Tracy’s Travels in Rhodes
Enjoy this photo gallery of my travels in Rhodes, researching for Isle of Shadows.
Tracy’s Travels in RhodesRhodes, Greece
What do a Mexican festival, a broken-down bus, and New York City traffic have in common? All things that conspired to delay our arrival at JFK Airport in NYC sufficiently that we missed our flight. No amount of cajoling or begging will convince the ticket counter clerk to let us onto the flight scheduled to leave in 45 minutes. Several dashes to various ticket counters ensue, culminating in one hour at the Delta counter trying to get our flight changed to anything sooner than twenty-four hours later. We are determined not to lose a day but don’t want to spend a fortune to change things around either. In the end we board a flight to Frankfurt, Germany rather than Athens and arrive there at about the same time Monday morning that we had expected to be in Athens. Our hope is that Olympic Airlines (scheduled to take us from Athens to Rhodes) will be able to get us there from Frankfurt. They can, but not directly.
Getting startedRhodes, Greece
Stepping into Frankfurt, I feel the difference in culture immediately. The airport feels as though it was designed and built by the Ikea designers – all simple, clean lines. It is quieter than any airport I’ve ever been in – as though traveling were serious business and one shouldn’t muck it up with frivolous architecture and mindless noise. We stand in a long but silent line to get through customs, then retrieve our baggage and head to the Olympic Airlines desk. Another hour spent there working on options. But here at the Olympic desk we encounter our first little bit of Greece, in the person of Uvdovlia, the Greek woman behind the counter (who looks, incidentally, exactly like Aunt Voula from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, especially in her travel-industry blazer.) Uvdovlia and another clerk (this one from NYC!) help us reroute our trip from Frankfurt, to Thessolonika (or “Sol-a-NEEK-e” as they keep saying) then a plane switch and onto Athens.
Into FrankfurtRhodes, Greece
In contrast with the stark simplicity and silence of the German airport, the Athens airport seems alive with the expressive personality of Greece. Information is fairly shouted through loudspeakers, and the European habit of pushing into whatever part of the line you choose leaves me hanging back in surprise, with Joan pulling me forward to hold my place. Another plane switch and finally, our first glimpse of the Greek islands from high above.
Approaching GreeceRhodes, Greece
The Aegean at night
We land on the island of Rhodes around 8 PM and catch a taxi to the Hilton. It would seem that cab drivers are the same the world over – all maniacal speeds around hairpin turns, slammed brakes and mutterings. But to be speeding along the Aegean Sea, passing Greek shops and restaurants, it truly feels like another world. We are exhausted, but want to see a little bit of the hotel, and end up at a table beside the pool feasting on grilled vegetables, cheese, and some type of spicy meatball. Delicious. I type this now on the balcony of our room, which overlooks both the pool and the Aegean Sea. It’s been dark since we arrived, so we are anxious to see the sea from our balcony in the morning but the lit-up cruise ship drifting past along the horizon gives us a taste of what’s in store. Tomorrow, into Old Town to walk where Tessa and Nikos walked!
The Aegean at nightRhodes, Greece
A leisurely beginning to our day, with a breakfast buffet in the hotel. In addition to my omelet and coffee, I broaden myself to eat Kalamata olives and smoked cheese for breakfast. Then go back for more. In the front of the hotel we catch a taxi. Our driver George, a native to Rhodes, chats us up on our way to the Old Town, and drops us in front of the Palace of the Grand Master with a “Listen, girls, I will explain.” He gives us a brief lay of the land, will not take enough euros to cover the fare because he does not have exact change, and wishes us a good holiday. We get his card and plan to call him again tomorrow.
Meet GeorgeRhodes, Greece
Palace of the Grand Master
Through the Palace of the Grand Master, I walk among stones older than any I’ve touched in my life, though my impatience to push through this medieval section and into the ancient has me nearly discounting the amazing architecture and history.
Palace of the Grand MasterRhodes, Greece
Streets of Rhodes
The babble of languages among tourists is fascinating. We hear very little English spoken, and our driver George has told us that few Americans visit here. Twice through the day we have shop vendors ask if we are Australian, I suppose because that is where they most often hear English spoken.
Streets of RhodesRhodes, Greece
Drifting out of the medieval fortress I encounter my first local shopping district and am enchanted. I have to keep reminding myself that this is not a Disney reproduction, it’s the real thing!
