**Updated with video at the end!
Upon stepping out of the airport into the blazing sunlight and mountainous backdrop, I thought that my inhibitions about Rhodes Island being a little boring fisherman village was to much of my dismay, true. We trudged along the footpath following a blue ‘Bus Stop’ sign that pointed in that direction. If we hadn’t seen a man sitting on the small bench with his luggage, we wouldn’t have suspected the run down shelter with torn casino and club promotional posters semi-glued to the wall behind was where we were meant to wait. There was no timetable, no bus numbers, no other indication that it was a bus stop other than a rusty ‘bus stop’ sign on the side. Surely there would be better maintenance of an airport bus stop? Apparently not.
The bus driver was our first exchange with a Greek local, and he set the precedence for my vote of the friendliest, nicest country of people that I’ve encountered on my Europe travels thus far. Of course, I’m saying this only in terms of hospitality since we didn’t actually mingle with locals properly, but through my people-watching moments, I think that the Greek people’s demeanour is this: have a good time now and worry later. It is a place that believes in siestas and fiestas (I could get used to this), which may go a fair way in explaining their EU-bail out fiasco last year, but they don’t seem to be affected by it at all. Perhaps the bigger cities are. I feel as if they do what they need to do but continue with their siesta and fiesta lifestyle assuming politicians and the EU will sort the economy out. This gives me a flashback of a photo I saw last year in the news of an old Greek man sitting on the ground next to an ATM, helplessly crying in despair because there was a shut-down of Greek banks and citizens weren’t able to withdraw any of their money. He could have needed it for medicine, food, school fees, debt – who knows. Sad times.
Onto happier times, on our first night AY and I stumbled to the front of a cocktail bar that we had read about which played rnb/contemporary music. Perfect, right? Well, on that specific night they were playing classical live Greek music. Not so perfect. But the place was packed, and everyone looked like they were having such a good time so we had to go inside and check it out. For some reason, the only free seat was right in front of the dance floor and band where everyone faces, and so we were seated there. To sum up the experience: the bar’s decoration was out of this world, old Greek ladies can really bust a move and there is a threshold to the number of times a singer can serenade you, throw tissues at you (a Greek tradition) and make you step onto the dance floor before you want to run away in embarrassment.
I quickly discovered that Rhodes Island wasn’t a little fisherman village. Restaurants, from cafes to tavernas were all very clean and modern with each having unique Greek-inspired decorations all around. The pebble beaches, though not my favourite and littered with cigarette butts, had really warm blue water. The Old Town, a UNESCO heritage site, was fun to walk around, layered with little shops and stalls along all the alleyways to peek into. Going up and walking along the city walls is a main to-do thing on the island, but to no one’s surprise, AY and I couldn’t find it and got distracted by a visit to the Grand Master’s palace instead, during which AY self-pronounced herself to be the Grand Master in the flesh and transformed into an absolute comedian. We laughed all the way back to our hotel where she had major bladder hold issues.
Nightlife is limited to a few long streets, either around Old Town or a street close to our hotel. Energetic, bright lights, loud music, games, free drinks, promoters asking you to drink and party with them. We both felt a Thailand-like vibe, albeit much less busy.
In our 2.5 days there, AY and I managed to eat every single traditional Greek dish there is. It was a constant cycle of overeating and eating some more. Our most memorable meal though, was a seafood taverna that we liked the look of, so decided to venture into randomly. The restaurant wasn’t very busy, so we were a bit hesitant but the waiter was so friendly and confident in his recommendations that we were put to ease quite soon. Prawns, mussels, grilled fish, grilled calamari. So. Damn. Good. Our experience was heightened by the attentive customer service we received, so much so that we left a tip of an extraordinary amount (for our standards anyway).
We had such a relaxing and chill weekend in Rhodes Island. Can’t say there’s an exorbitant number of things to do there, as people generally stay for longer and island hop around Greece. But how can one fault sunshine, nice people and the beach? After my short experience, I really cannot wait for the opportunity to go to other Greece islands – perhaps next summer? Yes please!
Oh, I also GoPro’d our weekend. We discovered through this experience that I am camera shy and AY can talk into a camera non-stop (to compensate, she says). I’ll post it soon!