Kallithea Springs And The Enchanted Greek Island Garden
Wendy is visiting!
I am incredibly excited! My dream of living on a Greek Island always included visitors arriving at the airport and now it is coming true!
She is due to arrive in the evening, and I spend the day in preparation, assisted by my Greek-Australian friend, Johnny.
Johnny is an agile seventy-seven-year-old man with the spirit of a seven year old excitable boy! He loves life, and it is infectious! Any deviation from the normal village routine sends him into a giggling, hysterical frenzy of happiness, and as I’ve asked him to accompany me to the airport to help with directions, this has set the dizzy tone for the day.
‘We need to pick some flowers,’ I say to him when he passes on his way to the café for his morning coffee.
‘Soor, no probem,’ he says in his Greek-Australian accent.
‘A go, pikemup, afta the coffee.’
He usually picks me flowers from the surrounding countryside, when out walking.
‘I’ll come with you,’ I say.
‘Nah, nah, you stay make-a the steud all good for the girl cumin, a go pikemup,’ he says with a grin, waving his arms at the studio, ‘you fix-er up the steud, make it nice.’
‘Ok,’ I agree, I’m still cleaning the studio, anyway, so I am happy to continue.
A while later, Johnny appears with an armful of flowers.‘Oh Johnny that’s lovely,’ I say, taking them from him.
‘Yeah, I getta sum moa afta,’ he says
‘No, this will be more than enough,’ I assure him.
‘No, I pika sum for the gadden,’ he points at the walled garden.
We call it a garden but it is really the stone shell of a ruined Greek house with a few trees growing inside. It is cool in the heat of the day and ideal for me to work on my laptop when the studio is too hot, but because of the shade, no plants or flowers grow in it. Nonetheless, Maria has furnished and decorated it beautifully, and it is a charming place to spend time.
A short while later, Johnny returns with a huge armful of oleanders and other blossoms and starts fussing in the garden. He obviously has an idea and is on a mission, so I leave him to it while I fuss over the finishing touches to the studio, making it welcoming for Wendy’s arrival.
Eventually, Johnny calls me outside.
‘Anna, cum see, whata u think?’ he asks me, his broad smile beaming from ear to ear. ‘You thinka the girl like it?
’‘Oh, Johnny! The girl will LOVE it! I reply as I look in surprise at the transformed garden.
Johnny has draped, and tied flowers everywhere and the old ruined shell truly looks like an enchanted garden.
I give him a hug and he grins with happiness as he goes off to get ready for’ our trip to the airport,
‘Seeyalater,’ he shouts, with a backward wave of his arm. He has a spring in his step as he strolls off down the lane.
My village friends welcome Wendy with open arms, and as I introduce her around the square, we are given gifts of courgette fritters fresh from the pan, tomatoes and rice pudding.
Wendy and I are looking forward to our time together; however, we have a challenge ahead of us. Despite the studio and enchanted garden looking lovely and welcoming, my living conditions don’t quite match up to my ‘Living On A Greek Island In A Spacious The Bedroomed Villa With An Outdoor Pool And Extensive Veranda Space,’ fantasy.
Instead, we are sharing my studio, which consists of one little room, housing everything from my bed; wardrobe space; kitchen and living space, with a tiny separate bathroom. It is just enough for one person and would be fine for a couple, but Wendy has to sleep on a mattress arrangement on the floor between the kitchen and a table, and we only have a few hangers and clothes space between us. The bathroom and dressing routine initially takes a bit of coordination, but we quickly find an amicable system, and ignore the chaos of clothes, suitcases and drying beachwear that permanently threatens to engulf us.
Now my days take on a different rhythm.
Initially, I subconsciously resist, entrenched in my simple and frugal life, but soon I succumb to Wendy’s holiday mood and become a tourist. I’d purposely delayed exploring the major attractions of Rhodes until Wendy’s arrival anyway, and soon I am swept up in the tourist mayhem that comes with the territory.
We explore Rhodes Old Town by day and by night; we love it with its ancient streets – narrow and meandering.