Finding the harbor
We walk along the city wall and find the water, then follow the water north, stopping first at the harbor, where several cruise ships are docked awaiting their guests who are also wandering Rhodes.
Finding the harborRhodes, Greece
Imagining the Colossus
We climb a battlement above the water, and look back at the Palace, the most likely site where the Colossus would have stood, as it can be seen from both harbors.
Imagining the ColossusRhodes, Greece
I find a stone wall and sit awhile, drinking in the view and imagining Helios towering over me there. I am having trouble believing I am truly here. After so many months with the setting and characters, I feel as though I actually know the people who lived here.
The HarborRhodes, Greece
We walk down into the Mandraki harbor, and find the statues of the deer, such a famous image of Rhodes. Again, reality is difficult to believe. I have looked at pictures of these deer for many months. To stand beneath them, to touch the pillars, seems a dream. We walk along the dock and see the broken pieces below us of the former dock, now in disrepair because the water line has risen.
Nikos’s dockRhodes, Greece
Fact or Fiction?
Again, I tell myself that this is the dock where Nikos loaded grain onto a barge, and then remind myself that Nikos is a fictional character. Fiction and reality, memory and imagination, it is all blurring now.
Fact or Fiction?Rhodes, Greece
Servia’s training house
Across the harbor, the line of houses and shops juts into the Aegean, and I pan with the video to catch the harbor district that is the setting for Servia’s training house. From this distance I can imagine the street in its ancient form. It is only when we circle the harbor and walk the dock that the shops and banks become modern again.
Servia’s training houseRhodes, Greece
We trek through a small part of the New City but it is the Old City that calls us and we quickly cross back. Here, the streets are lined with houses of unknown antiquity, now converted into shops to service the booming tourist trade. We criss-cross street after street of vendors selling pottery, glassware, tapestries, jewelry, and artwork. I am trying not to spend money yet, to first get an idea of what’s available, and yet my fascination with so many items draws the shop owners to my side to extol the virtues of each item I pause to examine. It is hard to say ‘no’ but we keep moving.
More shoppingRhodes, Greece
Off the beaten path
My adventurous travel partner Joan won’t let us stay in the main thoroughfares long. Each time she sees an empty alley, we duck in and find ourselves making delightful discoveries along the way. We wind through streets, and here in the less tourist-driven parts of town we encounter the real life in Rhodes.
Off the beaten pathRhodes, Greece
Back streets of Rhodes
Open doors allow us to peek quickly in as we walk, glimpsing tiny homes, cluttered and cramped, many with TVs delivering entertainment to elderly Greek folk.
Back streets of RhodesRhodes, Greece
We discover ourselves in the Jewish district eventually, and pass by several synagogues, but life here seems much the same as in the rest of the Old Town.
Synagogue entranceRhodes, Greece
We are just beginning to get hungry when we round a corner and discover a little café that had been recommended in one of our travel books. We immediately claim a street-side table and sigh heavily as we get off our feet. The cobbled streets have left us both foot-sore. I am craving a Coke, and the waitress brings one quickly in a glass bottle with Greek lettering. We point to dishes on the menu, ask her “what is this?” and she looks at us blankly. No English. So we simply point and nod, and she nods, and we have ordered.
Rest time!Rhodes, Greece
The meal is delicious. My favorite part is the grape-leaf wrapped rice and meat, called dolmades.
Enjoying lunchRhodes, Greece
We people-watch, try to guess nationalities of those who walk past, and enjoy the respite. Unlike American restaurants, they are in no hurry here to get rid of us. It’s difficult to get the check, and takes quite awhile to pay it.
When a waiter finally brings back the credit card, he also brings two glasses of ouzo “on the house.” Along with the ouzo is a pitcher of water, and we soon learn why.This anise-flavored liqueur is a fixture in Greece, but tastes absolutely awful, in my opinion. Joan grabs for the water and I grab for the bread, both desperate to erase the taste.
