Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The Bandit's Lair

Saturday February 11th dawned blue from horizon to horizon. Without a breath of wind when first I ventured outside to empty the ash from the log-burner at around 9.00am, it felt as warm as any respectable British summer's day. the thermometer in the shade under the car-port was reading 15ºC (59º in the old money, or if you live on the other side of the Atlantic).

It was one of those mornings when you find it hard to kick-start yourself. Yvonne-Maria was trying to finish a novel before pulling back the bedclothes whilst I, instead of gathering a supply of kindling wood and new logs for laying the fire, found myself staring whimsically out at the orchard and thinking how well-tended it was now looking, following our having created seven new "booths" of protective screening to keep the all-too-keen winter winds from "burning" the leaves on the tender young citrus trees. I found myself admiring too the areas which we'd dug around the trees for a distance of several feet, in order to let the precious rains seep into the soil and aid in the process of producing larger and fleshier fruit next winter, rather than running wastefully off the surface, down the bank and across the lane a few feet below.

Midday was the ETA of Trevor and Gloria. Trevor was one of the first ex-pat residents here on Rhodes to purchase my first book (Feta Compli!) and has read every one of the first three. He's been a one-man publicity machine for my writings (bless him) and he's placed links to this blog on all manner of other websites having anything to do with Greece, or Rhodes in particular. I had a brand new copy of "Plethora" still in the packaging in which it had arrived to give him today as a token thank-you for the way he's been spreading the word. They were arriving to take us out to lunch.

They arrived at 11.45 to find us in a blue funk, both bumping into each other whilst trying to enter or exit the bathroom, me trying to find a pair of socks and my better half frantically applying make-up at break-neck speed. Soon, though, we were on the road and heading off to the delightful village of Profi'lia, up in the hills beyond the village of Vati on the Gennadi-Apolakkia road.

Here's an idea for another scenic drive if you're interested...
Head down the coast road Southwards out of Lardos, pass Kiotari and, just before you reach Gennadi there's a right turn for Vati, Istrios, Profilia and Apolakkia. Take that turn and, after a couple of miles you pass the village of Vati on your left. To the right is the recently refurbished taverna called The Pelecanos, which is worth a visit some time anyway. There are also two quaint traditional tavernas which won't disappoint in the village which, although small, has some very photogenic corners. If you have time, park on the main road and walk up one of the several short lanes into the village proper, it's worth it.

Carrying on past Vati, you eventually see a sign on your right pointing up the hill to the village of Profi'lia (pronounced proff-phil-lia, with the accent on the "phil" part), which is once again a smashing little hamlet with some superb mountain views. One of the best places from which to take in one of the views is from the terrace of the taverna, which you see on your right soon after you've entered the village. It's called "Το Λημέρι του Ληστή", which translates into "the lair of the bandit" or "the bandit's lair". This taverna is fab! Inside during the winter they have a roaring log fire in the corner, and outside they have a log burner on the terrace, which heats it to toast-like temperatures when the temporary glass partitions are installed for the duration of the winter months. This particular day, with the sun shining uninterruptedly, it was boiling in there. The four of us climbed the steps and entered the terrace through the wooden door (which is gone during the summer months) to be greeted by a) a simply irresistible smell of cooking and b) the hostess, Konstantina who, along with her husband Savvas, runs the place. It's open every day of the year by the way.

 

Kyria Konstantina is quite an anomaly, which is a compliment, since she's very smart, attractive and speaks excellent English, should you require it. She's Cretan-born but has spent time in Athens too before meeting and marrying Savvas and choosing a life away from it all in a tiny village up a lane in rural southern Rhodes. Her Greek is impeccable, without the local accent which sometimes makes it hard for us to understand the villagers here. But to be greeted by such a tastefully dressed, slim attractive woman who'd look at home in one of the sleeker bars in Rhodes town is what makes her an oddity in such an out-of-the-way place.
 
We soon set to work ordering and then demolishing the lunch, which consisted of some excellent homemade fava, dressed with chopped red onion, some ridiculously tasty revitho-keftedes (chick-pea rissoles), some oven-baked Feta with fresh tomato dressing and hot spices in there somewhere, some home-made fried potatoes which were piping hot and obviously hand-cut, and a Greek salad. Trevor and Gloria opted to supplement their lunch with a shared plate of oven roasted pork, which was served with some bulgar-wheat in a delicious (they told us; well, we did try a little of that!) tomato and onion (and a couple more things no doubt) sauce. Gloria also scored heavily by asking for a bag in which to take the bones home for her cats, which Konstantina was very happy to supply.

 
 What you see from the taverna terrace

Has he taken leave of his senses, you cry? It's a photo of the paper bin in the toilet!!
Ah, yes, but what an unexpected place to find the latest technological marvel. Just approach this bin with your hand and it opens automatically!!

All too soon the repas was over and we took our leave. But not before snapping a few photos for the trusty reader, including one which Konstantina took of the four of us, plus one in which the lady herself gets in on the act. 


Why do I keep getting this urge to call Trevor "Joseph"?

Never one to miss a "Cutting" opportunity, Gloria whips out her secateurs!

