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I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Monday, August 04, 2014

Old Rhodes

Palace of the Grand Master
 Travel Dates 6th-12th July 2013 

Rhodes has a long and colourful history. Settlement first occurred in the neolithic period. After an early period of growing city states the cities amalgamated to become an independent island state. The island's strategic position close to the Turkish mainland has resulted in being invaded, occupied and controlled by every major civilisation in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East including, among others, the Persians, Greeks, Byzantines, Egyptians, Arabs, Genoese, Knights of St John, Ottomans, Italians, Germans and Italians again until it finally became part of modern Greece. 

The Old Town reflects all of the occupiers to some degree. Unfortunately each wave of invaders tended to remove or modify much of their predecessor's architecture. Some of the surviving buildings also suffered from earthquakes. There has been significant restoration and reconstruction work since Greek sovereignty was re-established.

The northern section of Rhodes Town is a modern tourist city of hotels, restaurants, souvenir and services shops surrounded on three sides by beaches. There are occasional old buildings in that section but not many. 
A short walk towards the south-eastern coast brought me to the older buildings and eventually the walled Old Town. Along the way I passed the Murat Reis Mosque, which dates back to the Turkish presence in the 17th century.

Nearby is the Turkish cemetery. 

The Prefecture building is not very old, but I liked the design.

The 14th century Fort of Saint Nicholas guards Mandraki Harbour.


I started my visit to the Old Town by strolling along the massive moat (now dry) around the walls.

Entry was via this tunnel to gardens near the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes.

The knights were also known as the Knights of St John and later the Knights of Malta. The order was originally founded in Jerusalem in the 11th century as a hospital caring for ailing Christian pilgrims to the holy lands. They became a military order during the Crusades. Muslim conquests of the region forced them to move to Rhodes in 1310. They ruled Rhodes under their Grand Master until 1523 when the Turks ejected them. Eventually they settled in Malta and ruled there until they were forced to move to Rome in the late 18th century as a consequence of the Napoleonic wars.

They ruled each land they occupied absolutely but also built a hospital each time and became renowned for their quality of care with the highest medical standards of their time. They are also known as the Knights Hospitaller, Fraternitas Hospitalaria.

The Grand Master's Palace is obviously reconstructed but still impressive. The rooms and courtyard are now a museum with exhibits ranging across the centuries, from classical Greek and Roman times until the mediaeval era of the Knights. 


This bas relief on a wall of the palace intrigued me. Apparently Fert is an acronym used by the Royal House of Savoy with several different interpretations according to the scholars. The version that seems most apt for the Rhodes inscription is a Sardinian motto: "Fortitu’do Ejus Rhodum Ten’uit", meaning "His firmness guarded Rhodes". This relates to Amadeus the Great, founder of the House of Savoy. He helped the Knights resist a siege shortly after they arrived in 1310.

In the narrow cobbled streets and back alleys it was easy to imagine stepping back several centuries as I walked around.

Wandering in places like that is one of my favourite pastimes when I travel, with no particular goal in mind, just looking at the old houses and differences in construction and styles. For example, in the pictures you will notice buttresses constructed across some streets to provide support during earthquakes.

Despite being a listed World Heritage site the Old Town is not a sterile museum; it is a thriving community with over 6000 people living and working there. There are several restaurants within the walls and a few rather expensive hotels.

The Roman ruins were sparse, with just a few sites preserved.

These windmills were used in mediaeval times to grind the grain straight off the ships in the harbour.

On my penultimate day I decided to visit the Acropolis. First, I needed to find a bus in the right direction. I did, but when the bus turned left when the sign to the Acropolis pointed straight ahead I alighted. I should have stayed aboard. It turned in the correct direction at the next corner. The next couple of km were a hot and dusty uphill trek through a fairly modern wealthy suburb on a cloudless 35C day. I plodded along at my usual slow pace, stopping to buy more water at a small shop along the way. 

The Acropolis, when I reached it, was a shadow of its former self but still interesting. It dates from the 5th to the 3rd century BC. Down-town the crowds were bustling but up on the Acropolis hilltop I was alone for most of the next couple of hours, with an occasional local family dropping in. I only saw one non-local family until a tourist bus arrived as I departed.

Various old sections are spread over a large area.  

From the Acropolis site there were spectacular views of the town. From the cliff-top path beside the road above it there are also marvellous views of the west coast; the title picture on my previous post was taken from that spot.

Departing took a while. I decided I had walked enough for that afternoon. I climbed up to the road but the only taxis to pass were occupied. The local Tourist Train passed, but refused to let me board because I had to buy a ticket down in the town. I should have been more thorough in my pre-trip research. If I had known about the Tourist Train's route in advance I would have happily taken it. Eventually one of the cabs which passed me earlier returned; he had noticed me wave as he passed before. I didn't really mind the long delay in a very pleasant scenic spot despite the heat.

Cheers, Alan

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