Μετά από αρκετό καιρό που γράφτηκε, εκδόθηκε από τον εκδοτικό οίκο “Ελληνικά Γράμματα”, το βιβλίο μου για παιδιά “Δρακοψιθύρισμα”. Θα το βρείτε στα μεγάλα βιβλιοπωλεία σε μερικές ημέρες (αν και μερικά το έχουν ήδη στα ράφια τους - π.χ. το “Ιανός” στην Οδό Ακαδημίας και το “Πολιτεία” στην Οδό Ασκληπιού).Αν σας άρεσε ο “Χάρι Πότερ”, τότε θα σας αρέσει και το “Δρακοψιθύρισμα”, αν και οι ήρωές του και το περιβάλλον είναι ελληνικότατα!
This evening in Rhodes there was a special parade to celebrate the culmination of a three-day festival, the Anthesteria. This is a celebration based on the ancient Greek festival of the same name to honour Dionysus, the god of wine and vegetation. It was celebrated in most Ionian communities, but most of information about the festival comes from Athens, where it was of particular importance. Anthesteria was held annually for three days (11th-13th) in the month of Anthesterion (February-March). Although its name indicates a Festival of Flowers (‘anthe’), the festival focused primarily on opening the new wine and on placating the spirits of the dead.
This festival in Rhodes has been celebrated in late Spring/early Summer for quite a few years and is marked by several activities, such as trade displays, competitions, open air markets, and for the closing evening a street parade with floats, marching bands, drum majorettes and several schools of dance parading down the esplanade. The theme this years was the environment and several floats were decorated with flowers, and many of the children’s costumes had a flora theme. We attended this but were rather disappointed as it seemed poorly organized and the music selected for the parade was extremely inappropriate and much too loud.
However, the children participating seemed to have a good time and the proud parents were all in attendance and cheering them along. We stayed for a while and then made our way back to the hotel, just in time to prepare for dinner. We went out and found a very nice little restaurant with seafood. After a very full day we went back to the hotel and had a very restful night.
We first visited Panormitis monastery. This is a grand monastery built around the church of the Archangel Michael Panormitis (St-Michael-On-the-Bay). It contains many cells in which some monks stay, but also hosts many visitors largely Greeks and Cypriots who come here on a pilgrimage to adore the miraculous icon of the saint and who have a religious obligation to fulfill. Around the monastery are a few tourist shops and taverns and there are always a few fishing boats around that sell their freshly caught fish and shellfish.
We went into the church where a stream of pilgrims and tourists filed by the icon of the Saint and we lit a candle in a neighbouring chapel. Most Greek churches now forbid lighting of candles within them as the smoke damages the icons and frescos that decorate the interior. We were given phials of blessed oil for anointing and a small icon of the Saint. A shop on the monastery grounds sells icons and religious goods.
There are two very interesting museums associated with the monastery. A religious one containing a wealth of old manuscripts, old printed gospels and hymnals, priestly vestments, religious vessels and jewellery. The other is a folk museum with many implements and every-day objects of times of yore, arranged in a way more or less replicating how they would be found in a house of the era. All in all a very good place to visit with much to see.
We got back into the boat and thirty minutes later we were approaching Symi Harbour. The view was simply stunning. The town is built around a bay where the steep hillsides form an amphitheatre-like hollow on which the houses are precariously balanced. Needless to say there are sharply rising steps that connect these terraces on the multiple levels of the town. As soon as we got out of the boat, we walked along the esplanade and took in the general ambience of the place. A very typical cosmopolitan feel about the place with numerous tourists from all parts of the world walking around.
We immediately started climbing up the steps that led upward and soon we left the tourists behind and went to the upper part of town, towards Horio. The houses are traditional and generally well preserved with quite a few grand mansions here and there that have been renovated. We walked up towards the castle and the Museum of Symi. The steps seemed endless as we climbed ever upwards and the heat of the day increased. This is not for the faint-hearted or those with health problems or disabilities!
We finally reached the museum, which is housed in a traditional Symian mansion that originally belonged to the Gianneski family. The neoclassical elements of the mansion were added back in 1875. The house is a donation to the Greek state by Ariadni V. Farmakidi and Sevasti N. Farmakidi. A representation of the inside of a Symian house with the dining and the sitting room (furniture, settings, paintings and photographs of that period), along with some traditional local costumes, comprise the exhibition of the folk museum. The Museum also includes the following collections: Archaelogical gleanings dating back to classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods and a Byzantine collection including some excellent icons.
Coming out of the museum we decided to go down into the harbour via another road and we got rather lost. We ended up on the road tat is used by cars and which bypasses the older part of Horio. We walked down the road in the heat and followed the signs for Yalos, passing by the road that led to Pedi. It was rather a long haul, but finally we came back to Horio and climbed down the steps that led to Yalos. We walked around and saw some more of the town and then stopped and had a refreshing drink in one of the cafés. Before not too long, the time came for our departure and 50 minutes later we were back in Rhodes.
“The rose has thorns only for those who would gather it.” - Chinese Proverb
We had bought tickets yesterday for a trip out to Symi, another Dodecanese island close to Rhodes. There are many ferries and ships that regularly sail out to neighbouring islands such as Telos, Castellorizo, Kos, Nisyros, Carpathos, Halki, etc. We chose to take the rapid Flying Dolphin service which takes about 50 minutes to get to Symi.
The history of Symi begins in ancient times when it was known by a variety of names, including Kirki, Aigli and Metapontis. The island got its current name from the nymph Symi, who according to Greek mythology became the lover of the god of the seas Poseidon and brought to life Chthonios, who became the leader of the islands inhabitants. Homer mentions Symi in the Iliad, as a participant in the Trojan war, its troops led by the Symiote King Nireas.
Thucydides writes that during the Peloponnesian War, there was a Battle of Syme near the island in January 411 BC in which an unspecified number of Spartan ships defeated a squadron of Athenian vessels. Little is known of the island until the 14th century but archaeological evidence indicates it was continuously inhabited, and ruins of citadels suggest it was an important location. It was first part of the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire until its conquest by the Knights of St John in 1373.
A period of prosperity began for the island with the development of shipping, sponge commerce, boat building and other industries. In 1832 Symi came under the Turkish dominion which was followed in 1912 by Italian rule. Symi confronted poverty at that time: the replacement of sailing with motor ships occurred, sponge diving decreased and a little later World War II began resulting in a great migration wave of Symiotes abroad.
From 1943 when the Italian domination ended, Symi changed hands several times between the English and the Germans, with the English taking over the island for the third time in 1944. On May 8th 1945, the Germans signed the treaty of the Dodecanese surrender, while on April 1st 1947, the British military command handed the island over to Greece. At last, it was on March 8th 1948 that the Protocol of integration of all Dodecanese islands to the Greek state was signed.
