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Friday, 26 April 2013

Hiking in Rhodes

The new header photo above was taken in Rhodes - thought I'd include a few people this time, since people are a big part of what travelling's all about, for me.

As you'll remember, perhaps, I went on a hiking trip. Actually there were just two of us - T. and me - because we were going so early in the season, so we had our guides, Richard and Phil, completely to ourselves (usually just one at a time though) and  they were great company. They also tailor made a trip to suit what we wanted and felt comfortable with.

So Richard was taking us on a walk up Akramitis, the second highest mountain in Rhodes. It's not actually that high, and once you're over the summit, you descend into a beautiful valley with views of the sea, which eventually winds down towards a small chapel and then ends up in a village with the imposing name of  Monolithos.

Although we were nearly blown off our feet by the wind at the top, the descent into the valley made me think of those old stories where pilgrims reach a haven and realise they're approaching somewhere they want to be. The sea was deep blue and covered in "white horses" whipped up by the wind,


and as we descended, we saw that the rocky slopes were covered in wild flowers,


 including jewel like anemones of many colours from deep red to palest mauve


or shocking pink.


So we walked through this natural paradise till we came to a chapel where Richard suggested we ate our bread and cheese.

The chapel was very tiny, situated on a track several kilometres from the nearest village.  When we arrived, we saw a bonfire burning and people apparently camped around it.  As we settled to eat our picnic, several people from the group came and asked us to join them and share the souvlaki they were cooking on the bonfire.

It turned out that they were from the local area. They'd decided the chapel needed freshening up and repainting, and had decided to spend the weekend doing it.  (Here is how far they had got - note the bags of building materials, all carried in on the path)


....   and when they saw us, strangers, sitting there, they invited us to share their food.

This is so very typical of rural Greece, when people don't seem able to bear it if they don't make you feel welcome in their territory.  We had a great chat with them - many of them spoke good English - and went on our way feeling happy.

This kindness to strangers is one of the many reasons that Greece has a special place in my heart and why I'm wondering why on earth it's been so many years since I was there. I suppose I was a bit scared it would have changed, and become full of tourist touts. Or that the recent troubles there and anti-immigrant feeling we have seen on the news might have spread out and polluted the atmosphere.

Rhodes hasn't had the economic problems of Athens, and those we spoke to were disparaging of the neo-fascists, (while recognising the protest-vote element of their fairly short lived support). Of course things are always worse in cities, but even there the standard of honesty and friendliness is generally high in Greece.

As we walked around the lonely tracks in the countryside, we were offered all kinds of small gifts from strangers - oranges, flowers, fizzy drinks.  A charming family who had climbed up the 300 steps to the monastery of Zambikos gave us some fabulous mushroom pies. I'll write about Zambikos on my next post about Rhodes.

Usually I hesitate to give too many glowing recommendations, because I often don't pay for my own trip, and I really don't like the feeling that I'm advertising.  However, I paid my own way entirely on this trip to Rhodes so T and I have no hesitation in recommending the company we went with, "Walking Rhodes."  Phil and Richard really knew what they were doing, knew lots of interesting places we'd never have found ourselves, and generally seemed to love their work.  Everything was organised for us apart from the flights, and we were happy with it all.   And given that I have been on some pretty amazing trips it's good to be able to say that.

44 comments:

  1. I felt like I was there with you. It's been decades since I've been to Greece, and with all the horrible news about their economy, this was so heartening to read about the spirit of the Greek people still in good form.

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  2. The setting looks beautiful but of course the story of the kind and generous people trumps everything. Makes me want to visit.

    Darla

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  3. This lovely post brought back memories of the town where my grandfather lived in Italy..at the top of a mountain...where the people also had this same sense of kindness and wanting to make you feel welcome. Very heartwarming. It is so nice that they were restoring the beautiful little chapel.

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  4. That's great when the locals want to give you a warm welcome and make you feel at home. Funnily enough, I think one of the places I've felt least welcome is Connemara in Ireland!

    I like the way people decided the little chapel needed renovating and just got together and organised it.

