Bird & Sunrise photo

Bird & Sunrise photo
Because "someday" is today!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Yes, But What About The Paintings?

Many of you are wondering if we are getting any painting done with all the sight-seeing, beach hopping and learning of history, etc.

We did end up discussing this very topic early on in our adventure. I thought we should be painting more, and Jeff thought we shouldn't miss anything here. Jeff claims he had no idea there would be so much to do and see. I have to say, it far exceeded my expectations. At the closing of our time here, I'm glad we went out to see all we possibly could.

We tried to develop the quickest way to get paintings done in this more humid climate. Doing a detailed underpainting with black and white acrylic paints dries very quickly and makes adding the color with the oil paints much easier. We could also use thinner coats of oil paint and that also helps the drying time.

My original expectation was that in a month, each of us could at least have eight to ten paintings completed. The actual final tally is that I have three completely finished with color, and Jeff has six, but only one complete with color. Of course he had to do a detailed triptych of the Palace of the Grand Masters....

Many times life just doesn't match what I first expect or believe. We have discovered that the airport here has a section just as sleek and up-to-date as Munich. The flights from Europe come in there. WE came in on the section the local people fly in on. They don't care about bathrooms because they live here.

In the little shops that looked so "touristy" at first, we have discovered some of the nicest local people. We have been invited for Sunday dinner, which we gladly accepted the invitation. Another family let us know about their daughters performance of Byzantine Greek style music in a traditional Greek taverna. We were the only tourists there, and the music was amazing! There are elegantly designed homes and neighborhoods as well as the older, more worn ones. It was well worth exploring the places that the tour buses didn't go.

It is a good thing to look deeper than my first impressions, and adjust my expectations. We may not have completed many paintings, but we have certainly been energized and inspired to paint, and we wouldn't trade any one of our experiences here. Sometimes the "Giant Cross You Can't See" just happens to sit over the crest of the hill, and if you take the bus by-pass, you can see it perfectly for miles!

Jeff's Corner: The last impression I made was a butt print in the sand on the beach!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Tale of Four Cities

In 408 BC, the three city-states of Rhodes: Ialyssos, Lindos, and Kamiros joined together to form the new capitol Rodos at the northern tip of the island.

Learning about the city-states, I really felt the tie to our own country's history. They were designed to protect their citizens, their rights, ensure their liberty and provide them with opportunities. In return, citizens were responsible for participating in politics and in obeying the law.

Early on, we planned to visit all four cities. I was a little disappointed that Ialyssos had the least amount of actual Greek ruins. It's strategic location high on a hill with good land for growing crops nearby was attractive to the Byzantine monks, Genoese merchants, Christian Knights, Turkish, and Italians too! Everyone built something on, or around the old city.

Lindos had the most stunning setting high on a point jutting into the sea. More of the acropolis was left because thankfully, the Knights of St. John simply built their castle walls around it. We were delighted to see the small harbour where the Apostle Paul landed around 52 AD to teach the Greeks the Gospel. The city of Lindos still sits below the castle walls and is filled to capacity with bus loads of tourists. Even in the "off season", we counted twenty-six buses in the parking lot. Beautiful white city, but go EARLY in the morning!

Kamiros was the smallest of the city-states. After a severe earthquake in 226 BC, the same quake that took down the Colossus, the city was abandoned and only rediscovered in 1859. We loved wandering around here because we were in the actual old city. The walls of the homes and public buildings were still in place. We explored them, then climbed the long central stepped street up the hill where the many columned stoa and temple of Athena stood, and looked out to the sea. The columns were no longer in place, but we could imagine how beautiful it would have been.

The new capital, Rodos, was laid out in the "new" grid system which was much in vogue at the time, with planned residential and commercial quarters. When Jeff saw a map of the ancient city, he was instantly in love. It was nothing like the twisting maze of roads that exist in the medieval city and the modern city today. We could barely imagine the original Greek city walls that measured 15 kilometers around, but the few corner columns left of the temple of Apollo are massive! We also liked the restored theater and stadium which are still in use for events.

A hundred years after the city-states created Rodos, the city was attacked by Demetrios of Macedonia. Rodos successfully withstood the siege, and celebrated by using the materials from the abandoned siege engines to fund the building of the Colossus. Talk about public funding for the Arts! The Colossus was one of the inspirations for the French artist who designed the Statue of Liberty. The radiating "rays" from the head of the sun god Helios look familiar to us encircling the head of our Lady Liberty. Sometimes we don't realize how closely our present is linked to the distant past.

Jeff's Corner: If the grid system existed today, I could get to the beach quicker!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Joy Ride

Our horizons definitely opened up when we got a car. The first day we immediately headed down the west side of the island and soon we could see the rocky coastline, pine forests, and spectacular blue water vistas we had been waiting to see.