Symi belongs to the Dodecanese islands complex and lies 24 nautical miles NW of Rhodes and 255 nautical miles from the port of Piraeus. The highest point is Mountain Vigla at 616 metres. The island is very close to the coast of Asia Minor, just 5 miles from Alopos in Turkey. It is not a very big island, only 67 square kilometres. The majority of the land is covered in rocks. Two settlements form the town of Symi: Chorio (Village) and Yalos ( Harbour). Pedi, found in the bay of the same name and Nimporios in the bay of the same name, have a few inhabitants. There is also a big monastery complex, Panormitis, where around 30 people live and take care of the monastery.
At Yalos one may find a medical centre, a post office, the police station, the port police, the town hall, telephone service (OTE), banks, hotels, rooms to let, restaurants, tavernas, fast food outlets, goldsmiths, bakeries, tourist shops, supermarkets, confectioners, bars, tourist agencies, fruit shops, corner shops, a fitness center, a flower shop, bus and taxi terminals.
At Horio, one may find a medical centre, hotels, rooms to let, restaurants, tavernas, bakeries, tourist shops, supermarkets, bars, fruit shops, corner shops, a flower shop, bus and taxi stations. In the interior of Symi there is road that leads from Yalos to Panormitis and one may go there by car, by bike or even on foot. The road goes through areas forested with pine, cypress and holm-oak. When walking, you can go alone or with the help of guides, who are appointed by tourist offices. There are a number of islets around Symi, such as Nimos, which is the largest one, as well as Sesklia, Artikonisi, Koulountro, Troubeto, Chondros, Plati, Oxia, Diabates, Marmaras. All these small islands can be visited with caiques, or small boats.
Half of the current active population is engaged in the building industry, as well as in commerce and tourism. At present, tourism in Symi is dependent on daily visitors who come from Rhodes and visitors who stay in Symi for a couple of days. Symiotes who live abroad visit Symi for their vacations during the summer months as well. The duration of the tourist season lasts 7 months (April - October). High season lasts three months July - September. A few of the locals are engaged in agriculture, farming and fishing. Boat building and wood carving (furniture, decorative motifs of interior architecture) flourished in the past. Nowadays two small boat-yards are operating, mainly for the construction and repair of the fishing boats.
Symi Festival is organised every summer, first starting out thirteen years ago. The idea is based in the voluntary participation of artists and organizers. There is neither ticket for attending the cultural events nor is there payment for the participants. The Town Hall covers the travel and accommodation expenses of the participants. The Symi Festival has to do with several cultural activities like classical and modern music concerts, dance, theatre, cinema, literature evenings, conferences. All these take place in buildings with traditional architecture of 17th, 18th, 19th century like the famous manor house of Chatziagapitos, the courtyard of Saint John and the monastery of Panormitis.
Near Horio, there are two fortification enclosures from the Historical age and these as signposted as “Castro” (= castle). The castle proper was built by the Knights of St. John as an expansion of a Byzantine castle on the same site, many parts of which are still visible. The remnants of the ancient citadel on which the two later castles were built are also visible here. At Yalos, Pedi and Panormitis, there are relics or traces of paleochristian basilicas. At Nimporio can be found some traces, including burnt remains of a paleochristian basilica. In addition, there are architectural parts made of marble (reclaimed from ancient monuments) in the little churches of the surrounding area.
On the right side of Yalos, a clock tower, named Roloi, was built in 1881 and still counts the time for Symiotes. In front of Roloi , Michalaki, a statue of a little fisherman (sculpted by Kostas Valsamis) welcomes ships, yachts and the caiques as they enter the harbour. The bell-tower of the Evangelistria church looks like a true sentinel over the harbour. The Police building is a relic of the architecture of the years of the Italian Occupation. In Tzi, there is a copy of the triemolia originally carved into a rock of the Acropolis of Lindos and one may read there an inscription written by the Dodecanesian Fotis Varelis for the 8th of May. The Dove of Freedom, a war memorial, is another sculpture by Kostas Valsamis and can be found nearby.
The Nautical Museum of Symi is full of old maps, ship models and other exhibits from the rich maritime tradition of Symi. The Cathedral of Timios Prodromos, which was built in 1830 and refurbished in 1869, has a marvellous pebbled yard.
We then drove on further south, making our way to Asklipio, a village to the south west of Lardos, near an ancient hospital where priests of Asklepeios (the god of healing) took care of the sick. Not much is left of this archaeological site, but the village is a traditional and picturesque spot, with yet another medieval castle on a hill above it. Although Asklipio is a one street village there are a number of things to see. Firstly we stopped in the square and visited the Holy Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. It was built in 1060 AD and has become a major sightseeing venue because of the beautifully decorated interior, where every part of the walls has been covered with frescoes.
An elderly man was on ticket duty (it costs one euro to enter the church and the museum) and he was the source of information. It turned out that he is an Australian-Greek from Sydney and we had a bit of a chat about the village, the church and his life there. He spends six months in Australia and six months in Greece and helps out the community by looking after the museum and the church. He told us that the frescoes had held up well until someone decided that the original plaster on the dome needed to be chiselled off and replaced. It looked good he explained, but unfortunately it let in the moisture so the frescoes became damaged with the damp and mildew. We could see what he meant because although the dome’s frescoes had an ‘aged character’ - they were clearly damaged so much so that it was difficult to distinguish any detail whatsoever. Others, however, were still intact and although much faded over time we were able to distinguish the story of Adam and Eve, the final entry into Jerusalem, the betrayal and the resurrection.
Although the wall painting have been cleaned no attempt appears to have been made in restoring the frescoes, and although there are large parts of missing painting, one is still able to see the intention of the painter and as the smell of incense hung heavily in the church one had a sense of an otherworldiness and peace, an awe and a feeling of humility, a feeling of being in a place that was holy. At either side of the nave were plain vaulted chapels both from which one has glimpses of the church’s artwork. Outside the detached bell tower gives both perfect views and is well placed to inform villagers of pending church services or notable events.
The museum albeit very small has an interesting array of religious artifacts. The building itself is noteworthy, with an original reeded ceiling. This in days gone by was uncommon and reserved for special places to display wealth or as in this case, respect for a higher deity. Another building houses a folk museum with the regulation old tools, furniture, implements of all sorts and the omnipresent decorative plates on the walls.
