As soon as the city of Rhodes, on the island of the same name, becomes visible, one is aware of the famous medieval walls which surround the old city, declared a World Heritage Site. The island is located in the lower eastern corner of the Aegean Sea, at about 5 o’clock on the circle of our tour. The island is about 50 miles from top to bottom, with Rhodes sitting on the northern point.
Rhodes is of course famous for its partly-mythological Colossus, declared one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but, according to recent research, not necessarily large enough to straddle the harbor. It was destroyed in an earthquake in 226 B.C., and the remains were cut up and sold to foreigners from all over, making its reconstruction impossible.
Rhodes has long been considered a scholarly place, and was home to the famous rhetorical school attended by Julius Caesar. During Greece’s Classical period Rhodes became a strong center of commerce, education and the arts, with high-level schools of philosophy, rhetoric and the sciences. Mythology identifies the island as the creation of the union of Helios, God of Sun, and Rhode, a nymph.
We diverted from the city of Rhodes in the morning to visit the spectacular seaside town of Lindos, about an hour south of Rhodes on the island’s east coast. The first sight of the town, its acropolis, and the beach below, produced audible gasps in the bus.
As a center of commerce Lindos preceded Rhodes by several hundred years. Its spectacular acropolis was originally crowned with a temple to Athena that gave way eventually to a fortress constructed in the 14th century A.D. under the Knights of St. John, crusaders who used the island as a base.
Soon after arriving in Lindos one encounters not only donkeys but a donkey parking lot, surrounded by tourists taking pictures. One can walk up to the Acropolis, or take a donkey for 5 Euros. The donkeys charge the same for the descent.
Why walk when you can have this much fun? The trip through the narrow little streets, eventually breaking out onto the open hillside, is quite a tour.
At the upper base of the acropolis everyone dismounts to walk up the 2nd century B.C. staircase, carved into the rock, passing through combination Roman and Greek arches.
At the summit is the partially-rebuilt Temple of Athen Lindia, portions of many other structures, and magnificent views.
I believe that I am the only person on the cruise actually determined enough to swim in the Aegean, which I did briefly on the beautiful beach below Lindos before returning to Rhodes.
Lunch aboard ship produced something I had longed for the entire trip: a simple whole fish, this one an orate, perfectly grilled.
After lunch it was time to tour the town of Rhodes, which is almost impossible to do because the shopping is so ubiquitous and attractive. As soon as you enter the magnificent medieval gate, you are surrounded by shops that display some of the most attractive and creative jewelry and other accessories we have ever seen.
One of the sad sights in Greece is the many young children forced to make money by playing accordions and other instruments in the hot streets. This little girl, who played quite well, could not have been over six years old.
Our first stop was the Archeological Museum, itself an historic building, which houses among many items beautifully expressive grave carvings. The grand upstairs room was the Knights’ hospital, with small cubby-sized openings in the wall thought to be isolation rooms for patients with contagious diseases.
The next famous sight in the city is the historically-protected Street of the Knights, where crusader knights from different countries built lavish residences with the dual functions of hotel and embassy. At the top of the street one encounters the Palace of the Grand Master, built around the same time. The Christian domination of the island of Rhodes came to an end in 1522 when it was conquered by Ottoman forces, who ruled for the next four hundred years.
After an exciting day, it was nice to catch a view of the harbor through the town gate, and head back to the comforts of the Corinthian II.
For more photos of Rhodes and Lindos on Flickr, click here.