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Horsemen, Pink Pelicans and Other Beasts
James Skinner
‘Tomorrow is Colossus day. Prepare thyself for Rhodes’

James Skinner Has Been Cruising The Med for the last five months - it seems- finally he reaches the Greek Islands

Goodbye Turkey, hello Greece!’ bleared Captain Stathis Romeos over the loudspeaker as we departed Kusadasi. ‘We’ve some calm weather and sunshine ahead. I wish you pleasure for the remainder of your journey through the Aegean Sea’, he added. He no sooner spoke than it started to rain!

Enter the second half of the cruise. We were to visit, from now on and at a marathon pace a small fragment of the variety of Greek islands, thus offering all us mortals aboard a mixture of mythical, historical and physical peculiarities in tune with the picture postcard glossies on display in any modern travel agency. Nevertheless, island hoping from a floating gin palace sounded exiting enough to oil the geriatric joints ready for action.

Photo© Tony Brown

First stop Patmos, a two by four paradisiacal rock forming part of the Dodecanese archipelago. As we disembarked and found our island feet, Florencia began her sermon. ‘This is the place where St. John sat in a cave and wrote the book of Revelation. There is fortress come monastery built in the centre of Chora, the capital as a monument to the famous Theologian’, she said.
‘Ah! I remember’, I whispered to my wife. ‘Wasn’t that Glenn Ford chasing four horsemen wielding sickles who were shouting something about the Apocalypse and the end of the world? Hum?’
‘The possible return of Christ fighting the anti-Christ’, she corrected me. I shut up. We continued our visit to the famous monastery that, as Florencia pointed out, contained one of the greatest and most priceless libraries in the world, dating back to the 6th century. I thought: ‘you learn something new everyday!’

Our next port of call, after a brief snack on board was the famous island of Mykonos. By now, the early morning drizzle had turned into torrential rain as mini hurricane winds literally blew us onto the wharf. By the time we’d walked the mile or so to the town, we felt in tune with the local fishermen who were sorting out their small craft ready for their daily chore. The difference was that they were prepared! Despite the weather, one could see through invisible windscreen wipers why this place was considered a paradise. The white washed impeccable windmills and houses, winding narrow streets, miniature shops and sidewalk cafes were better than anything described in the text books. Even Fulgencio suggested that we forget the history and enjoy the scenery. As we huddled under a protecting canopy to sip our thick Greek coffees I suddenly froze as I looked across to the other side of street. I stared at, not pink elephants but pink pelicans! ‘What the hell…’ I snorted as Fulgencia opened her book and calmly gestured with her professor’s hand. ‘There lies the true fame of Mykonos; Petros, the pink pelicans’. ‘If you say so’, I thought.

The evening following the departure from our ice cream cake island was yet another surprise. After finishing a specially prepared Greek dinner, our cruise director insisted that we continue to enjoy the evening by watching a display of Greek dancing, but, as he said, ‘with a difference!’ And how! Most of you who have ever seen Greek dancing know that you either do it alone, Anthony Quinn style, or all join together, at arms length and circle round the floor to the tune of a few off key musicians playing odd ball string instruments. False! These guys were genuine Greek dancers! They were members of the ship’s crew, doing it literally for pleasure. Here lies the distinction between technically rehearsed dance movements by paid professionals and true nationalistic passion displayed by sweaty down to earth human beings. No kidding. Yet as the adrenalin was dished out in bucketfuls and the evening began fading away in what seemed like a never-ending dream, Florencia took out her lecture book and brought us back to earth. ‘Tomorrow is Colossus day. Prepare thyself for Rhodes’ was her goodnight message.

‘Where is this bloody giant?’ I said. ‘Come on, I’ve heard of Greek gods and other fairy tales, but some huge stone geyser that was once mounted at the entrance to this gorgeous harbour to frighten off invaders is beyond me! I just don’t believe a word of it’. Florencia ignored me. Thus commenced the day’s excursion of our next island. The next few hours adventure would be broken into two sets of visits, the old and the rebuilt new town of Rhodes. To start with, the main city, restored thanks to European funding (6M Euros worth) is an example of money well spent on conservation of the ancient in tune with modern demands. The impeccable surrounding wall, the buildings and new souvenir stores blended gracefully thus allowing tourists to enjoy the visit regardless of their interests. From my own perspective, I couldn’t help noticing the variety of trinkets for sale from Che Guevara ‘T’ shirts, and Bruce Springsteen baseball caps to exotic, verging on the obscene Greek pottery, on display at every street corner. ‘I’m sick of Americana, how about our second watering hole, the real McCoy?’ I gripped. I should have said: ‘Hold on to your pacemakers as we seek out the old Rhodes!’
As we decided to exercise our sea limbs and seek out the old city by foot we asked a local for directions hoping that it was not too far away. ‘Cross this avenue, and head straight along that road’, said the native in broken English. ‘About 5 blocks up you will find a winding road. Turn right and in about five minutes you cant miss it’. Literally, half an hour later, and completely out of breath we found it. Although I cursed Papadopolous, it was worth it. I mean it. The stadium, in mint condition exemplified Greece’s athletic reputation of old. The remainder of the ruins seemed to be untouched by human hand thus oozing a sense of true history. Not a hint of modern construction; not even a McDonald’s poster suggesting gladiator-burgers. In fact we seemed to be the only ones around. Great!

As we returned to the ship, a final snapshot view of Rhodes caught my eye. At the Madraki harbour two supposedly famous bronze deer stood on either side of the entrance. It’s as if, I thought they were there to replace the big guy with a new approach to modern protectionism. I also noticed that one was a ‘he’ and the other a ‘she’. ‘My God, women’s lib has hit this place’, I muttered under my beard. My wife heard and responded, ‘read up on the Bronze Age and you’ll find the answer’.
What the hell! I’d seen plenty for one day. I was now ready for the final stretch of our journey. ‘Athens; will you have changed when I return from visiting your offspring?’

© James Skinner October 2002

James Skinner
'People will talk to each other instead of blowing their brains out' - some hope


James Skinner

As expected,the ship was a sixties rust bucket all spruced up for the umpteenth time, just like Bette Davies in ‘Whatever happened to Baby Jane?’

James Skinner

SNIFF-SNIFF - Cruise Part 4
James Skinner on Carrys On Cruising The Med
Part 4: my cabin was tucked away between the ship’s kitchen and the funnel shaft

James Skinner
‘We don’t want to buy anything,’ says my wife, ‘can we please continue our tour!’ I’m petrified.

Cruising the Mediterranean - Part 6
'This way to the whorehouse'
James Skinner
It’s said that the Virgin Mary spent her last days here

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