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  5. I've always loved Greece. I haven't been that often, but it's very beautiful and you are right the people are very friendly. Mind you I was never offered any gifts. Maybe I look a bit scary! :D

    Love the shot of the wild flowers.

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  6. Oh, Jenny, I've been eager for another post and this one does not disappoint! It looks like a wonderful and healing time for you, a time when you can be reveling in the beauty of nature and wrapping a warm blanket of hospitality around you. It's truly a beautiful spot and I love all the stories you share about it. Can't wait for more.

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  7. We always enjoyed our travels in Greece too, but haven't been there in years.

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  8. Well, it certainly is very different from London right now. I wish I was in Rhodes too. As for the kindness of strangers, it looks like we have missed something in London, doesn't it?

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  9. Jennifer, this was such a heart-warming post - not just because of the beautiful pictures with flowers, and the lovely and perfectly fitting expression of "white horses" on the blue ocean, but also because of the friendliness and hospitality you describe. And also because there are still people, like these villagers, who do something together without looking for "profit", such as cleaning and painting the chapel - regardless of who would really be "responsible" for it!

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  10. Fascinating! It is so refreshing to know that there are warm, kindhearted people (a rarity these days!) in such a lovely, peaceful setting. I like the interior of the tiny chapel.

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  11. It looks like it would be a beautiful place to go when you are just plain tired of the rest of the world, to refresh the spirit.

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  12. That sounds wonderful.
    It's such a great experience to find friendliness and kindness from strangers.

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  13. Sounds utterly enchanting, from the scenery to the people. Lovely to hear how the kindness of strangers can turn a chance encounter into a memorable, heart-warming event, and make a foreign country feel like home.

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  14. Jenny, it seems you had very interesting and fabulous trip.
    Always is a pleasure to meet selfless and sincere people.
    such feelings are rare now.

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  15. I have always wanted to travel to Rhodes.
    Your trip sounds lovely and I love the photos.
    I am always so happy I found your blog.

    cheers, parsnip

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  16. I almost could feel the warm sunshine on my shoulders while reading your post!

    Your hiking trip sounds amazing - and how nice that you encountered so many honest and friendly people.

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  17. You tempt even lazy me to visit Rhodes, without the hill climb obviously!

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  18. I really enjoyed travelling with you this evening - what a magnificent trip, and how lovely to see wild anemones growing.
    Your header is a great photo along with the story that accompanies it.

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  19. They sound like wonderful, open, kind people. What a wonderful trip! Can hardly wait to hear more and see more pictures. I LOVED the wildflowers! :)

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  20. I've not thought much about Rhodes, except for the ancient colossus, but your pictures and commentary make me think this is a place I should visit. Take care and have a great weekend.

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  21. I loved Rhodes when I visited over 20 years ago. I especially loved the entrance (by boat). I was cheated when I bought a ring ( cracked stone) but no matter, it was a wonderful place to experience.

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  22. I'm sorry you were cheated Arleen, I guess this happens everywhere but Greece and Syria are two places where I never got cheated. (It makes me so heartbroken to think of what is happening in Syria). In tourist spots you do get people trying to drag you into their restaurants though.

    Stephen, I never realised that the colossus only lasted about 80 years, but I read also that it remained on the sea bed for about 900 years. I suppose after all that time nobody dared to retrieve it for the metal. I have made a note to read more about it but what about that for an idea!

    Meike, it was nice that they seemed to feel it was their collective responsibiility since they lived in the area and so it was "theirs" - a human instinct that is often swamped in our crowded lives.

    Craftymoose, following on from that, such a nice attitude is definitely a feature in some countries and shows in small rural comunities that haven't been messed up by the car and over development. Mind you it can go the other way too and they can become exceptionally suspicious towards strangers.

    Nick, maybe that happened to you? Its years since I have been to Connemara (I was a teenager) and I just remember some beautiful scenery, lots of rain, and a weird encounter with some tinkers living by the side of the road. what happened to you?


    Joe, it doesn't do the cool outfits any good to be scrambling over rocks :) maybe you didn't venture far enough into the interior....or, of course, you really MIGHT look scary :D

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  23. Its really Amazing, Jenny. I feel very interesting the way you presented this post.