Wandering RhodesRhodes, Greece
We rouse ourselves from dinner, discover more side streets and wander. The sun is going down, the lights of the town are coming on and the restaurants are coming alive. Music plays on every corner, and outdoor seating begins to fill up. The restaurants have employees standing on the cobbled streets, trying to entice people in, and we have to say “no thank you” many times. Earlier in the day one of these restaurateurs had called to Joan with a “Hello, kitten…” After seeing several dozen cats through the streets all day, we are no longer certain it was complimentary! We make our way back toward the Palace of the Grand Master, back to the street corner where we began our day, and find a taxi waiting, just for us it seems.
Evening comes…Rhodes, Greece
End of the day
It is fully dark now and after a quick ride back to the hotel, we walk out the beach to soak our tired feet in the dark Aegean. The beach is narrow and pebbled, but the cool water feels wonderful. We do a little shopping in a local market there on the street then head back to sit beside the pool in the dark and simply relax and reflect on the day. To be in Rhodes, to have walked the streets and met the people, seems a bit more real to me tonight, but still I finish the day on our balcony overlooking the night sea and am amazed that I am here. I could repeat the whole wonderful day tomorrow but I know that nothing will ever quite match my first day in a European town. Though the medieval influence is strong here, it is not difficult to imagine the ancient Greeks hurrying along narrow alleys, mending their nets on the beaches, and living their lives in the shadow of the Colossus. I have lived one day in its long-fallen shadow and found it one of the most fascinating days of my life.
End of the dayRhodes, Greece
Again today we are in no hurry to rush out of the hotel. We eat breakfast here, then head out to try our luck at catching a bus. The schedule is posted, but seems to be only a general idea. We wait close to thirty minutes, and enjoy a conversation with a British couple also waiting. The bus takes us down into the new city where we exchange some money and then begin the walk to the Acropolis. It takes about thirty minutes to make the walk, through slightly more upscale neighborhoods and generally uphill. We pass a house that is a replica of the type of house Glaucus would have lived in.
Day 4Rhodes, Greece
Temple of Apollo
I can see that from any point on this walk the statue and possibly even the sea on the southeast side of the island would have been visible. The houses thin and suddenly we are at the edge of a dirt clearing. We look up and see the three columns of the Temple of Apollo looming on the hill in the distance above us. This is it! It is just as I imagined, and yet different.
Temple of ApolloRhodes, Greece
We walk through a grove of trees, and pass the remains of the gymnasium on our left, now only a rough outline of stones. But then there is the stadium! It cannot look much different than it did 2000 years ago, so well preserved is it. A running track lines the perimeter at the base of the seats.
Who wants to run?
I get a sense of how long one stadia, was as the whole complex is longer than I had imagined. As we stand at the entrance to the stadium we are also at the base of a small theater, this one holding about 800 spectators.
Who wants to run?Rhodes, Greece
The theater has been partially restored and is beautiful. Joan sends me the top, then stands in the center of the odeion and speaks softly so I can get the amphitheater effect. She calls for a vote on Glaucus’ murder, which makes me smile.
From the top
Upward then to the Temple of Apollo above us. We turn around to look over the theater, gymnasium and stadium, and I see that from this hill, the sea is visible beyond, and the Colossus would have been as well.
From the topRhodes, Greece
Temple of Apollo
Temple of ApolloRhodes, Greece
Temple areaRhodes, Greece
The fragment of the angled roofline hints at the decorative touches they took the time to include. This temple complex is more far-flung than it appears from below, where one can only see the three stately columns rising from the hill. In reality, there are numerous walls delineating courtyards and other rooms all around the temple. The size of the structure awes me. How did the ancients possibly build these monuments without machinery?
Temple ruinsRhodes, Greece
Ancient meets Modern
An airpline flies by, and I’m able to catch a picture of it passing beyond the temple’s pillars.
Ancient meets ModernRhodes, Greece
We circle the temple taking pictures from all angles then descend down into the ruins to explore a bit.
