Thursday, 6 October 2022

Postcards from Rhodes - Back to the Old Town


 After eleven idyllic nights in Stegna, George drove us up to Archangelos where we exchanged fond farewells before boarding the 9am bus to Rodos alighting some forty minutes later. Now familiar with the maze-like streets of the Old Town, we made our way to Minos Pension, our home for the final night of our stay, where we were warmly welcomed by its gregarious owner, Minos (not to be confused with the legendary King Minos of Knossos, whose abode we visited back in May).


Over a frappe in the rooftop garden we had to agree with the sign hanging outside Minos Pension, "The best view of Rhodes Town...guaranteed".


We dropped our bag off in our room, all named after characters in Greek mythology, ours being Hḗphaistos, the god of fire, and ventured back into town.


We were delighted to discover that we were only around the corner from our favourite bar, it usually takes us ages to find it!


Then it was time to revisit The Street of the Knights, the most perfectly preserved Medieval street in all of Europe.  

Home from the 14th century to the Knights Hospitaller who ruled Rhodes. The knights were divided into seven ‘tongues’, or languages, according to their birthplace – England, France, Germany, Italy, Aragon, Auvergne and Provence – each responsible for a specific section of the fortifications. As wall displays explain, the street holds an ‘inn’, or palace, for each tongue.


Several of the palaces are now open as galleries and museums. Last year we visited a ceramics museum inside the Provence Inn and this time it was the turn of the Auvergne, now home to the fascinating Rhodes Museum of Underwater Antiquities.






It was Sunday, the day the cruise ships arrive in port. Look at that monstrosity looming over the Street of the Knights like Godzilla in a 1950s B Movie.


It took us ages to walk down the 200m stretch of cobblestones, there were a billion cats to distract us.




We'd seen a poster advertising a one-off exhibition of ancient pots before we left Rodos for Stegna and, by good fortune, it just so happened to be held on our last day. 


These pithos, or storage jars, date back to the 5th Century BC and stand at around five to six feet in height. They'd have been used to store olive oil or wine.


It is widely believed that when the scholar, Erasmus of Rotterdam, translated the works of the Greek poet Hesiod (700BC) in 1508, he got storage jars (pithos) mixed up with boxes (pyxis) and so, for centuries afterwards, Pandora opened a box instead of the jar of the original myth.


Dante Gabriel Rossetti's gloriously lovely Pandora (1871) vs Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema's more historically accurate Pandora (1881).


Luck was definitely on our side. Last year our visit to the town's archaeological museum had coincided with World Heritage Day and admission had been free and by happy coincidence, once again it fell on the day of our visit although it's such an amazing place I'd have been happy to pay.

















Remember the site of the Temple of Aphrodite which I'd shared in my first Rhodes travelogue (HERE)? Well, here's the Greek goddess of love herself, who had originally taken centre stage in Rodos's 3rd Century BC temple. Fished out of the Mandriki harbour in 1929 , she was immortalised in Lawrence Durrell's masterpiece, Reflections on a Marine Venus (Venus being the Roman name for Aphrodite), widely believed to be one of the greatest works of travel literature ever written.


In 1945 Durrell and his friends witnessed at first hand the rediscovery of the Marine Venus from the crypt where she had been hidden for protection during the war. I can still the faces of my friends as they surrounded the dark trap door out of which she rose so gravely into the sunlight. Hoyle and Gideon sitting astride a plank; Ego Huber, who had helped to bury her, smiling with pleasure to see her undamaged; while Mills and Sergeant Croker and a collection of barefoot urchins grunted and groaned on the ropes which were raising her.


Her beauty is somewhat overshadowed by that of the Rhodian Venusa small statue of Aphrodite bathing. Also dating to the 3rd century BC, her creation attributed to the sculptor Doidalses. Little sculptures such as this adorned the interiors of wealthy residences, as well as Nymphaia (subterranean temples dedicated to nymphs), private and public gardens. Jon says she reminds him of me plaiting my hair in the morning ( I always do it stark naked, too!)


