Are you a proud member of the lucky ones? The fortuitous travel bloggers, photographers and industry professionals who traveled to Athens for TBEX’s Europe 2014 event, and immersed themselves in Greece’s historic antiquity, vibrant social culture, and astonishing natural beauty? My hope is that you also found time to discover and explore at least a few of the country’s 227 inhabited islands. I recently returned to Greece for a visit to the Dodecanese Archipelago, and promptly fell in love … with 15 inhabited islands and 150 tiny atolls floating serenely in the southeastern Aegean …
Saints, Godesses & Grace – The Allure of Lindos
A curious ambiguity struck me as I pondered that the bay below me honored a Christian saint while the cliffs high above memorialized a mythological Athenian goddess. Yet the greater paradox here became the revelation of a local culture steeped in grace and pliancy – antiquity and modernity that somehow unites the two.
The ancient Greek village of Lindos is located on the less windy – and hotter – eastern coast of Rhodes. Its unique location (literally carved into a rock ascending nearly 40 stories out of the Aegean Sea) and iconic history draws a multicultural surge of tourists each year. A mere 700 people inhabit the whitewashed, sunbaked homes lining the cobblestone walking paths that are roamed by 600,000 tourists (the equivalent of the entire population of Vermont) each year. With the exception of scooters and a dropping and collection point at the Main Square in Lindos, motorized vehicles are not allowed in the village. However, for those travelers battling fatigue and other such maladies, mules are a plentiful and amusingly alternative mode of transportation.
With a sublime combination of calm serenity and intangible beauty, St. Paul’s Bay lies below the hillside village of Lindos. It is aptly named for the Apostle who, with his disciples, unexpectedly discovered the tiny, secluded inlet while on a pilgrimage to Ephesus in 52AD. A lone stone chapel marks the spot where the Christian missionary found refuge from the unforgiving seas and prepared for the remainder of his journey to the western coast of what is now Turkey. Nearly 2,000 years later the warm cerulean waters in St Paul’s Bay still slap lazily onto glistening white sand beaches, beckoning weary travelers for a restorative afternoon basking on its secluded shores.
Crowning the steep, rocky cliffs some 380 feet above St. Paul’s Bay is The Acropolis of Lindos. The Temple of Athena (Athena Lindia), with an impressive collection of Doric columns dating to the 4th century BC, occupies the highest point of this imposing Rhodian fortress, and offers spectacular panoramic views of the timeless islands of the Dodecanese anchored far below in the southern waters of the Aegean. Just below the temple the portentous ramparts of a Medieval castle built and occupied by the Knights of St. John during the 1300s wrap around the entire circumference of the hill. Inside these walls is an extraordinary gallery of ancient civilizations. Greek gods and goddesses, Roman warriors, Byzantines, Ottoman Turks, and the Medieval Knights of St. John each ruled the Acropolis, and in doing so, left a magnificent series of diversely cultural footprints in and around the town of Lindos.
So wouldn’t it seem logical then, that the disparate convictions and geographic anomalies between St. Paul’s Bay and the Acropolis of Lindos would also be exemplified in the village that lies between them? Not so. Lindos, Greece, with a long and palpable history of tyranny and diversity, is today a refreshing lesson in peacefulness and unity.
In a village as tiny and condensed as that of Lindos, ancient cobblestone walking streets meander in all directions beckoning curious visitors to embark on dozens of mini walking excursions. While it’s easy to get lost in the allure of Lindos, it is equally easy to regain directional traction. You see, the residents here are as friendly and honest as one could possibly imagine. A confused expression on the face of a tourist will always garner a quick offer of help from steadfast locals. Dozens of natives who lead lumbering pack mules that are the local taxi service, enthusiastically offer an inexpensive and unforgettable – albeit dusty – ride to nomadic travelers trying to gain solid footing on the steep, cobbled streets.
A bustling yet Utopian atmosphere encapsulates the village’s boutiques and restaurants and on the path leading to the crowning glory that is the Acropolis of Lindos. The melodious voices and veritable faces of friendly shopkeepers and peddlers glean trustworthiness and inspire heartfelt conversations. My Lindos story began when I stepped from the congested, timeworn street into Kori Lindos Cultural Goods, a delightfully trendy boutique peddling unique handmade Greek treasures. I soon found myself immersed in conversation with Gkogkou Panayiota, the shop’s owner. Minutes after leaving Kori Lindos I received a Facebook message from Gkogkou, apologetically explaining that when filing my receipt she realized she had overcharged me for one of my items. This delightful woman was intent on resolution, and prepared to reimburse me regardless of any inconvenience to her. When I returned to Kori Lindos to settle the discrepancy, Gkougkou presented me with a gift – a set of hand painted ceramic bowls – yet another apology for the accounting error. Only in Greece – only in Lindos.
My Lindos story continued just minutes after leaving Kori Lindos when I convened with friends at Mavrikos, an elegant yet informal restaurant located in the Main Square. We were escorted to a large covered terrace where tile flooring and white walls tempered the mid-day heat. Colorful bougainvilla vines clung lazily to outside walls, and rustled casually in the coastal breeze. Dimitri Mavrikos is the co-owner and celebrated chef of this third-generation family run restaurant. He brilliantly employs ingenuity and the freshest of ingredients to refine and re-define classic Greek cuisine, and my friends and I quickly discovered we were on the receiving end of a culinary masterpiece.
Could there be a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than dining on heavenly dishes of Cuttle Fish Ink Risotto, Octopus with Handmade Pasta in Sweet Wine, Manouri Cheese with Pesto-Pinenut Sauce, and Dolmaddacia? Perhaps so if several carafes of chilled Greek wine, leisurely conversation, and subtle coastal breezes swirling through the arched terrace windows were included. And, of course, they were. Could there be a better end to such an afternoon than a toast with the celebrated chef? A rousing ovation greeted Mr. Mavrikos when he appeared at our table with a tray of Mastika and aperitif glasses, then pulled up a chair to join in our revelry. Yet another example of unity. An alliance of classic and modern, of cultures and countries. Only in Greece – only in Lindos.
IF YOU GO:
Stay: Melenos Lindos Hotel, centrally located in the village of Lindos, has 12 sophisticated and exotic suites, each appointed with unique hand carved furniture, and luxurious linens. Hand-painted tiles and gorgeous Moroccan inspired chandeliers, along with original tapestries and artwork, private terraces and meticulous craftsmanship ensure that every suite is unique. The property’s lush gardens, arched entrances and paths, and numerous water features also inspire calm and serenity. With sweeping panoramic views of the Aegean Sea and the Acropolis of Lindos, this spectacularly designed “village within the village” also offers award-winning restaurants, a terraced bar, and a shopping boutique.
Dine: There are literally too many extraordinary restaurants and tavernas located in and around the village of Lindos to include here; however, I visited and highly recommend: Mavrikos Restaurant, Melenos Lindos, and Ktima Lindos (located near the Lindos Blu Luxury Hotel & Suites.)
Tour Guides & Drivers: Dimitrios Salahouris is a licensed tour guide of Greece, and expertly arranges personalized tours of Rhodes Island. With 17 years of experience, Dimitrios is incredibly knowledgeable, professional and personable, and will make any visit to Rhodes fun, interesting and memorable. Polycar Tours & Services provides full-service transportation, private tours, and can arrange air/sea transportation and cruises to other islands as well as luxury yacht excursions. Nikos Polytaridis and his staff are the epitome of Greek culture – warm, welcoming, and hospitable.
By Jan Petersen, TravelRAVE