Halloumi cheese is the BEST cheese in the world. I first had it while I was living in Bahrain, and eventually ended up ordering it a few times a week there from a nearby restaurant. The cheese is usually grilled and spiced before serving, and what’s most noticeable is the texture. If you didn’t know it was cheese you may think you were eating chicken. I bet you could make a halloumi patty, put it on a bun with lettuce, tomato and red onion, and make people think it was meat. Also, even when not spiced, there is a distinct, salty flavor to the cheese. I bring all this up because halloumi is popular in Greece, and right next to my apartment in Rhodes was a great restaurant with a large vegetarian menu. I ended up on a first name basis with the employees, as I went back every day to order halloumi cheese and a glass of white.
I mentioned my apartment, which ended up being in the heart of the medieval old town of Rhodes. The place was perfect for a relaxing trip, as it felt like home with its rock and wood interior, frigid air conditioning, and enormously comfortable bed. The owner was a nice old Greek guy who could tell I was in Rhodes to relax…he even commented on how much I slept during the trip! Yes, instead of taking hundreds of pictures I spent a lot of time relaxing in the room.
The street outside my apartment was the home to a ‘street-gang’ of stray cats. They would dart around at night, scavenge at the local restaurants, and take turns looking out for each other. There was one in particular that I fell for….a mostly white (with some black) cat with pretty green eyes. She was clearly scared of me early on, but I seemed to grow on her as the week went on. I thought she would try and come into my apartment, but she never got that comfortable. One of the mornings I think I met her mom….a much larger female cat who looked exactly the same! I wonder if the family ever leaves the street? Stray cats were everywhere, and there were also a few stray dogs. It was sad to see one of the dogs lose its balance one afternoon, and start to act weird in general. The shop-owners had to call animal control and he was probably put down for suspicion of rabies.
The old town of Rhodes is as medieval as it gets, and the city has a long history of battles, castles and knights. There was a nice clock tower directly outside my apartment, together with an attractive mosque that looked especially nice at night. Just strolling around old town, walking under arches, through tiny passageways, and gazing up at high fortified stone walls, made you feel as if you entered a fantasy novel. There were millions of tourist shops that killed the medieval mood a bit, but it came back at night when you walked the empty, quiet streets and sometimes ran into some street music. The archaeological museum was stunning and very well laid out, and it would’ve been an attraction even without all the artifacts.
Life is really laid-back here, typical of islands I suppose. I spent a brief time in the ‘new town’, and found it boring and ordinary. I preferred to just do the cafe thing hanging out in old town…I even met a cool guy from Manchester my first night. The nightlife in old town was odd, as it seemed that not many places were open past midnight. The only place I found was called ‘Legends Rock Club’, and it was like something I’d find in my hometown. I went there a couple times and saw some pretty okay metal and hard rock bands, and the drinks were very cheap as well for being the only place open.
Lindos was the highlight of the trip. This has received the ‘tourist trap’ label because anyone who goes to Rhodes, particularly on cruises, ends up heading to Lindos to see the Acropolis. I’ve seen tourist traps in Europe (e.g. Pisa), and this doesn’t really qualify since the Acropolis here is legitimately awesome. The hike up the hill wasn’t that intense, and offered some great views of the city and the water. I eventually reached the beautiful Acropolis site that overlooked the town of Lindos. I preferred walking, as again there was a ‘donkey option’ but like Santorini I think this was extreme as the walk really wasn’t that bad. The Acropolis was well preserved, especially the pillars and stairs that date back to BC times. I loved the Temple of Athena…what can I say, I always love Goddess temples. I can’t remember how many hours I spent here, but it was longer than I had planned for…beauty like this makes me lose track of time.
Comparing Rhodes and Santorini is impossible, as they really are two very different places. I thought Santorini was prettier, but I enjoyed hanging out in Rhodes more. Leaving Rhodes was harrowing, as the airport unexpectedly was crowded, chaotic, and full of anxious security personnel…not sure if there was something going on or not. On the plane ride back I wondered if I could get halloumi cheese back in San Diego…maybe Whole Foods has it?