A Travellerspoint blog

Tilos

sunny 38 °C
View Midlife gap part 1 on aireland's travel map.

Tilos is about halfway between Rhodes and Kos - took me about 2.5 hours on the ferry with a quick stop in Halki. I chose it because I guessed I might need to just chill out and after Rhodes it was perfect. Guy from the hotel met the ferry and drove me the 500 metres to the hotel - a bit OTT but they are so welcoming (recurring theme in hotels, restaurants, shops - I think Xenophilia is the perfect description of the Greeks).

Really quiet even in July, it's possible to just wander around, not see many people, find deserted coves with great beaches and I did all of this. Eating freshly landed fish every evening in tiny,sometimes quite ramshackle places - I loved it.

I stayed at a hotel (Irini) in the main port of Livadhia which is at the head of a splendid bay on the island’s north shore. A row of little tavernas, hotels and studios stretches away to the east taking advantage of a narrow strip of beach. The entire seafront is lined by a broad pedestrian promenade, which is great for visitors even if it does diminish the “authentic” feel of the place a bit.

I have to say I did very little and thoroughly enjoyed just that. A slight spanner in the works was that I developed quite a serious ear infection a couple of days after arriving. The side of my face was very swollen and very painful so I thought I'd better seek medical opinion - easier said than done.

I asked the hotel about the nearest doctor and was told where the surgery is and that it would be open the next morning at 9.00 am - it wasn't. A guy wandering past told me it would be open that evening at 8.30 so I went along, walked in and was confronted by the surgery door wide open with a pregnant woman about to have some sort of examination that I'm sure she would not want spectators at. A woman (turned out to be the midwife) closed the door and came it to talk to me ( she spoke perfect English thankfully).

I explained what was wrong and she said that the normal surgery was the next morning at 10 am but she would ask the doctor to see me once he had finished whatever he was doing between his current patients legs.

I waited an hour and was shown in. The doctor was French/greek and spoke no English so the midwife translated and I used my very poor French to help.

I got the distinct impression that the midwife and the doctor were not on the best of terms. Apart from translating my symptoms for the doctor she kept sneering at him and then telling me he was a bloody idiot who need to be fired and then shouting at him in Greek - not translation from my words I'm sure. I felt a bit like piggy in the middle and started to get a little nervous (I'm not a good patient at the best of times)

Anyway he then tried to find the piece of equipment needed to have a closer look in my ear and was about to insert something that he found when she screamed at him - turns out he was going to use an unsterilised item. There followed lots of shouting, opening and closing of drawers until she produced sterilised ones. I was crapping myself at this point and regardless of her reassurances that the new ones were sterile I was really pleased when on closer inspection he said (through her) that it was impossible to insert anything in my ear as it was completely closed up. In normal circumstances this would worry me but by this point I just wanted a prescription for anything (morphine or some weed would have been a strong preference) and to get out of there.

I got my prescription, was told to keep the ear dry (no more swimming in pools for 10 days which was probably the cause) and to come back to see him in 4 days (the day of my departure for Patmos) - not a prospect that I was looking forward to assuming they happened to be open at the appointed time.

Got the antibiotics and went into the usual side effect cycle of sh*tting through the eye of a needle followed by close brush with haemorrhoids as a result of constipation over the next 10 days.

When I returned to see him one hour before my ferry departure 4 days later, he was 20 minutes late and worst of all the midwife, who though clearly a bit unhinged, was at least able to provide effective communication between me and the doctor, was not present.

The doctor could not find any of the equipment to look in my ear (sterilised or unsterilised) so I think he took a wild guess, in French told me to keep taking the tablets and wished me bon voyage. I was happy to get out of there without him touching any part of me. I hope that pregnant woman had a better experience than I did.

Though my usual lengthy walks in the midday heat were curtailed a little by my ear infection (my balance was a bit awry) I did visit some other parts of the island and it i really is beautifully unspoilt

Tilos is the perfect place to unwind and relax - it felt a bit like the Greek Islands did in the early 80s - very unspoilt and a wonderful slow pace. I would go back.