Asklipio Castle is well signed and the short road up to it is in good condition and paved. We parked under a tree in the small car park (by this stage the temperature was in the mid-thirties). A short climb up a precariously uneven staircase and we were inside the ruined walls of yet another castle of the knights. Access to the castle is open and free but it is in ruins, however, one can let one’s imagination run wild and the glories of the past are easily resurrected. It is a place that needs care to explore as it is easy to stumble over the uneven ground and have a nasty fall. Going up the ruined battlements (unguarded, with no safety barriers), it is easy to topple over and fall several tens of metres below. However, the view of the surrounding countryside and village is wonderful.
A dry river bed can be seen meandering its way to the coast and the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary looks pretty nestling in the centre of the small village below. Way in the distance the Rhodes coastline and the sapphire sea can be seen shimmering. Looking closer below, there is evidence of the lower floor of the castle, in better condition than the upper part from this vantage point, but this is not easily accessible at.
We made our way back to the car and were assailed by a bouquet of wonderful smells. The slightly acrid and bitter schinum reminiscent a little of resin, the wonderfully fresh odour of oregano and thyme growing wild and in bloom by the path and the refreshing delicate smell of dry grass and the few wild flowers still blooming – wild rock rose, mock sage and the last of the wild poppies.
Another couple of churches in the village are worth a look: The tiny church of Archangel Michael is at the foot of the village, down a very difficult track. From here there is a good view of the castle. Near this plain church is a small well-maintained cemetery that serves this little village community. Back on the road is Asklipio’s third church with some rather poorly restored frescoes inside it.
We decided that the day out and about had come to an end at Asklipio and took the road back to Rhodes. We returned to our hotel and after freshening up, we went for a stroll and a bite to eat. We found a very nice little restaurant and had some gyros and salad all washed down with some cold beer. Beer has become very popular in Greece as the summertime drink at mealtime. It is served ice-cold in the Australian fashion and it was good to see the frosty iced glasses arriving with the cold bottle.
We next visited the small town of Archangelos situated about 28 kilometers south of the town of Rhodes. It is an inland town, about two kilometers far from the sea, on a small plateau amongst mountains and hills. It has about 5,500 permanent residents. The old town is located at the foot of the old castle on top of a prominent hill, with the modern part of town surrounding the old one. The medieval castle dominates the town and was built in 1320 AD by the Knights of the Order of St. John, on the ruins of the older Byzantine castle, parts of which have been incorporated in the construction.
The Holy Church of the Archangel Michael, which gives the town its name is worth a visit. Unfortunately, it was closed when we visited it, but we were able to see its yard with a pebble-paved floor with characteristic decoration. Coming out of the church we encountered a beautiful little traditional house with a small front yard full of flowers. The front door was open and the interior was just visible. We were peering inside when a wizened little old lady of about 90 years invited us in to see her house. It was just one room with an attached little kitchen. Her wedding bower was still decorated and perched on a wall, accessible by steps. On the walls were hanging a couple of hundred colourful plates and old photographs and traditional embroideries were festooning ledges, furniture and mantels. She told us that she became a widow at 29 years and she had to raise her two children on her own – they now lived in Athens and occasionally came to visit her. She lived alone and took care of herself, although a neighbour popped in now and then. She still earns her living by gathering wild herbs from the mountainside, drying them and selling them in little plastic bags. We bought a few packets and thanked her for showing us her home.
The local Folk Museum of Archangelos is similar to the one in Koskinou, with implements of everyday life of the past exhibited. There are local costumes, tools and utensils, hand-made embroidery and hand woven textiles and clothes. The museum has also a modest collection of archaeological objects that were found in the area. At a distance of about three kilometers northwest of Archangelos, on the top of Koumelos hill, is a famous cave, very important in speleological as well as in archaeological aspects. Excavations in the cave, carried out recently, have brought to light several finds dated to the Late Neolithic and in the Mycenaean periods, an evidence of the antiquity of the settlement.
Numerous cultural events and activities take place in Archangelos all year round. The prime one in winter is the Carnival, taking place in late February or early March. In summer, a series of cultural activities, comprising dance, photography, music and several others, take place during the second fortnight of August. The residents of the area celebrate several religious feasts with “paneghyria” (local feasts), which attract many people from the villages and towns of the island, as well as tourists. The most important local feasts are that of Archangelos Michael, celebrated on the name day of the saint on the 8th of November, the name day of Aghia Marina on the 17th of July, on the 8th of September at the Monastery of Panaghia Tsambika (celebration of the Birthday of Virgin Mary) and on the 23rd of August in honor of Panaghia Alemonitra (Virgin the Beneficent).
We went on further south until at about seven kilometers from Archangelos, we saw the ruins of the medieval caste of Faraklou, dominating the scenic village of Haraki, situated by the sea in front of a nice beach within a small cove. A few small fishing boats set out daily to catch fish for the amazing local restaurant, which is very popular with the locals at the weekend (always a good sign for dining at a restaurant!). The local honey tastes wonderful and a good way to enjoy it is with the natural yoghurt (which is also locally made) and crushed walnuts on top.
Because Haraki is not over-developed, there are no high-rise blocks to ruin the view from the beach, and equally importantly, pretty much all accommodation has a sea view. The beach has large pebbles at one end, running down to coarse sand at the other end. You can rent sunbeds and an umbrella on the beach for three euros per day. One needs sandals or thongs to walk on beach at Haraki. However, just over the small hill to the east is the stunning Agathi beach. This is a beach of perfect golden sand in a very sheltered bay. The water is shallow for a long way out, making this a perfect spot to bring the kids for a swim.
Saturday morning we slept in, so consequently, we didn’t get to breakfast until about 8:00 am. We had decided to have a leisurely day driving to a few spots we had missed the previous couple of days. We walked towards our car and outside the Town Hall we chanced upon a treasure hunt rally in preparation. About 100 people were assembled with their cars in readiness and numbered ready to gather their maps and directions in order to find the treasure at the end of the rally. They made a jolly crowd as they were breakfasting and we were told this was an annual event that attracted not only locals, but also some people from Athens and a couple of the nearby islands.
Our first stop today was to be the village of Koskinou, only about 7 kilometres south of the city. It is a big, traditional and picturesque village with some 2,500 permanent residents. The name of the village is perhaps due to the fact that the territory around it is full of mining holes (“koskino” in Greek is the sieve). Another suggestion for the name is that it comes from the ancient city of Koskinia, in Lydia, Asia Minor, since, according to tradition, the residents of the village come from there.
It is on a hillside with a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside. The village maintains several traditional features of the medieval settlement with many houses of neoclassical style, replete with traditional architectural features, coloured façades, and original interior decoration. The many colorful ceramic plates that are used to decorate expanses of walls inside the houses are a feature of Dodecanesian interior décor but in many houses these plates are enwalled in the masonry, not just hanging on the walls. Beautiful mosaic pavements, made of pebbles, with traditional motifs is another common feature of the village.