    It happened to visit your blog today, you got excellent pages here. Enjoyed my time reading your post, going through the pictures. Following your blog now :)

    Inviting you to have a look at my blog and leave your valuable comments.

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  24. One of my closest friends has not only spent a lot of time in various out of the way places in Greece but also speaks some Greek. This constantly makes me wonder why I have never been. Your description and enthusiasm mirrors that of my friend. I think I can feel a plan forming!

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  25. Ahhh . . . the view . . . . wildflowers . . . beautiful bliss . . .

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  26. How lovely, Jenny. I think I would really love to do that too. A great recommendation indeed. Greece has been high on my wish list for years, and this looks like my kind of experience as well. Thank you! Beautiful photos too, by the way.

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  27. It's nice to read about a place that hasn't turned into a tourist trap. Way too many place have hence why I like the 'off the beaten trail' places to go. The place you found looks great and it's heartwarming to read about how friendly they are!

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  28. Hi Jenny,
    I have returned to blogging after being away for a whole year, it was a busy time moving house, but it is lovely to return to blogging and still find you here!
    Your post about Greece is lovely and I also think the country is wonderful. When I visited I noticed that the sea was so blue next to the pure white churches. Wow! Your photos are stunning and how wonderful that the locals shared their food without even knowing you. That would hardly ever happen in the UK.
    Great to visit you again after such a long time.
    Best wishes,
    Jo.

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  29. Hi, Jenny,

    First, thanks for all your nice comments on several blog posts. Most appreciated! You asked about watercolor pencils. I'm sure you can use them getting them wet first, but I usually draw my piece first, sort of blending colors dry or at least making the darks and lights, then go over them with a damp brush to get the water color look. After it's dry, you can go back and do more if you want. Makes it easier when you are traveling, because you can just sketch and fill in the details later!

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  30. Yenny, nice hike, spring, flowers and the sea. Beautiful story. A greeting.

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  31. Sounded like a wonderful trip. The beautiful views and welcoming strangers add a positive experience. Your new header makes a great travel photo and makes me wonder what they are cooking by the fire.

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  32. the photos are lovely. thank you for posting them.

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  33. Hi Jennie, your photos are just beautiful!

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  34. I am so glad to discover this blog because travels are passion for me but I am also very, very pleased with all your tribute to Rhodes and Greece.Thanks for sharing!
    My warm regards!
    Oly

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  35. They sound like really nice people Jenny, and it was nice that you both enjoyed and appreciated their generosity - Dave

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  36. What a beauty of a post, especially for an avid walker like me. The place looks magnificent and I believe your photos have done it justice. Lucky you!

    Greetings from London.

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  37. Jenny, it is lovely reading about your visit to Rhodes. Makes me want to go there right away. It is always good hearing about the kindness of strangers and the warm welcomes and generosity that can be found all around the world.

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  38. Greece in Spring - one of the most beautiful places ever. Thanks for lovely pics. k.

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  39. Greece in Spring - great - (my comment seemed to be eaten so sorry if I am repeating myself, great pics.)

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  40. A very warm ad happy header. You are right, people are important. They make a place.

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  41. What a fabulous post! I would love to do exactly this and take a hiking tour around the Greek islands one day. I love your marvellous photos but most of all I love the people you met and the stories you tell about them.

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  42. What a wonderful story about the people of Rhodes. Those are the "real" experiences which stitch up the fabric of life. Fitting idea to use them as your new header too. The whole scene looks so welcoming. I can nearly smell the souvlaki coming off the spit!

    We met with the same warmth in rural Turkey. It didn't matter that we spoke no Turkish and they spoke no English. The smiles were real, the raki was real, and the whole foreignness of it all was real!

    By the way, any trace of the Colossus?

    - Jenny

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  43. Wow, I love the views. It is very nice to hear about the nice people you met and talked with. Gorgeous photos from your trip!

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  44. Thank you Jenny for reawakening memories of my own trip to Rhodes some years back That picture of the little chapel had me searching my own photos to see if it was the same one we visited - it wasn't of course.

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