|Lindos - Then And Now|
Feature by Willard Manus
Our first glimpse of Lindos came in 1961, when we were celebrating our honeymoon on the island of Rhodes. The bus took us through a long coastal valley filled with fructiferous orange and lemon trees and began negotiating a sequence of steep hills culminating in a sharp right turn which revealed Lindos in all its glory. The eye took in white houses scattered like confetti on the flanks of a towering slab of rock crowned by an acropolis; a bay, guarded by two tiny islands, fishing boats bobbing at anchor; a spit of headland with a windmill at its tip; and a blue sea stretching all the way out to where the mountains of Turkey loomed ten miles away.
The juxtaposition of sea and sky, village and acropolis, seemed so natural, so pleasingly harmonious, that we fell in love with Lindos at first sight and ended up living there, fulltime, for the next twenty years. In 1970 we bought a semi-ruined house, parts of which dated back to Crusader times, and spent a year restoring it in traditional fashion: walled-in courtyard and garden, pebbled mosaic floors, high arched sala with painted ceilings, hand-carved sleeping platforms and cupboards. After years of living without electricity or running water, we were now able to add those conveniences to the house, which had an upstairs "Captain's" bedroom with five windows and a view of the sea.
In the 60s and 70s Lindos was an artist's colony, with perhaps three dozen writers and painters living side by side with 600 Greek villagers. The feeling was fraternal and communal; life had two centers: the platia (main square), where families strolled and chatted after dark, and the kafeneon, where the men congregated to talk politics and play cards and backgammon. There was one bar, run by a man we called Shaky Kosta, and a couple of tavernas. Children were everywhere underfoot, running free if only because no cars were permitted to enter the village. By then, we had two kids of our own, a boy and a girl who grew up speaking Greek and English interchangably, garnished with Italian and French.
We were obliged to leave Lindos in 1979 owing to family problems, but we still kept our house. By the time we returned to it six years later, Lindos had undergone shocking changes. Mass tourism had not only driven out the artists but transformed the look of things. Though high-rise hotels were still forbidden by the Archaeological Society, the charming, cobbled streets of the village were cemented over; the beaches, including the one in St. Paul's bay where the Apostle had once been shipwrecked, were an antipasto of pedal-boats, water-skiing, snack bars and "super-markets." The platia was jammed with pullman buses, taxis and hordes of people; you had to fight to reach the streets, which were lined with tourist shops and decorated with garish signs in English proclaiming factory prices for ceramics, jewelry and sandals.
Today Lindos is one of the famous Aegean tourist destinations--on a par with Mykonos and Santorini. It has also become known as a party town, thanks to its 45 bars and four discos, many of which operate from dusk till dawn. The Lindians have got rich off the tourists (something for which we are pleased), but in the process of acquiring wealth much has been lost as well: the heart and soul of village life. Families avoid the platia as anathema and there are no more kafeneons. You can't even get Greek food in a taverna, if only because they've been leased out to Brits and Italians.
We still return to Lindos annually, but only for brief stays. Because we keep a car on the island, we can escape the tourist crush during the day and find a white, uninhabited beach somewhere. The mountain villages of Rhodes are also relatively untouched by tourism, and offer authentic food, ambiance and music, especially when celebrating a wedding or religious festival. Above all, we love our house and having friends over to dine al fresco in leisurely fashion.
But when dinner is over and we mount the steps to our Captain's bedroom, we know the only way we'll be able to sleep is with ear-plugs and a white noise machine.
(The above feature was excerpted from Willard Manus's memoir of the four decades he has spent in Lindos, THIS WAY TO PARADISE--DANCING ON THE TABLES. A second edition of the book has just been published by Lycabettus Press. For information and orders, contact Willard Manus at email@example.com)