Introductions to Rhodes

 The largest among the Dodecanese Islands, Rhodes in Greece has a population of a bit more than 100,000 people, with half of its residents living in Rhodes Town. Also known as “The Island of Knights”, Rhodes was sold to the Order of the Knights of St John in early 14th century and remained under the order’s rule for 200 years. Glorious fortifications and excellent examples of Gothic and Renaissance architecture were erected during that period, most of which form the medieval part of current Rhodes Town.

From ancient sites to clear blue waters to feverish nightlife, Rhodes offers a variety of choices which can appeal to travellers of any age and taste. Rhodes is one of the most attractive, and most traveled of the Greek islands. It is world renowned for it’s sunny days and amazing beaches. The island has a reasonably laid back daytime culture, with an active nightlife. Rhodes manages to combine a contemporary modern city feel with a picturesque and beautiful natural back drop.

The city known as Lindos is one of the best places to visit, and will have an attraction for all types of tourist. Other highlights include the excavations of Old Kamiros.

Most of the historical sights that are worth looking at are located in Rhodes city. In this medieval city you will find around 6,000 people living and working in the same buildings that the Knights of St. John lived in six centuries ago; as a living monument, it is almost completely unique and is a very special area of the world.

During the Ottoman Turkish Empire’s occupation, Greeks were only allowed to enter the old town during daylight hours. The area was exclusively reserved for the Turks and the Jews. If a Greek was found walking the streets after dark, they became suitable for one of the harshest punishments known to man, beheading.

Arriving from Mandraki Harbor, you will pass through the Gate of Freedom, known as Pili Eleftherias, in Simi square. The gate was commissioned in the year 1924, by a self proclaimed ‘liberating’ force from Italy, who believed they had rescued the Greeks from the Turkish invaders.

A comprehensive city-bus and long-distance bus network covers most areas of the island. Unlimited-travel tickets are available for tourists. Taxis are a good choice for short distances, but consider renting a car for longer routes.

Immediately opposite are the ruins of a Temple of Aphrodite, dating from the 3rd century BC, which is one of the very few truly ancient remains that can be seen in this city. At the back of the old temple of Aphrodite, is the Inn of the Tongue of Auvergue, built in 1507. The outside staircase that leads to the front door is a truly Aegean architectural feature, owing nothing to Western influence. The Inn is used today as government offices.

To the left, Arsenal Gate leads to the commercial port. Simi square is also known as Arsenal square, as it is thought that the Knights had shipyards there (the word “arsenal” is derived from the Arabic word for a shipyard). The building on the right hand side is for the popular bank on the ground level, and the municipal art gallery is up the stairs.

From here the street climbs slightly to Argyrokastrou square, a beautiful location with a wonderful fountain at it’s center. Its base, which is an early Christian font, was found by Italian archaeologists in the church of St. Irene close to the village of Arnitha. The collection of cannonballs here, and at lots of other locations were collected with the sole purpose of defeating the Ottoman Turks around the year 1522. Argyrokastrou square also has one of the oldest buildings in the Castle, the Armeria, built in the 14th century, probably by Grand Master Roger de Pias, whose escutcheon is found on the left of the building.

Its similarities to the Hospital of the Knights, which is now the Museum, has lead scholars to think that this was the first hospital. It was then used by the Turks as a military armory. To the left of the armory is the museum of folk art.

Lindos is less than 50 kilometers from Rhodes City and has a perfectly preserved, and recently semi-restored, medieval quarter that is filled with white-washed houses on cobbled roads that slope down to the sea.

A number of steps lead to the Acropolis with its Doric Temple of Athena. Passing through the main gate you can see the ruins of the Knight’s Lodge and the Byzantine church of St. John. Outside the Doric Stoa the prow of a Lindian Hellenistic trireme was etched into a rock, measuring 4.5m x 5m.

As you cross the Doric Stoa, with its 42 columns, and climb the majestic staircase to the higher terrace with Propylaean ruins, you can reach the Sanctuary of Lindian Athena, with its elegant temple on the edge of the cliff.

The Acropolis has the ruins of an ancient theater, which have since been built into a magnificent castle. It is thought that St. Paul the Apostle arrived at this point on his visit to Rhodes; accordingly, the harbor located at the other side of the village is called Agios Pavlos.

In the recent years, some 15th century houses have been declared as ‘protected properties’, and can be visited by paying tourists. This very traditional and historical village is the chosen place by VIPs and celebrities to purchase or build holiday homes.

Rhodes Town

The fortified medieval part of the town concentrates most of Rhodes’ points of interest. Acquaint with the area by taking a long stroll around the scenic alleys, where you will come across charming restaurants, cosy cafes and interesting stores.

Walk down picturesque cobblestoned Knight Avenue, where the Knights used to live in different inns according to their nationality. The Inn of France, the Inn of Provence, the Inn of Spain and the Inn of the Order of the Tongue of Italy, are still standing at the two sides of this street.

Occupying a 15th-century knights’ hospital on Knights Avenue, stands the Archaeological Museum. Next to the museum you will find the Palace of the Grand Masters. Initially built in 14th century, the palace was destroyed 500 years later and rebuilt by the Italians to be Mussolini’s holiday villa. Today it serves as a museum, featuring a combined ticket along with the Archaeological Museum and the nearby Museum of Decorative Arts.

Ancient sites on Rhodes

Within the boundaries of the medieval town, sit the remains of the Temple of Aphrodite. Dating back to 3th century BC, the temple was built in Ionic rhythm and it is believed to have hosted the statue of Aphrodite, which is currently exhibited in Rhodes’ archaeological museum. Walk up the Acropolis of Rhodes to enjoy some astonishing views and wander around the ancient stadium and a reconstruction of Rhetoric School of Rhodes.

Ancient Kamiros is a Doric city, which reached prime during the 7th century BC and suffered severe damages half a century later, due to an earthquake. Within the archaeological site visitors can see remains from different periods, including a marble column of a Doric temple, a posterior temple dedicated to Athena and some residences from Hellenistic period.

Ancient ruins and Byzantine structures can be found at Ancient Ialysos. Initially a Doric city, the area kept on thriving during Byzantine and medieval times. Pass through a group of colourful peacocks to enter the site, where you will be able to explore the remains of a 3rd-century BC temple. Fascinating frescos are hidden inside a 12th-century chapel, while an ancient monastery also stands within the grounds of the archaeological site.

Join the crowds at the Acropolis of Lindos to take look at the propylaeum from 5th century BC, twenty columns from Hellenistic times, an ancient temple dedicated to goddess Athena and a Byzantine church.

Around Rhodes

Butterfly Valley is one of Rhodes’ major attractions. Extensive woodlands, with gargling streams and tiny natural pools, present a bizarre spectacle during the summer months. Thousands of colourful butterflies are drawn to this area, probably by a special resin which comes out of the surrounding trees. Moni Tharri is a 9th-century monastery located near the village of Laerma. The monastery is open to the public and is worth a visit for both its charming grounds and some impressive frescos from 14th century.

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