Tuesday, 4 October 2022

Postcards From Rhodes - The Lost Village



Welcome back to the next instalment of our road trip around Rhodes! After exploring Mussolini's derelict mansion and enjoying the perfect peace of The Seven Springs it was time for lunch, Greek salads, pitta bread and Mythos in our third destination of the day, The Valley of the Butterflies.





This verdant canyon, an area of around 1km, is filled with ferns, plane trees, oak trees, pine trees and bay laurels. It is the only forest in Greece that includes oriental sweetgum trees (Liquidamar orientalis). A small river runs through the forest and in several places it forms waterfalls. Alongside the river a defined path follows its course. On the route, there are little bridges, steps, benches, all made of wood.


Here, from June through until September, the butterflies of the Panaxia quadripunctaria species gather, they have four orange dots on each wing. They are attracted by the scent of the juice secreted by the oriental sweetgum trees (which resemble plane trees). 


A few years ago the river waters had reduced due to extended periods of drought. The butterflies disappeared year after year and no one suspected the moisture deficiency. A study carried out by the Department of Environment of the University of the Aegean provided the solution with the use of a recycling system for the water in the ravine.



In his book, The Greek Islands (1978) Lawrence Durrell writes, The Valley of the Butterflies (the Petaloudes) is further west, under a little feature called Mount Psinthus, and may be too far to include in the usual one-day itinerary. But it is very strange and worth a visit. A series of narrow, shady ravines have been chosen as a dwelling by this small butterfly; there would be nothing remarkable about this, except that they exist in such large numbers that they flow in and out of the ground and amongst the trees like a soft cloud of dark-winged moths.


The butterflies sleep during the day and any disturbance of their sleep would result in unjustifiable loss of energy. So, leaving the path, smoking, whistling, clapping and shouting are forbidden making this area a wonderfully tranquil spot to visit. 


Driving back we passed through an extraordinary mountain village, seemingly abandoned. Obviously we needed to stop and investigate further. 


Clueless as to what it was, we wandered along the crumbling concrete piazza ascended the stairs and looked in amazement at the glorious patina of aged plaster adorning the walls.  

























Directly across the square we entered what looked like a municipal building.


Inside, however, with its numerous bathrooms, steel doors wrenched from the walls and mouldering mattresses did it have a more sinister purpose?






Judging by the graffiti, the lunatics have taken over the asylum.


Thankfully someone had taped a sign with a QR code to one of the doors and the mystery behind our abandoned village was soon solved.

In 1925 the Italian colonial administration began a programme of reforestation on the Aegean islands, increasing timber production to facilitate numerous development projects in the region. The expropriation of land from Greeks on Rhodes then followed to allow construction of the necessary agrarian settlements. Campochiaro (today known as Eleousa) was uniquely a forest settlement as opposed to a rural one and one of four agrarian settlements built on Rhodes between 1923-1943. The settlements represent a rare typology of new town that the Italian state were pioneering in the countryside dedicated to agricultural production. Referred to as a ‘centro rurale’, similar settlements can be found in other Italian colonies such as Libya, with municipal buildings created in an international, rationalist style.

Commissioned in 1935 and completed in 1936 by architects Bernabiti and Petracco, Eleousa’s original inhabitants were mostly Italian woodworkers and their families from the regions of Trentino and Alto Adige. Designed as a logistical hub, settlers’ dwellings were spread separately outside of the piazza in the surrounding countryside. Campochiaro briefly fulfilled its purpose as a Fascist settlement from 1937 until the arrival of Nazi forces in 1943, serving as a headquarters until 1945. After unification with Greece in 1947, Campochiaro’s buildings were re-purposed as a sanatorium treating tuberculosis until 1970. In subsequent years part of the complex was used as a school, and thereafter a Greek army barracks until 2000. The original buildings have undergone several alterations over the years, now standing largely abandoned.


Our final stop before returning Dimitri to the hire shop was Stegna's nearest neighbour, the town of Archangelos. With a population of just over five thousand, Archangelos is the fifth largest town on the island and named in honour of the Archangel Michael, the town's patron saint.