Scouting aroundRhodes, Greece
Beside the theater, we spot some niches in the wall, and I wonder if these are the entrances to back-stage rooms. One of them has been blocked by large stones but another seems open. I peer in, unwilling to step into the darkness, and Joan urges me in. I’ve been trying to confront my utter terror of small, enclosed spaces in anticipation of my trip to the pyramids in a few months, and Joan says this is a good time to practice. The space leads inward, under the temple foundations, and I must crouch to move forward. I take a deep breath, crawl four feet in, and stop. Behind me, in the wide, fresh air, Joan says “keep going!” I take a few more steps and see that the passageway ends with a turn to the right. Fighting panic, I try to turn to get back out and nearly wedge myself between the walls. I escape back out to the sunshine, and find Joan has been taking video of my backside as I crawl. I swipe the camera from her, turn on the light, and venture back in, this time using the light to see around the corner. The passageway takes another bend, and there is no way I’m going farther. I’m already quite proud of myself for getting this far! When we have exhausted this area, it is time to go looking for the Temple of Athena. We know that it is not well-preserved and may be difficult to find, but we have a general sense of the direction. Walking that way, we first encounter the caves of the Nymphaeum.
On a plateau overlooking the island, numerous narrow stone paths and steps lead deep underground. All the entrances that we immediately encounter have gates barring entrance, but we can get a good sense of what they might hold. We range all over this rocky field, discovering more caves as we walk, but no sign of the Temple.
Nymphaem CavesRhodes, Greece
It is not until we venture a little farther west to the cliff above the sea and begin to walk south along the cliff that we sense we are getting warmer. We stumble over a small plaque telling us that we are standing on the foundations of the stoa which bordered the temple on the east side. We keep going, and then we are there. Only a few feet from the highway, and right beside a field of satellite towers, one broken column lies on its side, a telltale marker for the Temple of Athena Polias, the Athena of the City. I climb on the pillar so Joan can snap a picture, and take a moment to reflect on the ancient hands that carved the piece beneath me.
Picture timeRhodes, Greece
Along the ridge
We continue on along the cliff’s edge, thinking about Nikos and Spiro fighting here.The view is gorgeous and the blue water, spectacular.
Along the ridgeRhodes, Greece
Gorgeous viewRhodes, Greece
Wonderful rest of the day!
Back down through the Temple of Apollo, past the theater and the stadium, and down to the entrance to the area, where we are hoping our cab driver, George, whom we called earlier, will find us. We wait only a few minutes, and then he is there, and whisks us back to the hotel. He insists again that we see Lindos, but it seems too far. We overpay him this time, to make up for yesterday. He tries to refuse but we say thank you, efadasto, and promise to call him again tomorrow if we need a taxi. It is mid-afternoon and Joan goes to keep her massage appointment. After two days of walking it seems only right! We spend the afternoon snoozing, eating paninis by the pool, relaxing down at the beach. I take a quick dip in the Aegean. The sea floor is pebbly and uneven here, but the water is blue and warm. After my massage (!) we grab a taxi and head down into Old Town again. It’s getting dark, and again the city is coming alive. We eat Greek gyros at an outdoor café then do some shopping.
Wonderful rest of the day!Rhodes, Greece
I am collecting souvenirs to bring back for readers, and it’s fun shopping for people I haven’t yet encountered. After nine, we find an outdoor Greek folk- dancing show and watch for an hour or so. About twelve men and women dance in various costumes, to music played live by a guitar, percussion, and something that looks like a mandolin but is being played with a bow like a violin. I record the music live, to use later as the background music for this travel journal. The gyros and the dancing have me feeling quite Greek, and we spend some more time traversing the narrow back streets, so enchanting in the lamplight.
Let’s dance!Rhodes, Greece
Late night shopping
More shopping, but it is getting so late the shopkeepers are beginning to pull their wares off the streets and into their shops. It is nearly midnight and we stop for pastry, sit on the stone steps in the town square, and plan tomorrow. Was it only this morning that we climbed to the Acropolis? Today feels as though we have lived three days in Greece. A cab ride back to the hotel, a quick email check, some time to record the day, and I close another chapter. I will fall asleep wondering what discoveries tomorrow will bring.
Late night shoppingRhodes, Greece
Acropolis of Lindos
Day 5 Between our taxi driver, George, and the concierge at the hotel, we have been convinced that the nearby town of Lindos is “a must see.” Though the town is twenty-five miles south of Rhodes and not part of the book’s setting at all, everyone seems to think we are crazy to come to Rhodes and not see Lindos. The cost of the taxi seems prohibitive but the hotel concierge assures us that the bus is cheap and comfortable. We decide to do Lindos today. We take a taxi down into the Old Town, then switch to the bus to Lindos. The trip takes a little over an hour, and it’s a great chance to see more of Rhodes. Much of the drive is along the coast, with more beaches, rocky mountains, and blue sea. The Acropolis of Lindos is the big attraction, and we are still quite far away when it becomes clear why. Perched high above the sea, the walls around the temple complex make it look like a medieval fortress.
