*** Nothing but a cup of coffee in this one. We'll have a new post with more food tomorrow.
Compared to the busy and buzzing late mornings and afternoons, the walled Old Town of Rhodes seemed quite tranquil and relaxed in the morning. The Mediterranean sun shone brightly on the streets even at 7 am! Busy Ippokratous Square seemed downright tranquil.
The Kastellania Fountain is one of the Old Town's landmark as is the usually packed Kastellania Stairs, which date back to 1507, which used to lead up to, duh, Kastellania Palace.
Walking around Rhodes Town during this time of day you're able to see the usual tourist filled town in a new light (no pun intended).
Walking within the rather formidable walls of the old town, you start understanding the history and importance of this medieval city, once the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. The commercial and strategic location of Rhodes means a long and colorful history as well as the island was in turn ruled by the Greeks, Roman, Isaurians, Arabs, Genoese, Ottoman, Italians, finally back to the Greeks. None of these captured my imagination more than the Knights of St John and no walk created more drama for me than an early morning wander up the Street of the Knights. This was where the Knights lived, you can find the "Inn of France", the "Inn of Italy" and so on. The Knights were divided into eight "tongues" - Aragon, Auvergne, Castile, England, France, Germany, Italy, and Provence. Each had their role and a "gate" of the city for which they held responsibility.
The road originally led up from the harbour to the Palace of the Grand Masters, an impressive structure. You can almost imagine knights on horseback galloping out the gates.
It is so large that I had a hard time trying to fit it in a single photo. This castle like structure was built in the 14th century on the site of an ancient temple to the god Helios. This was where the Grand Master of the order of the Knight Hospitaller lived. When the Ottomans defeated the Knights it became a prison and storage for ammunition. This lead to the event called the "Great Gunpowder Explosion of 1856", when lightning triggered an explosion which basically demolished the structure. When the Italians took over Rhodes, they rebuilt the palace, which became a vacation residence for Mussolini. There's actually a plaque near the entrance with Mussolini on it....sort of "Mussolini slept here" I guess. I took a photo but it didn't come out.
The photo that did come out was of the rather grand stairway in the palace.
I was told that most of what is located in the "museum" does not reflect the "Knights", rather the mosaics and art were taken from Kos and were brought here by the Italians as was the antique furniture.
Still, the place is quite an impressive site.
So what happened to the Knight of St John after their defeat at the hands of the Ottoman Turks? Well, the Knights, badly outnumbered made a spirited defense, so it is thought that Suleiman the Magnificent, allowed them to ransom themselves and leave Rhodes. Where did they go? Well, take a look to the right and I'm sure you'll figure it out. This simple display also served as inspiration for one of the stops in our most recent vacation.
We left the palace and just a short walk down the street you can see one of the remnants of the Ottoman occupation.
The Suleyman Mosque. This was also where we first saw this rather eccentric tourist. She was a very thin Taiwanese woman, who looked to be in her mid forties. She carried this really dinky looking mini-tripod with a camera attached. Every few steps she'd place the tripod on the ground and click a button and run up the steps do a "pose" just before the camera and flash went off. A couple yards later....she'd do the same thing. The Missus and I walked past her just cracking up. We just had to get out of there, so we ducked out St George's gate. As we exited the Old Town we walked over the area that must have been the former moat. It had been replaced by a nice green area.
We wandered around the "New Town" a bit. Through some of the shops and markets, just getting a feel for the area. Man, I was running low on gas, so the Missus suggested we get a cup of espresso.
Not as good as Tunisia, but it did the trick. I was ready to head on back out in the sun drenched streets of Rhodes Town.
Thanks for reading!