Rhodes, Crete (1980)

                         Ancient Kingdoms of the Mediterranean

Following her semester abroad in Jerusalem, Jill flew to Athens where Val and I met her to travel together to the Greek islands of Rhodes and Crete. We capped off our trip with a week-long return visit to Italy.

Rhodes. The first step was to find Jill in the Athens airport, which we did with remarkably little trouble. She had landed a half hour before us and was waiting with her big beaming smile at the customs exit. We had a five hour layover before our plane for Rhodes, which gave us a chance to get started on all of Jill’s news, a narrative which lasted for the next three days. She really had a great experience in Israel and made some great friendships.

Our hotel in the city of Rhodes (on the island of Rhodes) overlooked a narrow strait of water separating the island from the Turkish coast and we could see Turkey from the hotel room window. We were just outside the old city walls . . . a crusader city surrounded by a great stone wall not unlike Carcassone or Obidos (in Portugal). We spent a lot of time wandering the cobbled streets . . . felling the presence of the knights all around us. The original hospice was there in the old city and Val particularly appreciated visiting it.

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   Entrance to the Port at Rhodes                                                                                                     The Walls of Rhodes                    The Streets of Rhodes

The next day we rented a car and drove along the coast of the island to Lindos . . . a beautiful promontory of land jutting out into the Aegean Sea and capped by a Greek temple which, in turn, was surrounded by a crusader fortress. After spending some time at the temple, we drove down the bay and had a calamari dinner (with wine, bread and a Greek salad) in a little open air restaurant at the waters edge. It reminded us of the many similar lunches we had in our wanders on the island of Corfu.

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     Crusader Fortress                                                                                                                                                                                          Lindos                                                                                                                     

Crete. After only seventy-two hours in Rhodes, we flew to Crete where we found a very nice hotel outside the main city of Iraklion, which had been recommended by someone we met on the plane on the flight over. It turned out to be a German version of the Club Med . . . a great place but overrun with German tourists.

The principal archeological attraction on Crete is, of course, the palace at Knossos, seat of the Minoan civilization and home of the legendary Minotaur. It dates back to 2,000 B.C. and is contemporary with ancient Egypt. An Englishman re-built the palace as he thought it might have been and although some archeological purists are critical, it makes for an impressive glimpse into the first Western Civilization. We found a Greek guide who spent a couple hours with us and really made it come alive. From there we drove across the island to Phaistos, another Minoan palace but unreconstructed and equally impressive. Jill did most of the driving since she hadn’t been behind the wheel for three months and really enjoyed roaring around the mountain roads in our little Fiat 127.

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   The Palace at Knosos                                                                                                                           The Bull Jumpers

The hotel put on a gala New Year’s Eve dinner topped off by baked Alaska and followed by dancing. Worn out by the day’s activities, we never made it to midnight . . . and Jill had to get up early the next day and fly off to Athens to rejoin her group. Val and I transferred headquarters after Jill left to a beautiful resort hotel on a remote bay at the east end of the island near Agios Nicholas. Built in Mediterranean style and blending into the rugged landscape, it reminded us a bit of Cala da Volpe on Sardinia. Since it was the end of the tourist season there were only a couple dozen rooms filled which gave it a strange air of exclusivity. It would be a fun place to return to in the summertime. A couple boys swam in the sea in front of the hotel bet we confined our swimming to the indoor pool.

The hotel served as our base for excursions into the nearby mountains and villages. The first day we drove to some nearby Minoan ruins, which we had totally to ourselves for an hour and then south across the island to the Libyan Sea. Many of the local people were out in the groves harvesting the olives in the centuries old manner of laying a cloth down on the ground and beating the branches with a stick. (I’m not sure I can suggest a better way?!). Then they’d load the gunny sacks full of olives on their donkeys and ride them back to town. We took lots of pictures.

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   Seaside Hotel - Crete                                                                                                                                                             Bringing Home the Olives

Another day we drove up a narrow winding road up to 3,000 feet above the sea, through a snow covered mountain pass into a greet valley called the Plains of Lassithi famous for its thousand windmills. If I had know before we started out how tricky the roads were I might not have gone but once you’re half way up the mountain there is no place to turn around. It was worth it though. The scenery was spectacular and I took lots more pictures. Anyway our whole stay on Crete was a nice interlude and I can’t remember when Val and I last went off alone together. It’s nice to have the kids along but it’s not all bad this way either.