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Posted by aireland 13:44 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Rhodes

sunny 34 °C
View Midlife gap part 1 on aireland's travel map.

Whilst the hotel is good, the resort, Ixia, really is not my sort of place. It's a typical holiday resort lacking any character whatsoever. Just lines of large hotels and holiday villages, tavernas, bars and car rental places.

I tried to get a bus to Rhodes town on one day and gave up as 8 buses went past the bus stop because they were full. The bus stop was exposed to the sun and after frying along with 20 other people for an hour I returned to to pool.

Was successful the next day as I got to the bus stop at 3 in the morning (well ok it was 8 am) but even then it was standing room only on the bus. My main target was to explore the medieval town and it was well worth the trip.

The Citadel of Rhodes was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 and is apparently one of the best-preserved Old Towns in the world. It is an absolute gem, a superb medieval ensemble with the feel of a genuine lived-in village. It's still entirely enclosed within a double ring of mighty sandstone walls and appears to stand utterly aloof from the modern world.

I think what makes the Old Town so special is the sheer vibrancy of the place as a whole. Its busiest commercial lanes, packed with restaurants, cafés, and souvenir stores selling anything from T-shirts to fur coats, and gelati to jewellery, are quiet at the time I arrived but it doesn't take long for them to become busy - feels a bit like the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul - a real buzz. However it is also possible to escape into the time-forgotten tangle of cobbled alleyways that lie further south, and away from the sea. No map can do justice to what a labyrinth it all is, or quite how much is missing; mysterious ruins lie half-buried, overrun with cats or wild flowers, while isolated Cyclopean arches suddenly rear into view, without a trace of the buildings they used to hold up.

The other highlight for me was the Palace of the Grand Masters (this place is all about the Knights of St John)

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On one day I met up with friends Patrick and Marian who were on holiday in Marmaris, Turkey which is only a short ferry ride away so they came over to Rhodes.

We had a good wander around with a couple of beers thrown in (inevitably) and then went for a fantastic fish lunch with plenty of wine and great food. Patrick's reputation has clearly not spread worldwide despite the fact that he spends about 6 months of the year travelling, as the owner of the hotel made a classic mistake of offering us a drink on the house (his home-made lemon flavoured firewater) and rather than just pouring us a glass each he left three glasses and a full bottle on the table. The inevitable happened and the whole bottle somehow became completely empty in what seemed like about 3 minutes.

I walked back to the harbour to wave them off back to Marmaris and then jumped into a taxi back to my hotel. Unsurprisingly I went straight to bed and was unconscious (would be wrong to say I slept) for about 3 hours.

I had a great time seeing them both (hadn't seen them since they came out to Santiago on the failed "find a sardine" trip) and will see them both again in September in Portugal - should be enough time for my liver to recover.

The other place apparently worth visiting on Rhodes is Lindos. The advice I got was to get there early to avoid the crowds. It's a 2 hour bus ride from Ixia (changing in Rhodes Town) for about 6 euros the taxi which only takes 30 minutes is 55 euros). I caught bus from Ixia at 7.30 am thinking 9.30 should be early enough to get there before the masses - oh how wrong was I! It was packed. There were queues for everything including just getting into the streets of the town.
It looks impressive and is in a fantastic position but it's just too busy. I couldn't bear another 2 hours in the sardine can (bus) so got a taxi back to Ixia

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Was not really sorry to leave Rhodes. I had never been before so wanted to see it but on reflection 3 days would have been more than enough. Now off to what I hope is a quiet island where I can just chill out

Posted by aireland 05:51 Archived in Greece Comments (1)

Journey to Rhodes

sunny 36 °C
View Midlife gap part 1 on aireland's travel map.

9 july. Drive from delphi to Piraeus. Slightly nervous about driving through Athens. By repute it's a dogs breakfast of a place for traffic, accidents and pollution. As it turns out the Yeti does a great job of getting me to the Hertz office and on the premise of "when in Rome", I double park outside the office (throwing off those North European shackles now) and drop the little Seat off without a hitch.

