Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The Awakening

Having flown back home from the UK to Rhodes on Saturday, we awoke on Sunday morning to a bright, crisp, deep blue sky and wandered outside to feel the warmth of an April morning in Kiotari. Even though the night time temperatures are still a little low for the time of year, each day since we got home it's been a very comfortable 23-25ºC during the daylight hours, in quite a sharp contrast to the UK, where in the days before we flew back the temperatures struggled to reach double figures.

The island is slowly re-awakening after the winter months. Looking up yesterday as I was getting stuck into some serious gardening (the weeds have made a serious take-over attempt in our absence) in response to a familiar sound high above I was delighted and mesmerised for a moment to witness the first Bee Eaters swooping above, just arrived for the summer, having over-wintered in tropical Africa, India or even Sri Lanka. The colour in the garden is truly breathtaking at the moment. All the rose bushes, which I pruned so hard just a couple of months ago, are ebullient with fresh wine-red to bottle-green shiny leaves and bursting with flowers and new buds. My wife has already been out to clip a few blossoms, which she's placed in the bathroom not simply to add a splash of colour, but also as a natural air-freshener, smelling as they do of fresh raspberries, yum.


Last evening we took a stroll down to the water's edge in front of the clutch of tavernas on Kiotari front at around 6.00pm. Walking out onto the rocky reef which forms the natural harbour wall of Kiotari's extremely modest little "limanaki", I gazed down into the crystal shallows at new schools of tiny fishes as the water gurgled and gushed, babbled and bubbled through the rough apertures and channels among the rock pools. You can see the signs of the awakening just metres from here, as the tavernas now sport little groups of tables, once again lining the low stone wall above the beach and under the row of trees, which sport new growth after their haircut of a few months ago. Back up on the road, we strolled toward the Pelican's Nest, where its owner and chef George was busy touching up the whitewash on the wall beside the steps which lead up to the dining terrace. As we stopped for a brief chat with him, he welcomed us back from our absence and apologised for not shaking hands, since his were covered in white paint, which he referred to as yogurt.

The awakening is everywhere and it is good. Pass a shop, a taverna, a bar or cafeneion and witness the expectant proprietor standing at the entrance, one hand clutching the other elbow as he or she burns a cigarette in the first two fingers of the other hand, which is held ramrod straight down beside the body. The Greeks are beginning to get the message about smoking, but very, very slowly. Young newly-employed workers can be seen hosing down brightly coloured hire cars, which are now being lined up outside of offices in anticipation of their first temporary keepers' imminent arrival.

The first tourists are already walking about, dressed in stark contrast to the locals, who are togged out in jeans and sweatshirts, whilst the former are in shorts and tops which expose their shoulders, often the men as well as the women. My wife remarked as we did our first bit of shopping yesterday that they looked ridiculous. "It's still cold!" she quipped. To which I replied that she ought to understand, ourselves having just exited a plane after an EasyJet flight from the UK, that these Northern Europeans have been used to daytime temperatures of barely 10º, with the nights still melting into day to reveal a coating of frost on their lawns and their vehicle windscreens. Here it's 13-15 at night now and in the 20's during the daylight hours - positively tropical by comparison to what these early pleasure-seekers are used to.

Our neighbours up the hill invited us to an impromptu lunch yesterday. It was a pleasant surprise and the barbecued swordfish and king prawns went down well with a Greek salad, some home-made tzatziki, olives, fresh bread and chilled white wine. It was just what we needed to remind us of how lucky we are to be living here. Not just on Rhodes, but here in Kiotari, where the views from their terrace are blissful and the peace palpable.

I've said this before, but it bears repeating. If you're wondering whether it's "safe" to come here for your holiday this year, there's no need to. Yes there may be a strike or two, but by and large nothing's changed. Standing in the check-out at a store in the UK just days ago, we waited behind a man as the cashier told him that his bill amounted to thirty pounds and one penny. He had to be sure to sift out that one penny. The cashier apologised, but said that she wouldn't be able to go home that night if the till didn't balance. Here in Kiotari we had a similar experience at the local food supermarket on Monday. Irini, the check-out girl, said to my wife, "fourteen Euros and three cents, ...well, fourteen Euros please." It's a given over here that if you tally up to, say, thirteen Euros and 98 cents, you won't wait for your change, but then it's swings and roundabouts, since they'll also not hesitate for an instant to round it down if you're a few cents over.

In the UK everything's got to be so precise hasn't it.

We have the same experience every year now. Come October we can't wait for the last few tourists to depart, having grown sick of the roads being congested with small hire cars cruising at speeds which drive the locals, who have their usual business to go about, crazy. Many of the locals too are very, very tired after having worked seven days a week for six months. There are beaches which become for us "no go" areas in the season, crammed as they are with sunbeds, umbrellas and bodies. Once the hordes depart these beaches are once again idyllic in their solitude (see this post).

But equally, by the time we reach March we're itching to feel the "buzz" again, looking forward to a few more tavernas and bars being open seven days a week and into the small hours too, anticipating reunions with friends we've made either as work colleagues, or as guests spending their hard-earned couple of weeks under a bright blue, Greek sky, where rain is unheard of for several months every summer. Looking forward to a decent bit of people-watching too!

In short, we welcome the awakening.


  1. Great post, John, enough to make my itchy feet positively dance. And you paint a picture to set my pulse racing! Only one week to go and we will be driving very slowly in our hire car all over Rhodes, and cluttering up even the most remote beaches with our towels and snorkels and sundry other possessions! This year we have new binoculars AND new camera to try and catch close up views of the beautiful bee-eaters. As long as we (we, as in hubby) remember to pack them.

  2. The perfect illustration John, as if we needed it, of your "seasonality", if there is such a word. You paint a vivid picture that could not fail to stir the heart. I always find I enjoy visiting the UK but I enjoy getting back "home" as well. Have a great summer!

  3. Victoria Anstee27 April 2012 at 15:58

    So True!! Kalos Kalokairi to you both!