Travels With Myself

A Personalized Periodic Update, just for my family and friends, of the Ongoing Adventures of Your Favorite World Traveler

Location: Budapest, Hungary

After nearly 30 years in the financial industry in the US (mostly California and New Mexico), I decided it was time for my second life. I sold my house, sold my car, sold all my furniture, took a TEFL course and moved to Budapest to teach Business English to the business people of Hungary. Amazing mid-life change! I taught for about eight years, then pretty much retired. Since then I have traveled extensively, and have been to nearly 75 countries. I have had six books published, mostly about my travels - see my author's page on I have made friends all over the world. Becoming an expat is the best move I ever made and I plan to continue my travels indefinitely. Come join me on this blog and enjoy the places I've been and the people I've met in the past and present and hopefully will meet in the future.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Road to Rhodes

Bob and Bing would have had a ball traveling to the Greek Island of Rhodes, or Rodos as it’s known locally, but Dorothy Lamour would have been seriously overdressed once she arrived. Mainly because it was HOT, HOT, HOT in the Faliraki Beach area where I stayed. I took t-shirts and some polo shirts with me, and never wore a single one; it was tank tops (singlets) all the way. But aside from – or in addition to – the heat, it was another fun, relaxing trip. I had visited Rhodes some years ago when on my Greek island cruise, but didn’t have the time then to explore it, so it was nice to have this second chance. After an ungodly awakening at 3 AM on Saturday, August 4, I caught my 6 AM flight to Diagoras airport in the northwest corner of the island. The shuttle service I had booked to pick me up was, of course, nowhere in sight. Plenty of other shuttle people awaiting their arriving guests, but no one from Europe SA Travel. No sign, no name, no smiling Greek bearing gifts. Why is it always me? I finally found an airport employee (I guess she was) who asked around and found someone from the same shuttle company, and he gave me a ride to my hotel in a nice air-conditioned Mercedes, so I guess it wasn’t all bad. The drive took around 20 minutes or so and ended at the Esperos Village complex, perched on a hillside in northeastern Rhodes, about 2.5 kilometers north of the beach town of Faliraki. Very nice place indeed, built on several levels, white buildings gleaming in the Greek sun and pretty much every room with a sea view. Mine was no exception and I checked in to find myself looking out over the Aegean Sea. My room had three single beds, a bathroom larger than my Budapest flat and an inset balcony from which I could lord it over the peasants below. I could get used to this. I changed clothes to what I would be wearing most of my week on the island (shorts, sandals and tank top) and headed out to see what Faliraki was like. The hotel was efficiency itself, something I’ve grown accustomed to not finding in my travels. They gave me schedules for their hotel shuttle (to the private beach and main entrance on the main road) and for the public buses; these schedules were invaluable during the week. It was just a bus short ride (for only one euro!) into town, and I explored the venue for the next couple of hours. Lunch at the Jamaica Pub then strolled down Bar Street and Club Street, the two main avenues in Faliraki. The area was filled with tourists, mostly English, German, Russian and French, with a smattering of Scandinavians thrown in for good measure. (BTW, that’s what a group of Scandinavians are called, a Smattering; you heard it here first). The young female tourists were mostly tanned and fit and toned and beautiful in their skimpy bikinis and I enjoyed my people-watching immensely. Unfortunately, the scene was spoiled by those damn slender, well-built, muscled, flat-stomached beach boys, all of whom I hated immediately on sight. Getting old sucks. At least there was the standard contingent of grossly fat young British tourists to compensate for my lost youth and slender body. I wasn’t anywhere near as large as they were. The other noticeable oddity about European Tourists on Parade is the strange combinations of clothing they wear, mostly checks with stripes and patterned shirts with flowered shorts. The Fashion Police should have been making serial arrests; in a few instances, the Fashion Police should have shot to kill, thus putting us out of the tourists’ misery. Please, a good job for someone would be to conduct a fashion seminar on all flights from the UK to Greece so the tourists don’t embarrass themselves and shame the entire British Isles. The heat finally drove me back to the hotel and into one of their cooling swimming pools, where I stayed smiling until dinnertime. A shower and I was back to Faliraki for dinner at The Grill House, enticed by the smiling face of Savas, the owner/manager/shill (I never did find out which) into the open-air seating area. A large Mythos beer started me off, followed by some cheese saganaki, which I hadn’t had for years. They didn’t bring it flaming to my table this time, but it was just as good as I remembered. Then the Greek Plate, a combination dish of small portions of standard Greek fare, including