Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away…
Steph, Laura and I came up with a crazy idea. An extended island trip– skipping a week of class (which is only two days). After class on Thursday, the three of us walked into a travel agency and left with Friday morning tickets to go to Rhodes. Rhodes, which is part of the Dodecanese islands, is in the farthest island cluster from the mainland.
We woke up early Friday morning, but left a litttle late. We walked out the door at 7:20 for our 9 am plane. We decided to take the express bus. Now I usually run late for everything EXCEPT class and travel, so when we arrived at the airport at 8:20 I was nearly having heart palpitations. We stood in line to get our boarding passes and then ran like hell. By the time we went through security, it was 8:45. I ran up to the counter only to find the bus to the plane hadn’t even started boarding yet. oh, Europe. At 9:05 the bus pulled up. The plane didn’t even take off for another forty minutes.
As we took off, I saw Athens from the air and remembered how I felt as I was landing in Athens just over a month ago. It’s still amazing to me. As we were flying over the islands, I looked like a 5-year-old with my face pressed up against the window. In my mind i could picture the map of the islands, and there they were right before me in 3-D. I’m still floored by Greece’s geography. There are hills, mountains and cliffs everywhere. I’ve never seen anything like it. The islands looked like a school project with paper mache molds outlined with a coat of turquoise and then surrounded with a coat of the brightest blue paint Crayola offers.
Stepping off the plane, I looked like a rockstar. And by rockstar, what I really mean is exhausted student/budget traveler. But it felt good to know that we were really doing this trip and there was no going back. We took a bus from the airport to Rhodes Town.
The Old Town is surrounded by the walls of the Palace of the Grand Master. The medieval palace was built by the Knights of St. John in 1309. It’s huge. Inside the castle walls, the buildings have been converted into museums , adn the streets have turned into a tour group’s paradise. Shop after shop selling everything yu could possibly want and never want. Knock-off Gucci bags and Yankees hats with fake curly blond locks attached, handmade leather belts and Turkish rugs. I bought a few postcards. The better part of our first few hours on the island were spent in search of our youth hostel. We found it on a little side street. The courtyard was colorful and picturesque, the room reeked of budget travel. Just how I like it. The owner gave us a “special” price and even threw sheets on the beds for free. What a doll.
After we settled in, we went out and got some lunch. We walked around in the castle’s moat for a bit and then walked the coastline. We bought our ferry tickets to Kos for Saturday morning and I splashed around in the warm water for a few minutes. Rhodes is truly gorgeous. It’s called the “Island of the Sun” because in mythology, Helios (who is god of the sun) fell madly in love with the Nymph Rodos. His love for her warmed the entire island. The sun was shining, the water was sparkling–I felt the love.
We went back to the hostel to nap for a few hours before dinner, but clearly I got antsy and set out on my own for a few hours. I walked around the palace’s park and then found myself outside of the castle walls. I stumbled upon the fortress and lighthouse of St. Nikolaos. As I was sitting at the foot of the fortress, I noticed a pillar with a statue on it about 200 feet away. I immediately remembered what Let’s Go had said and got very excited. Rhodes is known to be the place where the giant statue of Colossus once stood. As one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it stood at 33 meters and was made of bronze. Around 226 BC it was taken down by an earthquake. The remains were taken by Arab pirates 800 years later, so there are no remains on site. Now two statues, one on each side of the harbor entrance, mark where it is believed the statue was. The statue on the lighthouse side is a doe, the statue on the other side is a buck. I walked to the doe statue and just admired the view. An old Greek man was there and began talking to me about how Rhodes is the most beautiful place on earth adn then invited me to sit and chat with him. He promptly asked me if I was married, which caught me off guard for a few reasons. 1) That means I looked old enough to be married. 2) He probably wanted to introduce me to one of his sons. Like a smart girl I quickly answered yes. For the next five minutes he jokingly tried to convince me that cheating on my husband with a nice Greek boy in Rhodes is okay. Haha. We laughed a lot, but he could tell that I took my “till death do us part” vows seriously. Errr…see ya later, Mister. Good talk. I left and walked ten minutes to the other statue. Just as I got there, the fortress and lighthouse lit up. It was beautiful. Two hours had passed so I met up with the girls for dinner. We had a great night and our waiter loved us. When we got back to the hstel, some other backpackers invited us to party with them in the courtyard. We were too tired, but I love that about youth hostels. You have something in common with everyone else there. You just want to see the world and not go broke doing it. It’s a strong bond.
In the morning we walked back to the statues so that the girls could see it too, then got on our ferry to Kos.
As we were pulling up to the shore, we opened THE BIBLE (remember– that’s my Let’s Go book) and found the number for the Pension Alexis. We could tell right away Sonia, the owner, was a sweetheart, because she offered to drive to the port to pick us up. Since it was only a ten minute walk, we decided to do it ourselves and set out. As we were walkng past the docks, we saw tons of signs advertising day trips to Bodrum, Turkey. We each got round-trip tickets for around 12 USD for Sunday morning. We made to our pension where we were greeted with kisses and lemonade. Sonia was nothing less than amazing. She gave us maps, told us where to eat and gave us a pristine trip with a shower and hot water. We threw down our bags and Sonia drove us to the train that would take us to the Asclepion. The Asclepion is where Hippocrates lived and set up the first medical school in the 5th century B.C. Oh, and when they said train, what they meant was a kiddie amusement park like train that drives on the road. I felt nervous at times–the driving in Greece is so BAD, especially with all the mopeds and motorcycles.