Even today the villagers are occupied in agriculture, stock breeding and the production of quicklime, a traditional activity that still goes on. During the Italian domination of the island, the male population of the village were famous as muleteers. In this period the village was well-off and it was considered as one of the richest villages of the island of Rhodes.
It is definitely worth strolling around the narrow streets of the village as we did to see the traditional houses. One may also visit the small churches of Aghios Loukas (St. Luke), an Early Christian basilica of the 4th century, and of Aghia Irini (St. Irene) of the 19th century. In the Folk Museum of the village, one may see collections of traditional tools, utensils and other objects of every day use of the days of yore. The museum is housed in a beautiful mansion with an imposing gate-like entrance. The village is also the seat of the Music Conservatorium, where the students continue the long musical tradition of the past.
Not far from the village, to the Southwest, one may see the ruins of an old, small castle. The first reference to this castle goes back to the 13th century, but it is fairly possible that it is much older, probably built in Byzantine times. It is in this castle that the residents of the area took refuge when the pirates used to attack the island.
It was now a very hot afternoon and we felt quite uncomfortable in the sun among the ancient stones. It was a relief to get into the car, which fortunately was air-conditioned and to drive down towards the sea. We made our way to Skala Kamirou, a small fishing community at the base of the hill where ancient Kamiros lies in ruins. Cut into the rock of the shore is an impressive Lycian tomb. In shallow relief is a representation of a temple with its gable and presumably in the rock is a hollow chamber containing the remains. This site is not well-looked after at all and one cannot visit the tomb itself. Instead there are several tavernas and restaurants where one may have a bite to eat and a cold beer, some wine or ouzo. We decided to start making our way back to Rhodes and stop to have a lunch at a little taverna near the seashore at Kalavarda, which had been recommended to us by the tourist office.
At the taverna, only a few kilometres down the road, we sat at a table with a view towards the sea, which was only 25 metres away. The table was shaded by cool pergolas thickly covered with climbing vines and a fresh sea breeze kept the heat of the day at bay. We decided to have an ouzo with some “mezedhes” (snacks and tasty tidbits). The staff were friendly and the service quick, with some wonderful fresh country bread toasted with olive oil and herbs, fried potatoes, flavoursome salad, tomatoes and cucumbers, and fried fish. This was a meal fit for a king and we enjoyed it a lot.
We drove back to the city and came back via the new road, noting that along the way there are some more tourist attractions, including the Museum of Apiculture and of Natural History of the Bee. This is a new museum, founded in Rhodes by the Apiculture Association of the Dodecanese. It aims at informing its visitors and the public in general, about the nature, the products and the life of the bee. The Museum is unique and its establishment is owed to the concern of a group of people for the bee and the benefits it offers to humans. At the museum, one may learn some of the history of bee-keeping, the biology of the insect and how the bee uses nectar and pollen to make “royal jelly”, honey and wax.
Different kinds of honey are explained and the special features of the Greek and Rhodian honey are highlighted. In the museum the tools tools used in apiculture and in the production of honey are displayed. The architecture of the hives is on display and the visitor can see how the bee-keepers harvest the honey. The visitor can watch bees living and working within the hive, as the museum has hives of glass which permit the observation of the whole process. Finally, in the Museum shop one may buy all of the products of apiculture. There is honey, honeycomb, beeswax, royal-jelly, as well as cosmetics and other products based on honey and on wax.
Back in town we parked our car and visited the cathedral of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary on the harbour front at Mandraki. The construction of the church commenced during the Italian occupation of the island and was completed in 1929. Its prototype was the Temple of Saint John the Baptist, patron of the Knights' Order of Rhodes located at the south of the Palace of the Great Magister (Castello), destroyed in 1856 when a lightning bolt caused a catastrophic explosion in the powder-kegs situated in the dungeons of the church.
Architecturally, the edifice is of the wooden-roof, tripartite basilica type. Initially It was Roman Catholic with big alabaster windows and was dedicated to St. John (San Giovanni). After the incorporation of Dodecanese to Greece in 1947, the temple was vested to the Greek government and was renovated and transformed into an Orthodox church. The pyramidal gothic-type apses were changed into Byzantine-type arches. The brick floor was replaced with marble flagstones. The Byzantine temple of the shrine was constructed and it was dedicated to the Annunciation of Virgin Mary.
From 1951 to 1961 during the office of archbishop Spyridon from Kefallonia, the impressive and rich hagiography of the temple was completed by the great painter Fotis Kontoglou, who designed the hagiography and supervised the decorative scheme, assisted by loannis Terzis and Pantelis Othampasis. Works of Kontoglou himself are the beautiful "Wider-than-the-Skies" depiction of the Virgin Mary of the shrine, the monumental depiction of the Annunciation with Mary on her luxurious throne and the beautiful Archangel Gabriel, the Hierarchs in the niche, the pictures of the templum and the first frescos of the arches. After Kontoglou's departure his assistants completed the hagiography.
The Annunciation church has three pictorial cornices, because of its great height. On the first, one sees the depiction of the story of Christ from His birth to His resurrection. On the second one, one can see the story of Mary through the houses of the Unseated Hymn and the letters of the alphabet; on the third cornice we see various saints. On the arches the prophets and various saints are depicted. The dividing marble screens of the Holy Shrine and the bishop's throne were created by the sculptors the brothers Skari from Peiraeus. This church is one of the most magnificent churches of Rhodes and as it is the Cathedral it hosts all of the formal religious ceremonies of the island.
We went back to the hotel in the evening and after freshening up and resting a little we had a pleasant evening playing birimba at cards.
We passed by Kremasti, Vagies, Paradeisi, Soroni, Fanes, all of them looking rather similar and not offering much except for what the tourist may desire for a holiday on a Greek island: Sun, sand and surf. We were making our way to Kalavarda and from there to the archaeological site of Kamiros. This is 34km southwest of Rhodes Town, lies Ancient Kamiros, set on a pine-covered hillside overlooking the sea. Kamiros was a prosperous settlement during the period 1000-400 BC but was first built in the 2nd millennium BC. It has been destroyed by earthquakes twice and after the second in 142 AD, it was not rebuilt.
The ruins are well preserved and create a good impression of the skilled work and town planning of Ancient Greece. The site consists of an amphitheatre, various public buildings, temples, bathhouses, a fountain square, many houses and wide public staircases, some of which have been partially restored. A restored stone staircase leads to the site where the Acropolis stood, and the remains of the stoa and temple still stand today. Visiting Kamiros takes you back through time. You can vividly picture life in the ancient settlements with the narrow streets being overlooked by the grand Acropolis.