Numerous small settlements existed in the broader area of Archangelos during the Hellenistic era. After the 7th century AD the settlements near the coast were abandoned due to the frequent invasions of pirates and their inhabitants settled inland, over time these settlements were merged into one forming the town of Archangelos.


After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Knights Hospitaller who were occupying the island of Rhodes since 1309, built a fortress on top of one of the town's nearby hills to protect from a possible Ottoman invasion on the island. Ruins of this, the castle of Saint John, remain today.



Major economic resources include tourism, agriculture (mainly olive oil and citrus fruits), stockbreeding and pottery. Pottery was always one of the major occupations of the people of Archangelos. It is said that the dome of Hagia Sophia was built using light bricks from the town.


It was a steep walk up to the Castle of St John but as Lord Jon's ancestor, The Blessed Adrian Fortescue, was a member of the order of the Knights Hospitaller, it would have been rude not to have paid a visit and once up there, the views were breathtaking.














By now it was beer o'clock and after dropping off Dimitri we stopped off at Gorgon Taverna for a well-deserved megáli býra (big beer).

The fifth and final installment coming soon. Thanks for reading!

31 comments:

  1. Stunning, absolutely stunning.
    I remember the peace and dappled shade in the Valley of the Butterflies.
    The granduer of the abandoned buildings in Eleousa is breathtaking. Thank you for sharing all this and starting my day with such beauty.

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    1. We loved the Valley of the Butterflies. I didn't expect to see quite so many so late in the season but they didn't let us down.
      Eleousa was so beautiful, the colour of the walls and the intense blue-green of the water feature in the town square took my breath away.
      Have a lovely day, Jayne. xxx

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  2. Absolutely amazing. I love the room with the corner fireplace and then the photo of the stairs, it's awakening memories of all my 'den making' adventures I had as a child. My Mum would have had a fit if she'd known half of what I got up to in derelict buildings ... and the one on the half sunken boat!!

    What an amazing time you have had. It must seem so chilly and dark now you are back home.

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    1. Your den adventures sound like mine, I blame Enid Blyton, The Famous Five and Secret Seven.
      I loved the patina of age on the walls am always fascinated by the corner fireplaces I see in homes in Greece. I really ought to research as to why they're sited there and not in the centre of the room like homes in the UK.
      The weather has been such a shock to the system. We've come home to warm weather in previous years, this time it's like Autumn moved in overnight! xxx

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  3. Wow! Love the Valley of the Butterflies (and the motion blur photo of you). What an amazing abandoned village - so glad you solved the mystery. Absolutely fascinating! That crumbling piazza is achingly beautiful. I'm trying to keep a note of all of these places for future reference. I shall have to ask you to supply me with an itinerary! xxx

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    1. The Valley of the Butterflies was so beautiful (and the on-site restaurant does a fabulous Greek salad). Despite it being the end of their lifecycle, there were still loads around.
      I knew you'd love Mussolini's Mansion and Eleousa, talk about a fantastic photo opportunity! The colour of the water in that abandoned fountain in the square was utterly mesmerising.
      You have to visit Rhodes. It's the fourth time I've been and I can't get my head around how much there is to see on such a tiny island! xxx

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  4. That butterfly area would be so calming. I can see why you shared it. Some day, I d like to explore for myself, but the picture journey has been nice to see.

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    1. I can't recommend Rhodes enough, there's something for everyone - history, nature, hedonism, fabulous food! xxx

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  5. your pix are so beautiful....a great start to this dreary, windy, rainy , cold day here in new jersey! the valley of the butterflies is so tranquil and lovely....the pix of the abandoned buildings just gorgeous....thanks, as always, for sharing

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    1. Thanks so much for reading and commenting! xxx

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  6. I’ve caught up now on your travelogue and at every port of call I thought ooh that’s my favourite. But no the walls have it. I probably would have taken a million pics of them. I love chalky, peeling paint and crumbling stone work. Add to that rotting doors and I’m in heaven haha. Thanks Vix, it was wonderful
    Lynn xxx

