Fresh from my Greek Thanksgiving adventure, I arrived in Rhodes at about 13:00 on Friday. Why was I going to Rhodes, you may ask? Well, I’ll tell you. I decided that since I was going to be in Athens for Thanksgiving, I may as well do a bit more traveling for the rest of the weekend. And… well… everyone deserves a birthday present from themselves, right? Hey, you! Yeah, you! I think you’re super and you deserve an adventure. Love, self.
When I got to Rhodes Town, I put down my stuff and immediately went running along the waterfront to see a bit more of the town and get my bearings. I set out and ran along the boardwalk, unable to keep my eyes off the gorgeous, bright blue water! With the gorgeous scenery, lack of time constraints, and sheer excitement of being on vacation, this was one of the best runs I have had in the past year or so.
There was only one thing wrong. As you can imagine, the Greek islands don’t see many tourists this time of year. Many of the islands close down almost entirely for the off season, and lots of hotels and restaurants shut down even on the islands that do stay open. I thought this would be great–I really can’t stand throngs of tourists, and prefer more authentic experiences. For the most part, it was great. What I hadn’t counted on, however, was that as the only tourist–and not just the only tourist, but a tall, fair-skinned redhead with an affinity for brightly colored clothing–I would not only attract attention, but I’d be the object of flat-out stares. And not friendly ones, actually. The looks I got were somewhere in between “What the…” and “…Are you lost?”
(There was one marked exception to these unfriendly stares as I passed people on that first run. It came from an elderly Greek gentleman who cried, “Is good gymnastic!” as I passed.)
Shrugging off the cold vibes I had gotten while running, and still flying high from the sheer beauty of the run along the shore, I headed out to have a walk and get some dinner. My plan was to walk around a bit and finally end up at a place mentioned in my guidebook, which was located in the Old Town. By Old Town they mean Really Really Freakin’ Old Town. (This term is used in only the most elite of academic circles.) It’s from medieval times, and is famous because it actually housed knights! There is still a “Street of the Knights,” and while walking down it you can see the knights’ lodging, based on their native language–there is an “Inn of Spain,” an “Inn of France,” and so on and so forth.
I set out for Old Town at around 5:45 PM because I just couldn’t wait any longer; after running all that way and not snacking after, I was so hungry. I walked around for a while and managed to get completely lost. While wandering down small streets, I passed an Indian restaurant, of all things. I love Indian food. I really love Indian food. In fact, I make a mean tikka masala, and I’ve been known to gorge myself on Indian cuisine to the point where I “feel like I’m made out of naan” (Meg, Morgan and Matt may remember that night… I could barely walk I was so full!). Greece isn’t exactly known for its international cuisine, and I have been jonesing for Indian food for quite some time now. But, I told myself that having Indian on my first night on a Greek island would be far too ridiculous, even for me. So I kept walking.
I finally found the Old Town at around 6:30. It has high stone walls surrounding it, like a real medieval castle. It was completely dark by then, and there wasn’t a soul around. At first, I was quite curious and feeling very adventurous… but the streets aren’t really marked, and they are very narrow. And it was dark. And there was no one else around. When I finally did see some people, I was met with the same unfriendly stares as before. I got incredibly lost on those narrow, winding streets, and it was 7:30 before I had found the restaurant I was looking for. Since I had stopped running at about 3, and had run almost 4 miles, I was definitely in the Hangry Zone (hungry + angry = hangry. I hope none of you ever have to witness this phenomenon… being a redheaded Scorpio, it can get ugly!). Well, I looked in the windows, and there wasn’t anyone else eating there… and I when looked at the menu outside, it looked tacky and awful. I sat down on a bench and tried not to cry.
Since arriving in Greece, I have felt like a foreigner in the best possible way. I’ve been proud of my background, eager to share, and even happy with how much I inevitably stand out physically–I’ve felt all these differences both helping me grow and learn and adapt, and simultaneously strengthening my own sense of self and uniqueness. And all of this has been met with the most warm, open and friendly curiosity from the Greeks I have met.
But that first day in Rhodes, I felt like a foreigner in a bad way for the first time. I felt out of place, alien and even a little scared. Having just come from sharing an American holiday with good friends in Athens, I now found myself feeling completely alone and unwelcome. Solo travel had always been a good thing for me until that night–I had relished the contemplation and sense of adventure that had come with it. But this time, I felt truly lonely.
Suddenly, it hit me like a sack of frozen tater tots to the face.
I needed Indian food.
Yep. It was just bizarre enough to round out the wholly bizarre day, and moreover, I found myself really wanting the company of other foreigners. I walked for another hour to get back to the place, and when I found it, I was the only customer with the company of a Greek waiter, his Russian wife, and the Indian chef. I had a lassi, garlic naan, and the best chicken korma I’ve ever had!
I talked with the Greek waiter for quite some time. It turns out he and his wife had opened the restaurant after they tried Indian food for the first time, and were so captured by it that they felt they had to share it with other Greeks. He said he now only eats Indian food, as he finds everything else to be too simple; he went on and on about the complexities of the spices and the sauces you find in Indian cuisine, and how wonderful they were. He also said that his restaurant was starting to become quite popular, particularly with delivery orders. I told him how excited I was to find real Indian food, and how their restaurant had finally helped me quench my appetite for good Indian after almost three months without. He was so delighted he brought me a free slice of chocolate pie.
After dinner, I walked home completely full and content. I no longer felt out of place; after immersing myself in something that was just as out of place as I was, it didn’t matter anymore. So if you’re ever in Rhodes, go for Indian at Om restaurant, and tell them the redhead from Thessaloniki sent you.
The rest of the trip was a blur of beautiful sights, great food, and lots of catching up with my journal and book. I wrote twenty pages in my journal and read hundreds. It was exactly what I wanted, and the loneliness I had felt before turned right back into solo adventurousness after my quadri-national night at the Indian restaurant.
The following day I went to Lindos, and went crazy with my camera:
(Avocado with walnuts and honey, from a taverna in Lindos. I will totally make this on my own! What a great combination. And YES, that is Strongbow. I was surprised too!)
The last day, I stayed in Rhodes Town and did a bit more exploring… and eating. This is grilled octopus! So charred and rubbery and lemony and delicious!
This is the aquarium in Rhodes Town! It’s an art deco building, and houses both an aquarium museum and your standard aquarium exhibits. However, the aquarium part is very different from what you’d expect: it’s made up of a very narrow, circular stone tunnel, with a mosaic floor and fish tanks built into the walls. It was a very cool experience, and I even learned a lot in the museum!
This is what the Old Town looks like, when it’s not dark and creepy.
On Sunday, I went for one last seaside run before heading back to the airport. I had been running for about 2 miles and was intending to go for 3 when I had an idea that wouldn’t let me alone, so I ditched the last mile and acted on it. I ran down to the waters’ edge, stripping down to my sports bra and shorts as I did so, and, leaving my things in a little pile on the sand, I jumped right into the sea! …And it was FREEZING! I got all the way in, dunked my head under a few times, and went scurrying back to my things. As I was standing there drying off and looking at the sea, a guy came up and asked me to help him zip up his wetsuit. This was quite funny, as I was standing there having clearly just gone swimming in my bra and shorts.
That night, I had airport sushi and Ben & Jerry’s in the Athens airport! It was definitely a weekend of indulgences and bizarre adventures, and the best birthday present I have ever received from myself. I’ve been working like a dog ever since, but am still riding the high of my wonderfully odd little weekend in Rhodes!