The Asclepion is one of the coolest ruins site I have been to. While we were there, we hung out wth these two Dutch women, and alternated taking group shots. From the top of the Asclepion we could see the coast of Turkey, which made us even more excited for the next day’s journey. We ended up having to wait about 45 minutes for the “train” back to Kos Town. During that time we made friends with Ana, a 5-year-old Dutch girl and her 2-year-old brother Rolfe. Ana would run up to us and use English phrases her parents were teaching her on the spot. Since we were within earshot, we could hear what she was going to ask us next and her parents could hear our responses and translate them for her. Then Laura got her i-pod out and played some Disney songs for Ana. She recognized all of them, but hadn’t heard them in English. After our Asclepion trip, we went in search of ferry tickets to Mykonos. We learned that ferries were no longer running to Mykonos from Kos. Instead, we would have to ferry to Syros and then to Mykonos. We left to eat dinner and think about it. After dinner, we bought our tickets, and I even managed to get us the EU student discount. We go to school in the EU, but we don’t usually qualify as EU students because it’s an American campus. Just a funny note, people usually think we’re from England or Australia. A lot of the ime we don’t correct them. We were surprised at first that they couldn’t tell the difference between ur accents, but we realized that in the same position we probably wouldn’t be able to as well.
Sonia drove us to the port at 8:30 for our 9:30 boat. We had to wait in line to pay the port taxes and get our day passes. They don’t require visas for one day trips. I was bummed because I wanted my passport stamped. The pages are so naked right now. The boat ride was only 45 minutes long. With everything so close, it’s no surprise that Turkey and Greece have had issues and some bad feelings. This should change if Turkey makes it into the EU.
I could feel that I wasn’t in Greece anymore when we stepped off the boat. Yes, it looked similar, but it had a different feel to it and a different flag flying from the castel that stands next to the coastline. The Knights of St. John also built this castle, and it was fairly similar to the one on Rhodes. We tried to get into the castle, but didn’t have any Turkish currency. So we walked into the market. Hundreds of stores with thousands of knock-offs.
We walked around in search of a currency converter, but because it was Sunday, nothing was open. We eventually found an ATM and took out 30 Lira, which I’m guessing is around 20 USD. If it weren’t for the admission to the castle, we wouldn’t have needed to change currency. Everyone accepted the Euro anyway. Our boat was leaving at 4:30, and we got to the Bodrum Castle around 3:30. The view from the top was spectacular. The peacocks wandering around the courtyard gave it a more exotic feel. Bodrum is in Asia minor, so not only did I visit two countries in one day, I made it to two continents. As we got ready to pull away from the dock, we could hear the Islam call to prayer. I cannot wait to get to Istanbul.
Sonia let us leave our bags at the pension and picked us up from the port again. We kissed her goodbye and spent our last few hours in Kos just relaxing by the water.
The thing about having to go to Syros first instead of directly to Mykonos is that we had a little bit of a layover. Meaning we left Kos at 9:15 pm and got to Syros at 4 am, and then left for Mykonos at 10 am. As we were on the ferry to Syros, we just kept shaking our heads and laughing. What were we supposed to do at 4 am? The write-up for Syros in THE BIBLE listed a bar that was open until 5, and then a church with nice artwork opened at 7…oh dear.
The ferry ride was alright. The guy behind me had some of the worst B.O. I have EVER encountered. Greece is funny like that. They either asphyxiate you with cologne or body odor. There is no inbetween. Let me just say that metro rides can be hell. Even with three feet between me and Stinky, I felt the urge to vomit. I slept for a few hours too, which helped.
Things in Greece tend to run late. Well, on the one day we really could’ve used some lateness, we arrived 15 minutes EARLY. We got off the boat at 3:45 laughing hysterically because there really wasn’t anything else to do. We followed the water because we saw a lit up hotel that would mostly likely host a bar, but fortunately we stumbled across a late-night sandwich place first. We tripped in and ordered three cheese pies and three cappucinos. That killed 45 minutes. Only five hours and 15 minutes to go! We sat down on a bench next to the water in a well-lit area and pulled out our books. We read for a few hours and snuggled on the bench for warmth. A stray dog decided he liked us and hung around. I sort of liked having him there. We had one hysterical moment where the boat docked in front of us emptied its sewage. It was before 6 am, it smelled like human waste, we looked like hobos on a bench with our stray dog at our feet AND we still had four more hours before we could leave. We were shrieking we were laughing so hard. Really, the adventures that come with budget travel are priceless. I don’t think I’ll ever take a cruise or planned tour.
Around 6:45, we got up and found an open cafe. Three more cappucinos. It was finally 7 am, so we went to the Church of the Assumption to see the painting done by Domenikos Theotokopoulos, also known as “El Greco“. When we walked in, we were blinded by stunning gold plated painting and crystal chandeliers. We walked into the chapel area, and a Greek Orthodox priest was there reading from the real Bible and saying prayers. It was very calming. The beauty in the room was overwhelming. We saw the painting too, which was pretty cool.
We watched the sunrise from the harbor, which was practically a religious experience. The colors were so vivid it hurt my eyes at times. The rest of the morning was spent reading my embarrassingly bad thriller. But hey, it was one of the only books in our apartment that was readable.
At 10 am, we got on the boat to Mykonos. Six hours went by surprisingly fast, and we were in really good moods. I thought the layover would be miserable, but really it was one of the most enjoyable parts of the trip so far.
*Right now I’m in an internet cafe in Mykonos so I didn’t get to check this for typos. Oops. It’s beautiful here but not what I was expecting. I’ll post as soon as possible. Pictures will be uploaded most likely in the next week or so.