Wednesday, 4 June 2008

GREECE TRIP - DAY 4b - 31st May 2008

We next visited the small town of Archangelos situated about 28 kilometers south of the town of Rhodes. It is an inland town, about two kilometers far from the sea, on a small plateau amongst mountains and hills. It has about 5,500 permanent residents. The old town is located at the foot of the old castle on top of a prominent hill, with the modern part of town surrounding the old one. The medieval castle dominates the town and was built in 1320 AD by the Knights of the Order of St. John, on the ruins of the older Byzantine castle, parts of which have been incorporated in the construction.

The Holy Church of the Archangel Michael, which gives the town its name is worth a visit. Unfortunately, it was closed when we visited it, but we were able to see its yard with a pebble-paved floor with characteristic decoration. Coming out of the church we encountered a beautiful little traditional house with a small front yard full of flowers. The front door was open and the interior was just visible. We were peering inside when a wizened little old lady of about 90 years invited us in to see her house. It was just one room with an attached little kitchen. Her wedding bower was still decorated and perched on a wall, accessible by steps. On the walls were hanging a couple of hundred colourful plates and old photographs and traditional embroideries were festooning ledges, furniture and mantels. She told us that she became a widow at 29 years and she had to raise her two children on her own – they now lived in Athens and occasionally came to visit her. She lived alone and took care of herself, although a neighbour popped in now and then. She still earns her living by gathering wild herbs from the mountainside, drying them and selling them in little plastic bags. We bought a few packets and thanked her for showing us her home.

The local Folk Museum of Archangelos is similar to the one in Koskinou, with implements of everyday life of the past exhibited. There are local costumes, tools and utensils, hand-made embroidery and hand woven textiles and clothes. The museum has also a modest collection of archaeological objects that were found in the area. At a distance of about three kilometers northwest of Archangelos, on the top of Koumelos hill, is a famous cave, very important in speleological as well as in archaeological aspects. Excavations in the cave, carried out recently, have brought to light several finds dated to the Late Neolithic and in the Mycenaean periods, an evidence of the antiquity of the settlement.

Numerous cultural events and activities take place in Archangelos all year round. The prime one in winter is the Carnival, taking place in late February or early March. In summer, a series of cultural activities, comprising dance, photography, music and several others, take place during the second fortnight of August. The residents of the area celebrate several religious feasts with “paneghyria” (local feasts), which attract many people from the villages and towns of the island, as well as tourists. The most important local feasts are that of Archangelos Michael, celebrated on the name day of the saint on the 8th of November, the name day of Aghia Marina on the 17th of July, on the 8th of September at the Monastery of Panaghia Tsambika (celebration of the Birthday of Virgin Mary) and on the 23rd of August in honor of Panaghia Alemonitra (Virgin the Beneficent).

We went on further south until at about seven kilometers from Archangelos, we saw the ruins of the medieval caste of Faraklou, dominating the scenic village of Haraki, situated by the sea in front of a nice beach within a small cove. A few small fishing boats set out daily to catch fish for the amazing local restaurant, which is very popular with the locals at the weekend (always a good sign for dining at a restaurant!). The local honey tastes wonderful and a good way to enjoy it is with the natural yoghurt (which is also locally made) and crushed walnuts on top.

Because Haraki is not over-developed, there are no high-rise blocks to ruin the view from the beach, and equally importantly, pretty much all accommodation has a sea view. The beach has large pebbles at one end, running down to coarse sand at the other end. You can rent sunbeds and an umbrella on the beach for three euros per day. One needs sandals or thongs to walk on beach at Haraki. However, just over the small hill to the east is the stunning Agathi beach. This is a beach of perfect golden sand in a very sheltered bay. The water is shallow for a long way out, making this a perfect spot to bring the kids for a swim.

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