The Return to Rhodes...
Trip Start May 26, 2011
33Trip End Jul 19, 2011
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When this trip opportunity came up, I wanted to make sure I got back to Rhodes to see more of what we had missed. It's a very tourist oriented island too so more options for hotels, food and things to do.
I had arranged for a transfer so when I got the airport, they had a taxi set up to take me to my hotel. I stayed at a very nice Best Western. While Best Western, started in the US in the 1940s, seems to have declined in the US, it's booming here in Europe and has some of the nicer mid-range hotels. The room was of a good sized, over looked the beautiful pool (bonus) and free breakfast (bigger bonus). My first morning here I was in HEAVEN -- the breakfast was the typical American buffet variety at any US hotel, but I had been in Turkey for 2 weeks with no eggs and no pork. This place had bacon and sausage and ham (oink!) I love most Mediterranean food, but if I had to have another breakfast of tomatoes and feta with no real protein, I think I was going to hurt someone.
Being on Rhodes for 3.5 days with only one excursion planned, I knew it was going to be some much needed downtime after the hustle and bustle of the Turkey tour. Day one was dedicated to sleeping late, enjoying that good breakfast, catching up on email, a nap, doing laundry in the sink and hanging it on the balcony to dry and just getting oriented.
The hotel was just steps outside the Old Town of Rhodes and two blocks from the port and marina. Rhodes has a population of about 80,000 and has been famous since ancient times as the site of the Collosus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was completed in 293 BC but was toppled and badly damaged in a large earthquake in 226 BC; it laid in ruins for 800 years until it was said to have been sold to a Jewish merchant requiring 900 camels to haul it all away - nothing of it remains, but there is talk of rebuilding it or something similar and illuminating it so it can be seen for many miles. Funding is still trying to be obtained.
A little history:
The Old Town is a fortified citadel and is one of the best preserved medieval towns in all of Europe and is also designated as a UNESCO protected World Heritage Site. Rhodes is at a crossroads between Europe, the Middle East and Africa. This has given the city and the island many different identities, cultures, architectures, and languages over its long history. It's position in the major sea routes has given it a rich history; the island has been inhabited since about 4000 BC.
In around 160 BC, Rhodes became part of the Roman province of Asia. It was able to keep its beauty and develop into a leading center for the arts and learning. Many traces of the Romans still exist around the city. As a point of reference, according to the Bible, the Apostle Paul stopped at Rhodes near the end of his third missionary journey.
Battles in Rhodes were pivotal roles in how the world ended up looking today. In medieval times, Rhodes was an important Roman trading post and a crossroads for ships going between Constantinople (Istanbul) and Alexandria, Egypt. The Knights Hospitallers captured and established their headquarters on Rhodes when they left Italy after the persecution of the Knights Templar in 1307. The Knights remained for two centuries where they fought off several attempts by others to take control.
After the fall of Constantinople and the Roman Empire in 1453, the Ottomans rapidly started their expansion to the west. They launched an invasion of Rhodes but the defenders fought off the Turkish attacks on land and sea and the invaders left in an unusual defeat. This defeat halted a concurrent invasion of Italy by Ottoman forces and prevented possible Muslim control of Western Europe -- talk about a game changer for Christians.
After the victory, the Knights Grand Master oversaw strengthening of the cities over the next few decades. By 1521 Rhodes possessed the strongest fortification of any Christian bastion in the world.
Later the Ottoman's attacked again and, after a long fought battle and after the Ottomans took the upper hand, an agreement was made where the Knights could freely leave with all the wealth they could carry and in return no retribution would be made against the inhabitants and, although now part of the Ottoman Empires, they would be free to continue practicing Christianity.
Later, after the decline of the Ottoman Empire, Italian troops took over the island with the rest of the Dodecanese Islands and established an Italian colony. They destroyed all the Ottoman buildings, and rebuilt many of the damaged buildings from the Knights' period. The infrastructure was modernized and institutes for study were established.
In 1944, British bombs fell on the medieval city of Rhodes claiming many human lives and destroying a great number of buildings leaving large gaps. One of the first decrees of the Greek administration designated the areas as reserved for future excavations and safe guarded many buildings from being torn down. In the 1960s great improvements were made and put Rhodes on its current course.
The next few days will be about lazy walks, taking pictures and chilling out to recharge the batteries. Have a full day organized excursion planned but will make that a separate entry later.