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A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

By David Marsden @anxiousgardener

My holidays are often quite adventurous: cycling though the German countryside, hiking across British mountains, bobbing down the Zambezi in a barrel, play-wrestling polar bears on Svalbard – that sort of thing.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

Jim’s flip-flop time

But this year, Jim and I decided to plump for something a little more conventional, a lot more lazy.  A few weeks ago we boarded a very swish, very new Boeing 787 Dreamliner – which was a personal excitement  – and flew to the far end of Europe, to the Greek island of Rhodes.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

Our ultimate destination on the island’s eastern coast was Lindos; somewhere I know very well.  I say that but as my first visit was in 1983 and my last in 1985, perhaps I don’t know it quite as well as I like to boast.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

But thankfully, mercifully, in 32 years it has barely changed.  Lindos is still a little town of blinding-white houses clustered adoringly at the foot of a rocky acropolis.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

And what an acropolis: a site and sight as good as any in Greece.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

It is imposing, dramatic and craggy from any angle; and not a citadel I should want to storm after breakfast.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

They’ve all been here you know, on the acropolis: the Romans, the Byzantines, the Knights of St John, the Ottomans, the Italians.  The Greeks.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

And now an international crowd of scantily clad tourists, thoughtfully displaying their wobbly, sun-burnt skin and once crisp, what-once-might-have-seemed-a-good-idea tattoos.  I thought it quite sweet that they thought this intimate display might lighten up my day (but then I was in a snooty frame of mind).

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

With sheer force of will, I tore my eyes off the most eye-popping examples, closed my mouth and hacked my way through a thicket of selfie-sticks to the medieval walls on the western side of the acropolis.  I gazed down over the Middle-Eastern-looking town, trying to pinpoint the house I’d rented in 1983.  It had been small, square, flat-roofed and white.  So that narrowed it down a bit.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

Mountains, headlands and bays fade way northward to the tip of the island and Rhodes Town.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

Whilst, to the south lies beautiful St Paul’s Bay.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

St Paul was shipwrecked here, hence the name, and in August 1983 I was moped-wrecked here (which doesn’t really work as a link but never mind).  Zipping about on a rental moped, I zipped a curve too fast.  The bike slewed one way and I flew, all flailing limbs, in the other.  I clearly remember floating through the air, seemingly in slow motion, with time enough to quietly repeat the same four letter word.  Like Icarus my inaugural flight didn’t end well.  Luckily, I didn’t head-butt a rock; unluckily, and wearing shorts and a vest, I landed on knee and elbows, skidding across gravel.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

That smarts.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

I was laid up in my Rhodes Town room for several days; nursed, fed and fussed over by an adorable, clucking landlady before my pal, Michael, and I relocated to Lindos.  We spent our time doing not very much: riding slower-than-a-moped donkeys to near-by Pefkos, reading, exploring the hot hills and snorkelling in St Paul’s Bay.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

The bay is busier now, of course, but it is just as lovely; the water as clear, as warm and as full of sea-life.  On that first visit, I spent absorbed hours with mask and snorkel: exploring the cove, chasing brightly coloured fish, seeking that elusive ancient statue or golden amulet I was convinced was waiting to be discovered on the sea-bed,

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

and then kicking out into the open sea.  In the bay, the water is a few feet deep but beyond the natural harbor walls a vast underwater cliff disappears into the deep and the sea bottom disappears. Suddenly, I was floating alone in the Big Blue, dazzled by flickering sun-beams and dipping down as far as I could into colder water.  But then three thoughts coalesced in my hitherto empty head: a recent report of Great White sharks in Greek waters, my moped wounds seeping blood and a half remembered fact that sharks can taste and hone in on blood from 800 miles away.  Or something.  My moment of calm in the Big Blue evaporated and, with an imagined razor toothed maw torpedoing toward me,  I splashed breathlessly back to the safe confines of St Paul’s.