When one climbs the hillside one has stunning views of the Aegean Sea, the smaller neighbouring islands and the coast of Asia Minor. It is hard to imagine that these impressive ruins were buried for centuries below the earth, only being rediscovered when an ancient Necropolis was stumbled upon on neighbouring hill. Sadly it was excavated before the time when archaeological sites were scientifically plotted and recorded as a result as was the case then, much of the pottery and other artefacts were "looted" and many of these precious remnants of a wonderful civilization are now in the British Museum and the Louvre in France. Although it was thousands of years ago, the ancients had quite a sophisticated life style as above the town stood the Acropolis and a huge water reservoir that was cut into the soft rock. This collected over 600 cubic meters of rainwater that ran off the roof of the Acropolis. This water was then piped in stone, and later clay pipes down to the town, which also boasted a Public Bath-house.
This morning we woke up to another perfect day, sunny warm and summery. Our hotel has an excellent breakfast of which we partake before our daily peregrinations. At home we rarely if ever have a cooked breakfast, however, on vacation we find that this is something that we love to start our day with. It certainly sustains one and provides the energy needed for the walking one does when traipsing up and down narrow streets, paths and steps (lots of steps!). There is ample to choose from, omelettes freshly made with your choice of fillings, fired, boiled or scrambled eggs, cocktail sausages, fried bacon, cheeses, cold cuts of meat, tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh fruit, stewed fruit, croissants and pastries, cakes, coffee, tea, tisanes, milk, a variety of breads, jams, honey, cookies, etc! Needless to say after such a feast one needs to walk a little before doing anything else, and this became our daily routine while here in Rhodes.
We had decided this morning to start the day off by visiting the large park, called Rodini, to the south of the city. I have memories of this park from when I was young and we lived in Rhodes for a while. I still have a photograph of myself astride one of the marble lions that flank the entrance to the park. So once again it was a case of “à la recherche du temps perdu” as we made our way to this park. Renovations were in progress at the entrance, but sure enough the marble lions were still there gazing ferociously at the visitors. How much smaller they seemed now! I could not resist another photograph, however, this time standing next to one of the lions rather than astride!
We walked into the gardens and found that they were still beautiful, although their age is showing. Quite a few water features are interspersed with terraces of plantings, winding paths, steps and ancient trees that provide coolness and shade for the visitor on even the hottest of days. Rodini Park was in existence in antiquity and is probably the first landscaped park in the world. It was still popular with the Romans during their occupation of Rhodes, and one can still see a Roman aqueduct here.
The park lies in a green and shady valley where a stream gurgles lazily by. It is an ideal environment for the peacocks that live and breed freely in the park. A walk of about 10 minutes brings one to a tomb dug into the rock. It is known as the tomb of the Ptolemies. The tomb dates from the Hellenistic period and the edges of each side are decorated by 21 Doric half columns. The walk is extremely pleasant and as one relaxes, the fresh air carries the scent of cypress, pine and oleander.
We drove off, making our way to Filerimos. This is a hill 267 meters high, thickly planted with cypress, pine and other trees. It is about 15 kms away from the city of Rhodes, to the southwest and it used to be the citadel of the ancient town of Ialyssos, one of the large cities of antiquity. The top of the hill is a plateau and most of the buildings are found on its eastern side. When the Dorians arrived around 1100 BC, on the coast where the modern town of Trianta is found today, they founded Ialyssos that became a member of the alliance known as the Dorian Hextapolis. Archaeologists came across the necropolis of ancient Ialyssos between Trianta and Filerimos.
On top of the hill, in 1876 excavations brought to light Mycenaean pottery, a Doric foundation and a Hellenistic temple of Athena Polias, proof of the prosperity of the city down to the time when Rhodes city was founded in 408 BC. In the middle ages (around 1300 AD) the Knights of St. John used the site of Ialyssos and later the site passed to the Turks in 1522 and finally to the Italians. Remnants of these periods and lot of the successive conquerors can still be seen. On the way up the ancient road to the Acropolis, one sees the foundations of the temple of Zeus and Athena.
An early Christian basilica was built on this site, then a small subterranean Byzantine church and finally, the knights of St John built a Monastery which survives to this day, surrounded by cloisters and cells. This monastery was restored by the Italians who installed Capuchin monks in it. The monks made an excellent liqueur which is still available and which can still be enjoyed today.
Along the right side of a path flanked by tall cypresses, there is the Way of Calvary, where the Italians have left behind fourteen shrines, with scenes from the Passion of Jesus. This path leads to the western part of the hill, where an imposing Cross stands in the middle of a small square. One may climb inside and enjoy a breathtaking and picturesque view all around. Mt Ataviros, the highest mountain of Rhodes, can be seen in the distance. Walking back to the site of the monastery, the wild shrieking caws of the peacocks which are everywhere in the wooded slopes around the site are a rather distracting and unsettling sound in the otherwise Arcadian beauty of the landscape. It is a rather sobering reminder that nothing is perfect in this world. The beauty of the plumage of the peacocks is tempered by the ugliness of their shrieks. The idyllic landscape is marred by the presence of the omnipresent mark of civilization – a discarded plastic bottle or a plastic shopping bag blowing in the wind.
We left Filerimos as the temperature started to rise and decided to travel down towards the West coast of the island. Here there are numerous resort towns which have grown on the sites of old villages. This is reflected by the narrow streets (always congested) and the haphazard way in which the buildings are huddled together. The small village houses have given their place to apartment buildings, hotels, bars, discos, restaurants. Tourists favour these places and one can see half naked and extremely sunburnt Northern Europeans basking in the sun and looking much like freshly boiled lobsters. No doubt the pharmacies will be doing a roaring trade as well in sunburn lotions…
By this stage, as the afternoon wore on we decided to drive back via the Valley of the Butterflies. This is a very famous location in Rhodes, mainly because of its beautiful natural beauty, but also because of a curious natural history phenomenon that one may witness every summer. The Valley of the Butterflies is found on the western side of Rhodes island, approximately 27 km from Rhodes city and 5 km to the south east of Theologos village. It is a unique natural reserve. As its name indicates, this area is a lush green valley that gets overwhelmed from summer to autumn with moth-like butterflies of the Panaxia genus, species quadripunctaria poda.
