The warm waters of the Mediterranean coast into the Aegean Sea separating some six thousand islands between Greece and Turkey. Each island is vastly different from the next. Some offering sun and fun escapes, others a place of peace and quiet. In a single weekend I managed to spend a day on three incredibly contrasting islands; Mykonos, Rhodes, and Patmos.
Mid-day in Rhodes
Worn down by age but still as tough as bricks the limestone fortress that surrounds the old town of Rhodes is nothing less than a monument to history. This Doedcanese island was named by UNESCO as a world heritage site for it’s incredible preservation of the Medieval town.
Walking through the Gate d’Amboise, visitors enter a relic in time. Although ancient, the town is still alive. Local kids play soccer in the ruins of the the Church of the Virgin and teenagers drag race old sports cars along the coastal road. Hippokratous Square fountain is surrounded by markets selling everything from ice cream to motorcycle parts and tourist souvenirs. Yet no visit to Rhodes is complete without walking down the Avenue of the Knights.
The history that surrounds the island’s capital is nothing short of fascinating to visitors and commonplace to locals. The island can trace it’s roots back to the Neolithic period of 4000 BC, long before the fortress was built. It has seen minor action in both the Roman and Byzantine Empires. Serving as a port between shipping roots from Alexandria to the respective capitals of Rome and Constantinople. It wasn’t until the fourth and final Crusade that Rhodes became a landmark in time.
For two centuries the Knights Hospitallers occupied the island from fear of persecution of the Knights Templar. In 1480 the fortress was built to withstand invasion, but in 1522 the Ottomans seized the island forcing the Knights Hospitallers to vanish into history. The construction of the Mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent marked the gateway to the east and the shift in history from Christianity to Muslim rule.
By the twentieth century the Ottoman Empire began to waiver and Italy took advantage of the situation by sending troops to take hold of the old town. Both the Clock-tower and Fort Saint Nicholas siting high above the fortress walls serve as a marker of a new era in Rhodes’s history. The island was bombed during the Second World War by the British Air Force, and shortly there after became a Greek state.
The second largest Greek island in the Aegean Sea is now a living relic for both tourists and historians alike. An entire day can be spent roaming between the walls, lost in the past.