Leaving Jon on a bench in the sunshine, I revisited some of the huge collection of ancient pottery on display - he claims to get potted out after the first hundred or so. We left when the hoards of cruise shippers descended upon the museum, moaning about the lack of air conditioning in the magnificent former Knight's Hospital, built in 1440.



There was a huge queue for the Grand Master's Palace so we gave that a miss (we'd visited last year) and instead took a walk around the old moat, circumnavigating the palace beneath the shade of the imposing Mediaeval walls.













After snapping up some very cool sunglasses from one of the tourist shops on Socrates Street (Jon's modelling his), we ate Greek salads washed down with pints of ice-cold Alpha in a shady, tree-lined town square.



Sunday is family day throughout Greece and the tavernas were buzzing. After lunch we walked through the Old Town to the harbour.




We revisited the iconic windmills at Mandraki harbour. Constructed by Genoese prisoners before the port was fortified, by Grand Master Diedoné de Gozon in the 14th Century. The first written reference to the windmills of Rhodes is by the traveler Priester aus Frankfurt, who visited the island between 1350-1370.






The lighthouse was constructed by the French in 1863 with the light visible for fourteen miles. 



We looked at one another in utter disbelief when one of the cruise shippers pointed at the bronze deer  marking the spot where The Colossus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, once straddled the harbour and remarked, What's the deal with those little fellas? 


Although the harbour seemed quiet, Elli Beach certainly wasn't. Check out that heaving mass of humanity surrounding The Hydrobiological Station (better known as the Marine Aquarium of Rhodes) built in the Fascist-era Deco style by the Italian occupying forces between 1934 - 1936.


Before frappes at the Yacht Club we stood and watched the crazy fools throwing themselves off the Paralia Elli, the 8m (26 feet) tall fascist era diving platform. 



After showering and a quick change we ordered a beer, took a front row seat at Minos's rooftop garden and watched spellbound as the sun gradually set over the Aegean.








Lawrence Durrell puts it so much better than I ever could, One of those fantastic Rhodian sunsets which have, since Medieval times, made the island so justly famed according to the accounts of Aegean travellers. The whole Street of the Knights was on fire. The houses had begun to curl up at the edges, like burning paper, and with each sink of the sun upon the dark hill above us, the tones of pink and yellow curdled and ran from corner to corner, from gable to gable, until for a moment the darkening minarets of the mosques glowed into blue ignition, like the light glancing along a sheet of carbon paper.
 

Gideon was holding a glass of some rosy wine up to the red light of the sky, as if he were trying to imprison the last rays of the sunset within it. "Where by association" he said "would Homer get an adjective like rosy-fingered from - unless he had experienced a Rhodian sunset? Look! And indeed, in that weird light his fingers, seen through the wine, trembled pink as coral against the lambient sky. "I no longer doubt that Rhodes was Homer's birthplace", he added gravely. For one moment now the whole street trembled with the unearthly light of a stage fiction, and then the darkness slid down the hill. "A Stained-glass window shattered by a grenade."


I can honestly say that the sunsets on Rhodes are the most beautiful I've ever seen.









We headed off towards our favourite bar and, with it being our last night, I bought myself something from the loveliest shop on the island, directly opposite.



We ate late after chatting to John and Theresa, a fascinating couple from St Helens, who'd recently retired and were spending a month island hopping around the Dodecanese.


We were up just after sunrise the following morning and after repacking our bag walked through a near-deserted town to the bus station.




We almost had the Street of the Knights to ourselves.




Our bus to the airport took fifty minutes and, because we were early, we were able to spend a final hour basking in 34°C sunshine enjoying bougatsa and frappes in the open-air cafe outside departures. What a shock to the system to arrive back in Birmingham four hours later to 12°C. 


It's been an amazing Summer!

Thanks for reading and see you soon.  

35 comments:

  1. Glad you could easily find the ‘good’ bar, Rhodes is a glorious maze and it is far too easy to get turned around and lost in those wonderful, ancient streets.

    The pithos jars - sublime, as are the sunsets!

    Thank you for being so generous sharing your wonderful trip, it is always a joy to see your pictures of places I remember so well.

    (PS: agree with you about the cruise ships, ghastly monstrosities).