That's Konstantina on the left

Whether you stop here or not (but I would, if I were you), carrying on through the village and around the hillside before descending to the village of Istrios, you'll be rewarded by some spectacular views of some amazingly shaped hills and valleys. The scenery is as good as you'll see anywhere in the Med, occasionally granting you a view down to the sunlight-twinkling sea some miles away. This time of the year the greenery too is stunning in its intensity. When you pass through the village of Istrios, taverna Notos is on the right. In this post I referred to the fact that we'd eaten there one winter's day a few years ago. Last Saturday we were surprised to see that it was all closed up. Hopefully this means that they're just doing some decorating and stuff, since it's a really nice taverna. Will keep you posted if we learn anything more on that one. It would be a real shame if it's closed indefinitely.

Once you reach the end of this road, which has looped up around the hills and passed through the two villages, you can either take the left back toward Gennadi and Vati, or go right towards Apolakkia. We went right. Before entering the village, we took another right and drove along the potholed track which leads to the old dam and reservoir. This one predates the new one near Laerma by many years (it was built in 1989). At this time of year, with so much greenery around you, you could be forgiven for thinking you're beside a lake anywhere in rural UK. It's glorious on a bright, blue winter's day. In summer there is a water sport centre beside the lake and, if you take the road across the dam you can follow it (sometimes tarmac-surfaced and sometimes dirt-road) all the way to Siana, centre of the Souma industry on the island. Plus you can purchase some delicious thyme or pine honey there too.

 




On this occasion we just drove a few hundred yards along the lane, before doubling back and heading into Apolakkia for a late afternoon drink of hot chocolate in the Amalia taverna, in the village square. There we exchanged comments around the table about how different a rural Greek village still is from its equivalent in the UK. Old men sat and drank, not alcohol, but Greek coffee, always accompanied, of course, by a glass of water. Black-clad be-scarfed women shuffled slowly along the street and children whizzed by on bicycles in the warm sunlight. People talked over gates and the occasional pick-up drew up, discharging still more men into the selection of bars and tavernas. This village is still inhabited by families which go back generations. So often in the UK today, villages are occupied primarily by the rich interloper who wants to move out of the city to enjoy a more natural environment during the rare occasions when they're not actually working. The heart of so many UK villages has died, or is at least on life-support. Here, the beat is almost audible. My wife and I caught snippets of conversations from some of the "old boys", all of whom looked toward us with ear-to-ear smiles dissecting their leathery faces and revealing more fresh air than teeth. Gnarled hands rested on the tops of walking sticks as they set about solving the world's problems in companionable and occasionally heated conversation. Greeks will always get heated in conversation. It doesn't mean anything. It's just the way they enjoy social intercourse.

 

The afternoon drew toward its close and Gloria and Trevor dropped us off at the bottom of our lane. We bade them farewell and thanked them again for taking us out for the afternoon. Waving as they drove away, we strolled the fifteen minutes back up the lane toward home, talking all the while about how this kind of day reminds us of how lucky we are to be living here. For all the woes afflicting this country, village life goes on as it has for centuries. The environment during such warm winter days is unbeatable. We also made a mutual mental note that we'd be going back to the Bandit's Lair some time soon.

10 comments:

  1. You have surpassed yourself this time, with pictures, descriptions and details of the menu, which I have to admit, is making me salivate (sorry too much info!)already. I had already asked Trevor (or was it Elmer!) for directions to Profilia and we have it earmarked for a visit.
    All thanks again for your blog
    Vicki

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  2. You know we've now surpassed 3,000 hits a month on this blog. Seems there are so many out there in ether-land who like a regular fix of Rhodean life. We'll do our best to keep supplying it as long as we get feedback like this Vicki; thanks so much.

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  3. FAB - U - LAS!!!

    Ooh those chickpea fritters, we were going to have stew and dumps for tea tonight, but i think we might just "Go Greek" Instead.!!!
    Am printing all the information off to take with us, hope you don't have any copyright restrictions??? sounds just the thing we are looking for, and for good measure, you even saw a pelican???

    Very enjoyable read

    Regards

    "Porridge Oats"

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  4. looks like you had a really lovely day and some fantastic photos as always, and on the subject of your books, I received Plethora of posts yesterday via amazon so looking forward to reading that (have read them already in your blogs but great to have them to read again at the turn of the page, and a 4th book for our collection)

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  5. Good to put a face to Trevor, the notorious poster on Trip Advisor

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    1. I have never hidden away on any forum
      Usually use my real name where it matters

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    2. He does have a sense of humour really. ...honest!

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  6. Great post John - the real Rhodes Village life!! And food to die for - fantastic!!
    I know how you like to study things in great depth and detail.
    Can I make a suggestion - any chance of some info. (in your style) on Profitis Ilias - we have visited there a few times and are curious about the fish in the nearby lake area (Gizani, I believe) and also about the apparently 'deserted' village/area of Eloussa with its Italian Architecture and former Sanatorium (I appreciate that its not 'traditional Greek' but I am sure it has a very interesting past). Also the Agios Nikolaos Foundoukli Church, Eleousa, which I believe is the oldest church on Rhodes from the Byzantine period.
    Many thanks
    Steve (Hull)

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    Replies
    1. Hello Steve, thanks for the communication and it's good to know you're still there. I seem to have credited Dave Harris with being the main moving force in my getting up to speed with Kindle, but wonder whether you also were in the frame as it were. Whatever, if you were, thanks! Kindle sales are actually amazing me and could even threaten to put me (a semi-retired graphic designer cum writer) into the tax bracket again!!!

      Regarding you requests, well, that's a lot of homework you've given me, so it may require some patience. But you never know, eh? Maybe I'll come up with something some time, but don't hold your breath just at the moment. I will make a note of all your info though, rest assured.

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    2. Thanks John
      Kind regards
      Steve

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