And that’s my best-est anti-climatic Lindos story.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

I didn’t visit the beach at the northern end of the bay in the 80’s but from memory it was deserted: no beach umbrellas, no friendly dog, no plump children, no disembodied limbs.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

But neither did it have one of the nicest tavernas I know.  Jim and I returned here most days for perfectly ripe Greek Salad with crumbly, salty, perfect feta; hot, crisp, perfect calamari; or warm, puffy, perfect pittas served with dollops of perfect taramasalata, tzatziki, hummus and baba ganoush (all four as unrelated to supermarket tubs as I am to the Duchess of Windsor).   In short, it is perfect.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

On the slope behind the taverna is a nicely tended, terraced vegetable garden and I envied the customers who, later in the year, would bite into tomatoes, aubergines and cucumbers plucked metres from their table.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

Should you ever visit Lindos, make sure you walk down to this taverna.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

I don’t know its name but don’t worry you’ll find it easily enough.  Just head down to St Paul’s Bay.  The restaurant is next to the enormous dog resting her muzzle in the salt water.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

One day, tiring of the Lindos crowds (and too chicken to rent a car and drive on Greek roads), we took a taxi to the small, inland town of Asklipeiou.  There isn’t a lot to do in Asklipeiou other than sip iced coffee; pay €1 to enter the stunning Byzantine church,  whisper our awe over the wall paintings;

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

Agapitos Restaurant, Asklipio

and dawdle over a slow lunch, with maybe a cold beer.  And then maybe a second.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

Afterwards, we climbed a steep, dusty road (in 33º heat) to the Castle of Asklipeiou, above Asklipeiou.  (I’m repeating the name Asklipeiou simply because I suspect you have no idea how to pronounce it.  Asklipeiou.  I could have made it easier for you by providing the alternative English spelling, Asklipio, had I been so minded).

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

The castle was deserted and, after the hubbub of Lindos, deliciously quiet save the hum of insects and my laboured, beery wheezing.  We tried to imagine the lives of the Knights of St John who built the castle in the C13th; many of whom were English.  It was hard to imagine men from Gloucestershire or Sussex living and dying in this alien, often violent landscape.  They won’t have missed mud.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

Greece has little money for the upkeep of her architectural treasures – nor much money for anything – but without information boards, an entrance kiosk or café, the ruin was all the more charming; if heart-stopping for any health and safety executive.  There were no no-go areas, no railings, no warnings about loose masonry or imminent death by falling.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

Jim took that as a challenge and clambered about the crumbly walls, precipitous falls all about, with fat cracks in the wall beneath his feet.  I watched from between my fingers.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

As we explored, bickered over reckless castle climbing and squinted at the views, I recoiled at a sudden hit of noxious smell.  After glancing suspiciously as Jim – who denied, as usual, any knowledge – I followed my nose.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

Dracunculus vulgaris was the culprit … and I apologised to Jim.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

The dragon arum is very stinky.  I had assumed, at second thought, that maybe a goat had fallen from the castle walls, its carcass baked by the sun.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

And that is the best description I can give for the scent of Dracunculus vulgarisNext time you sniff something rotten in Greece, it might be road-kill or it might be this extraordinary lily.  Enjoy (but best not plant one under the kitchen window).

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

Anyway, what was meant to be a postcard from Lindos has grown into a multi-paged letter, with tiny writing.  I’ll finish off with some pictures of less noisome, ubiquitous plants:  Bougainvillea;

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

oleander;

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

and jasmine;

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

swamping the lanes of Lindos with a more delectable perfume.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

I fell in love with Greece absolutely as a young man and it lures me back time and time again.  But I don’t suppose I shall return to Lindos.  As special as it is to me, it is too busy, too touristy for my 2017 self.  On our next visit, Jim and I will stick to our abandoned independent travel plan and revert to adventurousness: fly out, make plans on the hoof, hop amongst the islands perhaps or journey across the mainland, eat a lot, drink some, fly back.  But that’s a trip which will, I’m afraid, lead to a far, far longer postcard.

A Postcard From Lindos, Rhodes

You’ve been warned.  Cheers.oooOOSave

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