Lapping Up the Aegean Three; Archers Star Amy Shindler Hops between Islands - and Snakes - on a Triple-Centre Med Break
Byline: Amy Shindler
IT WAS only when we were halfway down the mountain and the sun was dipping romantically into the sea that my boyfriend mentioned the poisonous snakes. Apparently Patmos is famous for them. Not to worry, he called as he trotted off ahead - they would only attack if we disturbed the rocks. Great, I thought, as I slid through a pile of scree, ripping the leg of my capri pants.
I began to question the wisdom of abandoning a perfectly good path to tear down the side of a snake-infested mountain as we attempted a short cut to a beachside bar. But there's something about the Dodecanese islands that makes you adventurous.
Maybe it's due to the ease of jumping on a ferry and within a few hours emerging on to the pier of a different island, with its own distinct character, landscape and history. You sometimes feel as if you're closer to the land of Homer's Odyssey than to 21st Century Greece.
We chose three islands - Patmos, Leros and Rhodes - to visit in eight days, a schedule that allowed time for sun, sea, sightseeing and snake-running.
After a four-hour flight from the UK, we landed in Rhodes, capital of the Dodecanese islands. This was also the centre of government back in the days of the Knights of St John, who occupied the region from 1309 to 1522.
Their legacy remains in the form of castles scattered across the islands, including the spectacular ruin named after them that overlooks the town of Lindos on Rhodes.
Perhaps the most breathtaking is the imposing Palace of the Grand Masters, which dominates Rhodes Old Town. All turrets and buttresses, it was built - fruitlessly as things turned out - to keep out invaders from Turkey. In the excellent archaeological museum you can see cannon balls that were fired over its parapets.
The old town that was once the centre of Aegean trade is now an attractive jumble of tourist shops, hippy bars and upscale tavernas. It's more laid-back than infamous Faliraki just down the coast, but we still found ourselves dancing with locals to a live band in a moonlit piazza.
The Ottoman legacy is distinct here, with magnificent mosques and cobbled-street bazaars selling everything from hand-carved chairs to fig cake soaked in ouzo.
Many buildings have an Eastern influence, with courtyard gardens and mosaics. …