It happens every year and yet still causes a degree of shock to the system. Last Sunday, October 30th, was the final day of the season, the last transfer coaches took the last sun-tanned travellers back to the airport and the staff at all the hotels and apartments set about their final end-of-season clean. The hire car companies began mothballing the majority of their vehicles and the beach umbrellas and sun-loungers were soon being stacked, ready for taking away on the backs of overloaded pickup trucks to be stored until next April.
I drove off toward Lardos on Tuesday evening, in fact I was going to my friend Petros' house in Kalathos, and the completely deserted road was the first and instant reminder that the season was over. The switch is thrown, all the hire cars and 95% of the coaches are gone from the roads literally overnight. There will always be a few coaches, but only between Rhodes town and Lindos, because on the couple of occasions each week during the winter when a cruise ship docks in Rhodes, the passengers get "bussed" down to Lindos for a photo session. The tourists in those groups can carry on with their cruise having "done" Rhodes, ticked it off on their list.
|Lindos street, November 4th|
The retailers in Lindos, at least some of them, will open up and see if they can extract a little cash from the cruise ship folk and for a few hours during the winter days it's almost busy. As you'll know if you've read my ramblings for a while, my wife and I studiously avoid going into Lindos during the season if we can help it. It's simply too crowded for us. Now though, it's magical. You can wander the streets and appreciate the beauty and the history of a village that's been lived in continually for almost three thousand years. People are starting to relax, they've worked their socks off for six or seven months and now feel like they can breathe again. They get their own lives back for a while. They need it.
The water situation on Rhodes though goes from bad to worse. Just last week Arhangelos was without water for four days. The older of the two reservoirs on the island, the one near Apollakia, is so low that an old church that is usually completely submerged under the water is completely exposed and you could walk inside it if you were so inclined. a few days ago the water company on Rhodes put out some suggestions on line about how to save water. It was all very low key and didn't really drive home the urgency of the situation. One of the suggestions they did make was to wash down your courtyard not with a hose pipe (sans gun!) but using a mop and bucket. The next photo shows how much attention was paid to that idea...
|Notice the "stream"?|
That water that you can see flowing down the middle of this backstreet is coming from a woman who's washing her taverna terrace at least 150 metres away, not far down from the Atmosphere bar in fact. All that water is perfectly OK for human consumption, yet as always it's flowing down the street, wasted away by profligate folk who are so used to years of water being dirt cheap that they still can't get their heads around the fact that things have changed. The proliferation of swimming pools and still-aggressive programme of hotel building is fast making the water supply grossly inadequate even on years when it does rain. When a drought prevails, as is the case now, it's downright criminal.
I'd better move on before I get in a lather.
To return to the "switching off of summer", it's amazing how quickly not only the roads quieten down, but the sun loungers and umbrellas disappear from the beaches. Pallas Beach and the main beach at Lindos are already completely empty and look marvellous, all that golden sand just begging one to go walking along it and maybe take a dip. We're hoping to oblige in the next week or two.
Also, those hotels that do have extensive gardens (all of which get watered with sprinkler systems (grr!) are very prompt in erecting temporary fencing all around the perimeter once the last tourist bus has driven away. Once the staff are gone, the tourists nowhere in sight, the goats know. Oh they know alright and they're making a beeline for every hotel garden even as I type. You can watch them testing the newly erected fencing to see if they can find a weakness and, if they do, they're in there like a shot, gorging on all the lush greenery that's particularly scarce this year, owing to the lack of rain for what now amounts to about 12 months.
Just the other day as we were driving down our lane at around midday, we chanced upon this young fella..
He was evidently so consumed with the task of eating fallen olives from that tree that he quite forgot to be spooked by the proximity of two humans in a car. Notice the colour of the vegetation. Usually by this time of year we'll have had a few storms and there will be a distinctly green hue to the countryside. Not so this year yet. So, I theorised that this young buck was deriving what little moisture he could from the olives.
So, as we enter another Rhodean winter, our twelfth, we muse on how another summer has come, gone, been switched off, much like the seasons. It's predictable how the weather will cool, even if not so much as to when it'll rain. In March and April you can just about expect to hear a few mentions of "Spring". The Spring here lasts a week or two. Autumn though? Well that doesn't exist on Rhodes. I don't think I've ever heard mention of φθινόπωρο (Fthino'poro), Autumn. Once the last tourist (well, I should say package-tourist, since there are still quite a number of freelancers about) has left, it's winter. Everyone is wishing everyone else kalo heimona - good winter. Within a few days it's cooler overnight; so much so that we extract the quilt from its summer hiding place and ceremoniously replace it on the bed after months of sleeping under a sheet, if anything at all.
My wife climbs on to stools and lifts down boxes containing fleeces, jackets, boots. She packs away her strappy tops and all but one or two pairs of shorts and we wrap our desktop fan up in a heavy duty plastic rubbish bag and secrete it in the carport roof until next April or May. My better half actually gets excited about being able to wear jeans again, since it's been just too hot to even contemplate the idea since some time last April or May.
When the sun dips below the hill to the west of the house now, at something around 5.15pm (the clocks went back didn't they, hmmph - don't like it!) the temperature dips rapidly from perhaps the lower 20's to around the mid teens. We pick up our half finished drinks and retire inside to watch the Greek version of "Deal or No Deal" (simply called "Deal" here in Greece) with Christos Ferentino, Greece's current king of the TV game show. Just a couple of weeks ago we'd have remained out of doors after the sun had gone and carried on sipping our drinks at leisure.
It's nice though. When the sun shines it's still well into the 20's C, but the evenings begin to put one in mind of crackling flames in the log-burner, although it'll probably be another month before it's cold enough indoors for that.
Summer has been switched off. Days of long country walks are upon us and it is good.