Published November/December 2011

Three to Sea

Sail to the Greek Islands of Rhodes, Santorini, and Mykonos

BYPaige Chadwick
When travelers think of the world’s most romantic destinations, the Greek Islands often ranks second only to Paris. And for good reason: Watching colorful sunsets, sipping fine wine, enjoying cool ocean breezes, and walking hand-in-hand through narrow cobblestone streets is an idyllic getaway for two.
As my husband and I stood on our cabin’s balcony shortly after setting sail on our cruise around the Greek Islands, we couldn’t believe this trip of a lifetime was becoming a reality. And because we only visited a few of the 6,000 islands and islets — of which only 227 are inhabited, although nearly all are used for farming or ranching — we both knew another trip was in our future.
A Rhodes by Any Other Name
The moment we docked at Mandraki Harbor on the northeastern tip of the island of Rhodes, we were greeted by the intriguing sight of an islet covered almost entirely by an ancient stone fortress, home of the Saint Nicolaus lighthouse, standing in resolute strength for centuries against enemies of its harbor. This, our first glimpse of Greece, was both majestic and a bit enchanting.
On the shore beyond lies a larger stone fortress, encompassing and protecting the surprisingly well- preserved ancient city. Extending along most of the rocky shore and up the hills beyond, the fortress’ crenellated walls and turrets of varying heights are set distinctly against a canvas of sea-to-sky blue. Both the island and the ancient city of Rhodes (or Rodos) were named for the flower, the rose.
While beautifully named, the island, inhabited since approximately 4,000 B.C., has a long and embattled history of control. This also is the site of The Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, an enormous statue built in honor of the god, Helios, whom Rodhians believed had contributed to their victory over invaders from Cyprus in 305 B.C. Constructed of iron and bronze, the statue stood more than 30 meters (107 feet) on a giant marble pedestal at the harbor’s entrance. Although there is some disagreement on the actual location of the statue, most historians agree an earthquake destroyed it in 226 B.C., a mere 54 years after completion.
Following a brief ride from the sailboat-lined harbor, we entered the fortress over a narrow footbridge, formerly a drawbridge, above the dry moat below filled with large stone cannon balls. Today, more than 6,000 people still live within these massive stone walls, which were constructed to protect the city in the mid-14th century. Inside this entrance — there are only a few narrow gates into the city — are cobblestone walkways, peaceful shaded courtyards, and vines climbing the stone walls with bright, fuchsia flowers silhouetted against the blue sky.
We briefly toured The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, also constructed in the 14th century, and the cobbled streets beyond, which connect ancient government buildings, residences, museums, and more shaded courtyards colored with potted flowers. Near the seaside entrance to the ancient city, a bustling market with shops and restaurants is tucked along even narrower stone streets that, in spite of its triteness, one could only call charming. The strong Turkish influence is apparent in the wares, including colorful fabrics, leathers, and spices. As we strolled through the market for several hours, we enjoyed the light ocean breeze and spicy aromas from colorful cafes with tree-shaded tables.
At day’s end, a string of breezy beaches lined neatly with rows of large umbrellas — all white along one stretch and all blue along another — led us back to the cruise ship as we said goodbye to Rhodes and settled in for our voyage to Santorini.

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