It's 36 degrees, which is not a problem, but the humidity is through the roof and I'm leaking from every pore as I start the "it's a five minute walk to the Blue Star Ferry office" - Mr Hertz - which takes me 40 minutes. Pick up my tickets and then find (courtesy of Trip advisor) the nearest decent restaurant (Rakadiko STOA Kouvelou). Actually it's better than decent, the food is freshly cooked, the service is really friendly and welcoming and it's in a lovely setting in an old arcade.

The lady at the ferry office told me it would be a 15 minute walk to get to the ferry terminal. Based on this I got a taxi and I estimate that if I had walked, it would have taken me an hour but actually I would expired before I got there.

Boarded the ship with plenty of time before departure. I am in a two berth cabin for the 17 hour crossing to Rhodes but as luck would have it, no-one else turns up so I get the cabin to myself.

The ferry calls in at three other islands en route which, given that every announcement of arrival, departure, restaurant opening and closing and just whenever the idiot on the tannoy is bored, are all played at full volume into the cabin, means that opportunity for any prolonged sleep is limited.

However after my experience on the Gypo cruise, I am grateful for a refuge from my fellow passengers (who I'm sure are perfectly fine people).

Fantastic sunset en route and there seems to be a never ending array of little islands appearing in the Aegean - some we sail by, some we call at.

10 July. Arrive into Rhodes Town (which is very attractive from the water) just about on time and take a taxi to my hotel (Nathalie) in Ixia - about a 20 minute taxi ride/30 minute bus ride out of Rhodes Town. When I was booking this I wanted a place with a pool in or as near to Rhodes Town as possible. My first choices were prohibitively expensive so this was a bit of a compromise. Actually the hotel was fine even though I was slightly apprehensive on arrival when I saw the noticeboards in the lobby with Package Tour company names all over them. I had visions of pasty faced English families complaining about the food and no-one speaking English etc etc. in fact the clientele was a mix of nationalities with an absence of package tour dickheads.

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Posted by aireland 04:23 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Delphi

sunny 36 °C
View Midlife gap part 1 on aireland's travel map.

7 July. The first two thirds of the drive from Corinth to Delphi is pretty boring. Mostly motorway and touching on the outskirts of Athens before turning North. However the last third of the journey provides some great scenery - this is actually skiing country in the winter.

As with all of these places, you don't see anything until you are almost on top it - you turn the last corner and there it is high on the slopes of Mount Parnassus (home of the Muses in Greek Mythology).

After checking into the hotel (Acropole Delphi) I had a wander around the town and found somewhere for dinner. Restaurant (Taverna To Patrikomas) was recommended for food and views and both lived up to the billing. I had a really well cooked rabbit stew and they gave me a table right on the edge of the terrace overlooking the Phocis valley down to the seaside village of Galaxidi - incredible view.

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8 July - dedicated to the Oracle (Delphi that is, not a previous employer of mine).

I started early as its a about a mile walk from the village to the main archeological site and the museum and about another mile further down to the sanctuary of Athena. There was no avoiding the crowds (or the sun from which it was impossible to escape) here as Delphi is the number one day trip for the masses of tourists from Athens - apparently it's considered second in importance after the Acropolis of Athens

A bit about Delphi courtesy of Wikipedia.

In myths dating to the classical period of Ancient Greece (510-323 BC), the site of Delphi was believed to be determined by Zeus when he sought to find the centre of his "Grandmother Earth" (Ge, Gaea, or Gaia). He sent two eagles flying from the eastern and western extremities, and the path of the eagles crossed over Delphi where the omphalos, or navel of Gaia was found.[2]

Earlier myths include traditions that Pythia, or the Delphic oracle, already was the site of an important oracle in the pre-classical Greek world (as early as 1400 BC) and, rededicated from about 800 BCE, when it served as the major site during classical times for the worship of the god Apollo. Apollo was said to have slain Python, "a dragon" who lived there and protected the navel of the Earth.[3] "Python" (derived from the verb πύθω (pythō),[4] "to rot") is claimed by some to be the original name of the site in recognition of Python which Apollo defeated.[5] The Homeric Hymn to Delphic Apollo recalled that the ancient name of this site had been Krisa.[6] Others relate that it was named Pytho and that Pythia, the priestess serving as the oracle, was chosen from their ranks by a group of priestesses who officiated at the temple.

