Rhodes

 

 

A combination of sun, sea, and a fairytale town that constitutes a living history of the Mediterranean brought us to one of the most popular Greek islands.

We disembarked the small catamaran that skipped over the waves all the way from Kos, and as soon as we hit the pavement we were awed at the amount of activity on the harbor. Coming from the quiet island of Kos it seemed as if someone turned up both the visual and audio volume. The amount of traffic, people, noise, and activity at the port was comparable to either Piraeus or Heraklion, but the huge medieval wall in front of us testified to a much different place.

Averaging over 12 hours of sunshine everyday and 26º C (78º F) temperature in the summer,

Rhodes is the ideal place to relax in one of the countless beaches that lace the island’s coast.

And when the sun goes down you can absorb the diverse history of the island as you stroll leisurely through the cobblestone streets of the old town. Rhodes is ideally located at the southeastern edge of the Aegean, and its size, along with its proximity to Asia Minor and the middle east have made it the de facto hub of commerce, culture, and conflict throughout the ages.

The island of Rhodes, and more specifically the town of Rhodes, through its relics from the past, constitutes a living testament to the multitude of invaders who took hold of the island and left their mark in the form of archaeological and architectural evidence. The city’s impressive defensive wall --a marvel of medieval military architecture -- encloses an amalgam of ancient Greek ruins, Byzantine monuments, medieval architecture, and Ottoman bazaars. Rhodes old town is the oldest, continuously inhabited medieval town of Europe, and as such UNESCO registers it as a World Heritage Site and it is protected by appropriate government regulations.

Our family settled for a few days in the new town of Rhodes and from there we set out to discover as much as we could of the island, setting our priorities in the immediate surroundings of Rhodes town. Our daily routine settled around swimming at the clear waters of the overcrowded Elli beach by morning, and walking the streets of the old Rhodes town by night. In between we roamed the rural landscape, and visited archaeological sites and museums around Rhodes. By the time we left the island, we were overwhelmed by the amount of daily activities, to the point that we felt exhilarated and exhausted.

The highlights of our family trip to Rhodes included the exploration of the old town, especially the quiet streets away from the busy Sokratous Street that is packed with tourist shops and expensive restaurants. While the old town beyond the popular streets has little to offer in the way of amenities for the visitors, it retains the primeval character that comes with centuries of decay and neglect. The less traveled part of Rhodes has a personality of its own, and a way to engulf you with the romantic melancholy of a time-traveler. The old, dilapidated buildings and streets of the unexplored old town contrast vividly with the tourist traps of the Turkish bazaar and the majestic Knight quarters near the port of Rhodes.

This time capsule exists within the imposing walls built in the 14th C. by the Knights of St. John who used the island as their home. These walls were built partly on top of the older Byzantine fortifications, and were so well constructed it took the six-month long siege of 100000 Ottomans to breach them in 1522. Within the magnificent walls we visited countless shops, and a number of exciting exhibitions in the Archaeological, and Byzantine museums, and special shows at the Palace of the Grand Masters and the Municipal Art Gallery.

Beyond the Rhodes old city walls the modern town is framed on the east, west and north by one long, and wide beach. Flanking the beach is an endless belt of large hotels (some uglier than others) that struggle to accommodate the millions of tourists who descend to the island every summer. Behind this hotel belt, the new city of Rhodes resembles a typical contemporary Greek city with busy streets, traffic, noise, shops, small squares and a lively disposition day and night.

Rhodes is a beautiful and diverse island. Its beauty and history have made it one of the most popular destinations of Greece for millions of tourists. While most enjoy the party atmosphere and amplified ambience of Rhodes, we found ourselves overwhelmed by the sheer volume of activity all around us. We had opted to stay in the city of Rhodes, wanting to experience the multitude of its sightseeing venues and we were not disappointed. In the end we hastened our departure from the island by a day feeling like after our visit to Rhodes we needed to relax at a quieter Greek spot.

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