Rhodes: The Valley of the Butterflies and the Island of Halki

Close to the village of Theologos on the western side of Rhodes is The Valley of the Butterflies.

Jersey Tiger

The butterflies are actually moths which in the UK are known as Jersey Tigers. The Jersey Tiger is quite widespread throughout Europe, but was until recently confined to the Channel Islands in the UK. Now there is even a breeding colony in South London. I suppose that’s global warming for you. In Rhodes the Tigers congregate in this particular river valley, where the humidity is just right for breeding.

Entrance to the Valley of the Butterflies

The moths are absolutely everywhere, covering the surfaces of trees and walkways.

Jersey Tigers everywhere

During this part of their life cycle they are dependant upon stored energy reserves from their time as a caterpillar as the adults have no digestive organs. As a consequence it is expressly forbidden to startle the moths into the air with hand claps or whistles as they need all the energy for breeding. Anyone caught doing that gets a €50 fine from the National Parks Service.

We visited the Valley of the Butterflies as part of a day trip that also took in the nearby island of Halki. Taking the ferry from the nearby port of Kamiros it’s about an hour from Rhodes. Halki (also called Chalki) is the smallest of the Dodecanese Islands with a population of just over 300. It used to be a centre of sponge fishing before the days of synthetic materials, but tourism is now the major earner.

Halki from the ferry

As you approach the island the influence of the Venetians and Genoese who ruled the island before the Ottoman Turks arrived in 1523 is immediately apparent in the architecture of the houses and church in the port of Emporio which is the only large settlement on the island. We had lunch at Maria’s, a dockside taverna where the baked aubergine (€6) was delicious, before heading into town to explore.

To be totally honest there isn’t really that much to see aside from The Traditional House of Chalki, which an enterprising widow set up after the death of her husband.

The Traditional House of Chalki

Within the house an eclectic collection of items is on display ranging from traditional furniture, ceramics and lace to an old car radio.

From the wind up gramophone to the knackered old car radio, just some of the eclectic items inside the Traditional House

In the beautifully tended garden there is a fine display of peppers, pomegranates and limes along with a vending machine that dispenses beer, chocolate and condoms, everything you could wish for a good night out!

I spent some time chatting with our knowledgable tour guide, John on the return journey. He’s an ex-pat Brit with a part Greek wife. Aside from the guiding he has written some books on Rhodes and has a blog called Ramblings from Rhodes. You will find a link to the blog on the right, go pay him a visit to find out some more about the island.

Back on the mainland we arrived back in Lindos just in time for a quick shower before dinner. That night we ate at the Kalypso, a delightful rooftop restaurant.

View from the rooftop at the Kalypso restaurant

I started with the Feta Sagnaki, Feta cheese wrapped in filo pastry basted with honey, followed by a lamb kebab in Feta and tomato sauce on pita which was exceptionally good. Our youngest travelling companion had the Greek burger which was so good that her father and I forced down every leftover scrap. With wine, water and coffee the bill came to only €90 for the four of us. Kalypso was the only restaurant we ate in twice during our stay (not counting beachside tavernas) on the island so it’s highly recommended.

The trip to the Valley of the Butterflies and Halki was booked through the Thomson Holidays website, cost £37.99.

Up the Rhodes to the Acropolis

On Wednesday morning we got up really early to climb the 300 steps up through Lindos to the Crusader Castle and the ancient Acropolis. there were two good reasons for this; avoiding the heat and the crowds of day visitors from other resorts and the cruise liners. Fortunately the acropolis opens at 8.30, so we had breakfast and were soon passing the alarm clocks on the way into town.

The alarm clocks of Rhodes

Even early in the morning it was a bit of a slog up the hill, but there was the odd place to take a photo of the view while taking a breather.

View of Bay of Lindos

The Castle was built by the Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem around 1317 on the base of an earlier Byzantine fortification.

Entrance to the castle

Of course the Byzantine fortress was built over previous Greek and Roman buildings. At the top of the fortress is the partially restored Temple of Athena.

Temple of Athena

This Doric temple dates to around 300BC.  A monumental staircase leads down from the temple to the remains of a Stoa (colonnaded covered walkway)

The Stoa at Lindos

that originally consisted of 42 columns. It was probably a covered market and dates back to 200BC.

