She took her first vacation on Rhodes in 1967. This year, she made her 150th trip. The Tourism Department of the Municipality of Rhodes, in the context of their Repeat Guest Reward Program, honored Theresa Jette Enevoldsen by bestowing on her the title of “Honorary Friend of the Island” at a special ceremony held in the summer. Afterwards, she shared her thoughts on her love for Rhodes and on the award she had received.
Why do you keep returning to Rhodes?
I visited the island for the first time in 1967, when I started working for the Scandinavian airline SAS. The feeling of love hit me like a thunderbolt. I think I’ve become addicted to the island and its people. I walk around the Old City and feel like I’m browsing through a beautiful history book. Every time I leave Mandraki behind and cross through the Gate of Liberty, I feel the city walls encircle me and everything is peaceful. The atmosphere is unique, especially at night when the lights are low.
What do you remember from your first visit?
The small family restaurants where we ate with coupons that the travel agency gave us – along with the advice not to sunbathe topless, because if the police arrested us, the travel agency couldn’t intervene! Our favorite taverna, which no longer exists, was on Socratous Street in the Old Town, and belonged to Mustapha, who always refused payment when we ate there. So on the last night, my friends and I ordered lobster, which was so expensive that he was forced to accept all our coupons. In those days, the tavernas didn’t serve coffee or dessert. But if you asked them, the owners would usually send a child out to get some for you. At that time, people seemed to enjoy life, even if they had to work until two or three in the morning.
What is the first thing you do when you get to the island?
If I’m not staying at a friend’s home, I always book a room near Mandraki at the Hermes Hotel, which is open all year and mainly has Greek customers. As soon as I get here, I go to meet my Greeks, my friends. I take a taxi into town, chatting with the driver half in English and half in Greek, and I make my first stop for coffee and dessert at the Nea Agora in Mandraki. If I arrive in the evening, I go out for roast lamb at the Epirus Taverna.
What do you like about the Greeks, and what don’t you like?
I like how you enjoy life and talk to strangers. However, I don’t like the way you park on sidewalks and in crosswalks, without caring whether pedestrians can get past you or not. I always wonder how mothers get around with their strollers without anybody getting hurt.
What could the Danes learn from the Greeks and vice versa?
In Greece, children spend much more time with their parents than in Denmark, even as adults. The grandparents are an important part of the family and are respected. In Denmark, by contrast, younger people are busy with their lives, their new mobile phone and their perfect designer homes, while a child is very often a status symbol. Conversely, Denmark is a very organized country, and the Greeks could learn from that.
What are your favorite places on the island?
I like to sit under the century-old olive trees in Aghios Nikolaos in Fountoukli. It’s particularly peaceful there, and has great views. In town, I like to wander the streets pretending to be a local. Many foreigners are afraid that they’ll get lost, but that’s half the fun. For food, I go to the Megiston Taverna in the Old Town or the fish taverna Pizanias, which I’ve been visiting since 1968. I also love the taverna in Plymmiri.
Is there a particular story you’d like to share?
This summer, my brother and my nephew came to the island with me to see me get my award. On the last night, my brother wanted to enjoy some good wine, so I took him to the Megiston Taverna in the Old Town. We hadn’t booked, but when we arrived, we realized that the owner had learned about the award and had kept a table for us just in case we decided to drop by. It was a very pleasant surprise. I must admit, there’s no way something like that would have happened in Denmark.
What souvenirs do you have from Greece and Rhodes after all these years of traveling?
One of them is the book “Olive Oil” (To Eleolado) by Nikos and Maria Psilakis. I adore it because I like to cook traditional Greek dishes such as stifado (thick-sauced beef stew with baby shallot onions), which my friends go crazy over. The thing I always bring back with me is an oleander root. I have pot plants with flowering oleanders of various shades growing on my 10 square meter veranda. If habits can be considered souvenirs, then I could also name the local “ts” sound accompanied by the slight backward tilting of the head [a gesture that means no in Greece], which I’ve brought back to Denmark with me.