dolmades, moussaka, gyro, lamb, meatballs and other goodies; just right when accompanied by a second beer and a complimentary ouzo from Savas. (I ended up eating here three of my seven nights, so we were both happy). Sunday was a beach day, so I caught the early shuttle down to the hotel’s private beach area. I was pretty much alone at that early hour, so I picked my lounge and umbrella and settled in for the day. The beach itself was rocky – smooth rocks, but still…I guess that’s why it’s named Faliraki (pronounced “Fahlee – rocky”). I swam and toasted and rested there until around noon, then headed back to the hotel for lunch and a few hours in the pool. Lazy day. After a nap and shower, it was back to Faliraki again and another great dinner at The Grill House, this time a seafood platter to accompany my saganaki and beer. I took a walk down Club Street to check out The Loft bar, which was the only place I could find where karaoke was performed. Maybe later in the week. Monday I decided to explore Rhodes’ Old Town, which was basically the area enclosed by the old crusader castle walls and moat in the city of Rhodes. After my extensive breakfast spread at the hotel, I caught the public bus into Rhodes (just 2.20 euro!) and, after a 30-minute bus ride, I set off to find the Old Town gate. Well, let me tell you, Old Town was just another interesting thousand-year-old castle with its streets now converted into a bazaar for the unwary traveler. It was clean and pretty and well-maintained, but when you come right down to it, more tourist ripoff. The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of St. John Hospitaller was worth seeing, but the six euro price tag was a touch steep for bare walls. I walked and looked and took some photos, but the heat inside the Old Town walls was so enervating – i.e., no breeze at all and temps in the 90s – that I soon decided maybe the harbor area might be a better place to roam. I picked up a sandwich and slushy and wandered over to where the Colossus of Rhodes had supposedly stood, astride the harbor entrance. Cool, literally and figuratively. But not cool enough. Every tourist I saw was shiny with sweat, myself included. Half a day exploring the Old Town would have to be enough in that heat, so it was back to the hotel and its wonderfully cool swimming pools. After my third shower of the day and a refreshing nap in my air-conditioned room, I needed food so it was back into Faliraki for pizza and beer at The Breeze bar. It was a quiet night in town, so I thought I’d rest up for my upcoming restful day. Early to bed and early to rise makes a man dull, but well-rested. I had no plans for Tuesday, so I spent the day and evening around the hotel pool, reading one of my Kindle books and generally taking it easy. A really lazy day. A few beers by the poolside bar in the evening, an overpriced but tasty pizza and it was time to watch the Olympics for awhile. Wednesday was my afternoon cruise to various coves and bays on the eastern side of the island. After a couple of hours around the pool, I bused to Faliraki and succumbed to lunch at McDonalds – but I did have the Greek Mac! I found Peter’s Watersports on the main Faliraki beach around 2:30, although the cruise wasn’t until 3; still have that early gene, just in case something untoward happens. And of course it did. The sea was a touch choppy so the boat couldn’t pull up to the beach where I was waiting; the boat people then told me I had to walk – walk! – around the bay to that little, tiny blue building waaaay over there – it must have been half a mile at least, mostly on sand and wooden slatted boardwalk. Needless to say – but I’ll say it anyway – I was not amused. Temps were still in the mid-90s and even the slight breeze was hot and humid. But okay, I struck off and 25 minutes later found the boat. I was dripping with sweat and desperately needed something tall and cool, or at least a swim in the Aegean. No such luck. About 25 people boarded the small glass-bottomed boat and off we went. At least the sea breeze was a touch cooler out there. First stop was Ladiko Bay, where we were allowed to swim for 20 minutes or so. Aaaahhh, nice. Back on board to Afandou Bay, another place to swim and check out the caves, but really just another rocky beach inhabited by locals. Okay, more swimming, which was cooling and refreshing, even though I blew out my old Teva sandals, which had served me well all over the world on previous adventures. Sad to see them go. Up anchor and off to Anthony Quinn Bay, where portions of The Guns of Navarone were filmed. Still more rocks, so I had to jury-rig my sandal to follow the rocky path up to the taverna, where I downed three sodas in quick succession. Dehydrated. But fortunately the taverna had obviously had experience with blown-out sandals in the past, as they sold new ones. Whew – got a new pair and I was ready for the climb down and walk back to the boat. After another dip along the way, of course. The cruise was nothing special, just a few more places to swim; I wouldn’t recommend it. Anyway, I walked back to Faliraki from the beach, did some shopping, then heard the siren call of saganaki, calamari and beer and was off to The Grill House for dinner. Savas loved me by this time and greeted me like a long-lost brother. Making friends wherever I go – especially if there’s ouzo involved.