Finding a wonderful castle perched on a steep cliff just outside the small town of Kritinia was a delight. Most of the castle was gone, but the shell that was left was great to explore. Just down the road was another castle at Monolithos. Those Knights of St. John were busy! We now know of six castles on this island, plus others on the islands of Halki and Symi.

In Switzerland, we managed just fine without a car. Even though we stayed in a fairly remote area, the railway system got us were we needed to go. The bus system here is good, if you just want to see the big main attractions. It is also pretty crowded even in the "off season" and it doesn't go to the southern part of the island very often, if at all.

So far we have logged about 1,000 Kilometers on that little grey car, exploring most of the roads on the island. It's been worth every penny to beat the crowds for photographing the acropolis at Lindos, getting to see the frescoes at the remote Thari and Yeoryis Vardhas churches, and having a stretch of golden sand almost to ourselves at Mavros Kavos beach.

The local drivers are a little pushy, especially the ones who drive BMW and Mercedes vehicles. Sometimes the signs can be tricky to find, but it is still driving on the right side of the road and Jeff has excellent reflexes!

Jeff's Corner: It only took seven days before I was complaining about how slow the tourists drive. I feel right at home-

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Adventures In Walking

The first few days we were recovering from jet lag. It is nine hours ahead here, so Jeff was up most the night and I couldn't wake up in the morning!

We didn't have a car yet, so we were walking to any destinations reasonably close by. Thankfully the supermarket was only a block away.

The first serious sight-seeing location we attempted besides the beach, was Filerimos hill. Located about three miles away, with many layers of history. The Turk, Suleyman the Magnificent, directed the successful 1522 AD siege of Rhodes from the Byzantine castle here. We also wanted to see the ancient acropolis of Ialyssos, one of the founding city states of Rhodes, plus the temples of Zeus and Athena built atop an older Phoenician shrine. The barrel vaulted church of St Ai Yeorgis Hortas with fourteenth and fiftheenth-century frescoes also intrigued us.

The defining marker on the hill is a huge 70 foot concrete cross the Italians built after they took over Rhodes in 1912 during the first World War. We understood the cross could be seen in nearby Turkey, so we thought we would easily locate the correct hill. After an hour and a half of walking, trying to understand Greek signs and dodging traffic, we finally gave up and walked to Rodhos, Old Town which is four miles away instead.

We were so energized after seeing the great sights in Old Town, that we decided to take the beach walk back to Ixia, even though it was longer than the way we walked in originally. It wrapped around the farthest north point of the island and was very scenic with the sun setting over the water. Wow, absolutely worth it!

However, after the sun went down, we got to the part of the walk way that they were still finishing. Working our way around construction and with the adrenaline rush over, I was wishing I was on one of those buses whizzing by! Eventually we got back to the apartment, had some dinner and the world was a great place again.

Days later, after we rented a car, Jeff was determined to find out where we had gone wrong going to Filerimos. Imagine our chagrin when we discovered at one of the confusing busy intersections we had been stuck at, a small sign on a tall post pointing to Filerimos. We didn't see it because we had been standing right under it!

Jeff's Corner: Don't forget to look UP....

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Old and The New

The castle of the Knight's of St. John.
The castle of the Knights of St. John.
We decided to walk from Ixia to Rodhos, Old Town, and save the eight Euros for the round trip. We found that the sidewalk lasted about two and a half miles and the last half mile or so was an interesting exercise in keeping out of the way of traffic while navigating the drainage ditch! I thought we were the only ones doing something so adventurous, until we saw another couple coming down the hill towards us!
One the of the eleven entrance arches into "Old Town", Rhodes, Greece © 2008 Tina M. Welter
One of the entrance arches into the "Old Town".

We entered Rhodos town in the section where the regular people live and not where the tour buses go. The homes and businesses were not big or fancy, but we smelled some wonderful food cooking. After studying several maps, Jeff had a basic idea of where we were headed, but there were not regular street signs to give us much direction. (The locals know where they are going.) We did come across unexpectedly some ancient Greek ruins, we think they are tombs. They were located right at a busy intersection, with just a small sign to note they were even there. The old was right in the middle of the new.

Bell tower close up, Rhodes-Greece © 2008 Tina M. Welter
Bell tower close up.
Another accidental find was a beautiful church that was still in use. It had paintings on the outside illustrating the life of John the Baptist in the old Byzantine style. It also had a lovely bell tower. There were notes to the congregation for recent memorials posted outside the doors.
Turkish catapult stone embedded in the wall, "Old Town", Rhodes-Greece.  © 2008 Tina M. Welter
Turkish catapult stone embedded in the wall.
Imagine "storming" this castle! Walking in the moat, "Old Town" Rhodes, Greece  ©2008 Tina M. Welter
Imagine "storming" this castle!

