Island Hopping in Greece: Rhodes
Most people envision the white-washed, blue-roofed buildings and the beautiful sandy beaches of the Cyclades when thinking about island hopping in Greece. It doesn't take long to realize that the island of Rhodes in the Dodecanese island group is very different. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Rhodes Old Town is one of Europe's most well-preserved medieval cities. It is lush and green, without the brilliant white reflecting in your eyes. Rhodes has an interesting history of fighting off invasions and then joining the invaders to fight off other invaders. Each group left their mark on the island and its people.
Because of its strategic position, Rhodes was conquered successively by Turks, Persians, and Saracens. The occupation by the Venetians in Medieval times was a time of great building when the Knights of Saint John turned the city into a fortress with the building of the Palace of the Grand Master.
The Ottomans took control of the island after a long siege in 1523 and remained in control until 1912 when Rhodes was occupied by the Italians until 1943. Finally, in 1947, Rhodes and all the other Dodecanese islands became part of the Greek State.
Not only is there an incredible military history but Rhodes has also been the birthplace of philosophers, politicians and artists. Mythological connections to Helios, the patron god of the island, and the famed Colossus of Rhodes weave through all historic tales and descriptions.
Meander Around Rhodes Town
One of the best ways to appreciate an old town is to simply meander. Rhodes is a very walkable town with many small streets and alleys to explore.
Rhodes Town is the main city and has two parts: the Old Town and the New Town. The Old Town is surrounded by thick walls with seven gates.
Most guide books recommend using Gate D'Amboise. We crossed the bridge over a large (dry moat) and through the Amboise Gate and along a gallery walk at the lower end of Orfeos (Orpheus) Street until we got to St. Anthony's Gate which leads into the town proper.
The town has a very different feel and architecture than our previous island stops. The Old Town is a product of its past with influences from Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. There are many bars, restaurants, and souvenir shops but, tucked in between the tourist traps, there are some fabulous artisan shops.
We found the Island Lipsi restaurant, and were amused to note this sign which quoted from Canadian Traveller magazine (we agreed with everything on this sign).
The building is 450 years old, it had been a stable, a Turkish bath, and a reptile farm! It offered very tasty fresh, organic food. The freebie at the end of the meal included a shot of limoncello and a tasty orange cake with homemade ice cream.