Around every corner, there are restaurants and tavernas with enchanting, fairy-lit garden courtyards, shops that sell everything from crisp Greek linen to crass, but funny, souvenir tack. Streets open out onto squares, where music blares from bars and holidaymakers sit watching the world pass by. We pay to climb up the clock tower, but our vertigo grips us, and we turn back, settling for the rooftop drink included in the ticket, while we enjoy the views from there instead.
By night we stroll down the Street of the Knights, enchanting under soft street lighting, and by day we explore the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes.
We visit the various tourist towns on the other side of the island. They have the best beaches, but the whole area is exploited by tourism. Beaches are crowded, the sea is a broiling frenzy of water sports activities, enormous purple unicorns, and bobbing pink flamingos. Streets are lined with identical tacky souvenir shops, and restaurants offer the same cuisine. Scooters, quad bikes, and rental cars dominate the roads. It is a fun holiday atmosphere, but we find it overwhelming.
Lindos is one of the most popular tourist towns and attractions of Rhodes; a beautiful whitewashed fishing village nestled in the cove of a peninsula with Lindos Acropolis towering over it. Our visit is in the evening, and we try to stroll through the labyrinth of cobbled streets, but it is a hot and unbearable endurance of jostling our way through hordes of tourists. Groups of people infuriate me when they walk along engrossed in conversation, oblivious to oncoming pedestrians; namely, us, until we collide. Tourist shops sell overpriced trash, taverna owners compete for customers, each one attempting to drag us inside their restaurant, with promises of the best Greek cuisine; each menu is the same, and all are overpriced. There are promises of the best rooftop restaurant views, and monitors linked to live webcams prove this. We succumb to the charms of one taverna owner and find ourselves on a rooftop restaurant with views over the other rooftop restaurants. Nonetheless, Lindos is charming and beautiful and well worth exploring further. I will return…when the tourist season is over.
We explore the various beaches and spend lazy afternoons alternating between swimming and sunbathing. Most days, we try a new beach and today we visit Kallithea Springs, 9kms from Rhodes Town.
Kallithea Springs is fast becoming one of Rhodes top attractions, with a history that dates back to Ancient Greek times. There are records of visitors having visited it throughout all of history; however, the complex that now stands there was built by the Italians, who occupied the Dodecanese Islands from 1911 until the end of the Second World War.
The attractive whitewashed buildings were opened in 1929 and remained so until 1967. During the 1960’s Kallithea Springs was one of the sets for the filming of some famous movies including Zorba The Greek, The Guns Of Navarone, and Escape to Athena, which starred Telly Savalas and Roger Moore. However, the complex fell into disrepair after it closed in 1967, but was eventually renovated and reopened in 2007.
We pay our small entrance fee and take our time to stroll through the open courtyard with its feature fountain, and walk along the white-pillared walkway, admiring the carefully tended gardens. Finally emerging from the cool dome building we find ourselves in a small but picturesque bay.
There is a restaurant on one side, and the small beach is filled with sunbeds. It is early afternoon, and the beach is already packed, but we find two empty sunbeds side by side and quickly settle in. There are changing facilities and toilets, and the waiters are attentive, constantly bringing drinks and snacks to the lazy sunbathers.
The water is crystal clear and as smooth as glass. It is said that the therapeutic waters come from surrounding red rock, and it does feel especially soothing as we alternate between swimming, snorkelling and chilling.
Later, we leave the beach and spend a while strolling around the impressive complex. The terrace and patio floors are made of attractive pebble stone mosaics, which must have taken such patience and an eternity to create. We circle the Rotonta Hall, trying to capture the breath-taking views from its many archways and sit for a while enjoying the beauty and serenity in sophisticated surroundings.
It has been a lovely and relaxing afternoon, and we can understand why Kallithea Springs is one of Rhodes top attractions, but eventually, we drag ourselves away, as we need to go home and prepare for the Fiesta that is being held in the village tonight…
To protect the privacy of the people I write about I have changed some details including their names. However, their warm generosity and my stories are real.
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