The Aegean Sea has captured my imagination ever since I wrote a paper about Santorini in college. My fascination with blue oceans started even further back with memories of summer vacations at the beaches off the coast of Vietnam. I finally had a chance to visit Greece and its financial crisis and strikes, had a spellbinding time viewing its ancient ruins and its bluest of blue waters.
The first island I set foot on was Rhodes. Besides a few pictures from Fodor’s Guide to Greece, I didn’t have too many preconceived images of Rhodes when I first saw Old Town. The town, built and fortified over years by the Knights of St John, was quite a large medieval town with a must see Archeological Museum and a wonderful albeit small Museum of Decorative Arts. The outer walls and moat are in themselves a feast for the Medieval connoisseur. One catches glimpses of the ocean through arrow loops and conjures up the excitement of ancient guards spotting a merchant vessel promising exotic spices, luxurious silks and tales of seafaring adventures.
Rhodes boasts quite a few idyllic beaches. The Anthony Quinn beach near Faliraki and St Paul’s Bay in Lindos are two not to be missed. The charm of these two beaches lies in the bays that encircle them. One feels at once a secluded coziness while being exposed to the clean air, blue waters that go deep blue and the Agean beyond the entrance to the cove.
Rhodes also boasts the best restaurants with Mavrikos in Lindos and a gem in Psarokokkalos in Rhodes Town. One can come across some interesting anecdotes as the two owner/chefs went to high school together.
The town of Lindos has a leg over Athens in that its acropolis is embellished by being almost completely surrounded by water while perched on top of a promontory. Meandering through the temple of Athena and the marvellous propylea grand stairs to stumble on Roman houses and benches supported by thick medieval wall fortifications proves to be a most exciting exercise in architectural time line. Lindos tops as one of the highlights of my trip.
On to the next and most anticipated stop: Santorini. No matter how many photos of the Caldera I have pored over, I couldn’t have pictured being rendered into that state of wonder complete with jaw dropping moments and delightful squeals at every corner as I walked along the towns facing the Caldera – starting with Fira, Imerovigli and then finally Oia. I was on cloud ten – if there is such a thing – when I spotted angles where the popular photos were taken, the corners of the famous bell tower, the two dome church etc… I spotted my own corner for my own favorite photos. I sketched quickly and badly having not enough patience to sit through, afraid to miss the sunset and worrying that there is another view somewhere that I couldn’t miss. Santorini is where no bad photograph could be taken.
Mykonos got famous and overdeveloped and got downgraded by some people whom I talked to so I didn’t expect much besides the windmills. But with Mykonos came a side trip to Delos and its famous avenue of the Lions. On Delos, which is about a 25 minutes ferry away from Mykonos town port, one can see the scale of an ancient Greek town that was home to 20,000 inhabitants at its most glorious existence.
The windmills of Mykonos – a study in simplicity. The photos tell it all.
My trip to the Aegean islands was limited to Rhodes, Santorini and Mykonos but I get a sense of the beauty that is sprinkled among all the nooks and crannies of these islands. It’s in the blues that foretell the ocean depth, it’s in the depth that mirrors the skies, it’s in the meandering paths that make no promises. It is that atmosphere that convinced me that there is no white whiter than the white washed walls of Mykonos, no blue transparently deeper than the Aegean depths and no peace more tranquil than the sunset at the Caldera.
I came home energized and saturated with images of simple geometric shapes in my mind. While the architect in me had to summarize the trip in a lesson or two, what I might have come up with is that some things are beautiful because they didn’t try so hard.