Eventually we found an entrance to the medieval city built by the Knights of St. John. It was stunning walking through the huge gateway in the outside wall, over the the moat and through the outer and inner doors of the city wall. We were admiring the stonework when we were startled by a car coming up behind us and then several people on their moped bikes. We couldn't imagine anyone being allowed to drive modern vehicles in the old city! When we walked into the city itself, it looked just like some ancient fairytale. Narrow cobblestone streets, beautiful doors opening to shops on every side, and people milling around everywhere. It was like an ancient stone labyrinth. After several twists and turns, I had a moment of claustrophobia thinking I was like a mouse that didn't know where the exit was, let alone the cheese!
Nice parking space for your moped, Old Town, Rhodes, Greece © 2008 Tina M Welter
Nice garage.

Jeff reassured me by showing me the map with the eleven city gates that surround the city and I relaxed. We went down some side streets and realized that there were people still living here, with their cars and moped bikes parked just outside their doors. We realized that we were thinking this was a National Park, but it wasn't, it was a living city. We could see Real Estate signs for homes to buy. Some entrances had fallen into neglect and we could look through and see an old courtyard and rooms crumbling away, yet next door could be a beautifully painted and restored home. The old and new together.
Living in one of the old churches today, a new home in an old church. Old Town, Rhodes- Greece © 2008 Tina M. Welter
New home, old church.

Beautiful red and white detail work, Turkish Mosque  Old Town, Greece © 2008 Tina M. Welter
I love the detail work.

It took us two days to see the whole city. There were two Mosques from when the Turkish ruled the city, a Jewish synagogue, several Greek Orthodox churches, many Knights' residences, and an amazing castle that was the headquarters for the Knights of St. John. Of course there were plenty of shops geared towards the tourist trade. Especially inside the gate that faces the harbour where the cruise ships dock. But even this new type of market had it's place. It gave the city a feeling of life and energy. Looking at it from a distance, we could imagine it was any era with people going about their business.
All the crowds are at this end of town.  Cruise ship outside the walls of Old Town, Rhodes-Greece © 2008 Tina M Welter
Here come the people!

I saw a sticker on one of the mailboxes at one of the residences. It said "I Love Old Town". It was strange at first to consider living with all those tourists everyday, but I could see loving something that had so many layers, like a great cake. This latest was just one of the many, and also to be enjoyed.

Jeff's Corner: I particularly liked the people driving their hybrid cars through the medieval gate to get the ATM located in the 600 year old building. (Too bad it didn't dispense drachmas...)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

First Impressions

From the airplane, Rhodes reminded me of Hawaii, a vast expanse of blue water with clouds and islands scattered about. The airport was filled with a lot of different languages besides Greek, there was English, Swedish, German, Russian, and some we didn't recognize. Hardly an American accent to be heard. The airport restroom was markedly different than the sleek accommodations at the Munich airport. Luckily, I did have my own paper.
Walking along Avra beach, Rhodes, Greece. © 2008 Jeff Welter
Tina on the Aegean.

After changing some dollars into Euros, we gathered our luggage and went to wait at the bus stop. Yes, we are being cost conscience, but we were also warned by the "Rough Guide" that the taxi drivers like to take you where they think you should go. Mostly the places that offer them a kickback for every guest procured.
Fishing boat with Turkey in the distance, beautiful evening at Avra beach. Rhodes, Greece © 2008 Tina M Welter
Fishing boat with Turkey in the distance.

Jeff asked a local fellow waiting at the bus stop where the bus was going and how much it would cost. He didn't speak English, but he wrote down the desired information. A very impressive bit of friendliness considering how many tourists come here every year.
Really nice homes in the neighborhood of Ixia.  Rhodes, Greece © 2008 Tina M Welter
These were the really nice houses away from the main street.

Once on the bus, the city whizzing by the windows didn't look particularly impressive. A lot of small businesses, one after another geared toward tourism, many with that faded patina of age. Several buildings looked half finished with re-bar sticking out of them. Later we learned that the owner saves on taxes if their building isn't finished!

We were trying to read the bus stop names, but we just kept seeing the same Greek phrase. Finally, Jeff realized it was "BUS STOP" in Greek letters. Apparently the city funds didn't cover bus stop signs. Jeff asked the bus driver for Avra Beach, and he seemed to understand what that meant. I was relieved since I was envisioning us with our four pieces of luggage riding around the island for hours with no idea of where we were! Getting off the bus was a bit disorienting, but soon we located the Napoli Restruant. The staff knew to take us to the apartment just around the corner.
Apartment we rented in Rhodes, Greece.  The futon was tricky to open and lock into place.
The apartment WAS this nice!

Kitchen, apartment in Rhodes, Greece.  My first experience with one sink dish-washing.
Nice kitchen.

The courtyard with flowering jasmine mmm...

I felt such anticipation at the apartment door. Would it be as nice as the photos, or would it be a long month of disappointment? It was perfect, and even better than we had hoped. After twenty six hours of travel time, we hit that futon bed and slept for sixteen hours. (Once we figured out how to open the darn thing!)

Jeff's Corner: My first impression; I suspect Greece is the New Mexico of Europe.