St Paul's Bay is a good spot for fishing and a cooling dip. Picture: Tim Dawes

Rhodes is one of the most- visited Greek islands. It's easy to explore by car but I prefer public transport - whatever slight inconvenience it entails is more than made up by the passing parade of characters and moments.

The route from Rodos town follows the coast, providing spectacular views. Initially, stops are frequent, passing large tourist resorts, but this gives way to long stretches of countryside. And 60km south of Rodos town on the east coast of Rhodes is picture-perfect Lindos, with its layers of history.

The bus takes one final sweep around yet another bay and there it is. No passenger is immune from an intake of breath. A great medieval fort containing the Acropolis of Lindos dominates from its 116m-high rock plinth. Twenty-five shades of turquoise sparkle from see-through water in the bay as white boats seem to hover above the surface. Little white sugar-cube houses dot the steep-sided cliffs below the acropolis and regiments of umbrellas line bright yellow crescents of sand.

Holding tight to this startling image I work through our mundane disembarkation in a scruffy carpark and pathway descent to a flock of coach tourists facing their stick- wielding shepherdess at the entrance. It's not really a ticket-box entrance but a good yarding technique to funnel visitors down "gift shop alley" to the donkey departure lounge. Uncomprehending tourists are plonked onto the next donkey for their run up the alley streets to the acropolis. I veer swiftly to the left.

And then I'm walking along a deserted ledge alleyway of beautiful houses facing the bay. About three or four of Lindos' main alleyways are clogged with visitors shuffling past shops offering either lasting mementos or disposable knick-knacks, depending on your view of such souvenirs. Despite its touristic pull, Lindos is a working town. The Dorians settled here 3000 years ago. Lindos grew prosperous trading with Phoenicians and Greeks but fell victim over the years to the main actors of the ancient world. In turn the Romans, Byzantines, Persians and Saracens acquired the strategic town for trade or war. In 1309 the Knights of St John of Jerusalem prevailed and stayed, to be ousted in 1522 by the Ottomans, who ruled until 1912. Lindos, as part of Rhodes, was "returned" to Greece in 1948.

I wander, twisting and turning with the terrain. For the well-heeled, there are luxury houses for sale or rent. I look in on the Ottoman- influenced boutique hotel Melenos, festooned with outdoor lights. It's hard to draw myself away from these little white houses and their dramatic views but I join the throng to visit the 15th century Panagia (Our Lady) Church. It stands out from the labyrinthine walkways with its multi-layered stone bell tower. Its walls tell Bible stories in frescoes and its floor shows off kokklaki - black and white pebble mosaic. An agitated young woman in very short shorts is turned away from a packed Orthodox service. I'm with the white-haired lady in black: it's her village church, not a fun fair. My wandering comes to a stop when the road runs out at the school. It's not that far to the acropolis from here. Steep steps take me to a medieval castle gate. Inside there's a bit of a scramble over ingoings and outgoings, ticketing and bored donkeys looking in vain for a return fare. The Knights put up massive and extensive walls but inside we see they're alongside earlier Byzantine walls.

Getting my bearings in this vast jumble of formed stone, its layers of history are evident. But how to peel them back and make sense of it? Perhaps the most noteworthy, and striking, structure is the Temple to Athena, now reduced to a few columns. This huge, rebuilt Hellenistic temple was in use in 300BC, well before the Greeks claimed Athena as a cult. There's a 4th century propylaea (gateway) to a sanctuary, the ruins of a Roman temple dedicated to Emperor Diocletian and the Greek Orthodox Church of St John. All of them built on or around former buildings and civilisations.

An early 20th century archaeological dig and later restoration were poorly done and much of the good stuff was carted off to an institute in Denmark - a sad recurring theme in Greece.

From my lofty eyrie at the Athena temple I can see St Paul's Bay, where the apostle is reported to have waited out a storm. Bay? From here it is a lake, or even a rock pool. I leave to explore some more and am nearly skittled on stone paving by returning donkeys. At sea level, of course, my lake is revealed as a very sheltered bay, and a good spot for fishing and a cooling dip. Looking back up at the acropolis, Athena perches precariously on the overhanging lip of an eroded cliff, as she has for many years.

It's siesta time and the locals retreat behind shuttered windows. The "mad dogs and Englishmen" (well, Russians mainly) continue to shuffle for trinkets. I find a shady spot in a breezeway and doze for an hour. Then there's still time for one last foray to look at those pretty houses in bougainvillea-strewn streets and their elaborate Rhodian stone architraves before the mid-afternoon bus back.

The West Australian

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