During the rainy season, caterpillars of these butterflies are found in various areas around the Mediterranean Sea. However, in spring, after they pupate and become a butterfly, they fly to areas of high humidity in order to reproduce. They come to this valley in Rhodes, which is crossed by river Pelekanos and has quite lush vegetation. Many waterfalls are scattered all along it and the visitor can walk along the length of the river, on winding paths over picturesque wooden bridges up and down steps and in the meantime refresh body and soul. Over the years, the valley of butterflies has turned into a popular tourist attraction.
Every year, from June to September, thousands of visitors come to watch this lovely species of butterfly in its thousands, and walk through the cool, shady paths. The beauty of this place, the flowing waters and the shade of the trees make it ideal to rest, especially during the hot summer days. Small, wooden bridges cross the river and an uphill path leads to the Monastery of Panagia Kalopetra. Unfortunately, the high traffic flow and climate change have had a negative impact onto the butterfly population. We did not catch a glimpse of a single butterfly as it was too early in the season.
When one does visit the valley when butterflies are plentiful, one must remember that butterflies do not have a stomach. They just store energy in their body to use it when needed. They do not eat until the reproduction period, so when visitors disturb butterflies, they fly away and consume valuable energy. It’s strictly forbidden to disturb butterflies in any way and one must keep quiet and try not to disturb the butterflies.
All in all, this amazing valley constitutes an excellent destination for an excursion even without any butterflies flitting around. If one gets tired, one can have a drink or lunch in the picturesque taverns whose tables have a view towards the waterfalls and are shaded by the tall green trees. One may walk down the valley and with the same ticket gain entry into the modest natural history museum that has specimens of native animals, insects and plants. One may also familiarize oneself with the life cycle of the butterflies of the valley. However, be warned, the path down to the museum is winding, has many steps and seems much longer than its purported length of 300 metres!
By this stage we rather tired as we had packed a huge number of things into one day, and the jet lag was catching up with us again. We drove back to Rhodes via the new highway that approaches the City from the airport and takes one up through the gentle hills to the south of the city. There are many modern buildings here and one may see a huge number of department stores, car dealerships, furniture stores, luxury boutiques and many new villas and apartment buildings. There is quite a bit of money on show here. One drives into Rhodes from the South and then via the harbour. We parked the car behind the cathedral close to the Mandraki Harbour. One has to be careful with parking, as the city has installed parking meters and one may get a hefty fine if one parks indiscriminately. Fortunately our hotel was very close to the free parking behind the cathedral.
We freshened up and then walked to a restaurant and had a dinner of lamb on the spit with salad, chips washed down with a cold beer. Night life in Rhodes is varied and one has many choices, ranging from the Casino of Rodos Hotel, to many bars, night clubs and other night spots. However, it was an early night for us as the lack of sleep was rather acute!
We drove on, our major destination for the day being Lindos. Lindos was one of the three major cities of Rhodes and is built on a rock, which rises to 116 metres from the sea. The rock stands almost bare, imposing and is surrounded on three sides by the sea, so that “Lindos may rejoice in the ocean”, in the words of a Hellenistic epigram. Lindos does not seem to have been particularly important in prehistoric times, although sporadic finds of the Neolithic period and the Bronze Age have been discovered on the acropolis.
According to legend, the foundation of the sanctuary of Athena Lindia goes back to the Mycenaean period, and Mycenaean finds have been yielded by cemeteries in the broader area of Lindos. The Archaic period (7th-6th centuries BC) was a golden age for Lindos, which played a leading role in the Greek colonisation movement, its most important foundation being Gela in Sicily. The 6th century BC was dominated by the figure of a moderate tyrant, Cleobulus who ruled Lindos for many years, and was included amongst the “seven sages” of the ancient world.
During his rule, the Archaic temple of Athena was built on the site of an earlier structure, and the acropolis received its first monumental form. The Persian advance and later the merger of the three old cities into the new city of Rhodos (408 BC) led to a diminution in the importance of Lindos as a political and economic power. It nevertheless continued to be an important centre, focused on the famous sanctuary of Athena, which received its final monumental form in the Hellenistic period and became the leading sanctuary on the island. The acropolis was used as a fortress in antiquity, as well as In Byzantine times, in the period of the Knights of St. John, and in that of Ottoman rule.
We enjoyed wandering through the winding streets of the village of Lindos that huddles the base of the rock and is archetypically Greek-island white. Part of its charm are the narrow streets and the lack of vehicular traffic. If one does not wish to walk up to the acropolis and castle, one may engage the services of a donkey and a driver and thus ride up the tortuous paths to the top. The usual tourist shops, restaurants and bars abound on the way up, but soon the path to the top becomes steep and gives way to stairs cut into the rock and strengthened with concrete here and there.
However, even today the ascent to the acropolis is still by the same steep road as in antiquity. After the first outer entrance to the medieval fortress, and before beginning to climb the large stairway that leads up to the Administrative Building of the Knights, we encounter two important monuments on our left a semicircular Hellenistic exedra, and, next to it, a depiction of the prow of an ancient ship carved in relief in the rock, which formed the base of a statue of Agesandros son of Milkion, the work of the sculptor Pythokritos in the early 2nd century BC. The fortification of Lindos by the Knights of Rhodes goes back to the 14th-15th century AD.
Passing through the ground-floor of the Knights Administrative Building, there is a large square, which occupies the lowest level of the acropolis and was full of votive offerings in ancient times. A row of vaulted structures, built in the first century BC, stood on either side of a stairway leading up to the level of the large Hellenistic stoa, built about 200 BC. A monumental stairway behind the stoa leads up to the highest level where are to be found the Propylaia and the temple of Athena, which formed the main sacred precinct.
The temple was completely isolated from the outside world by a wall with five entrances. In front of and behind it were stoas with rooms. The inner stoa flanked a courtyard in front of the temple, in which there was probably an altar. The temple, which measures about 22 x 8 m is a Doric, amphiprostyle tetrastyle structure. It was constructed in the 4th century BC or in the early Hellenistic period on the site of Cleobulus’ temple, which had burned down in 392 BC. It stands at the highest point of the rock and was the culmination of the stepped vista offered by the stoa and the Propylaia to anyone ascending to the acropolis.
From the highest point of the acropolis one can see the lower city, in which the most important monuments still visible are the theatre, the Tetrastoon and the Archokrateion at Kambana, a monumental tomb of an important Lindian family. The Byzantine church of the Panayia is also in the lower city. It was built in the 15th century and decorated with frescos in the 17th and 18th centuries. The traditional settlement of Lindos is in a very good state of preservation. A large number of archontika (mansions) survive, the most important of them from the 17th century, indicating that Lindos was a flourishing naval power in the early period of Turkish rule, as indeed throughout its entire history.
