Rhodes: there is more than meets the eye

In Rhodes, Greece’s second largest island in the eastern Aegean one can see the mountains of Turkey on the coast of Marmaris only 18 kilometers away.

Italian tourists are stunning to look at. “We lovingly call them ducks,'” says Christine, “because they wade waist deep into the water, create a circle and spend the time talking and maintaining their looks. “Mind you Greeks aren’t that different,” she adds.

We were lucky to have friends show us around.

“It suits me being here, I always had it in my heart to live in Greece” says Christine, who left Adelaide in 1992 with Stelio and her two sons to establish a successful hairdressing salon. “Rhodes is beautiful but sadly many of the English, tourists coming over in charter flights, never experience the history, beauty and life of Rhodes,” she says.

To avoid the drunken hordes avoid Faliraki, its themed bars, second rate Chinese and fish-n-chips take-a-ways.
“I was born and raised in Adelaide, I could not cope with the over-structured Anglo lifestyle,” Christine says as we have a mid morning bougatsa (semolina cream filled filo pastry, dusted with icing sugar and cinnamon), at one of the Turkish sweet shops in Rhode’s Medieval Town.

Rhodes has the UNSESCO Heritage listed Medieval Castle of the Knights of St John.
The Order of Hospitallers, or the Knights of Rhodes were a major Western Christian military order founded in 1202 to provide care for sick pilgrims to the Holy Land.

After conquest of the Holy Land by Islamic forces, the Order operated from Rhodes. Inside the castle in the Old Town of Rhodes one is transported back to the Middle Ages and later the Ottoman occupation.

People still reside in 500-year-old heritage-listed houses. The small, winding, stone paved alleys flow into the Old Town’s main square.
Stelio, was born in the Old Town. “Imagine coming from the suburbs of Adelaide and seeing all this, it was a like a fairytale,” says Christina.

The streets are replete with coffee houses, restaurants and shops ranging from exclusive jewellery and artisan stores, with exceptionally crafted wares, high-end fashion boutiques to those selling tourist trinkets.

The Old Town is a very romantic experience, day or night. “It’s a little tough now, people are not spending as much but things will get better,” says Christine as we stroll through the maze of old alleys in the Old Town. As Stelio points out, “In Rhodes, Turks and Greeks live, work together and intermarry.”

He also points out that Rhode’s handmade ice creams and luxuriant sweets are best at the Turkish establishments.
Rhodes has had a functioning Mosque since the Ottoman Occupation in the 1522 and Catholic churches, as some residents are Catholic due to past colonization by Venetians.

Venetian architecture caresses the port where cruise ships, luxury yachts and ferries berth. Venetian arcades and arched walkways lead to Elli beach.

Elli beach is democratic, all shapes and sizes and all cultures congregate there, with the exception of the English who colonize Faliraki.
Having a beautiful body, a deep tan, brand sunglasses and bikinis or board shorts doesn’t go astray.

Italian tourists are stunning to look at. “We lovingly call them ducks,'” says Christine, “because they wade waist deep into the water, create a circle and spend the time talking and maintaining their looks. “Mind you Greeks aren’t that different,” she adds.
Handsome young Greek men play beach volleyball while their young fit girlfriends strike poses.

The next day, Stelio drives to Kolymbia, a cove on the eastern side of the island. On the way there we stop at Kalithea a glamorous location famous for its hot springs and historic baths built by the Italians. The tourists were of diverse ages but mainly German, Italian, French and Greek, but style was the main currency. Basking behind a sand and shingle cove, Kalithea is great location to swim or just sit in the great bar sipping on an ice tea, or long cold beer. The historic restored baths and museum are great adding to its classic European mystique.

We made it to Kolymbia and Stelio was right, “Sadly not all the tourists see this,” he said. It was astounding! Kolymbia is a matchless cove with sandy beach and crystal clear waters. Importantly it was less crowded than Elli Beach and family friendly.

After four hours of swimming and relaxing, we moved up to the Limanaki Restaurant on the cliff side overlooking the Kolymbia Cove.
It is hard to describe the feeling of having char grilled octopus, calamari, bakaliaro, tzatziki, home made bread, salads and ouzo while looking at the sun set over the cove.

After a moment of contemplation, Stelio turned and said, “I love Australia, its systems, its order… but you can’t find this.”
“This is intangible, it’s a feeling, all you senses are alive,” he added.

I raised my glass and agreed.