Thursday, 23 May 2013

Fuel Stop Afandou

Now and again, when we've been up in town well into the evening before leaving for home, the problem of how to sate our hunger needs addressing. To get home to Kiotari from Rhodes town can take as little as 45 minutes during the winter months, but that journey time is increased to an hour and sometimes more once the hire cars, quad-bikes and coaches hit the roads in great numbers when the tourist season gets under way.

OK, admittedly the journey's better than it used to be before they improved the road from Kolumbia to Faliraki. They've been at it for almost five years now and seem determined not to finish the job any time soon. Granted there is now dual carriageway (divided highway, dudes) running from the newly installed traffic lights at the Kolumbia cross-roads all the way to the very edge of town (except the bit where the road passes the village of Afandou), but I reckon the planners had a back-hander worked out with some rep from a traffic-light manufacturing company, because there are now no less than 15 sets of lights between Kolumbia and the outskirts of Rhodes Town, which, if you're unlucky enough to hit when they're all against you (which they're programmed to do, I swear!!) can add a good (wrong adjective there) 15 to 20 minutes to the trip. If they're mainly green it's OK, but that doesn't happen anything like often enough for my liking.

Here in Greece they have this marvellous system of overhead amber flashers about 500 meters before you reach the lights. If they're not flashing then you'll hit the lights when they're green (oh, bliss!). If you're passing under them when they start to flash then you'll make it through just as the lights are changing from green through amber to red. If they're flashing before you pass under them, you've had it I'm afraid. Either the lights are already red or it will be tantalisingly close, but they'll be red slightly before you reach them. 

Something I really don't like about the traffic lights here, and it has to be said that this doesn't only apply to Greece, I know, but if you're stationary at a red light waiting for it to change, you don't get the amber before the green. The lights go straight from red to green and it never fails to spook me. No matter how quickly you engage first and start to move you can bet your bottom Euro that the bloke behind is already leaning on his horn with that "What's the matter, IDIOT!! Why aren't you MOVING?!" attitude clearly visible in your rear view mirror. Some things are better in the UK and the way the traffic lights work is one of them. When it's time for you to prepare to move, the lights obligingly give you an amber after the red, which says "OK, so get ready to release your handbrake and get into gear because little old green is coming up in a jiff!" Thus you're able to pull away in a dignified manner and without a hint of the blind panic that gets me every time the Greek red light flips off and the green flips on, as if to deliberately catch you napping, or perhaps checking out the finer examples of God's creation trotting along the pavement (sidewalk, guys? Is this confusing or what?) instead of studying that red light without blinking.

Before we move on, I'd appreciate it if here in Greece they operated the "right on red" system that they use in most parts of the USA. Seems eminently sensible to me. Of course you couldn't do it in the UK because they drive on the left. Somehow "left on red" doesn't sound as cool.

Anyway, I digress hugely ("so what's new?" you're mouthing, eh? Don't think I can't see you) as usual. What I started out on was the need for food which makes itself evident when we're driving south from Rhodes town at - say - 9.30pm or later. When we're at home we usually eat at around 8.00pm. Not being filthy rich we don't always have the dosh to drop into a taverna as often as we'd like, so the problem arises, when we're on the road, as to what to eat, since we'll be arriving home at much too late an hour to start preparing a meal. To be honest, it's not completely about whether we have the cash, it's more the fact the the boot (ahem, "trunk", OK?) is usually full of shopping and the plastic ice containers in the cool bag are working overtime so we need to get home a little faster than we'd otherwise do if we went into a taverna to eat.

So, enter the absolutely wonderfully situated giros place at the top of Afandou Plateia. We've been dropping in here on and off for almost eight years now and the couple who run it always look the same. He's a big bear of a man with a permanent 5 o'clock shadow and she's much shorter than him with lank greying hair. They could easily be sitting on a sofa sipping lager and eating pizza with Wayne and Waynetta Slob. They'd look right at home. You don't know who Wayne and Waynetta were? Google it folks.

I imagine that when they go home, if in fact they ever do, they must still stink of frying oil even after a hot bath or long shower. It must be ingrained in their pores. But, and this is what counts, they rustle up arguable the best pittas on the island. We used to just order a couple of plain pittas and some chips (fries, fellas. Check this out, it'll educate you if you live west of the pond) to eat in the car as we drove ever onward towards home, but these days we tend to order vegetarian pittas, which they stuff with chips, lettuce, onion, cucumber, tomato and tzatziki, plus a couple of drinks and sit down in the salubrious surroundings of the takeaway (carry-out, [phew]) to drink in the ambience and stuff ourselves silly for about 9 Euros (two stuffed pittas, a portion of chips, a Coke Zero and a Fix).

Afandou plateia [square] is actually really nice. It's probably the only place on the island where there's a row of cafes which all sport those comfy cane chairs with the thick cushions. It's what I always envisage when I imagine sitting down in a typical Greek square to sip a frappe (OK, or a beer). Locals sit and play tavli or cards and there's a constant stream of activity to satisfy even the most demanding people watcher.

So, of you're passing Afandou any time, take the right at the traffic lights opposite the golf course if you're heading away from town. drive all the way into the village until you see a couple of taxis parked up on the left. The square will be right before you and the Giros place takes pride of place at the top next to the taxi rank.

There  you can order a giros and find someone with whom to have a good moan as you express your frustration at just how many traffic lights the main Rhodes-Lindos highway now hosts.

Yes, I did say "highway". Do you know we English used to use that word in times of old? Nowadays we think it's American don't we? But what was Dick Turpin described as then? New can of worms undergoing opening procedure...

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