29 June 2009

Rhodes - Lindos Acropolis Castle

Sorry, more Rhodes. But it was so much fun! Rhodes is a pretty big island, and we took an hour and a half long bus ride (with transfer) to the city of Lindos where there is a beautiful bay, and an ancient Greek temple inside of a medieval castle -- what an interesting mix.

There is no wind on the Lindos side of the island, or at least there wasn't that day. We had to do a little bit of walking so we stashed the stroller next to someone's house (hut?) and walked up a bunch of stairs. It was HOT.

Even more stairs. At the base of these stairs was a really nice 3000 year old ship carved into the stone mountain. Unfortunately it was somewhat in ruins and hard to get a good picture of. Sorry, you'll just have to go there to see it... (update: if you scroll down 8 pictures, the one with Elora's "whiney face" you can see it in the rock wall on the bottom right). Ollie, who fancies himself a pro stair stepper really wanted to climb up all of these stairs.

At the top of the stairs, inside the castle are the ruins of the old Acropolis of Lindos and a temple to Athena.

Whenever Elora stepped out of the shade she would say, "The sun is too hot it's making me tired!!!" So here she found the only bit of shade from the columns of the temple and she refused to leave until she was coaxed with promises of more shade elsewhere.

The view was amazing. The castle & acropolis overlooked the valley, the Bay of Lindos, Med. Sea, and the Bay of St. Paul. Legend says that Paul washed up in a storm here back in biblical times.

More cats! Rhodes is famous for stray cats apparently. Ollie and Elora were thrilled.

If you look closely you can see Elora is actually making a whiney face. But she really had a good time, once she found some shade, which came with a few cats. You can see the ship carved into the rock wall here. According to the inscription (which we translated from the ancient Greek for your convienence), on the bow stood a statue of General Hagesander Mikkion, the work of the sculptor Pythokritos, who carved the Winged Victory of Samothrace (now in the Louvre, Google it).

On the way down we stopped for a "chocolate milkshake" and forgot our lesson from Lisbon. Milkshakes in Europe, although they cost as much as one in the US, is really just a glass of chocolate milk that has been shaken. Nevertheless, Ollie really enjoyed it.

Finally, on the way back down from the castle, we went to Lindos Bay. The water was so clear you could see hundreds of little fish everywhere. The sand was very hot, and the water was really warm. But it was still refreshing after our walk in the sun. Unfortunately, we had a long uphill walk back to the bus.

28 June 2009

Rhodes City (again), Beach, Bugs, and Pool

Rhodes was so large, and we had such a fun time we headed back to the city another day. This time we came prepared with bathing suits and towels.

We found a nice garden overlooked by the castle near one of the gates. Rhodes is such an impressive city because it has a wonderful mix of history, gardens, and markets. It's one of the few tourist traps that you really enjoy walking around in.

The city is surrounded by this large dry moat, which is now a jogging trail. Can you imagine having to fight with people up on top of the walls from with inside this moat? No wonder 50,000 invaders died in the final siege. Here Karen is walking across one of the main bridges to enter the city.

Even though we already spent more money than we wanted to, we decided to risk exploring some more market streets -- and spent more money of course...

The kids got very excited as soon as they saw the little castle side beach we played at before. We had so much fun swimming that we took only a few pictures.

Back at the hotel, Elora kept finding Raupenkinders (baby caterpillars). This one was crawling (shudder) up my leg, so I gave it to her to play with. She was very excited saying, "It tickles my arm!".

The hotel also had an indoor pool at the spa, which you had to make a reservation to use. We booked it for the last few hours of the day and had a great time, out of the sun, for once. Oliver was gifted this nice little pool boat by some other tourists who didn't want to carry it home with them.

Rhodes Beach, Avenue of the Knights & Colossus

Outside of the Palace we found Captain Hook. Elora always likes to give the performing street artists some money, bu she was a little worried because Captain Hook is a bad guy. So we told her this was a nice Captain and that cheered her up. She ran away the instant she dropped the coins, but he held out his hand and bowed to her so she carefully shook his hand.

Walking out of the palace we went down the Avenue of the Knights, a nice narrow street with castle like structures on both sides. The city is filled with streets like this, many of them crowded with shops because commerce runs deep in Greek history.

