Rhodes and Crete
Rhodes We are staying in the old town of Rhodes and once we find our two bedroom apartment we put Don to bed. Katrina and I go in search of a supermarket for supplies.
Dinner consists of nibbles (dip, prosciutto, cheese), a G&T, followed by a bottle of greek red. We had considered buying Gin in Turkey until we saw the price. Gin is 50% cheaper in Rhodes (even though we are now working in euros), the variety, quality and price of wine has also improved.
Rhodes is the largest island in the Dodecanese. This cluster of islands are in the most south eastern part of the Aegean. The old town has a long and complex history, its cobbled streets have been inhabited since as early as 1100 BC (probably a dirt track back then). The island has seen many owners and its occupants switched loyalty as easily as the turning of the tide.
We spend the next day exploring the walled city; whilst Roman ruins are evident in certain parts the old city steps you back into medieval times. Meandering through the streets, visiting the castle and soaking up the atmosphere. Don is feeling better, or at least is determined not to miss out.
The latest craze in Europe are fish spas, little fish that eat away at your feet, feasting on the dead skin. I had to give it a go; those fish better be hungry as well! After 20min of little fish nibbling away, I don’t seem to have silky smooth feet. I suspect that would take a lot more fish and a lot longer! A novelty at best.
Day three, our flight to Crete is not until 6:30pm so, to fill our day, we drive to the seaside town of Lindos. From the approaching road above you look down onto a quaint seaside village nestled into a cove of clear turquoise water; the houses awash in white, umbrellas and beach chairs neatly aligned along the shoreline. It’s quintessentially greek and looking gorgeous! We while away the day enjoying the sunshine and warm waters.
As we approach the airport we need to decide where to leave the car. Option A: leave it at the airport – we discover this is going to cost €6 a day (I.e. add 50%, equalling AUD$9). Option B: drive back and leave it in the old town. We opt for the later, it also seems like a safer option.
We had asked Christos at the hotel and he said it would be fine. As luck would have it, Don gets a spot within sight of his hotel where Christos spends most evenings sitting out the front. I don’t know what he would do, or if he would even notice our car, but it seems the best option. Fingers crossed it is still there when we get back!
Crete Our next destination is Chania on Crete. it’s about a 2hour drive from the airport in Iraklio (Crete’s capital).
Driving in Greece is a new experience. We pick up the cheap and nearly empty of petrol, hire car, (that’s why it’s cheap) and enquire about speed limits; is it like Turkey, where no one sticks to them? Of course the recommendation is to stick to the speed limits, but up to about 100km per hour is OK. That’s a little less than the 130 we had been doing across Turkey. Anyway, I don’t think our little buzz box will do much more than 100.
As we all know, the Greek economy is in a bit of a shambles. In Rhodes, we can’t say we noticed anything to suggest this. We were perhaps protected by what I would term the ‘tourist bubble’. On Crete, the first sign of troubled times is the lack of road maintenance, not just in the condition of the roads, but finding your way is a challenge, due to road signs obscured by overgrown trees and/or graffiti making the destinations illegible. The fact that most signs are in Greek didn’t help either! Greek drivers are a little more conservative and we get the hint that we should stick to the speed limit!
There are speed cameras on the road to Chania every 10km or so, like driving in Sydney, they warn you several times on approach, but most are wrapped in plastic; maybe waiting for funds to afford operating them. I doubt they are digital, maybe they can’t buy the film anymore!
We arrive in Chania (some spell it Hania) about 10pm and we are surprised with how busy the town is for a Sunday night; it’s full of people young and old. We later deduce it has something to do with upcoming elections. Our initial impression of Chania was disappointing. The guide books rave about this town, but we couldn’t see what the attraction was.
Heading back in the following day it is chaos; the traffic is at a stand still and it takes forever to find a parking spot. However, once we venture into the old town, Charnia starts to redeem itself. The small port is lined with cafes, the narrow laneways covered in flowering Bougainvillea. We find a delectable place for lunch and are glad that we came.
Outside of Chania, hidden in the hills is the Monastery Agia Triada, this was ‘the find’ of Chania. It also reminds you of the benefits of a car, we would otherwise never have discovered this out-of-the-way place. The monastery was established in 1632 and is still a working monastery. The monks (who stayed well hidden) produce wine, olive oil and some other products. Of course we couldn’t resist buying a bottle of red to try. It was more like a port than wine, so it went down well as an after dinner night cap.
Rethymno, is a lovely seaside town mid point between Chania and Iraklio, smaller than Chania, it is definitely more appealing. The Venetian port is like most, lined with restaurants, all eagerly touting for your business. It is early, 11am, but the business cards are out, with promises of the best meal in Crete! We spend a couple of hours in the town.
Don is looking very much like the greek fisherman, all in blue and white. The beard days are numbered , so we take the opportunity to capture the look, even borrowing a fishing boat for a photo shoot.
Knossos, is located just outside of Iraklio and was the capital of Minoan Crete, the first palace built on the site dates back to 1900 BC. The city was rebuilt twice after earthquakes only to finally burn down sometime around 1400 BC. Sir Arthur Evans discovered the city in 1900 and began excavation and restoration with his own money. His work is now considered controversial and its merit debated amongst experts, as his restoration work is obvious from the timber and concrete he used.
Today, the ongoing restoration and preservation work is more sophisticated and replicates the original materials. Resources, skills and expertise which were not available to Evans. If he hadn’t done the restoration that he did at the time, it may have been lost. Regardless of the debate, walking through Knossos gives you a sense of the grandeur and style in which the palace was built.
We follow-up with a visit to the museum located back in the old part of Iraklio. Here there is a scale model of the palace that puts it all into perspective. The museum displays an incredible array of artifacts, many of which are from Knossos. We spent a couple of hours taking it all in, from miniature stone crafted animals, ornate bowls and vases, delicately designed jewellery. I have to say, it was one of the best museums I have been to.