I had another short trip planned for Thursday. I caught the early bus down to Lindos, a small beachside community (is there really any other kind on Rhodes?) about an hour south of my hotel. There was a small town and a big acropolis there and I heard it was a good day trip. The air-conditioned bus ride was slow but fun, even after the driver stopped once for gas. We got to a roadside tourist area around 9:30 in the morning. I could have walked down to the Lindos town square, but the locals had a shuttle to take the weary tourists down and back, so what the heck, it was free and I took advantage. Never walk when you can ride. Lindos at first glance looked interesting: a beautiful little town square with a large tree in the middle, tiny streets fanning out from there and a wonderful view overlooking the bay and its beaches and hotels. And overlooking it all was a huge acropolis on top of an adjacent large hill, or small mountain, take your pick. I wondered if the locals had arranged anything as efficient as their shuttle service to escort tourists to the top of that hill? And sure enough, they had: donkeys! Excellent. I could ride a donkey to the top, thus saving myself that long hot trek. I approached the donkey man with money in my hand (5 euro one way!) and he told me, in no uncertain terms, “You can’t go.” What?! I can’t go? What the hell was this? Why not? He shrugged his shoulders in that infuriating way Greeks have and said, “Too big.” Too big? You mean, chubby? Overweight? Fat? Hefty? Hey! I rode the donkeys down the trail on Santorini – of course, that was nearly 20 years and quite a few pounds ago, but still, donkeys are used to carrying weight, aren’t they? Besides, I did see a grossly fat Englishwoman astride one of the beasts, and I wasn’t nearly in her weight class. But it was no go. I was stuck there unless I wanted to try the walk; one look at that steep, long mountain (now it was a mountain) trail disabused me of the notion, especially in that all-encompassing heat. I doubt if any of the other minimally-overweight people would or could have made it either. So I was relegated to the tourist-tat-filled quaint little village streets of Lindos for my entertainment. After a checking out a few such streets it became apparent to me that Lindos was really just another tourist trap. I was really disappointed in what the Greeks had done to their pretty little villages, turning them into shopping bazaars and souks and malls. Sight-seeing was secondary to commercialism, and these places existed merely to suck every last bill and coin out of the visitors. Well, screw them, they weren’t getting mine! I did have lunch up at the roadside café, then took the bus back to the hotel (only 4.50 euro one way) and its always-beckoning swimming pools. Dinner was once again in Faliraki. The hotel, of course, had a marvelous dinner buffet every night, but it was just too much food and it would have been silly for me to pay the price quoted for a minimum dalliance at the buffet tables. Even with the one-euro bus fare into town, I saved on my food. This time I checked out others areas of the beachside village and had dinner at a Chinese restaurant, The Golden Wok (why are the always named that?). My final day on Rhodes, Friday, was another no-plan day. And as on previous such days, I merely lazed around the pools, reading and soaking up the Greek sunshine. I had a light dinner at The Breeze again and called it an early night. After several telephone calls the previous day to ensure my morning pickup, my shuttle service showed up a touch after 7 AM and we were off to the airport. On the plane at 10 AM and back home in Budapest at 11 AM local time. A great week, but it’s always good to be home, especially since the temperature in Budapest was around 70 degrees with a cooling breeze blowing. Until next time, Dear Readers, have a good last month of summer and watch this space for future adventures.