Of all the islands in Greece, Rhodes holds a special place in my heart. It is home to one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World: the Colossus of Rhodes. According to my family, I was born a rather big and plump baby, with a serious and somewhat agitated expression on my face. My Aunt Cathy and Uncle Angelo found this amusing, and would always call me the “Colossus of Rhodes”. Well, even after I thinned out and gained the happy face I often wear today, the name just kind of stuck. Every now and then, I would hear that name addressed to me, and I always wondered, “What does that actually mean?!” Ever since then, I’ve had a desire to travel to Rhodes and go full circle with this childhood nickname of mine. Finally, I was finally able to go there two weekends ago with my friend Salpi and her friend Ansgar, and the experience was….well, pretty colossal.
As I quickly discovered, there is a lot more to Rhodes than just the history of its Colossus. Rhodes is actually home to the best preserved Medieval town in the greater area. Rhodes’ “Old Town” is surrounded by huge fortress walls built by the Venetians and used by the Knights of St. John. It is comprised of narrow corridors of cobblestone floors with traditional lanterns lighting the way. We strolled through there on Friday night, and were amazed at how massive the walls were, and how heavily fortified the Old Town was. There were dozens of canon holes and openings for shooting arrows. Normally in the summer these cobbled streets are lined with crowds of tourists going to local tavernas or souvenir shops, but since we went in the off season, we had the whole place to ourselves. Unfortunately, this also gave us a lot of trouble trying to find a place to eat dinner, We eventually got lost and ended up at a seafood restaurant, where I ate the best, and most expensive, seafood I have ever had. On our plates that evening were: freshly grilled octopus (of course), stuffed calamari with feta and tomato (AMAZING), and a local fish called ‘”Dentrix”. To celebrate our Rhodes arrival, we decided to indulge and get a bottle of delicious local white wine. We made friends with the owner and eventually got desert on the house. After the dinner, we wandered around the harbor and got some more desert…who can resist real Greek frozen yogurt with gobs of nutella?
Then we found it: the bases for the Colossus. Unfortunately, nothing remains of the actual statue, just the bases on which it is believed he stood. According to some experts, this massive bronze statue stood at the entrance of the harbor, most likely to highlight Rhode’s increasing economic success from sea trade in ancient times. It is said that his feet stood on two bases that line the harbor entrance, forcing ships to cross beneath him. However, the statue only lasted for 50 years due to an earthquake that sent him tumbling down.
The next day we walked around the city to catch a glimpse of the basses in daylight. Rhodes’s symbol must be a deer, because on each base there is a deer statue, and all over the streets there are deer mosaics. Apart from the Old Town, Rhodes is also known for its city of Lindos. Since it was the off season, most of the buses were shut down, so we made friends with a taxi driver, who was actually from Lindos, and got a discounted rate to and from the city. Like every other male in this country, his name was Costas, and told us that before the crisis he was a professor in restaurant management, where he taught how to treat tourists as actual human beings and not just walking dollar bills. His positive outlook on Greece and tourists was very refreshing. Lindos is a quaint city that rests below a massive acropolis that dates 50 years before the acropolis of Athens was built. On the Lindos acropolis, there are remains to a temple to Apollo, which we were able to go inside since we were the only ones there; technically that’s illegal…but oh well!
Of course most of the restaurants were closed since it was November, so we wandered around until we found one taverna that had lights on inside. Much to our surprise, the old man who owned it decided to open up four hours early for us (I forgot it was Siesta time where everyone is napping)! After lunch, we called Costas to pick us up, and we went back to the Old Town for drinks and calamari with the owner of the fish restaurant. We seemed to make a lot of new friends that weekend in Rhodes! We then did our normal nightly routine: get fro-yo and eat it next to the Colossus bases. Not a bad way to spend my weekend nights.
On Sunday, the Old Town was suddenly bustling with tourists and open stores because a cruise ship rolled into the city that day. To the shop owners of Rhodes, this meant all hands on deck! We went window shopping and came across some boats on the harbor that were selling local shell trinkets. The experience was something that reminded me of my family vacations to the beach, so I felt right at home and knew that this is somewhere I want to take my family one day. We then decided to go swimming! Yep, I’m still swimming in Greece, even in mid November! The Aegean actually was pretty cold and rough that day, but failed to prevent us from jumping in. Later, we saw the sun set into the hills of Turkey on the horizon. As opposed to all the other sunsets, this time the sun turned a bright pink that lasted in the sky a good hour after it went down. It was the perfect way to end our stay. The whole weekend was such a joy to me, and I thought of my aunt the whole time. I am so happy I had the chance to have such a personal trip, and I can’t wait to show all the pictures and videos to my family.
Harry, the pink sun is so beautiful! What a personal fulfillment for you to actually set foot on the place that is entwined in your childhood memories. This trip was just meant to be!