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A Lesser Known Agean Gem – Bhagyashree Travels to Rhodes

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Choppy waters didn’t disturb my sleep at all. A glass of good red wine was all I needed to make me sleep through the night like a baby, till we reached Rhodes. (The other 3 couples did complain of a little nausea though.)

We had left the lovely island of Santorini after getting completely lost in the glow of the mesmerising sunset. Dinner on the yacht in the finest Rosenthal and wine in Belgian crystalware and we were ready to set sail. The Captain had warned us that we might experience some rough seas, though very rare in the Agean.

The morning welcomed us to the calm waters outside Rhodes Town. The old town has been declared an ancient heritage site by UNESCO. It is all intact within the fort, the Grand Palace, the Acropolis, the cobbled and stone paved pathways and the ruins of the ancient temple of Aphrodite (the Greek goddess of love). There are about 10 gates to the town depending on the purpose and convenience of entry. Since we were at the harbour we entered through the Marine Gate or St. Catherine’s gate.  It is one of the most beautiful entrances to the stone-walled fort as well, carved with the Virgin Mary, St Peter and St John. It opens into the Ippokratous Square which branches into the shopping streets of Rhodes Town.

We were pleasantly surprised when two young girls walked up to us singing “Pyaar hua… ikraar huaa…” from the Raj Kapoor classic. They were street singers, strumming on their banjo guitars. When we smiled they went on to sing, “Tujhe dekha toh yeh jaana sanam…” – Sharukh’s universal call of love. Absolutely amazing, we were thrilled to see that Indian film music really has international acceptance. Giving them a baksheesh of 5 Euros, we started our exploration of the town.

The old town of Rhodes has scores of shops selling beautiful intricate jewellery, spices, olives and olive oil. Greece is known for its finesse of design. It also has a number of stores having beautiful soft cotton garments, the quality of which is unsurpassable. That I think was the Turkish influence as the cotton quality was indeed as good if not better. We women could barely have enough. Even just window shopping was fun, equipped with gelatos in hand to combat the afternoon heat.

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But shopping aside, we first wanted to understand and partake in the history of the place, so we set off. The Socrates Street which now houses these shops leads on to the Mosque of Sulieman. It was built in honour of the King Sulieman after the takeover of Rhodes by the Ottoman dynasty. It was also the first mosque in the town of Rhodes. We then went on the historic 600m cobbled street called the Street of the Knights, at the end of which is the Palace, an awe-inspiring structure with huge stone walls. Built in the 7th century for the Grand Master of the Order of the Knights of Jerusalem, it was used as his palace and administrative centre. The hallways in the Palace were done up beautifully with mosaic tiles – surprising feminine in the structure’s otherwise completely masculine demeanour. We walked down the Street of Knights, seeping in the history of wars fought on this little island. Near the Siam Square stood the ruins of the temple of Aphrodite – that however was disappointing as there were nothing more than a few well preserved stones. Unlike the ruins one gets to see in Athens there is no structure that can define how it must have looked. 8 to 10 minutes were all that was required. Rhodes has been under the Order of Jerusalem, the Turkish as well as Italian rule – so one finds a mix of all the cultures in their food, architecture as well as dialect. There is also a great Gothic influence in their buildings. I must emphasise though that everything is kept extremely clean, even though there are so many tourists.

By now however, shopping for the ladies had created hunger pangs for the men, especially since every restaurant had the host/hostess making that extra effort of warmly welcoming you inside or tempting you with an ideal location or outstanding service even though the restaurants were buzzing with tourists. It felt nice to see each of them going that extra mile in their jobs, something we need to learn.

However we wanted an ambiance of an outdoor café so we picked to have a lazy luncheon at Café Auvergne near the Temple of Aphrodite. We gorged on the rich avocado salad, amazing pizzas, and dollops of ice-cream. A couple of Bloody Marys and Mojitos were enough to get the men happy and set to take us on another round of retail therapy.

With bags laden with goodies, by early evening we decided to head back to shower and get ready to see the nightlife of this quaint little town. Right across the Ippokratous Square was a lane of small bars with a delightful spectrum of music – right from Jazz to Country, from House to Latin beats. The choice for us was obvious as we saw a couple swirling to the beats of the Lambada. My hubby extended his hand with a twinkle in his eye, ready to practice his salsa, recently learnt from a week’s stay in London. Me? …. well, I had no choice to sway my hips to match him till we realised all our friends had invited the previously dancing couple to watch our amateur attempt. “Honey, I think we better eat salsa than dance it”, I said, trying to hide my giggles as I dragged him to join our friends. As we downed our Margaritas we were enthralled by an elderly gentleman outside the bar doing the moves with his 7 year old granddaughter. They were soon joined by a young couple who went on to do the Rumba… and so it continued till the entire street was dancing. It wasn’t a nightclub scene or that of the discotheque. It was infact like an Indian sangeet after party with kids, youngsters and adults all out to have fun. Their energy and enthusiasm stayed with us as we walked back to our yacht calling it a night.

The next day we headed to the Ixia beach which is ideal for windsurfing and other such water sports because of the wind factor. Though all I did was jet-ski, it was fun watching the others try their stunts. Since they were all first-timers, they were more often in the water than on it.

The beach here was not a sandy one. I hadn’t seen a pebbled one before – so it was a first for me. It did have the sunbeds and restaurants but I did prefer the one at Faliraki, one of the small villages on the other side of the island which we went to later. It had a long sandy beach and was definitely the more popular one. It had lovely restaurants with fresh catches of the day and ranged from Greek, Italian to Turkish food. We had our lunch at the Dimitri, the first and oldest restaurant of the island. Family-run through generations, they were impeccable in their service and food. I have yet to taste better Mousakka than I had that day.

Since it was the last night before we headed back home, we decided to go all out and party through the night. Dressed in our shimmers over our shorts, we headed towards Club Paradiso, an open air nightclub, a little further away from town but totally worth the experience. We were surprised to know that we had gotten lucky as Swedish House Mafia was performing that night. As well-trained parents, we took out videos of the performance to send to our teenage kids and we very well knew how the night was going end.

“Why haven’t you taken us?”

“You all don’t even know how cool it is!”

“We should be the ones doing these things, not you.”

We received a barrage of messages from our teen kids back home. Clearly they didn’t know that their parents were still capable of outdoing them. We would send them our Mafia videos we promised each other. Enjoy, we would for sure. After all we had just been spiked by the Rhodian enthusiasm.

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