On the way back to our parked car (at a parking spot some distance away and with a magnificent view of the acropolis and village) we walked through the afternoon heat, our eyes dazzled by the whiteness of the walls. We went into a café that was one of several lining the parking area and we had a refreshingly cold beer. We talked pleasantly at length with the woman who owned it and we were once again pleased with the friendliness and hospitality of the locals. The woman gave us a tourist guide as we left and invited us to come to stay there next time we visited Rhodes.
We found a suitable car for hire (only a tiny Chevrolet Matiz, but enough for our peregrinations), and equipped with maps, guide book and a tank full of petrol we made our way out of the city and South towards Lindos. We drove by the whole length of the walls of the old city, past some very lush looking parks and the soccer stadium of Diagoras (the local team). Our first stop was at the health resort and spa of Kallithea (= “Beautiful View”).
Kallithea is a beach where many locals like to gather daily during Summer for fun in the sun and surf. The attraction of the site is that it’s very close to Rhodes town (about 7 km), but also because of the glamour of the magnificent Baths built here by the Italians (no longer in operation, but soon to reopen after a renovation). Tiny inlets and coves with their sculptured rocks and clear blue-green water, as well as a beach and some restaurants, bars and tourist shops all combine to make this a very good resort-type of attraction close to the city.
Faliraki is the next stop, and is about 16 km south of Rhodes Town. This is another resort town with numerous hotels, pensions and all manner of tourist shops. Tavernas, bars, restaurants, cafés dot the landscape and one sees nothing but scantily clad (and very sunburnt) tourists on their way to the beach. There is a holiday feel to the place and rightly so as many of the Northern Europeans that spend their vacation here will do their utmost to have a good time in the sun (which they don’t often see much of in their homeland!).
Apparently, Faliraki is one of the favourite destinations of the fans of the “hard” nightlife and of extreme daily activities and sea-sports. Needless to say then that it is a paradise for the young who look for amusement and fun, from intense night life, to bungee jumping, skidoo riding, and other extreme activities. In addition to all the above, you will find a Water Park, where children and adults will find several water games and have fun. Due to the vicinity to the town of Rhodes, the abundance of lodgings and the good organisation in all aspects, the resort attracts crowds of peoples at the beach.
We drove on to Afandou, once a small picturesque village, now a bustling little town where the streets have remained narrow but the buildings have crowded over them making for claustrophobic, overcrowded, congested mess. We lived in Afandou in 1963 and I have faint water-coloured memories of the place. The narrow streets, the low, white-washed houses, the open fireplaces, the oil lamps, the tall bell tower of the church… Now the only remaining constant in the forty plus years that have elapsed is that same bell tower, pointing upwards like an accusing finger. A faintly bitter taste in the mouth, a whiff of nostalgia and an urgency to move on, just like life has moved on. One cannot linger in a place which has been irretrievably lost.
On the way out of Afandou we saw a sign that led towards the church of Panaghia Tsambika (“The Virgin of the Flickering Light”). This is a very famous church and we proceeded towards it. There are in fact two churches, one small one up a high hill and one larger, lower down. We only visited the lower church, which is in fact the one that holds the miraculous icon. The story is that some time in the Middle Ages, a shepherd watching his flock at night saw a flickering light (“tsamba” in Rhodian Greek) high up on the hill where the Virgin’s chapel is built today. He was puzzled as the hilltop was deserted. He watched a second and third night and the light reappeared. The next day together with some of his friends, he decided to go up the hill and investigate. To their surprise they found a small icon of the Virgin Mary and in front of it a lit devotional lamp. They decided to bring it down to the village and soon, news of its miraculous discovery spread far and wide. When the news reached Cyprus, the Cypriots were bemused, as one of their icons of the Virgin and its lamp had disappeared from one of their churches. They sent an emissary who identified the icon and took it back to Cyprus. However, the icon returned to the hilltop in Rhodes. Twice more was the icon taken to Cyprus, but it kept on returning to the hilltop in Rhodes. A small chapel was built on the hilltop to house the miraculous icon, but a larger chapel was built in the Middle Ages and restored in 1760 by the monk Hadjiyerasimos.
The little chapel on the hill is visited by many women who wish to get pregnant. Tradition has it, that many women who have had difficulty in conceiving have had a child after visiting the shrine. In gratitude, they call these babies “Tsambiko” if a boy or “Tsambika” if a girl. This is a very common name in Rhodes.
We visited the church to light a candle and found it full of children as there was a school excursion on that day. The kids were playing and shouting in the yard, but the church was quiet and provided a welcome respite from the heat of the day. We lit our candle and saw the miraculous icon. It is a small icon of the Virgin in the traditional pose of blessing known as “The Virgin Wider than the Heavens”. It has been richly embellished with embossed silver and displayed in a velvet-lined box with a golden frame. Some schoolchildren were in the church and they were lighting candles and blessing themselves with the consecrated oil and they were charming as they followed the centuries old traditions taught to them by their teachers and families.
We woke up at the crack of dawn today as we went to bed early, trying to make up for some of the lost sleep of the last couple of days. We had decided to rent a car for three days but as it was still quite early we walked all around the area close to our hotel. About 100 metres down from the hotel is Mandraki Harbour, which was the main port of Rhodes for almost 2,500 years. The entrance to this small harbour (berthing about 130 boats) is flanked by breakwaters on which stand two columns on top of which are the statues of two deer, the Rhodian symbol of strength and wealth. Mandraki Harbor still remains very active, with lots of sailboats, private yachts and small cruise boats that offer trips around Rhodes and other nearby islands.
It is believed that the famous Colossus of Rhodes, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world stood near Mandraki Harbour. The Colossus of Rhodes is familiar to almost everyone and its history begins with the siege of Demetrios Poliorketes, successor of Alexander the Great, in 305 BC. When Demetrios was defeated, he abandoned all his siege machinery on Rhodes. The Rhodians decided to express their pride by building a triumphal statue of their favourite god, Helios-Apollo, the sungod. The task was assigned to the sculptor Chares of Lindos, a pupil of Lysippos himself, and twelve years (from 304 to 292 BC) were needed to complete it.
From its building to its destruction lies a time span of merely 56 years. Yet the Colossus earned a place in the famous list of Wonders. "But even lying on the ground, it is a marvel", said Pliny the Elder. The Colossus of Rhodes was not only a gigantic statue. It was a symbol of unity of the people who inhabited Rhodes.
To build the statue, the workers cast the outer bronze skin parts. The base was made of white marble, and the feet and ankle of the statue were first fixed. The structure was gradually erected as the bronze form was fortified with an iron and stone framework. To reach the higher parts, an earth ramp was built around the statue and was later removed. When the Colossus was finished, it stood about 33 metres (110 ft) high.
