Judaism / Personal / Travel

ευτυχισμένο το νέο έτος – Happy New Year, Rhodes Day 2

Dear Friend,

After a great first night sleep we were ready to hit the town running… Well we were ready to hit the beach running! But not before taking advantage of the AMAZING buffet our hotel offered its guests every morning. I’m so thankful our breakfast was scheduled between 7-10am because that was my assurance that Stephane wouldn’t sleep in too much during vacation :-p!

And this was only half of the displayed food!

And this was only half of the displayed food!

We dined on traditional Greek yogurt with honey and raisins, eggs (scrambled and sunny side up), crepes, croissants, fresh vegetables, assortments of cheeses, and more! I’m not too big of a breakfast person so I stuck to the basics while Stephane got the full experience! I didn’t feel I was missing out on much though, I just ate smaller portions!

The rocky beaches of Rhodes

After an indulgent breakfast we returned to the room, put on our swim suits, and made our way to the beach! My goal was to darken about two shades on this vacation so we needed to spend some serious time in the sun (don’t worry mom I put on plenty of sunscreen and didn’t burn once)! When we arrived to the sea it was still pretty early, so the huge crowds of people weren’t yet around. We made our way to a relatively solitary spot, found two lounge chairs, and made ourselves ready to tan! We knew the chairs would most likely come at a price, so when a rather fierce looking Greek man approached us we weren’t totally surprised. As Stephane likes to remind me often, there’s no such thing as a free meal. Well, a free meal is one thing, but 10 Euro for two worn down lounge chairs is something just as surprising and ridiculous. Stephane had to ask the man to repeat himself because he couldn’t believe he was seriously asking for 10 euro to sit on the beach. After some argument, and some nasty words from the man, we decided to take our towels and set up camp on the beautiful, pebbly beach. It turned out to be a great decision on our parts, and we saved 10 Euro in the process (which can go a long way in Greece – I could easily by 5 chicken Gyros for that price)!

The gorgeous Mediterranean

The gorgeous Mediterranean

The beach was perfection. The water was cool and clear as glass. Not even a speck of dirt dirtied it’s clear surface. Though laying on the rocks wasn’t the most comfortable, we spent most of our time enjoying the water anyways. And enjoy we did!

Enjoying a nice, refreshing swim

Enjoying a nice, refreshing swim

He's trying to see just how American he can look

He’s trying to see just how American he can look

The gorgeous beaches of Rhodes

The gorgeous beaches of Rhodes

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Pebble beaches of Rhodes

Pebble beaches of Rhodes

When we weren’t in the water we were warming up on the rocks, taking in the scenery which mainly consisted of older woman tanning topless in our vicinity. I know the saying “when in Rome” means I probably should have followed suite and taken the sun the “European” way, but I was perfectly content with my bathing suite top on despite the awkward tan lines.

Didn't want to get a head burn!

Didn’t want to get a head burn!

Enjoying the beautiful Mediterranean sun!

Enjoying the beautiful Mediterranean sun!

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After about three and a half hours in the sun we were ready to head out, and I was starving. We decided to stop at a beautiful little cafe right off of the old city, and I was introduced to my first authentically Greek Gyro! Unfortunately they didn’t offer lamb, just chicken and pork, so I settled on the chicken and it was DELICIOUS! The meat was cooked to perfection with just enough crisp on the outside of each strip. The crisp cucumbers and sensational red onions complimented the meat and it was all tied together with Greece’s famous Tzatziki yogurt sauce. Even Stephane was blown away by the taste despite the fact that his bites didn’t consist of the yogurt sauce since he doesn’t mix meat and dairy.

Our beautiful lunching spot

Our beautiful lunching spot

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The view from our cafe

The view from our cafe

Shana Tova from Rhodes

After our delicious meal we headed back to the hotel for some rest and showers to get ready for Rosh Hashanah services in the old city of Rhodes. The island has a fascinating Jewish history, and a popular Jewish quarter in the old city, and when we discovered the synagogue is functional during the high holidays we decided we had to go check it out. When we arrived to the old city we wound our way around small side street after side street until we finally found the famed Jewish quarter.