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    1. Thanks, Jayne. I'm glad my posts brought back a few fond memories.
      We were delighted to find that bar again, I'm sure they move it when we turn our backs.
      The tavernas loathe the cruise ships as much as we do, hoards of people clogging the streets and not spending any money as its all been paid for on the boat. I beggars belief that people pay so much to travel the world and not bother doing any research into the places they visit! xxx

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  2. I love travel through your blog. Beautiful pictures and very informative.

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  3. I'm so pleased for you. Your trip was glorious. I'm sorry part of your last day was invaded by the cruise ship passengers. It sounds like you did a good job ducking and weaving.

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    1. Thanks so much, Sam! We loved every minute of our trip. I'm already planning our next visit to Greece! xxx

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  4. Oh the cats, the culture, the sunsets! The Street of the Knights is incredible. What a fabulous trip! Thanks for taking us along.
    I quite fancy a jump off that diving board (although I imagine it looks even higher when you're up there!) and I am partial to Art Deco architecture, although it's a shame it was from the era of occupation.
    Cruise ships are like floating shopping malls aren't they? As much as I am nervous of flying, I still can't be tempted by a cruise. xxx

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed joining us on our trip, Claire!
      That diving board is an incredible thing to behold but I reckon my legs would turn to jelly once I got up those steps. There's a plethora of Art Deco architecture in the New Town, I do love the pleasing symmetry.
      Those cruise ships are utterly monstrous. There were four in the port on that day. One had a huge outdoor cinema screening some trashy action film (you could hear the gunfire from the harbour). Can you imagine deciding to stay on board and watch that rather than wander around such a beautiful town? xxx

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  5. What a fantastic final day, filled to the brim with history, culture and cats, and ending in those glorious sunsets! My camera, like yours, would have done overtime.
    We sometimes get those cruise ships in Antwerp. I had no idea of their scale until I first saw one up close. That remark of one of those cruise passenger doesn't really surprise me, to be honest ... You did well to steer away from those crowds! xxx

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    1. We loved our last day. We try and pack as much as we possibly could so we had no time to mope about it being out last trip to Greece this year.
      Those cruise ships really are monstrous, aren't they? It's mind boggling that anything that big manages to stay afloat. xxx

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  6. Amazing travel post. You look stunning in your maxi dresses. You two took some fabulous photographs! You showed us the beauty of this Greek island....plus, cat photos are always welcome. The Templar street is so interesting. I love medieval streets and sights...Well, I tend to be dazzled by historical places in general. I'm sure I would love Rhodes. Greece reminds me so much of Croatia.

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    1. Thanks, Ivana! When I see your photos of Croatia I'm always reminded of Greece. One day we shall get there! xxx

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  7. Beautiful end to your trip. Not tempted by the high dive, eh? Can't say I blame you.

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    1. I'd have been like Mr Bean in that swimming pool sketch if I'd tried! x

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  8. These photos are just wonderful! Wow! Thank you.

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    1. I would love some of those pithos/pots, aren't they beautiful. You have certainly inspired us to visit next year. Can't wait to see what you bought in that lovely boutique!

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    2. Aren't they incredible? It's hard to get your head around how old they are. They'd look fantastic in the garden, wouldn't they? Keep your eyes peeled, the airlines are starting to advertise their Summer 2023 schedules this week, you might find a bargain flights to Rhodes. xxx

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  9. Can't believe the age of those pots and virtually intact - I'm always breaking or chipping my crockery!There was a Viking cruiseship parked up in Leith harbour last week and I wasn't quite sure how these megadons stay afloat. I prefer the Rhodian Venus with her beautiful crinkly hairdo. Stunning portrayal of your holiday. Thanks again for sharing. xxx

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    1. Ha! Same here! Those Ancient Greeks certainly knew how to produce quality pots. Rhodian Venus is a beauty, I can see where the Pre-Raphaelites got their inspiration from.
      Those cruise ships are ridiculously massive. I loathe them! xxx