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    1. Hello Lynn! I thought you might like those crumbling walls, the colours are just insane, aren't they? xxx

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  7. The Valley of the Butterflies looks absolutely magical, and what a gem you discovered in that abandoned village, even if the sanatorium does look a bit creepy! I could have wandered there for hours, and my camera would have done overtime, just like I'm sure yours did.
    As for Archangelos, what a gorgeous town, and the view from Castle of St John simply breathtaking! xxx

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    1. The Valley of the Butterflies was gorgeous, I'd love to go back earlier in the season and encounter the clouds of butterflies that Lawrence Durrell wrote of.
      I did get a bit carried away photographing both Eleousia and Mussolini's Mansion, it took me an absolute age to whittle down which ones to choose for the blog! xxx

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  8. What an incredible place that is! Vix, thank you so much for sharing your amazing photos of this place that I will never visit (lol, I know myself and travel). I feel like I was exploring there with you and Jon.

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    1. Thanks, Sheila. It was lovely to have your company. x

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  9. I love the valley of the butterflies! Liquidambars are a mildly popular tree in Australia and one of my favourites as they give us the beautiful Autumn leaves most natives do not. Those abandoned buildings still had some beauty to them, people really did put so much effort into making things beautiful in the past! Maybe one day the town will be restored!

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    1. That's interesting about the Liquidambars being fairly prevalent in Australia. I wonder why they only grow on Rhodes. The bark was fascinating, I kept seeing faces in it!
      I loved the abandoned village (and Mussolini's Mansion), the Fascists certainly knew how to build beautifully even if their politics were downright ugly. xxx

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  10. Just catching up with your most interesting travelogue. That sanatorium creeped me right out! So envy your ability to cope with the heat and the humidity and do all that exploring. I love the museum visits the best! Thank you for sharing. (Bettany Hughes has an interesting travel prog on Friday nights, Channel 50).xxx

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    1. Hello! Hope you're feeling better, Annie! I was glad to discover the origins of that building, I had visions of it being a prison for the opponents of the fascist regime or some dreadful asylum, a TB sanitorium was the least grim of the options.
      I've got friends on Kos at the moment and it's 35°C today- bit of a difference to our torrential rain and 12°C.
      We love Bettany (Jon especially), ta for the heads up! xxx

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  11. Thank you very much, what a wonderful travelogue... glad I found you :-)))
    Rhodes is on my wish list. I've been to Meteora once, inland, which is also incredibly impressive.
    Now I will read your previous posts. Thank you. Happy greetings from Viola

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    1. Hello Viola! How lovely to meet you. I'd love to visit Meteora, the famous monastery perched on that clifftop looks incredible in photos. xxx

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  12. Must admit I envy Lord Jon an ancestor titled, "The Blessed Adrian Fortescue." There's not much glory in being aligned with "...the one that could make any engine run, even a 3-stroke tractor..."

    Some of the walls in the sanatorium would make marvelous wallpapers! The turquoise section with the white scrollwork would be an enormous improvement on renter's white!

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    1. The Blessed Adrian even has his own saints day (9th July) - it's the perfect excuse to have a drink!
      Those turquoise walls were so beautiful, I'd happily have a wall like that in our house. xxx

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  13. You really do find the most beautiful and fascinating places Vix x

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  14. Jon is turning a lovely shade of brown as the posts progress! how lovely to see the butterflies and I like the idea of maintaining silence so they aren't disturbed. All the buildings you explored have such a beautiful patina that only time and neglect can create and were well worth going off the beaten track for.

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    1. Isn't he? He never used to tan at all and people often used to ask if I'd been away on my own when we were back at home!
      A few people took packed lunches and sat in the forest eating in companionable silence which I thought was a lovely way to enjoy the butterflies.
      We'd not hired a car abroad for a few years and I'm so glad we did this time. xxx

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  15. Isn't exploring like this the best thing?

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Lots of love, Vix