I expected old buildings conserved as museums or belonging to government departments or architectural firms, quiet, rather staid, keep off the grass and don’t touch the furnishings. I should have known better for, athough that’s the ethos in buildings belonging to Historic Scotland, Edinburgh’s old town certainly isn’t like that.
Staid certainly isn’t what met us as we walked through d’Amboise Gate into the old city of Rhodes whose walls are a legacy to the Knights Hospitallers of St John who bought the island in 1306, replacing much of the Byzantine walls but keeping the foundations.
The medieval city of Rhodes is a UNESCO world heritage site, an example of the medieval architectural style of the period of the Crusades that combines Byzantine, French and Spanish influences. Today its narrow streets are packed with visitors photographing the sights, browsing in the colourful shops that line almost every street and passageway, or sampling food from the world in open-air tavernas.
Shops are everywhere, except in the Street of the Knights where eyes can gaze instead at fancy grilles, arched doorways and windows, and coats of arms, enjoying glimpses into cobbled lanes and leafy courtyards, all much as they were when the Knights of St John strode the streets. You almost felt you might bump into one by an open doorway.
Then there are the pink walls and impressive dome of the Suleyman mosque with its towering minaret, and opposite the Ottoman Library with its priceless collection of hand-written Korans and illuminated Persian manuscripts.
In the Turkish quarter my camera was busy again clicking the old houses with their box windows, shops with handmade leather goods and silver jewellery, and wonderfully atmospheric cafes and treasure caves of goods in jewel colours.
We sat at the table in a taverna amongst rampant bougainvillea and enjoyed a Greek salad with garlic bread and a glass of ice-cold local wine that set us up for some more sightseeing.
The one disappointment was the Palace of the Grand Masters where a lack of interpretation, a grand marble staircase with a sheer drop at one side and no handrail, and disgusting toilets, made us regret the six euros entrance fee. On the plus side, the toilets outside the walls by the harbour were spotless, manned by a smiling woman, the fifty cent piece charged given willingly.
On the quayside a boat was turned into yet another bazaar where shells, jewellery, sponges and loofahs could be bought as the boat bobbed in the water and the sun blazed down.
We were glad to be here in October and not at the height of summer when the crush of visitors and high temperatures must make sightseeing less pleasant. As it was, we limited what we saw and so missed many places worth seeing. Perhaps that’s an excuse to return another year.
You portray a very attractive ambiance and I am drawn by a fascinating history.
The history is definitely fascinating, Pat. I remarked to another visitor that Yialos in Symi was my idea of a typical Greek town. Her response was that neither Rhodes nor any of the islands were typically Greek. As we discovered more about its history and the many influences that over centuries had shaped the islands, I understood her comment. Nevertheless the people regard themselves as Greek, always have as far as I could discern, and Greek food and Greek Tavernas are everywhere. Over ninety percent of the population are members of the Greek Orthodox Church – perhaps that is what has sustained their feeling of being Greek. Lots of Italian influences as when in charge they undertook many infrastructure projects and restoration work. The only Turkish influence we saw was in the old town of Rhodes.And, like many other parts of Europe, English is widely spoken. Puts us to shame!