Part XXXIV: Kalkan to Rhodes, Greece

So, after twenty days, it is goodbye to Turkey. Today we cross the narrow slice of sea that divides Turkey and her ancient nemesis, Greece.

Our taxi driver, Yusuf, the same man who took us to Fethiye, meets us for a 7:00 AM departure. It is just growing light although the sun has yet to pull itself over the eastern rim of mountains. Kalkan lays in a peaceful slumber, still some hours before the holiday-makers lumber down the hill to baste on the beach.

The sun catches up with us midway to Fethiye. A fine misty haze softens the harsh lines of the mountains, and for a few minute it catches the golden light, trapping fire. We pass tractors heading for the fields, scarved women riding on the wheel fenders or in the trailers. Near Fethiye the road is lined with schoolchildren, dressed in immaculate uniforms that appear far too hot for the day ahead.

We are taking a hydrofoil to Greece. The Flying Poseidon, is a long, aluminum cigar tube of a craft that seats around 100 people. Unlike most of the passengers, we are on a one way ticket. We won't be returning this afternoon, as our suitcases attest.

The Flying Poseidon. Fethiye, Turkey
The Flying Poseidon. Fethiye, Turkey

The interior of the Flying Poseidon reminds me of a Boeing 727. The only difference is that the Flying Poseidon sits eight people in each row, rather than six. We motor out of Fethiye harbor at a sedate pace, then the captain gives her some throttle. The motors spool up and she slides up onto her foils. Mary has selected a seat outside, over the stern, but when the spray starts flying, I rejoin the girls inside. Ninety uneventful minutes later, we reach Rhodes, mooring beneath the colossal bow of a cruise ship.

In the Shadow of Cruise Ships. Rhodes, Greece
In the Shadow of Cruise Ships. Rhodes, Greece

We sortie through the passport inspection, then drag our suitcases through the huge crowds packing the ancient core of the city. Rhodes is encircled by a medieval wall, erected by the Knights of St John when they controlled the island. Our apartment is within the old city, and my suitcase, the Blue Anvil bounces unhappily as I drag it over stone-cobbled streets.

We reach our flat, but unhappily, they are not ready to receive us: the rooms are still being cleaned. We park our luggage in a storage area, then saunter out for lunch. We don't saunter far: a lovely cafe/art gallery, the Anakata, is just down an alley from us. We eat our sandwiches while examining the art with critical eyes, then take a walk to get our bearings.

This old city reminds me a great deal of Venice (without the canals) or Barcelona. Thin, cobbled alleys wind past evocative shops, flying buttresses arched overhead to keep the sagging walls up. All around us are ancient stones; no modern concrete or plastic to be found. It is absolutely delightful.

The back streets of Rhodes, Greece
The back streets of Rhodes, Greece

As we near the waterfront, the charm departs, Here is the tourist tat, arranged within easy walking distance from the cruise ship docks. Three of the white behemoths are tied to the quays this afternoon. In the evening they begin sounding their recall horns and some of the daytrippers crawl back aboard.

Rhodes, according to our guidebook, has capitalized on tourist interest with a vengeance. 95% of the island's economy is linked to tourism. Each morning the tide washes in two or three cruise ships which wash out again in the evening. Rhodes is also a popular destination for worshipers of sun and fun: there are several large resorts lining the beaches outside the old city. I think it will take some work (or an off-season trip) to find the real Rhodes, hidden beneath the mask she dons for the masses.

Waiting for the tourists. Rhodes, Greece.
Waiting for the tourists. Rhodes, Greece.

In the evening we take another walk. The girls are desperate to try a seafood restaurant that we passed earlier in the day. Their culinary interests are certainly expanding this trip: Gracie has become a hardened devotee of calamari. We decide to humor them, although secretly I suspect that I will be eating most of the seafood. Our starters are feta cheese in olive oil, and caperi ― the pickled leaves and vines of the caper bush. The girls find this wonderful, much to Mary's horror.

We've decided to eat in Greek fashion, sharing our main courses. We order four items: Sauteed mussels, breaded rock shrimp, grilled octopus, and a pizza margarita for safety's sake. The mussels, my choice, are excellent. They come in a tomato and feta cheese sauce, liberally laced with red and green peppers. I think it may be the best dish I've had on this entire trip. Ann and Grace each try a mussel but are put off by the sauce. Miss Mary doesn't attempt it. The rest of the plate goes to me. I exult.

The girls make a little more headway with the breaded shrimp, but eventually they turn (with Mary) to the pizza. Our octopus arrives last, and it is a sight to behold; two thick, maroon tentacles, about an inch and a half wide at the beefy end. It has been grilled until the skin is crackling and stiff. Pink suckers trace rows down the underside. Ann grabs her knife and begins sawing the tentacle into sections. She, Grace, and I all tuck in.

In the past I have found octopus rubbery and slightly chewy, like surgical tubing. But somehow, either the preparation or the species has left these a dense meat. It's not rubbery, but each mouthful seems to weigh more than it should and it feels like you've cut too much off. Nevertheless, the girls and I work our way through these tree limbs, clearing the plate.

Like Moths to a Flame. Rhodes, Greece.
Like Moths to a Flame. Rhodes, Greece.

It is a beautiful night. A fine sea breeze curls around the stone walls, dissipating the heat of the day. We walk up to the castle, then down through the alleys, admiring the shops and ancient fortifications. The streets are still crowded as the streetlights, wrapped in black wrought iron cages flicker to life, but it is quieter.

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Copyright, 2017 Richard J. Goodrich