Kahal Shalom Synagogue

Kahal Shalom Synagogue

When we entered the Shul I was immediately blow away by its beauty. At the height of the Jewish community in Rhodes in the 1930’s there were upwards of 4,000 Sephardic Jews in the city, and 6 synagogues were housed in the Jewish quarter. It was a bustling, active Jewish community all but wiped away during the Holocaust. Only about 150 men and women survived Nazi atrocities, and out of these 150 liberation came too late and many passed away shortly after being freed. It was so sad to see the beauty of the synagogue knowing that so many who used to worship in her quarters lost their lives to the most bitter of hatred. There were about 12 people in synagogue that night, including a Rabbi from Israel who journeys to Rhodes every holiday season to lead services. There wasn’t a minyan of men (10 men or more in the synagogue), so many of the prayers couldn’t be chanted, but it was such a special experience shared with some amazing people.

After services we went to the roof of the synagogue and shared in the Kiddush and blessings over apples and honey for a sweet new year. While there we met an older, French speaking gentlemen from Congo (of all places), who comes to Rhodes every year for services to help keep the community alive. He said that Congo once had a Jewish community of over 2,000 people, but today they number just over 20 or so. It was fascinating to talk with him. Across from us was a French and Ladino speaking man from South Africa with his South African wife, and next to him sat one of the last remaining native Jews of Rhodes. Because he spoke only Ladino we had to hear his words through translations, but it was astounding meeting him nonetheless. Three Greek woman were also in attendance, and they prepared all of the food for us to enjoy. When we finished the Kiddush and some conversation, it was time for Stephane and I to take our leave and do some Old City exploration to find a restaurant for dinner! On the way out of the synagogue we noticed a plaque in French honoring all of the Jews from Rhodes who perished in the war. Stephane told me what it said, we took one last look around, and then we were off. It was a perfect holiday.

The exterior of the Synagogue

The exterior of the Synagogue

The beautiful interior of the temple (I had to sneak these pictures)

The beautiful interior of the temple (I had to sneak these pictures)

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Old City Dining

When we were finished at the synagogue we walked back to the busy square in the heart of the old city to find a suitable restaurant for dinner. As we were looking at the various menus of the restaurants that lined the square we were immediately accosted by overzealous workers trying to pull people into their restaurant. Stephane was specifically looking for a very European pizza consisting of smoked salmon and cream cheese, and when one of the men told us that they had the dish we settled on their restaurant. Little did we know that these people would say practically anything to get people to eat in their establishment, but we decided to go on good faith and give it a try. When the waiter came to take our orders I decided to go with stuffed mushrooms and a Caesar salad, and when it came time for Stephane to order his pizza we were informed they didn’t have anything like that… He was not so happy. After some heated discussion the restaurant agreed to bring him a pizza with smoked salmon, and we hoped for the best. Well, the stuffed mushrooms were good, but everything else was pretty terrible and the service was horrific. The “Caesar salad” came out with chicken, ham, a ton of tomatoes, no croutons, and this very strange mustard dressing that was almost inedible.  Stephane’s pizza had one or two pieces of salmon and was very unsatisfactory. On top of that it took forever to get our food and then we see the waiters at a far away table sitting around and drinking beers… To be honest we kept looking at the beautiful restaurant across the way wondering why we didn’t take more time to choose a place. If you visit Rhodes and decide to eat in the old city, avoid the restaurant Plaka at all costs.

Plaka restaurant

Plaka restaurant

After our unsatisfactory dinner, we spent some time re-exploring the old city and then we headed back to the hotel for a good night sleep after a very full day.

Stay tuned for day 3 coming soon! I miss you every second of every day, Friend!

Until we meet again <3,

Jordana Simone

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