A strong earthquake hit Rhodes at around 226 BC. The city was badly damaged, and the Colossus was broken at its weakest point, the knee, making it collapse. Even when it fell it was a marvellous sight to behold, "few people can make their arms meet round the thumb", wrote Pliny in wonderment. The Rhodians received an immediate offer from Ptolemy III Euergetes of Egypt to cover all restoration costs for the toppled monument. However, an oracle was consulted and forbade the re-erection. Ptolemy's offer was declined. For almost a millennium, the statue lay broken in ruins. In AD 654, the Arabs invaded Rhodes. They disassembled the remains of the broken Colossus and sold them to a Jew from Syria. It is said that the fragments had to be transported to Syria on the backs of 900 camels.
It is a misconception that the Colossus straddled the entrance of Mandraki Harbour (where the deer columns are now). Given the height of the statue and the width of the harbour mouth, this picture is more impossible than improbable. Moreover, the fallen Colossus would have blocked the harbour entrance. Recent studies suggest that it was erected either on the eastern promontory of the Mandraki Harbour, or even further inland. In any case, it never straddled the harbour entrance.
Although we do not know the true shape and appearance of the Colossus, modern reconstructions with the statue standing upright are more accurate than older drawings. Although it disappeared from existence, the ancient World Wonder inspired modern artists such as French sculptor, Auguste Bartholdi, best known by his famous work, the 'Statue of Liberty' in New York. Even today, the Colossus is regarded as a masterpiece of art and engineering, although no trace of it remains.
The disadvantage of travelling from Australia to Greece is the long trip, almost 20 hours. We usually have a stop-over in Singapore, but this trip we did not have that luxury as time was limited. The flight from Melbourne to Singapore, is over seven hours long and then from Singapore to Athens is over 11 hours long. Add to that a few hours waiting in the airport and by the time one gets to Athens, the tempers are a little frayed and the bodies are a little fatigued.
The moment we got to Athens we had to leave for Rhodes. One trip right on top of the other can be very tiring, no matter how short and when the accumulated travelling time starts to build up above the 24-hour period, one can get serious problems with jet lag. Fortunately we had slept on the plane from Singapore to Athens and this helped a little. The best thing about travelling from the Southern to the Northern hemisphere in May/June is that one is leaving winter behind and travelling towards summer. And the weather was lovely on arrival in Greece: Warm, sunny with a light breeze blowing.
Rhodes is a Greek island in the Dodecannese (= “twelve islands”) group in the Southeastern Aegean Sea. It is at the crossroad of three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa and hence on the marine routes which connected the West with the Orient, since the early antiquity. Being such a melting pot, the island attracted various populations and was influenced by several cultures during its long history. Every people who arrived at Rhodes, either peacefully or after winning a war, in mass or in small groups, left their traces on the beautiful island. The result of this diversity has always added to this interesting blend that has proved very persistent and still exists today. Rhodes had always been – and still is – a place rich both in natural and in human resources.
“Praise the sea maid, daughter of Aphrodite, bride of Helios, this isle of Rhodes.” (Pindar, Odes Olympian 7 ep1). According to Pindar, Helios the sun god lay with Rhoda (a nymph of the island of Rhodes and daughter of Poseidon and Amphitrite) on her island and soon after she gave birth to seven sons. The older three sons, Ialysos, Kamiros and Lindos divided the island of Rhodes into three major parts and named the greatest cities of each part after themselves. This account by Pindar reflects the contemporary archaeological evidence of the three major ancient cities of Rhodes: Lindos, Ialysos, and Kamiros; all three cities are mentioned in the Iliad by Homer.
The island of Rhodes was inhabited since Neolithic times, and was an important Bronze Age centre. Later, Rhodes, along with Kos, Knidos, and Halicarnassus was a major Dorian hub in the eastern Mediterranean, and it remained in the forefront of commercial and military activity throughout Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman times. The city of Rhodes was created in 408 BC by the inhabitants of the three older cities (Ialysos, Lindos, and Kamiros) to be the new capital of the island. During the Hellenistic Era, Rhodes became a major naval power with influence over the southeastern Aegean as its ports connected Italy and Greece with Asia Minor, the Middle East, and Egypt.
Ancient Rhodes changed allegiance frequently throughout history. She took part in the naval battle of Salamis with the Persian fleet, but later joined the Delian League under Athenian hegemony. During the Peloponnesian War Rhodes sided with Sparta, and later helped Tyre when it was besieged by Alexander the Great. After a brief subjection to Macedonian rule, Rhodes became an ally of Rome, helping her defeat the Macedonian king Philip V at Cynoscephalae in 197 BC.
As soon as we came into Rhodes we took a taxi and settled into our Hotel. We are staying in a nice central area, close to just about everywhere and the hotel is the Plaza Best Western on Ierou Lohou St. We had booked it through the internet and checking in was simple. We left our luggage in the room and after freshening up we spent the first day walking around the city, familiarizing ourselves with the layout, major architectural landmarks and the main streets. Although it is a small city, Rhodes is traversed by streets that seem to criss-cross haphazardly and it is easy to get lost. However, one will soon find oneself at one of the major landmarks, so it is easy to reorient oneself.
Dominating the city is the old town with its well-preserved medieval fortress. Numerous sheltered natural harbours dot the northeastern coast around the city of Rhodes, which is situated on the northernmost part of the island. Along the esplanade some magnificent public buildings (mainly built during the Italian occupation) provide a very grandiose backdrop for the constant traffic of cars and pedestrians. Boats, ferries, cruise ships, catamarans and hydrofoils are anchored along the coast and there is a constant stream of people coming and going on pleasure trips.
We went by the official tourist office just outside the old castle walls and met Ms Constantina, a very nice local who gave us much information, tourist brochures and many recommendations about what to see and what to do on the island. We spent the afternoon walking through the old town and taking in the atmosphere. The winding streets were full of tourists from almost all European countries, some Americans and the odd Australian. There were many shops, selling mostly tourist wares, a plethora of restaurants and bars, hotels and pensions. The Magister’s castle is the crowning glory of the cluster of buildings and it is here that are housed several museums. The old town alone is definitely worth the trip to Rhodes! By this stage we were extremely tired and decided to go to the hotel and have a rest.
I have been blogging daily on this platform for several years now. It is surprising that I have persisted as the world is changing and "microblogging" is now the norm. I blog to amuse myself, make comment on current affairs, externalise some of my creativity, keep notes on things that interest me, learn something new and to surprise myself with things that I discover about this wonderful, and sometimes crazy, world we live in.
I sometimes get the impression that I am on a soapbox delivering a monologue, so your comments are welcome.