|I know, it's not like me to post selfies. But here is me with the beloved walking the Old Town Walls on October 25th.|
It's not like we're being nosey or anything, it's just that you tend to get a really good feeling of the pulse of a place when your brain logs conversation snippets. Having been here for as long as I have now, and having one way or another acquired a good deal of the language, I find the whole world of the Greek 'old boy' culture has opened up to me in ways that I couldn't have imagined years ago.
I find it hard to think of any other expression other than 'old boys' to describe that generation of men with gnarled hands and walking sticks, thinning hair and weather-worn faces, that sit in groups putting the world to rights over their coffees and often backgammon or dominoes. At the risk of over-simplifying things, in the UK, very often the conversation revolves around the weather, football, or maybe what the members of the group did at work recently. Maybe there'll be anecdotes about workmates and stuff. Plus, it'll invariably be over a beer rather than a coffee. Here it's invariably about one of two subjects, politics or money. I've said it before, but when the weather's pretty much the same every day for months, there's not much point in talking about it. So Greek 'old boys' tend to leave that subject alone. There isn't much to be said on the matter anyway. But if I had a penny for every time I'd overheard a reference to money each time I've caught snippets of conversations around me this past few days, I'd probably be able to eat out for free at least one evening.
This morning we sat in the Aktaion café/pastry shop in Mandraki and tuned in to one or two small groups of seniors having their usual animated chats.
|Coffee and bougatsa - when you're 'on holiday' you've gotta do it!|
What I like (and I've doubtless said this before too) is carefully observing these groups and discerning, even more so in smaller villages, the fact that these men have known each other all of their lives. You just know that from the time they were toddlers they were playing together, they did their military service together, they married around the same time and brought up a clutch of kids, all the while living within a stone's throw of each other.
Sadly, this isn't the case so often in many other countries any more. Take the UK, for example. Something that could almost be described as the 'culture' there these days is this habit that people have of viewing a property as an asset in their progress through life, as each couple, or family, strives to climb the social ladder. No longer is a house a home, it's a material asset to be viewed as a way of increasing one's wealth. Thus you often hear the expression 'starter homes', yeah?
Here, what more often happens is that as someone adds a child to the family they'll simply build another room on their house. In the UK, school friends (and I include myself in this) very soon lose touch as everyone sets out on this endless 'property [and indeed employment] ladder' where people move, often great distances, away from each other, and thus those relationships that you see in the Greek Kafeneion become impossible to sustain.
I'm not trying to be judgmental, simply observational. The world changes, but in some countries it perhaps changes more so than in others. I have read though, that the most stressful experiences that one can have in life include a death in the family or social group, divorce or separation, loss of a job or moving house. Thus, with moving house becoming such a 'habit' for some, it seems to me that a lot of people are putting themselves under much more stress than is good for them, often voluntarily.
Anyway, to return to our four-night stay in Rhodes Town. We had a wonderful time, simply walking everywhere. We parked up the car and didn't return to it until Friday morning, when we'd checked out of the hotel and had to stow the luggage until it was time to leave town and come home.
We ate out in a few places. The first was one we'd only discovered last year, the excellent Megiston Taverna in the Old Town. These next few shots aren't all that good I'm afraid. My phone isn't too hot at night shots...
|Retsina? "Well, go on then, just the one..."|
|"In that case I'll join you..."|
|Portokalopita, one of three freebies at the Megiston.|
|I love the atmosphere here at night. Sorry it's a little blurred. Nothing to do with the Retsina, honest.|
Moving swiftly on. The second night we tried a restaurant that we'd never eaten at before. Since our hotel was at the sharp end of town, only metres from the Casino and just off that beautiful plateia with all the date palms (called Square Gavriil Charitou), we decided to stay 'local' and wandered into the Napoleon, on the corner of Nikiforou Mandilara...
|Photo courtesy of Google Maps|
We ordered yemista pseftika (stuffed tomatoes and peppers, the veggie option) and a green salad. The green salad was listed on the menu as a lettuce salad, but to our delight contained cucumber, red onions and a few black olives. I found the yemista excellent, my other half was slightly less enthusiastic. I couldn't understand why!
One night we went for haloumi pittas at Angustino's fast food joint. It is what it says on the tin, but we enjoyed it. It was a wild and windy night, with the possibility of rain, but we got away with it. As it happened, for the first couple of days the weather was a bit iffy, but chose only to rain when it didn't matter to us. Phew!
On the last night we had intended to go to the wonderful Odyssey, with my good friend Babis, in the Old Town. Although it was clear (just a tad past full moon too), it was as cold as February after dark. So we just trotted around the corner to the slightly more pricey Louis restaurant, not five minutes from the hotel and right across the road from the Casino.
Although the house wine was a little more expensive than we usually like to pay, we ordered a Mediterranean salad, to be followed up by a haloumi pizza. The salad was one of the best we've ever eaten, containing croutons, sundried tomatoes, rocket and a whole bunch of other stuff, topped with flaked Parmesan cheese - yummy or what? It was almost a meal in itself.
The pizza was mammoth and we ended up taking two slices home with us. The staff were only too happy to oblige with a polystyrene box in a plastic bag. We ate those slices when we got home last night, along with my wife's delicious homemade dakos, with broccoli on top. All in all, for a restaurant where one could easily spend forty Euros a head, we ate our fill of truly excellent food, with a wonderfully smooth house wine (needed to be, at that price) and the bill came to €32.50.
Well, we're back home now and glad to be so, because we have a family of close friends from the UK staying next door and we want to spend a little time with them before they go home next week. They've kept the cat Mavkos fed for us while we've been away, plus even watered the lettuces when needed. What more could one ask?
So, in conclusion, the Elite hotel is just perfect for a brief stay in town. It's all brand spanking new, modern, compact and homely. We're very, very likely to go back there again next year. Most of the days we just walked, so here are a few shots taken during our short break in heaven...