Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rhodes, Greece

Rhodes was a true diamond in the ruff. A destination that I knew very little about, expected much less from, and instead discovered a treasure trove of wonders. This port stop was certainly the most surprising stop of the entire cruise, and one of the most memorable, for several reasons.

Prior to leaving for the cruise, I had tried to do as much research as I could on all of the ports of call. Unfortunately, I found the least amount of information Rhodes. It seemed like guide books just glossed over the island. So, I figured, this would be one of those not-so-memorable type of port stops where the highlight would be the beach, or something like that. That couldn't have been any further from the truth.

Rhodes is a rather large island that is located just off the coast of Turkey. Therefore, the feel of this largest of the Dodecanese islands, feels much more Eastern than it does Western. From my research, I had decided that we were going to take try and take the public bus out the city of Lindos and try and climb to the top of the Acropolis. Beyond that, I wasn't quite sure what we would find, what we would see, and how we would feel about it. Luckily, I was able to get some help in advance regarding the bus schedule from Rhodes Town (where we were docked) to Lindos, so I had an idea of timing of everything in relation to our time in port.
However, we got off to a bit of a late start. Due to some high winds, and the tricky way that the Ruby Princess had to dock at Rhodes Town, we were almost 30 minutes late in docking. The ship actually docks just outside of the Old Town portion of Rhodes Town. Old Town is enclosed behind a very thick and formidable wall that was used for protection purposes in medieval days. Old Town tends to be the favorite stop of most cruise passengers arriving in Rhodes.

As soon as passengers were cleared to disembark the ship, we were one of the first ones off. We immediately tried to find the bus station to catch the bus to Lindos. We had 30 minutes to make our way there, and it appeared that it was going to be pretty tight in timing. The bus station in Rhodes Town was not easy to find at all. It's not within the walls of Old Town, and it took me asking about 5 people for directions, and about 25 minutes before I found the bus station. Once I arrived, we located the bus to Lindos, the bus driver opened up the doors, we paid for our tickets, and the bus took off for Lindos exactly on time at 9:00 am.

The drive from Rodos (Rhodes Town) to Lindos took approximately 90 minutes, with a few stops in between. Surprisingly, the island is rather large, and in terms of distance, the two cities are separated by almost 70km. In Lindos, the bus actually drops you at Krana Square, which sits above Lindos itself. Like most other Greek islands, Lindos is made up of whitewashed houses. The town itself sits down at sea level, and the famous Acropolis of Lindos rests atop this huge rock that seemingly rises up out of nowhere just off the coast. Once you arrive at Krana Square, you still need to get yourself down to the main square of Lindos. This can be accomplished by either taking the free bus that circles between Krana Square and the Lindos Town Square all day, or by walking. In our case, walking was not an option. Luckily for us, the free bus arrived at Krana Square right when our public bus arrived.

The first difference we noticed between Rodos and Lindos was the temperature. Whereas Rodos was windy with the ocean breezes cooling down the town, Lindos was the exact opposite. Even though we were situated right next to the ocean, there was nary an ocean breeze. And the sun was blazing. This was by far the hottest day of the cruise. With the sun pounding down, the temperature soared to well over 100 degrees, and that task of climbing up to the Acropolis became even more daunting.

Once we arrived to the main square in Lindos we had two options for getting to the top of the Acropolis: walk on foot, or take a donkey ride up. I had initially thought that I wanted to take a donkey. But when I got there, I just couldn't do it. Luckily, the first half of the uphill walk to the top of the Acropolis is through Lindos' tourist shopping zone. Somehow walking and looking at souvenirs made the walk not feel so bad. It's only the last little bit up to the ticket booth where the incline becomes quite steep. Once you're past the ticket booth, all that's left to navigate is a steep set of stairs to the main entrance of the Acropolis. However, with the weather being as hot as it was that day, even that last set of stairs was grueling.

The Acropolis in Lindos is certainly not as lauded as that of the Acropolis in Athens; it's history is not as grand; but nonetheless it's views are spectacular. Atop the Acropolis there are few ruins that still stand. There are scattered stone pieces here and there, and it appears that there is a concerted effort to restore, or rebuild, the temples and buildings that once stood atop the Rock. It appears that the lone standing building that remains is a small monastery. However, it's not the buildings that make this Acropolis spectacular, it's the view. From the top of the Acropolis the views out over the ocean are gorgeous. There's a beautiful little cove with a beach down below the Acropolis, and everywhere else you look there's nothing but the beautiful blue ocean with the sun's rays glinting off the surface like explosions of light.

After spending a bit of time atop the Acropolis, we walked back through Lindos and it's maze of vendors stalls, even stopping for a crepe, before making our way back to Krana Square to catch the next bus to Lindos. Our timing was perfect as the next bus was scheduled to depart in less than 10 minutes. The trip from Lindos back to Rodos took a little bit longer than our trip out there because there was a lot more afternoon traffic in Rodos.

By the time we made it back to Rodos, it was early afternoon and we had a few hours left to wander through Old Town. Rhodes Old Town, contained within the city walls was amazing. The cobbled streets, the vendors, the buildings, all of it. There's so much to like about Rhodes, and absolutely nothing to dislike.

Since it was so hot, I couldn't resist stopping at a little gelato place for some cool refreshment. Only this wasn't your typical gelato stand, they were clever enough to shape all of their gelato flavors to look like animals! It was the cutest thing I've ever seen. And it turned out to be pretty good gelato too.
The balance of the afternoon was spent wandering through the cobbled lanes all throughout Old Town and doing a lot of shopping. We also had a little bit of an adventure trying to find our way back to the cruise ship at the end of the day. Subsequently, we ended up walking about halfway around the outside of the Rhodes Old Town city wall.

What a delightful and charming little city Rhodes turned out to be. Lindos was spectacular, albeit a little hot. And Rodos proved to be a charming medieval village. I certainly wouldn't mind going back to Rhodes again in the future.

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