Greetings from Rhodes Island in Greece
KALIMERA (= hello) to you all from the island of Rhodes in Greece,
You probably can make out the island of Rhodes to the bottom right corner of this borrowed map and the town of Rhodes where we are. As you can see, it's a lot closer to Turkey than mainland Greece but is sure and certain part of Greece. You can see why these two countries have gone to war over these islands. If the map is further extended to the right, you will see the island of Cyprus and then Palestine and Israel, which means that Rhodes is on the sea route between Europe and the holy land. For that reason, one finds here in Rhodes perhaps the best preserved medieval castle (shown here below), built by Christian knights during the time of the crusade, and hence Rhodes' nickname: 'the island of the knights'.
Anyway, we (me and Kara) have been sitting here since last Sunday on a week of holiday. The island of Rhodes is about twice as big as the whole of Tonga put together - so it's big enough, and like Tonga, it relies mainly on tourists like us for much of its income. If you have seen the movie "Mamma Mia" which was shot on another Greek island, it's very similar to Rhodes, only that Rhodes is a lot more commercialized for tourism as you can see on this photo:
Even if the name Rhodes may not mean anything, if you can recall your history, this island was once famous for the "Collosus of Rhodes", a 30 metre statue honoring the Greek god Helios (Greek for 'sun') which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was built around the third century before Jesus but was destroyed by an earthquake soon after. 30 metres is not impressive by modern standards but imagine what it was like at the time! I read somewhere that the makers of the Statue of Liberty definitely had the Collosus of Rhodes in mind when they built theirs. Efforts are now being made here by some local businessmen to rebuild it but given the financial crisis now facing this country, that may not happen anytime soon. Here's an artist's impression of what it was like for those who visited this island 2300 years ago:
But if you're wondering 'why Rhodes', well, it's summer here in Europe and that's when northern Europeans (Germans, Britons, Dutch, Flemish, etc.) flock to the south of Europe (Spain, Italy, Greece) for their holiday under the sun. Given the financial difficulties these southern European countries are facing right now, every visitor here is welcome with open arms, including me! The taxi driver at Rhodos' airport asked me (to Kara's amusement), 'are you from here'? Because of the sun, southern Europeans tend to be a bit more brownish, just like Tongans, hehe! I said already 'Kalimera' which is hallo in Greek. But I also hear the word 'Parakalo' (= please) or better 'Efkaristo' (= thanks). Do you see how the last one is related to our anglicized word 'Eucharist'? I studied and taught Biblical Greek for a number of years, and even though the Greek now spoken on the streets here in Rhodes is a little different, I very much enjoy noticing the similarities now and then. But don't worry - 'it's all Greek to me too!' I've taken pictures but will try to upload them later if I have time.
'Ofa atu to you all from Rhodes & take care,
Uncle Tavo & Kara