After having a blast with Odeon World Travel on the Greek island of Rhodes for a while, I thought that time was ripe for a road trip! Went all the way east from one side of Rhodes to the other, and now I was going back, along the west coast, from Prassonissi to Rhodes town. Didn’t really know what to expect since everybody was always praising the other, eastern coast, because of the calmer waters and sandy beaches. But what a journey it was!
When I have reached Kattania again, the spot where I have turned from the main road towards Prassonissi, it wasn’t long before the road went down by the coast. And it was beautiful! There was nobody on those two lanes, no cars, the Aegean Sea was bathing the rocky shores, few islands were emerging on the horizon and seagulls were flying over. Lovely sight!
How I got lost in a white village
The road soon seemed to go “inland” and after a while I have seen one charming white village surrounded by greenery. A church bell tower was peaking among small densely built houses, and I just had to turn there to have a look. Wanted to drive around, maybe to stop and take a few photos, but the moment I went up one narrow alley, it wasn’t possible to go any further by car. So I just left it there and went on foot.
Those alleys were charming, cobblestone and white walls all around, with an occasional lush bush of flowers hanging from walls or balconies. There was nobody around, like it was deserted, it even made me tiptoeing. I could hear the radio, some Greek song coming through one of the windows, not loud, like coming from the distance. It was hot, crickets were chirping and that was it – no humans in sight!
Managed to find the way through the labyrinth of alleys somehow to come out to the church, to see that bell tower that was craving attention from afar. And then strolled a bit more, trying to find the way back. That one was tricky!
All the alleys seemed to go up or down and I could see that after 10 meters or so they were turning to one side or another. But when I came towards the turning point, they often ended right there! There was no way to go in that direction, except maybe to climb over people’s wall-fences and step over their roofs. So I have turned the opposite way numerous times, trying to come out somewhere wider with a passageway towards the other side of the church. The car was there somewhere.
Yasas in Apolakkia
While rambling around, a woman threw a bucket of water right next to me, humming, trying to wash and cool down the area in front of her doorstep. My first human here! She smiled, said yasas. I said it back and was just planning to utter the question in English, when she smiled again and waved her head in silence, like saying “no use, don’t speak the language”.
Moved on going down and to my surprise, I came out to some kind of a square. One street going up with shops and restaurant terrace, few stores around. Said yasas to one of the men going toward the store, he smiled and I have rushed to ask about the village – didn’t know the name of the place or how to go back to my car, if he could help me, tell me where to turn etc. He was patiently looking at me, quietly and after I have bursted all those questions, he just waved his hand in the air, started to speak fast in Greek and went on his way!
If I could have just filmed it somehow, a scene to watch over and over and laugh. I was so amused, smiled few times and decided to go arooouund the village (not to engage into the white-alleys labyrinth again) and, of course, after a while, found out that the yellow car was in the same spot.
Stopped at the gas station to ask for directions. The village was called Apolakkia, they said, and they looked at me strangely when I said I was driving up the west coast. I found out why soon enough!
High up in the mountains
I was on my way again, driving towards Monolithos. The road was taking me away from the coast and it was going up. After few kilometers there was the village of Siana. I got out because of the sight of one charming colorful church. Then there was nothing around, only mountain peaks, lavish forests and fields, the smell of pine trees, and I was still going up. The road was curving and I had to seriously slow down few times since it was the only way to pass those curves.
Did you know that there is a mountain of 1.215 meters in Rhodes! And I was driving right through there! It is called Attanyros and when you go from Monolithos to Kritinia, there is one breath taking view of small islands next to Rhodes. The sun was coming from the same way, over the horizon and those islands, the sea looked amazing, dark blue, reflecting those sun rays, and I was looking at the scene from up there, from the road high in the mountains – trying to push my camera through the pine tree branches. The view that makes this whole road trip so worth it!
Kameiros, Pompeii of Greece
The landscape has changed again. When coming down from the mountains, there was the castle standing on the cliff, as if strutting out there in the open to show off its magnificence. Such an imposing building that medieval Castle of Castello was, built by Knights of Rhodes in the 16th century to protect the west coast. Soon, I have reached a village of Kritinia, clinging to the side of the mountain. It took its name from its earliest inhabitants who were from the Crete island. After a while, the road descended to Skala Kamirou, to the coast and I was in Kameiros in no time!
And what can I say, this was another wonderful experience! Wast area of ruins situated on the hill, overlooking the sea and few islands on the horizon, just breath taking! I was climbing up the ancient steps to go around the remains of this once important Dorians’ town, and turned numerous times to admire the view. Such a lovely spot to build a town!
Ancient Kameiros has been called the Pompeii of Greece, but while the latter was buried under the volcano lava, the town here was gradually abandoned and buried by the earth with the passage of time. Dorians have founded the town, along with Ialyssos and Lindos (in the 12th century BC), and it was famous for olive oil products, figs and wine. When Rhodes town was founded in 408 BC, people began to leave this place. The remains here are overwhelming!
From Filerimos to Serbian Church
Had to rush my trip a bit, since I have spent a lot of time stopping on the way to explore or take a photo or two, more often then I have planned anyway. My next stop was Filerimos hill, overlooking the coast from about 270 meters. Another great view of the coast on one side, and the mountains on the other.
This was the acropolis of Ialyssos which was used during the Byzantine period and under the Knights for military purposes. It was also the first site to be fortified by the Knights when they settled on Rhodes in 1306. The hill took its name from a monk who came from Jerusalem in the 13th century bringing with him the icon of the Blessed Virgin painted by the Apostle Luke. The small church he built later became a basilica and the Knights added a monastery in the 14th century.
They say that the right hand of Saint John (the same hand that baptised Jesus) was also kept here. The Knights took it with them from Jerusalem to Constantinople, then to Rhodes and Malta afterwards. They gave it to Russian emperor in the 18th century and it was later given to Serbian king. During the World War II the Serbian Orthodox Church moved it to its church in Montenegro’s town of Cetinje for safekeeping, and it’s still there. Just imagine how overwhelmed I was by the story, being from Serbia myself!
“This is just the perfect travel Glimpse for the blog”, I thought: “One lovely story to tell!”
Airport named after Olympic boxer
Wanted to go up to the Monastery, but there was a wedding there at the time, since the church is very popular among Greeks. Didn’t want to disturb, just smiled to lovely bride and groom, walked around, took dozens of photos, was amused by numerous peacocks on the hill, and rushed back down!
Passing by today’s town of Ialyssos, I remembered reading how the oldest settlement on the island was found here, dating back to 1500 BC. In the ancient Greek world the town was famous because of the Eratides family whose leading figure was Diagoras. He won the Olympic boxing competition three times in the middle of the 5th century BC. The airport of Rhodes is named after him!
And I was just passing by the airport, looking over to one of the smaller airplanes rolling down the runway. It seemed so close, as being in the lane right next to me. The traffic light turned red and I have stopped thinking: “Is it red for me or for him?” Smiled to my self and drove back to Rhodes, straight to Nikos and his Ruote Car Rental to return the car.
My, oh, my, what a lovely journey this was!