Acropolis of LindosRhodes, Greece
Ride to the top
When the bus drops us in the parking lot below the Acropolis, we get a better sense of just how high this amazing structure is. And the climb it’s going to take to get there! We start out, bracing ourselves for many steps upward. We haven’t gotten far, however, when we pass through a narrow street of shops and find several donkeys, with drivers eager to take five Euro each for a trip up the mountain. After all the walking we’ve done this week, it sounds like a bargain. The donkey driver practically shoves each of us onto a donkey and we start out. I try to turn, to snap a picture of Joan on her mount but the man walking beside her scolds me. “Pictures, later,” he says. “Now – you hold on.” We meander at a donkey’s pace up the cobbled streets, past quaint houses and shops. Behind me, the donkey man moans and groans, somehow communicating to the donkey to go faster, perhaps. He scolds Joan as well, instructing her to “move to the right! No, too far. To the middle!” and so on. Later Joan tells me that he felt as free to slap her from behind as he felt to slap the donkey. I’m glad I was in front! As it turns out, there is no time for pictures here, either, since the driver shoves us off the donkey as soon as we reach the top.
Ride to the topRhodes, Greece
We eavesdrop on an English-speaking Greek tour guide, explaining this Acropolis to his group. Three cultures can be seen in this complex of ruins, and we will see them in reverse chronology as we move through. First, Byzantine medieval walls that surround the area and the steps lead up to the entrance. We climb this high flight of steps, and are again very glad for the donkey ride that got us to this point without climbing.
The beginning…Rhodes, Greece
Inside, we walk through the medieval administration building, and see the Byzantine church built on the site. But beyond that, we get a glimpse of the Roman ruins as well. But it is the ancient ruins that really dominate the site.
Byzantine churchRhodes, Greece
The Temple of Athena here has been partially restored, and the stoa along its side is in the restoration process. Massive steps lead to the temple area, and when we descend them and turn, we get a glimpse of the rooms under the stoa.
Philosophy 101 in Classroom A
I snap a picture of one classroom, and plan to caption it “Philosophy 101 in Classroom A.”
Philosophy 101 in Classroom ARhodes, Greece
Under the stoa
It was in rooms such as this stoa that the principles known at Stoicism began.
Under the stoaRhodes, Greece
Back up to the temple, to walk among the pillars, and get a feel for the ancients’ worship up here at this massive height. I can’t stop taking pictures of the beautiful scenery in every direction.
So beautifulRhodes, Greece
More beautyRhodes, Greece
Paul was here?
Below us lies a cove in the water. History (or perhaps legend) tells us that the Apostle Paul hid here while trying to escape from the Romans.
Paul was here?Rhodes, Greece
One can see from this angle how it would be a great hiding spot, as the entrance is not even visible. We take lots of pictures, and make our way back down what would have been a stairway, we believe, but is now broken rocks. Joan encourages me to slow down, run my fingers over the letters carved into a pillar, and think about the person who placed them there.
Apostle’s CoveRhodes, Greece
The end has come
The walk down the hill is not so bad, and soon we’re back on the bus for Rhodes town. It was a great addition to our trip, and I’m glad we took the time. George the taxi driver was right. A must see! It’s our last evening in Rhodes, and time to figure out a way to get Joan home through Frankfurt. This takes some time and is frustrating. When we’re done, we relax by the pool a bit, go back to the room and pack and then go back down for a “circus show” at the hotel, which leaves us laughing much too hard and is a great way to end our time in Rhodes. Tomorrow we journey to Patmos and then on to Samos where we’ll spend the rest of our time, including a day trip to Ephesus on the coast of Turkey, to do research for a future book. Only three days living in the shadow of the Colossus, and I’m already sad to be leaving. Every minute has been a fantastic experience, a combination of seeing the scenes of the book in new ways, gathering mementos and pictures, and simply broadening my view of the world with my first European travel. I came to this place hoping to have the novel come alive. And somehow, in the streets of Rhodes, I feel as though I have come alive as well.
The end has comeRhodes, Greece
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