Italy. From Crete we flew back to Athens and then on to Rome, where we rented a car at the airport and drove down to Naples in time for dinner at the Johnsons. Dale and Jan and family are all doing well after four months in Naples. While Dale and I went into the plant at Caserta, Jan and Val did a little shopping and sightseeing. We went out to dinner each night with different people and even if there are some aspects of Naples that aren’t too great, I sure do enjoy the Cucina Napolitana.

After a couple days in Naples, we drove back to Rome to meet Jill, who flew in from Athens. I’ll never forget the great double-take she did when she finally spotted Beth Johnson and Paolo Tavella standing behind Val and me. Paolo, who now lives in Rome, came over to say hello and make arrangements to get together with Jill during her stay in Rome. Beth took a couple days off from school and joined us for our trip to Arenzano. We drove up the coast road, stopped at Pisa for a brief glance at the Leaning Tower and arrived in Arenzano in late afternoon where we checked into the Grand Hotel and then went to our table in the corner for dinner at Parodi’s. It was tough choosing between the lasagna al pesto, fritto misto, zuppa di pesci and the other great dishes we remembered so well from our five years in Arenzano.

While I went up to Ferrania for the day (after a visit to my favorite barbershop, where I got a haircut and caught up on all the news from town), the girls walked around town, shopped at the weekly market and ended up being invited for lunch at Richetta’s by Mario and Rosa . . . the full seven course treatment. Beth was really impressed by their warmth . . . and my the fact that they still have Marnie’s picture taken eight years ago with Richetta and their dog, Foofi, prominently displayed in the kitchen.

We paid visit to both the Rossello’s in Albissola and the Tavella’s in Savona , where we were invited for dinner. We had a great evening of reminiscing and too much to eat. Jill and Mario got into a heated discussion in Italian on politics. The more she argued, the better her Italian became. She clearly doesn’t share Mario’s Fascist sympathies. . . most of which Mario spouts for effect.

Saturday morning we wandered around Arenzano some more including a visit into the Marcheses’s place, which had been turned over to the Community since we lived there. We looked for Dr. DaMonte without success but ran into Mario (from the Agip station) and had a nice reunion with him. He said that he’s now enrolled in the University and working on a degree in commerce, inspired in part by Val’s adult degree work. It’s amazing how your life can touch other peoples in ways you little suspect.

We arrived at Signora Marchisio’s at noon in time for lunch and as always it was great seeing her. She is one of the most charming of all our Italian friends and brought Jill up to date on the whereabouts of all the American School alums . . . and they talked about setting a date for a reunion of the graduates of the Overseas School of Liguria.

We got back to Rome by about nine p.m. , checked into Jill’s hotel and went out for a late Roman dinner. The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel with all of Jill’s group and then went with them for the Latin Mass at St. Peter’s followed by the Pope’s blessing to the gathered masses in the piazza. It was really exciting to see and hear the Pope. He went beyond his usual blessing and gave an impassioned plea for the release of Magistrate d’Urso, who had been kidnapped by the Red Brigade over a month ago. Three days later he was release, perhaps at least in part, in response to the Pope’s appeal. It was fun spending half a day with Jill’s classmates from her four months in Jerusalem . . . a really neat bunch of kids. They loaded us up with over forty letters and cards to mail in the States.

We left Jill walking along the back streets of Rome with a few of her friends and drove to Naples, where we had tickets for the opera Othello at the famous San Carlo opera house that evening. Se sat in a box right above the stage with a great view of everything that was going on both on-stage and back-stage. There is nothing like an operatic aria sung by an Italian tenor in a Naples opera house. We went with another Italian couple and went out after the opera, as is custom, for dinner making for a rather late evening.

Our final night in Italy was spent quietly with the Johnson’s talking about old time and new times. We left early in the morning just after the girls went to school and home in bed that same evening in White Bear lake.

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