This courtyard was just the entry way to some people's private apartments. Not bad!

It's only fitting the Greeks, the original traders, would team up with the Chinese, the modern suppliers of all things cheap. Here we are in one of many painting shops selling oil on canvas (no inkjet prints) paintings. We bought a few pictures, and during haggling with the shop owner I (Chris) pointed out that these paintings come from China so they can make a better price. The first shop owners' eyes shifted back and forth and made up some lame story about how that's not true and he visits the artists in their home and buys them in bulk. The second shop owner I haggled with said, "Ya so what? It's still nice." She had me there... and wouldn't bugde on price, so I convinced her to throw in a free little painting instead.

It's ironic that the Chinese are even stealing the jobs of homeless street artists...

Out in the harbor there were several boats selling sea shells. These were huge sea shells and the prices were all very cheap (China?), some of the huge watermelon size conches were only 15 or 20 Euro. We wanted to buy some, but just couldn't figure out what to do with them.

On the way out of the city we found a very small beach with smooth sand and crystal clear warm water overlooking part of the castle. It was a nice opportunity to cool off after pushing the stroller around those uneven stone streets for several hours.

It took Elora a little warming up to, but in the end she resorted right back to her game of chasing the tide and runing away from it when it chased her.

Ollie was having a great time splashing his feet in the clear water. We let both kids play in the water so much that they were covered in sand. And that day we didn't have any towels with us. Somehow, we managed to get the kids all dried off and clean from most sand. But it took several attempts and more than a few tears.

Finally, once we got back to the hotel we showed Elora a towel we bought for her while she fell asleep in the stroller. She is enthralled with the Colossus of Rhodes story, that we tell like this... 2300 years ago, King Demetrios "the Besieger" invaded the island of Rhodes and laid siege to the city. The city defeated his army and Demetrios left behind all his weapons and siege towers. The Greeks, being merchantmen, sold all the weapons for the modern equivilant of $300million. They used the money to commision a 100 foot tall bronze statue overlooking the harbor. It took 12 years to build and stood for about 30 until there was a large earthquake, which sent it crumbling to the ground. Where it lay for another few hundred years until a merchantman bought it and supposedly carried it away on 900 camels. There is some debate over the exact location and if it ever really stood "over" the harbor as depicted. But who really cares anyway...

Elora loves this story and tells it to her Dirty Teddy often. Another interesting fact, the Colossus picture on the towel, which is the sun god Helios was the model for the Statue of Liberty. So maybe the sneaky French were hoping the modern day American Colossus would tumble to the ground too!

26 June 2009

Rhodes Palace of the Grand Master

Once we were inside the city, Elora kept asking if there was a castle, and if we could go inside it. So we tried to head straight to the palace. Unfortunately, with the narrow streets and no map - Elora had removed it from the stroller in the hotel, to keep it safe - it took us a little while to get to the Palace.

This is a walkway leading to the palace that was lined with cannons that shot into the moat. Elora and Oliver really love cannons for some reason. Maybe its because her toy pirate ship has cannons.

The inner court yard of the palace. Because most of the Palace of the Grand Master (who was the leader of all the knights) was destroyed in the final invasion, the palace as it now stands was restored by the Italians in the 20s.

Inside the palace were many different exhibits. This is a hand written Bible from the year 1000 that was on display. Wow.

This is a sculpture of Laoco├Ân, who tried to warn the Trojans not to accept the Trojan Horse, and was then killed by two poisonous serpents by the Gods who wanted to see the Trojans destroyed. The Trojans assuming he had been killed because he was wrong in his statements about the horse, brought the Trojan Horse inside...

The most impressive displays in the palace were many mosaic floors that have been collected from different time periods and all placed on the floors in the palace. The earliest was from the year 300AD.

Close up of one of the floors. Apparently it was very common to have mosaics in the Greek homes, not in the areas of high traffic, but in the men's quarters or sitting rooms.

Read this sign! It says "do not walk on the mosaics" but there is no way around it! So we just hopped.

Elora was fascinated by the big fireplace. She wanted to look up and see where the smoke from the fire goes.

