Island hopping

July 04, 2008

Over the next two days, we set foot on three more Greek Islands: Patmos, Rhodes and Crete. Each one has its own special personality, and I am amazed at how one country can offer so many variations on a theme.

Patmos – Even though it is a tourist destination, we find Patmos to be quieter and dare I say, more plain than the other islands. We walk around the shops a bit, and then we find a small beach with umbrellas and tables. We settle in under an umbrella and order a beer as we enjoy the view.

Rhodes – Rhodes is the Island of the Sun, and is named after a nymph who caught the affections of the sun god Helios. Rhodes Town is a fortress city with high stone walls, churches, towers and temples everywhere. The narrow streets are made of cobblestones, and must have taken several lifetimes to create because each stone is placed on its edge, not the flat side. For the umpteenth time on this trip, the word “Wow!” comes out of my mouth.

It is in Rhodes where we do battle with rug shop vendors. We are inches away from purchasing a very expensive silk, handwoven carpet for our dining room. I can’t deny that it is one of the most beautiful rugs I’ve ever seen. I know for a fact that it will look stunning under my new table. The store owners are relentless with three of them working on us at once. They are not going to let us get away. I plead for time alone with Al to discuss it and they agree. They bring us water and leave. Once we are alone, sanity creeps back in. Kitchen renos, son in college…we can think of many other, more practical ways to spend $3,000. We stand tall, thank them very much and walk out as they desperately try to talk us back in. Whew. Crisis averted. I’m over it.

Crete – Pronounced “Creetee” by the locals, Crete is the largest of the Greek Islands. As soon as we disembark, we are approached by a cabbie who tells us that we need transportation to see anything in Crete. Even the town is too far to walk. He wants 50 euros a piece for an hour and a half tour. That’s about $130 CAN for both of us. Fortunately, a Chilean couple from our ship asks us to go with them in their cab for only 35 euros a couple. Perfect.

We drive for about 20 minutes through palm-tree forests and mountain ravines with fields of olive and cyprus trees to Knossos. The first seeds of Greek civilization were planted at Knossos in 6000 BC. Knossos is the ancient palace of King Minos. Even though we are looking at ruins, one can see that in its day, this was a place of grandeur. Many of the wall paintings and monster-sized clay pots still exist. This is the first time we see colour used in the walls. We spend about an hour absorbing the ancient history of Knossos before we head back to our cab.

The driver takes us into the town of Iraklio/Heraklion to show us the sites. We stop at the grave of Kazantzakis, the author of Zorba the Greek. The site is a vantage point to see the city and port from on high – definitely a photo opportunity. From here, we visit Agios Minas, a breathtaking cathedral church in the city. During WWII, the Germans attempted to bomb the church, but the bomb, which landed in the centre of the church, didn’t detonate. It is now mounted outside as a reminder of this “miracle.”After a fast sweep of the city’s market, we are back in our cab and headed for our ship in record time.

Tomorrow, Santorini!

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