On a visit to the tourist-saturated Greek island of Rhodes,
Travel Weekly editor in chief Arnie Weissmann went searching for
some authentic local flavor ... and found it. His report
ulturally sensitive fellow that
I am, when I travel in non-English-speaking countries I always
learn how to say, "Do you speak English?" in the local tongue.
But I felt silly saying it in the walled city of Rhodes. Most
shops had signs saying the proprietors not only spoke English, but
also French, German, Spanish and Italian.
This island is dedicated to its visitors.
Shops and restaurants are scaled for mass tourism, and although
most shopkeepers and waiters are friendly, the atmosphere, by and
large, is impersonal.
It's still possible, however, for travelers to return home from
Rhodes feeling as if they had been guests in the home of a Greek
And they don't need a working knowledge of Greek -- nor, for
that matter, do they need to stray too far off the main tourist
streets -- to have these experiences.
The only prerequisite is that they have at least one meal at
Taverna Kostas, 62 Pythagora St. When they eat at this small,
family-run restaurant, they're likely to meet three generations of
the Kostas family: Grandfather and father are in the kitchen
cooking, and the identical twin sons are serving.
Likely as not, a significant portion of the other patrons will
be tourists who "discovered" Taverna Kostas on a previous visit and
have been repeat diners for years (one Canadian couple has returned
every year for 15 years).
Not only is the service pleasant and personal, but the food is
-- by far -- the best I tasted on the island. The restaurant is
known for its moussaka (a lamb casserole), but everything I tried
I especially recommend the fried calamari to those who may have
tried it at other places and found it to be greasy, tasteless and
chewy. Prepared in the Kostas' kitchen, it's light and flavorful.
Saganaki, a warm sheep's cheese appetizer, is another standout.
A parallel experience in the realm of shopping -- high-quality
goods and warm, personal service -- can be found at Astero Antiques
on Ippokratis St., off Sokratous (a major shopping road).
Most souvenirs in Rhodes are mass-produced, and they look it:
plaster casts of "the Colossus of Rhodes" or ceramic reproductions
But in this antique store, run by the Asteros for 31 years,
you'll find items that you'd see if you went into homes of the
smaller villages on the island.
The Asteros spend December through February wandering
little-visited islands and the rural areas of Rhodes hunting for
their merchandise at church sales, or in some cases, going door to
door in villages.
Most of the items have accumulated grime or need repair, so Mr.
Astero mends and polishes in a shop across the road while his wife
tends the store.
Among the one-of-a-kind items for sale on the day I visited were
a 120-year-old pair of suspenders from the Macedonian national
costume, a coffee roaster designed for the hearth, decorative
ceramic roof tiles, hanging oil lamps, incense burners, several
religious items, framed lithographs of Greek royalty and a huge set
of copper scales.
Part of the pleasure of shopping there is getting to know the
proprietors, who, during a lull, are likely to offer you a chair
and a glass of ouzo and invite you to sit and chat.
When to visit Rhodes? Mrs. Astero recommends April, September
and October, when "it's cooler, and there aren't so many young,
A shrewd businesswoman, she has an ulterior motive for
recommending those months, as well: "And people aren't in such a
hurry to get to the beach, so they can spend more time in the
Doing the Greek isles hop
HOBOKEN, N.J. -- There are a number of ways to get to Rhodes.
For example, Ulysses Tours in N.Y. pays 12% on land and 10% on air
on three-night island-hopping packages priced from $290 per person,
double. Roundtrip air from Athens, hotel, and some or all meals are
included; call (800) 431-1424 or e-mail [email protected].
The 12-night Island Hopper from FreeGate Tourism, Garden City,
N.Y., spends three nights on Rhodes and includes roundtrip air from
the U.S., accommodations, some meals, sightseeing. Pricing starts
at $1,759, with a $550 single supplement, and FreeGate pays agents
10%. To book, call (800) 223-0304 or send an e-mail to [email protected].
Cloud Tours, New York, offers the air-inclusive Alexander
package: three nights on Rhodes and three on Santorini, priced from
$1,349. Commission is 10% to 15%. To book, call (800) 223-7880 or
e-mail [email protected]. -- Kenneth