There are trees on Rhodes. The rock isn’t granite, but limestone (did you know the Greek for limestone is ‘poros’?) so the rain filters through to aquifers, and vegetation can grow. That makes it unique amongst Greek Islands, and attractive to settlement, so its history goes way, way back. Our guide Stefanos gave us the run-down on our drive south to Lindos – layers and layers of civilisation over many thousands of years, waves of invasions from all directions by various groups and nationalities, destruction and rebuilding, great power, wide influence and then decline.
So now it’s another island reliant on the annual summer invasion of tourists, who swarm through its Old Town behind the city walls, pose by the fountains, are assailed by forceful restaurant touts, and buy souvenirs – amongst which I was surprised to find a basket of authentic-looking boomerangs made, it was claimed, from local olive wood.
It was lively, and easy to see the history beneath the tourist trappings, and on a warm afternoon it was very pleasant to stroll along the grassy moat, through the cobbled lanes and climb up to a rooftop terrace for a drink and a view over flat roofs all with solar water heaters, past mosques and a church tower towards the castle and, beyond, the edge of Turkey in the haze.
In the morning, I went to Lindos to visit the Acropolis there. It’s at the top of 280 steps, which caused a ridiculous amount of consternation amongst the other passengers in the group. At the top there were classic ruins of fluted columns and carved blocks, a view over the cove where St Paul first preached – now a sought-after wedding location – and back over the town, another maze of narrow alleyways paved with stone and pebbles, and crowded with souvenir shops.
There are donkeys here, for getting back up to the bus park – American donkeys, brought in after the war (that’s WW2 – you need to be specific in a place like this) to help the locals cope with their busted roads. I didn’t ride one, this time – I’m keeping that for Santorini.