Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rhodes: Old Town and Lindos

We visited Rhodes about 9 years ago but never saw any more than the Old Town and a small amount of the New Town outside, so this time we planned to revisit Rhodes Old Town and then to take a car and drive to Lindos and maybe visit other parts of the island as well.

All went well for arrival on the ferry which is a huge thing carrying trucks and cargo as well as passengers between the islands and Athens.

ferryOur ferry Marinegate
The Marine Gate

We took a cab to the Marine Gate and then trolled the luggage to the Camelot Hotel nearby, where we had stayed before. Nina greeted us with cries of delight “Oh Mr Nick, Oh Mrs Lynn” and hugs all round and put us back in the room we had before. She now has all of five rooms and her little hotel is complete, faithfully built according to the rules of the Ministry of Culture which oversees all building on the bombed out sites in the town.
nina courtyard
Nina and her courtyard at the Camelot Hotel

The cruise ships call regularly at Rhodes, there were three in at one stage, so the town gets over-run with tourists until about 4pm, after which they return to the ships and the area is much quieter. So many tourist shops. I do wonder how all the jewellery shops make a living as they never seem to have customers, and all the cafes and restaurants have touts outside to entice you in.

Such elegance!
Socrates St
Socrates St

The streets of Rhodes are an interesting mix, from the very populated streets full of cafes and shops, to the older parts with mosques and market quarters and then many, many streets of walls and facades that hide empty houses and ruined lots. Not only was the town bombed heavily in WWII but most of the Jewish residents were taken away and killed and so their property seems to still be abandoned. Rhodes is in fact one of only two Greek islands to have a registry of property.

Side lane
Doorway and wall of a ruin
On the ramparts
Abandoned house and archway

As is our preference, we spent time looking at the historical side, especially the Archaeological  Museum which is housed in the old hospital of the Knights of St John. A very beautiful old space and a multitude of side rooms which house some stunning exhibits, carefully arranged by time periods and with excellent information accompanying them.

Archway in the hospital dormitory
Memorial stone to a Knight 1493
The Venus statue in the museumApollohead
Head of Apollo
The Lion of St Mark indicates the Venetian presence on the island
A tiny donkey with panniers, two and a half centuries old
Beautiful detail in the sleeve of a young girl on her funeral stele
The stelae can be very emotional and moving, often fond scenes of farewell

Nina recommended some nice restaurants so I tasted some exotic things such as sea urchin roe (salty and delicious) and a yoghurt and honey confection that was somehow set and cut into a wedge like a cheesecake. It was served as a present, wrapped in pink cardboard and tied with a silver ribbon. Very nice!

Through Nina we got a much cheaper car hire to drive to Lindos. Our accommodation needed to be changed by a day as there was a general strike in Greece on the day we were due to fly to Athens. We ended up staying only two nights instead of three, so plans to visit somewhere else on the island sort of died. As did plans to climb the acropolis at Lindos, which turned out to be closed Mondays. I am glad we found that out before climbing all the way as there were many, many steps.

Our accommodation at Xenones apartments was lovely, with its own terrace and view to the acropolis, the owner Andy just delightful. He waived the charge for the third night despite it being a non-refundable rate and was at pains to reassure customers who were held up in flights that he would be open and ready for them when they arrived. Beautiful breakfasts on our terrace too, even an early one on the day we left.

However, Lindos is STEEP and that was a little unexpected for us. We parked the car nearby but got a bit lost, luckily not carrying the luggage. Even so, it was difficult to get the luggage too and from the hotel for us. There is no doubt we are slowing down I’m afraid. But we took things slowly and managed to explore quite a bit of the town and to have some meals on delightful rooftop terrace cafes. We didn’t hang around for the nightlife though, apparently a big hit with the many British visitors. The pubs play the football and there are lots of cheap packages available for flights and accommodation which makes it enticing.

The Acropolis of Lindos, occupied by various rulers over the centuries. It was a vital port. There are the remains of a Greek temple as well as later churches and walls

Door of a restaurant
Lindos Bay with the umbrellas in ranks
Detail of the architecture found in some of the grand Lindian mansions
A beautiful Lindian door hides the house beyond, a common feature of the architecture
Belltower of the Byzantine church and a rooftop restaurant nearby, taken from our rooftop restaurant

The Byzantine church of Panagia was an amazing find, entirely covered with frescoes inside rather like the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. It told the story of Jesus’ life and death and, like may churches in Italy, had a terrifying Last Judgement on the back wall to remind you of the wages of sin as you left the church. The frescoes are old, 1779 and have been painstakingly retouched. They are truly stunning. (No photos allowed, sob!) A tiny museum next door held some of the treasures of the church.

Off early the next morning for the flight to Athens. Pulling the luggage up the last incline to the car park was a bit of a trial. The little three wheel vehicles they use should offer a luggage service to the hotels. The package tours were rolling into the airport as we were leaving, maybe 12 planes on the ground from Britain, Germany and Ireland (Ryanair) and several airlines we could not recognise.

Next stop: Athens (and a return to a previous hotel, the Herodian, which Cam will recognise).

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