National Geographic : 1953 Mar
On the Winds of the Dodecanese Sailing the Aegean in a Sturdy Caique, the Authors Find Adventure and Hospitality in Storied Isles of Greece BY JEAN AND FRANC SHOR With Illustrations from Photographs by the Authors V IOLENT, unpredictable, the winds of the Aegean have been the despair of mariners since man first sailed these island-dotted waters. Legends record that they buffeted the tall ships of Agamemnon at the siege of Troy, drove Ulysses from his homeward course, and troubled Jason's quest of the Golden Fleece. Through the centuries they harassed the flotilla of Xerxes, the galleys of Imperial Rome, and the navy of Suleiman the Magnificent. Neither time nor modern methods of trans portation have lessened their power. Two summers ago they blew my wife and me, flying high in an airliner, into a new and exciting adventure-a cruise through the his toric Dodecanese. From Fast Plane to Slow Boat Ordinarily we would never have seen this scattered archipelago that sprinkles the south eastern Aegean off the coast of Turkey (map, page 358). But a storm forced our Constel lation to change course on its Cairo-Athens flight. Suddenly, through a break in the clouds, we saw the islands far below. Rocky shores, ringed with foaming surf, rose abruptly from white-capped water. Green forests crowned steep mountains; pink-roofed houses clustered around protected harbors that sheltered fleets of small craft. "The ancient Greeks guided their lives by omens," said Jean. "Perhaps we should spend our vacation exploring the Dodecanese." Swooping low over Piraievs, Athens's har bor, we passed over dozens of white-sailed caiques, sturdy little vessels that have carried Aegean cargoes for centuries. "For years I've wanted to sail in one of those," I told Jean. "Let's combine omen and wish, hire a caYque, and cruise through the islands." In Athens (Athinai) we arranged to fly to Rhodes (R6dhos), the islands' capital, and to be met there by a caique. A few days later we were sitting in the office of R. Ar. Agatho cles, then Governor General of the islands, overlooking the windmill-lined harbor of the city of Rhodes (page 363). Over cups of thick Turkish coffee he told us about the Dodecanese. "Americans are always welcome here," the governor began. "Thanks to your assistance we have repaired most of our war damage. "It seems to be the fate of the Dodecanese to suffer war and invasion," he went on. "Many nations have prized them for their strategic location. Greece, Rome, Persia, the Byzantine Empire, and other powers have ruled here in ancient times. "Suleiman the Magnificent captured the islands from the Crusaders, and the Turks remained until the Italians drove them out in 1912. During and after World War II we had German and British military govern ments. Only in 1948, after centuries, were the islands returned to Greece." A note of pride crept into the governor's voice. "Think of it," he said. "Since the 5th cen tury B.C. alien rulers tried to tear these people from their Greek ways. Yet today they speak Greek, worship in Greek Orthodox churches, and keep their old Greek customs." A Dozen Islands-Plus Two Dodecanese is Greek for "twelve islands," but actually there are 14 in the chain, with numerous islets and reefs. They are home to 116,000 people, more than 55,000 living on Rhodes, the largest island. A few till the rocky soil, but most are fishermen, sailors, and sponge divers. With John Vamvlakaris, an Athenian, we set out to see the ancient city of Rhodes. Streets were ablaze with bougainvillea, hibis cus, and oleander. Automobiles honked a path through narrow cobblestoned streets, their horns echoing from ancient walls. The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes towered above the city. Almost completely destroyed during nearly 400 years of Turkish domination, the castle was rebuilt as a summer palace for Mussolini. Fine mosaics from the island of Kos cover the floors, but there is little else that is old. Ital ian architects installed Hollywood-style bath rooms and modern furniture for II Duce's comfort. But war intervened and he never occupied the island retreat.* * See "Rhodes, and Italy's Aegean Islands," by Dorothy Hosmer, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, April, 1941.