The stories about knights rightfully belong to Rhodes. This here is a story about knights in Halki, the beautiful island of the Dodecanese, located to the east of Rhodes. A story about a lazy afternoon …
That afternoon of June we had been destroyed by the heat of the sun. We sat in the shade of the tavern called “Black Sea”, on the south side of the harbor of Halki. Tired and lazy…
Black sea? The sea glowed blue and shiny ahead of us.
“The name is Black Sea because during the winter the weather turns the sea into black, all around the harbor area here,” shouted at me Libanios Rhoditis, the guy from the tavern’s kitchen, preparing our ouzo, octopus salad and marinated anchovies for meze.
We started a walk on the island of Halki with our heads heavy enough. We ascended through the Emporio village, crossing the Tarpon Springs Avenue. Weird ? Not really. Tarpon Springs is an American fishing village in Florida with many immigrants sponge divers from Halki. We passed by the oleanders and tamarisks surrounding the military outpost and descended to the sandy beach of Pontamos.
We crossed landscapes decorated with a splendid Aegean minimalism: everything is scarce, measured, precious. Just above the beach, we pass a valley with almond, fig and olive trees and stopped to see the most glorious relic of the island’s past. It is the abandoned village of Chorio, the old town of the island, now empty and deserted. It’s a small universe of stone ruins scattered on the steep slope.
Among them the little green of the cypresses, next to the chapel of Virgin Mary, dating from the 16th century. The trail, like ashen stone snake twirled beside the ruined walls: many of which are built with ancient ruins of unknown origin.
Chorio was the capital of the island for centuries. When piracy was disappeared from the Aegean sea, the islanders descended to the sea, built the Emporio village and left the small houses of the Chorio deserted. “This last one should have left during the ’60s” told me the Mayor earlier.
The houses here are really different from the beautiful pink and orange mansions of Emporio. Here the old houses are small cubical stone buildings with roofs made of “patelia”, a special waterproof soil, similar to porcelain (which some old folks still call it parcelona, a word coming directly from the word “porcelain” ).
At the top of the rocky hill the castle of the Knights of Rhodes stands as an eternal guardian of the wilderness, with battlements that look like the mouth of a toothless old sailor. The view from these fortifications is truly breathtaking.Down and below , right in front of our wide angle lenses and the crazy –working – shutters of our cameras lies the Carpathian Sea, the small archipelago with the rocky islets, Rhodes island with the awesome Attaviros mountain, and the – like a stone bird’s wing embellished with emerald water – Peninsula of Trachia.
Cisterns, stone piles, the half-ruined church of St. Nicholas with faded frescoes, the coat of arms of the Grand Master D ‘Aubusson, dried mullein and oregano: that is all what’s left of the mighty castle, which was built in the 14th-15th century on the ruins of an ancient citadel.
-No knights live here anymore, eh? my photographer asked me.
I looked at the mat embossed bearer on the moss –stained white stones of the lintel. «Not at all …» I murmured.
-“Ok, cool … they wouldn’t like tourists anyway … “ he said.
I agreed of course ….
Where am I?
Halki is located quite close to Rhodes island and you can arrive here by boat only. Usually there is a daily ferry (very small ferry for few cars) from the port of Kamiros Skala, in Rhodes. You must first get to Rhodes (by sea or air) and drive until Kamiros Skala. Two or three times a week there and ship from Piraeus (via Crete and Karpathos islands).