Letter From Lindos

by Mavis Manus

If you have cancelled your trip to Greece this year there is still time to rebook with an easy heart. No doubt America is not on the top 10 list of favorite countries, but Greeks keep government policy and people separate, and not a single anti-American remark was directed towards us.

In Lindos we're back to something as near to roots as I've ever felt, a kind of Shangrila. (In fact, strangely, I did feel as if I were 29 again and slim and energetic. Needless to say I avoided mirrors - who needs that kind of reality). Also, having sold our house, renting is a lovely freedom from worrying about leaking roofs, replacing the clay roofs and the missing kochlakia (pebble mosaic floors), attending to whitewashing and plumbing, yet I feel we are still part of the village.

My daughter Lisa and I were amused about the reaction of the Greek ladies when they saw grandson David. "What!" they said, "only one baby! and doesn't your brother have any children yet? I have three/four/five". Of course we realized that praise would leave a door open for a curse to sneak in, so the next morning I bought a blue eye and pinned it at his shoulder. Zambeeca, a schoolfriend of Lisa's said, "Oh, Lisa, you have just become a mother while I've just become a grandmother!"

The village looks stunningly beautiful - I'm always surprised by this even after 43 years. But the house we have rented used to have views of the whole bay; now the bedroom looks on to the white wall of a newly built pension and the courtyard is faced with two oversized satellite dishes and a snarl of antennae and electricity and telephone cables (there is talk of putting all telephone and tv lines underground). My friend Polly is aghast that we have no telephone though she is not more than 150 yards from us. How quickly we forget the time when there was one central phone and if you had a call either the postmaster yelled out your name (if your house was within earshot), or he'd send off his elderly assistant to find you. He had to stop at the cafeneon for a strengthening drink or two so that most times when you finally got to the post office the caller had given up.

In contrast to the tendency to chop up the unique tower houses built in the 1600's, Michalis Melenos commissioned Rhodian architect Anastasia Papaioannou to design a 12-suite hotel on a site just under the Acropolis, overlooking Lindos Bay and outlying islands. The biggest challenge was to amalgamate the architectural and traditional details with modern expectations of comfort.

Working closely with him, is Donald H. Green, the British artist and designer of interior and exterior spaces, who has adapted from traditional Lindian motifs, the pebble mosaic floors, the stone carvings and woodwork; he spent 14 months alone on the stunning hand-painted ceilings and a further 3 months on the Iznik-influenced 650 tiles which form the decorative tile panels in each suite and over the fountains in the gardens.

For Green it is the culmination of his many extraordinary talents. For Melenos it is the realization of his dream of leaving a legacy for future generations of the grandeur, beauty and spirit of Lindian architecture.

'The Melenos-Lindos' will open its doors in the summer of 2004. All enquiries should be addressed to Michalis Melenos, Lindos, Rhodes, Greece 85107 or e-mail mime@otenet.gr.

Drama is never far - on our first day, our immediate rush down to the beach coincided with the arrival of an ambulence which carted off the body of a tourist who'd been having a liquid lunch, stumbled into the sea and drowned. A little later we heard music coming from a radio, set in the sand: it belonged to Billy, a blind man who sports a t-shirt "Love is Blind". He turns on the radio then takes off for a two-hour swim, using the radio as a homing target. Someone told me he was an Olympic swimmer before becoming blind, but others say he was studying pharmacy when glaucoma caused his blindness. He is social and knowledgeable and manages to care for his old and infirm parents.

For such a small village there are a disproportionately large amount of creperias, pizzerias, take-out and fast fooderias, but we now also have several really fine eating establishments. One, 'Mavrikos', owned and run by chef Dimitri and his brother Michalis, has even won The Golden Hat - one of ten which are awarded to chefs each year in Greece. This August they are celebrating the 70th anniversary of this family-owned restaurant with a special menu.

Mitsos and his wife Flora have set their 'Archondikos' in a beautiful Knights-of-St.John house and serve food to match the elegance of the architecture.

The musician/chef of 'Gelo Maggi' makes his own pasta and entertains the neighborhood on a mean jazz trombone each evening before starting on his prep.

Two young women have opened Lindos Spa which offers a vast range of treatments which will clean, wax, massage, buff, polish and style from hair to toes. One of the owners is a Greek American from New York who told Willard, "I read your book and loved it but it has a terrible untruth." What's that, said Will. "Well, you state my brother was born is Astoria, but he was born in Brooklyn!" Everyone's a critic!

On the other hand, during dinner one night we heard the front door gently open and in trotted two immense goats. Somehow they had worked their way from the green heights of the Acropolos (older than the one in Athens), wandered through the streets and into our couryard to nibble on the plants. Our neighbor, however, had the greater surprise. Early one morning she was wakened by a strange snuffling noise. She pulled off her sleep-mask to find a goat straddling the bed with his goatish grin just two inches from her face.

Yesterday I was walking along one of the magnificent beaches of Lindos when a man approached me and asked, "Where is philosophy?" An appropriate enough question, I thought, considering we were within sight of the tomb of Kleoboulos ('Moderation in Everything'). But could philosophy be found from the sand-to-sand stretch of umbrellas and sunbeds so closely packed that they formed one organism? I eventually worked out that he was looking for Philosophia - a snack-bar named after the owner, Phillipos and his daughter, Sophia.