Suffice to say it was important primarily as an Oracle. I had a quick word with said Oracle about the forthcoming World Cup and all I could hear repeatedly was "All Blacks".

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Sanctuary of Athena

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The museum which has some data sticky well preserved artefacts from the two sites:

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Went back to the same restaurant in Delphi that evening - not like me to do this but it really was so good.

The week I have spent visiting these sites has been really interesting and enjoyable. I have always been fascinated by Greek Myhtology (though quite ignorant) and these sites have always been on a wish list to visit. I feel inspired to find out more (starting with reading Homers Iliad -. Mos comment "what's all of this got to do with the Simpsons?"

Tomorrow (9 July) I drive to Piraues to begin three weeks visiting 3 islands in the Aegean and doing very little at all so the blogs will be content free.

Posted by aireland 02:40 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Corinth or Korinth

sunny 37 °C
View Midlife gap part 1 on aireland's travel map.

Drove to Corinth after my visit to Mycenae. Hotel (Prime Isthmus) was a sh*thole but was handily placed - it is a three minute walk from a road bridge over the Corinth Canal. One look at the hotel pool helped my decision to avoid a swim on this particular occasion. It was so dirty it seemed to have little flags floating all over it , each wit the name of a disease that was guaranteed if you immersed so much as your little toe in it.

Two things of interest here - the Corinth Canal and Ancient Corinth

As you peer over from the bridge, the 6km Corinth Canal appears to be a very narrow strip of water, until a huge freighter from Pireás or cruise ship assumes suddenly toy-like dimensions as it passes nearly 80m below.

The idea for a canal providing a short cut and safe passage between the Aegean and Ionian seas harks back at least to Roman times, when Emperor Nero himself performed the initial excavations with his little silver shovel (he was a weird little sod) later heavily supplemented by Jewish slave labour. It was only in the 1890s, however, that the technology finally became available for cutting right across the 6km isthmus. The canal (funded by the Hubgarians) opened in 1893, along with its near-contemporary Suez, helped establish Pireás as a major Mediterranean port and shipping centre.

The ruins of Ancient Corinth.

The site is split into a vast, impressively excavated city with the Temple of Apollo at its core, and even more compelling is the stunning acropolis site of Acrocorinth , towering 565m above the ancient city - I didn't walk up this one

Brief history Ancient Corinth was a key centre of the Greek and Roman worlds, whose possession meant the control of trade between northern Greece and the Peloponnese. Not surprisingly, therefore, the area’s ancient and medieval history was one of invasions and power struggles that, in Classical times, was dominated by Corinth’s rivalry with Athens , against whom it sided with Sparta in the Peloponnesian War.

After defeating the Greek city-states of the Achaean League, the Romans razed the city in 146 BC, before rebuilding it on a majestic scale in 44 BC under the command of Julius Caesar. Initially it was intended as a colony for veterans, but later became the provincial capital . Once again, Corinth grew rich on trade –with Rome to the west, and Syria and Egypt to the east. The city endured until rocked by two major earthquakes , in 375 and 521, which brought down the Roman buildings and again depopulated the site until a brief Byzantine revival in the eleventh century.

I got there early in the morning (7.30, advertised opening time) and then had to wait an hour until it opened by which time the temperature had gone for 31 to 37 - I do spend a lot of my day drinking water, sweating and peeing.

Left Corinth mid afternoon - 3 hour drive to Delphi.

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Posted by aireland 08:33 Archived in Greece Comments (1)

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