We wake to noise. It is 4:00 AM, and Greek pop music is playing at the highest volume setting. Unbeknownst to us, our flat is right next to a bakery, and here in Rhodes, Greek bakers work at full volume in the pre-dawn hours.
Quite naturally, because the music is so loud, the bakers have to shout over the top of it to be heard. I could not believe it. At least the Ramadan drummer in Sirince eventually moved away from our windows. Who, in their right mind, listens to the radio at full volume this early in the morning? Bakers pounding out the dough to the beat. “Great tune, eh, Angelo?”
“WHAT? I CAN'T HEAR YOU!”
Well at least it ensured that I was up wandering the streets, camera in hand, well before sunrise. When I reached the main fountain, I saw that the bakers weren't the only people hard at work before dawn. Two girls, in party dresses, were splashing in the fountain, trying (and dismally failing) to imitate Anita Ekberg. La vita ubriaca. These girls, and the young men with them, had evidently frolicked through the night. As the eastern sky brightened, they fell into waiting taxis, like vampires catching the last coaches back to the graveyard.
I roamed the empty town, snapping away. By the time the sun rose, I'd filled a memory card and was heading for home with a bag full of croissants and donuts for the girls' breakfast.
Soon we were back on the streets. The day's cruise ships had docked, the tour buses had disgorged, and the streets were packed. We walked toward the entrance to the old harbor, where the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the original seven wonders of the ancient world, had once stood. The Colossus was a bronze statue, one hundred feet tall, that had been sculpted by Chares of Lindos around the year 300 BC. It didn't last long: the Colossus was felled by an earthquake in 227.
Today the old harbor is the home to the Rhodian tour boat industry. Boats back up to the seawall, while their masters tout for customers on the shore. Here we also find our first church, the Church of the Annunciation. It is a Greek Orthodox church, but appears rather new. Christianity is back in Rhodes after a long absence. The Turks conquered Rhodes in 1522 and ruled the island until 1912, when it came under Italian control. Because of this long Islamic occupation, the dominant (and unexpected) architectural feature is the minaret. Several mosques can be found in the old city, and indeed, it is much easier to find mosques than churches. In 1948 Rhodes was incorporated into Greece. While the mosques are still open and used for worship, it appears that the muzzeins have been forbidden. There are no calls to prayer wafting out over old Rhodes, although the lights on the minarets turn on at night.
From the Church of the Annunciation, we decide to walk out to the aquarium at the northern tip of the Island. This is the land of the beach resorts, a long strip of sand, mostly obscured by lounge chairs and brightly colored sunshades. Acres of sunbathers are tightly packed along the shore, pink wieners in a pack of hotdogs. I cannot believe the density of flaccid flesh bared to the sun: old men with beer keg bellies draped over their clinging Speedos, topless grandmothers being naughty. Resort life.
The aquarium was small, but reasonably priced. The girls enjoyed watching the fish in the large tanks. Ann's favorite was the sea turtle, while Grace and Mary were fascinated by the giant, bug-like lobsters lurching across the rocks. Personally, I rather fancied the Moray Eel, who had snaked his body through the holes of an amphora.
After a quiet afternoon dodging the heat of the day, we set out for an evening stroll. The girls went shopping, while I shot photos around the Palace of the Grand Master. I found a perfect vantage point for a shot, set up my tripod, and waited for the lights to come on. Unfortunately, after waiting 90 minutes, I discovered that there are no lights on the back side of the castle. My wonderful shot never materialized. I wandered back through the Saturday night life, which was just starting to hop.
The nights of Rhodes...