reached the ship, he pulled up the emergency break to stop the car and jumped out yelling something in Greek to the guys working the dock. They yelled something back and he then told us to run. Sarah ran on with her bag and my friend carried mine on for me. But once on the gate, they yelled at him because he didn’t have a ticket and so he had to give me a quick hug and said goodbye. They were literally closing the ramp and pulling away from the port as we walked on. I looked back and waved at my friend standing by his car, who was now laughing, and then looked at Sarah saying “I’m never listening to him again.” He had told us that he had never missed a ferry or a flight dropping people off, no matter how close and that’s why we should listen to him and leave at 11 PM. We showed up at 11:59 PM and counting. Literally 10 seconds later, we would not have had a ride.
Trying to brush of the adrenaline in a cabin full of sleeping people was hard. But, I still wasn’t feeling that great and thinking about how great it was to be back in Rhodes and how sad I was to leave yet again. We tried to get some sleep in these odd chairs, but we were just biding time waiting for Santorini to come in the morning.