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  10. Sat here now with the heating on and pouring rain outside, what a lovely bit of escapism your final holiday post has been.
    We’ve had a week with my sister in Oxford and the weather was lovely. We waved as we drove by the sign for Walsall yesterday on our way home. Sorry we didn’t have time to stop by. Lots of love xxx

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    1. Awww, what a shame we didn't get to meet up. I hope you had a lovely time in the gorgeous Cotswolds with your sister.
      It's been dismal here today. Stay cosy! xxx

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  11. Have no idea which god claims beneficence over photographers; however, he/she was on point with the Rhodian sunset lighting when the portraits of you and Jon were shot. Magazine cover worthy! * But if I had to choose a "best token/taste of this day" clip -- it's the shoes on the mosaic pavement.

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    1. Those sunsets are unbelievable, we took so many photos of them and are so glad that a few did those Homerian skies justice.
      It feels a bit naughty standing on 500BC mosaic floors but they're not cordoned off and they do make for a lovely backdrop. xxx

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  12. It has been delightful to join you in this adventure, watching those cobblestoned streets and those old ceramics and sculptures, and the cats!. Such a lovely way to say goodbye to Rhodes, or better said, to say 'see you soon'!
    Totally mesmerized by the 'rosy-fingered' Rhodian sunsets and the haunting words of both Larry and Homer. It makes me miss my favourite places in Algarve!
    besos

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    1. It was delightful to have you join us, dear Monica! I never get tired of ancient ceramics or cats, it takes me an absolute age to get anywhere as there's so many distractions in Rodos!
      I full of wonder at how we are still mesmerised by the same sunsets as Homer and dear old Larry! xxx

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  13. Beautiful photos and amazing commentary Vix. I work in a secondhand/antiquarian bookshop in Petworth town, adjacent to the baroque house, pleasure gardens and park now owned by the National Trust, and we have a special section devoted to the Durrells! I am so happy I did my Greek Island hopping in the 1980s and early 90s. I first arrived in Piraeus from Haifa, Israel in May 1980 aged 19 and reluctantly tore myself away beginning of September in order to start university. I have always loved Greece and like you have O levels in Greek Literature, Italian and Latin and A levels in Latin, English, History and French. A possible idea for your next holiday is the medieval town of Pisciotta, two hours south on the train from Naples. Gorgeous in October with a wonderful walk down through the maze-like the town and olive groves to the limpid warm Mediterranean Sea. Pisciotta is a proper town with an economy based on olives and alici (anchovies). We caught the train from Pisciotta to Paestum which is the most amazing Greco-Romano archaeological site I have ever visited and also had boat trips with the alici fishermen to explore and swim in caves. Love your blog (haven’t you had the most wonderful summer and thank you for sharing) as well as your energy and style. Viva Vix. Sarah from Sussex

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    1. Salvē, Sarah! How lovely to "meet" you.
      Working in any antiquarian book shop sounds idyllic let alone in such a beautiful location. I've swooned over Petworth and the estate's Capability Brown designed gardens when they've featured on the TV or in the National Trust magazine.
      You were lucky to do your island hopping back in those halcyon days of the drachma. Although I visited Greece in the 1980s my travel partners at the time was more interested in the clubbing than the culture, they thought my love of ancient history was "pretentious" so it was all about dancing till dawn and sleeping it off on the beach.
      I've just spent a very enjoyable hour researching Pisciotta, it looks absolutely perfect and the connection to Troy makes it all the more fascinating.Thank you so much for the suggestion. Your beautiful description of the "Limpid warm Mediterranean Sea", boat trips with the fisherman and swimming in caves make me long for next Summer already. xxx

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  14. It all looked so perfect Vix and hopefully will sustain you both until the next time x

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    1. I hope so, Flis! It's going to be a long Winter! x

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  15. Picture are amazing.
    Coffee is on and stay safe

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  16. That all looks amazing, and in a way it's like a last hurrah for summer. I bet you drew in a sharp breath when you got off the plane at Birmingham and found that our temperatures had plummeted in your absence.

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    1. It was such a shock when we got off the plane. I'[d left Brum a fortnight earlier in a sundress! xxx

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  17. How interesting to learn about the knight order that once ruled Rhodes!

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Lots of love, Vix