Monday, June 1, 2009

Goodbye Turkey, Hello Greece

So, yesterday morning I was checking out of my hotel, planning to take the bus to Marmaris and then take the ferry to Rhodes in Greece from there. But when I asked Marie at the hotel if she could help me book the ferry she was like, don't go to Marmaris! You can go via Kastelorizo instead and it will be cheaper and more fun and more comfortable! But you have to leave right this second! So she hurriedly checked me out, got me and my luggage on a scooter down to the harbor for a boat to Kastelorizo, and called to make sure there was indeed a way for me to get from that island to my final destination of Rhodes.

I went on an excursion boat to Kastelorizo, which is an interesting place in a sleepy kind of way. You might say that it's boring, but for interesting reasons.

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Kastellorizo has been occupied by basically any entity that has ever occupied an island in the Mediterranean. It is currently part of Greece, and before wwII it had something like 15,000 residents; after bombings, fires, and assorted other geopolitical difficulties, it currently has a population of about 250. There are a lot of ruined buildings:

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Part of the problem is they can't have such strong ties (trade and otherwise) with the towns on the Turkish mainland as they once did. One interesting consequence of this population loss is that, in order to maintain sovereignty to an island that is actually much closer geographically to Turkey than to any other part of Greece, the Greek government basically pays people to live on Kastelorizo (which is also known in Greek as Megisti, and to Turks as Meis). And it subsidizes travel between Kastelorizo and other Greek islands, which is how I ended up on the afternoon flight to Rhodes (I paid 26 euros for the flight!). Here's the airport*:

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Here's the plane, just landed from Rhodes:

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Here's the baggage claim area:

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Anyway, so we all got on the Olympic Airlines plane (maybe 25 of us) for a 25 minute flight to Rhodes. The flight attendant gave us all drinks and snacks and everything, just as if it were a real flight! Then we landed in Rhodes and picked up our luggage from a real luggage claim.

Now, at this point, because I had not been planning to come to Rhodes for another day, I had no hotel reservation and no real idea of how I was supposed to get from the airport to any place that I would want to stay. A difficulty. I saw a sign for a bus stop and there were some kids waiting at the bus stop and the bus timetable said a bus would be by soon, so I waited for the bus, and took it into Rhodes Town. Then I still had no idea where to go so I wandered for a bit until I found a tourist information office. A nice young man in the tourist office called a pension for me and got me a room, and while we waited for the pension owner to show up to take me to the room he showed me on a map all the places I should go while I was in Rhodes. Given that I had no idea what I was doing at any step in the process, I think it turned out very well!

And Rhodes - I love it! The old town, where I am staying, is just about the most romantic thing I've ever seen (or at least it was at first; I've gotten lost in it several times since and now it seems to be equal parts romantic and irritating). But seriously, it is great:

Winding passageways:
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A laundromat called Hobby of Laundry for some reason:

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Rhodes Old Town is super-touristy - almost all of the businesses are souvenir shops or restaurants (and not particularly good souvenir shops or restaurants, either) - but it's still wonderful. I really like it here. Today I went to a couple of museums, which didn't allow me to take pictures, and then I got lost, stuck in the fortifications of the city:

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I walked three-quarters of the way around the city stuck between those two walls.

Anyway, tomorrow a lot of museums and things are closed so I think I'm going to do some open-air activities, and maybe even go to the beach!

*I think Kastelorizo airport is smaller than Beverly Municipal Airport, the airport in my backyard growing up; Beverly has three runways, and Kastelorizo only has the one.


Steph said...

The Greek government basically pays people to live on Kastelorizo - that's kind of awesome!

And Rhodes looks gorgeous!

Kyle said...

Rhodes was gorgeous, although in retrospect I probably should have moved on to another island rather than spending as long as I did in
Rhodes. But hey, I like to be a little lazy when I'm on vacation!

Isn't there some tiny island on the Maine/New Brunswick line that's contested between the US and Canada? Imagine if one government was paying people to live there and building a tiny adorable airport to fly the residents to other places!

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