Close to the stoa are the remains of the Greek Orthodox Church of St John. These are 13th century, but built over the remains of an earlier Byzantine church.

Greek Orthodox Church, Lindos

Not all of the visitors had paid the €6 to get in

It was starting to get really hot by 10.oo, but by then we had seen just about all there was to see and the day trippers were begining to arrive all hot and bothered by the coach load.

Our gateway to the outside world

Old ladies had pitched stalls selling textiles on the rocks by the path on the way down. We bought a table-cloth from one and told the next one that: ‘her friend had already had our money’

‘She’s not my friend’ she replied.

Gotta love Greek old ladies.

 

 

 

The Twisting Rhodes into Lindos

As the braying of the local taxi service brought me back to consciousness on day two of our Rhodes adventure, I became aware of how cold I was. Having thrown off the covers in the heat of the night I hadn’t expected the frightening efficiency of the air conditioning we’d shelled out an extra €65 for.

Lindos Town Taxi at rest

Opening the patio door soon warmed up our apartment, it was already like an oven outside. I was very pleased with the Lindos View Apartments. Having spent many holidays in both Greece and Cyprus I expected to find at least a couple of things that either didn’t work or were broken awaiting a handyman sometime, eventually , maybe. However everything was pristine, the kitchenette even had enough crockery. And it did indeed have a magnificent view of Lindos and the Acropolis.

Still getting over the trauma of the previous day’s epic travelling ordeal we decided to spend the hottest part of the day by the pool and take the winding road down into the old town of Lindos in the afternoon. In daylight this was hazardous enough, dicing death with cabs, trucks and coaches, since the pedestrian sidewalk was delineated by faded yellow stripes that had been painted on the tarmac way back through the mists of time. In one or two places there were safety bollards, but by Wednesday some lunatic had driven something large and heavy over them to leave a mess of flattened metal in the road.

The architecture of the old town reflects the island’s chequered history of occupation. Byzantine, Genoese, Arab and Ottoman buildings cast their shadows over the narrow streets of shops, restaurants and bars in the medieval centre.  We found this delightful bar, The Captain’s House that was originally a house built for a Christian Genoese merchant captain (note the crucifix carved above the door) by a Moslem Arab architect, just one example of cultural merger on the island.

The Captain’s House, a medieval Christian merchant house built by a Moslem Arab architect

Entering the town the first thing you come upon is the donkey garage. Since Lindos is built into the side of a mountain the donkeys were the only way to move goods on the steep winding roads that lead from the medieval centre up through the typical Greek whitewashed residential buildings to the Fortress of the Knights Hospitaller that commands the summit. Today they mostly carry lazy tourists up to the fort or down to the beach.

View from the Rainbird Cafe

Having taken Shanks’ pony up through the town and down to the beach, on our return we were drawn to the sounds of Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side of the Moon emanating from the Rainbird Cafe. The vine shaded courtyard of the Rainbird, with its magnificent view over the bay, was just the place for a reviving Ouzo and lemonade (€4) before descending back into the town to hunt down something to eat.

Rainbird Cafe kitten

After much wandering about we decided on Maria’s Restaurant, drawn in by the fish tank set in the window. Having secured a table right by said window much amusement was derived by pretending to be underwater every time a curious child peered inside from the street. The food wasn’t bad either. I had Tzatziki (Greek yogurt with cucumber and garlic) followed by a delicious stiffado (beef stew with tomatoes and onions) . With wine and water our bill came to €86 which wasn’t too bad for four.

So bellys full it was time for a drink. The sounds of Dick Dale’s surf guitar drew us into the first bar, unfortunately it segued into Footloose so we left before ordering a drink. Next stop was Socrates where we were drawn in by Neal Young‘s Heart of Gold. The Stones’ Gimme Shelter drew us up to the roof terrace and cocktails (about €7 each) were consumed to the Doors, the Clash and Mr James Marshall Hendrix, before catching a cab (of the Mercedes rather than the donkey variety) back up to our hotel. It may have cost €4, but I think we were slightly safer inside a vehicle than outside as the madmen drivers sped up and down the road!