25 June 2009

Easy Doctors Visit

We interrupt this Rhodes blogging to bring you an update on doctors in Vienna. After both the kids and Chris got sick with what appears to be varying degrees of strep infections among all 3, we called a doctor's office in the neighborhood to make an appointment. His office was closed so we left a message saying we'll stop by tomorrow.

Dr. Baumgartner called us back an hour later and asked for our address and said he would stop by in a half an hour! He then showed up, did a quick examination of each of us and confirmed Chris had strep, Elora might have the onset of step (or its just going away), and Ollie is probably recovering from a basic infection of some kind, but not as severe. He wrote a quick perscription for Chris for antibiotics, a pain/fever reducer for Elora and told us to check back with him in a few days if Elora gets worse.

No forms. No check in. We don't have Austrian health insurance yet so we told him we'd pay in cash, he said don't worry. We tried several times to pay and he said, no problem, next time we can pay for the next visit. Chris walked to the Apothcary (pharmacy) 1 block away from the apartment, and walked back with his perscription in 5 minutes. Wow! That was fast and easy!

Who knows if this type of service is typical for for all of Austria or Vienna. We live in a very family oriented, "traditional Vienna" neighborhood of the city, and I imagine this kind of visit isn't always possible in the heavily populated districts of Vienna. But it's great for us!

24 June 2009

The Castle of Rhodes

Here is Karen and Ollie in front of one of the castle gates. The old city of Rhodes is really a fortified city, surrounded by castle walls connected to a Palace of the Grand Master. Here is Karen in front of one of the castle wall entrances to the city. Inside the city are hundreds of shops (more on that later), restaurants, plus residential areas. Because the city is surrounded by two large dry moats with castle walls on all sides, cars have to drive through the castle gates to get inside -- cool!

Unlike typical cobblestone you see often in Europe, many streets (and shops) in Rhodes are paved with smooth stones turned on their side. Maybe they were just trying to get rid of all the beach stones so they could have some sandy beaches! It feels very different to walk on, but looks very cool as you can see here. We're thinking about doing this back home.

Looking out across the bay from inside one of the castle walls. Elora was very excited to look out and see the water and the Fort.

An old ruinous staircase.

These pictures only show a small glimpse of the castle city. We actually went back 2 other days because there was so much to see and we'll put up those photos later. Unlike some castles we've come across, Rhodes was actually a site of frequent battles. The island of Rhodes was invaded 13 times during its history by various nations and the castle and city was besieged 7 times.

22 June 2009

Rhodes Fort St. Nicholas (and some cats)

Every morning we enjoyed breakfast on the beach. The food wasn't really that great but for breakfast you can't expect too much. One thing that was tasty is the fruit and quark (a heavy cream-like plain yogurt) they had every morning.

The Greek alphabet is even more confusing than Hungarian or Czech...but at least they had Enligh translations for most things. Here we are at the bus stop, hoping this bus went in the direction of Rhodes city...

Our first stop was an old Byzantine church next to the harbor. It was interesting to see the difference in style between the Roman and Byzantine style churches.

Elora was excited to begin our adventure!

Fort St. Nicholas defended the entrance to the castle harbor and used to be twice as tall before it was destroyed in one of the invastions where the Turks tried to take it 3 seperate times and failed. One 2nd attempt the fortress was completely destroyed, so when they returned the 3rd time to take it over the soldiers had to defend it from within holes and cracks in the rubble and the invasion was still turned back.

Elora gleefully loaded Dirty Teddy into a dirty cannon inside the museum.

While Elora was inside waching a documentary about the defenders of the fort causing the harbor to run red with the blood of the invaders, Oliver was crawling around outside on the stairs. Notice how happy he is about crawling underneath the gate.

All over the grounds were remains of these huge bombard stones (shells) that were kind of like a close support artillary fired directly into the invaders (ouch).

Perhaps the most exciting moment of the day was the collection of kittens, which we came across outside of the fort.

And the saddest moment soon followed when we left and Ollie turned around watching the kitties and cried for several minutes.

The place where Karen is standing is where the Colossus of Rhodes supposedly straddled the harbor with one foot where Karen is, and the other foot was where you can see the column with the deer on it across the bay. But no one really knows where the Colossus stood. More info later on the story, which has become one of Elora's favorites.

Walking around the harbor you can see part of the Castle of Rhodes in the background. The castle is really a fortified city and was our next stop.