RHODES - the Sunshine Isle

WARWICK GREEK ISLAND GUIDES

   RHODES Old Town

 

A typical view of mediaeval splendour

Andrew & Jane's Excellent Video

Introduction

Getting lost or confused amongst the many streets of the mediaeval Old Town (the citadel) of Rhodes where there are around 200 alleys and lanes, is perfectly easy since most of them have absolutely no name.  These nameless streets will, in time, be imprinted upon your brain-pan like a genetically implanted map (some hope!). Although getting lost here is actually quite fun. If you do get lost – probably with onerous regularity - then just ask anyone for directions to ‘Sokratous’, and you will not go wrong.  Sokratous is the citadel’s answer to a main street and so is the main hub from which all spokes radiate – in that higgledy-piggledy manner that Rhodes old town engaged with, rather than making things easy.  In truth, confusion was always a weapon used against any would-be invaders.

 

The central hub of the mediaeval quarter:  Sokratous

As you draw near to the imposing walls of the Old Town, you need to remember that you are about to cross the threshold of the oldest inhabited medieval town in all of Europe. There are several entry gates, but be sure to choose the famed Eleftheria (Liberty) Gate, where you will quickly come across Plateia Simi (Simi square), containing the tantalizing ruins of the ancient Temple of Venus (once complete with a large retinue of prostitutes – now long gone), identified by the votive offerings found here during extensive excavations a few decades back, which may well date back to the 3rd century B.C. The remains of the temple are conveniently next to a municipal car park (but please take note that driving is strictly restricted in the Old Town – no doubt just as chariots were back in the 3rd century BC!). However, this unfortunate location does nothing for its historical resonance, columns and old stones withstanding. However, the ruins of this once important temple are a real reminder that a great Hellenistic city once resided here and occupied the entire area now monopolized by the present city, including the old and new town areas. In effect, the old Hellenistic city dwarfed the population of today’s entire island by equalling some 100 thousand souls.

 

A well-known vista of Rhodes citadel

Simi square is home to the important Municipal Art Gallery of Rhodes, which is actually right above the Museum Reproduction Shop (open Monday through Saturday from 8am to 2pm).  Here you can enjoy an impressive collection comprised mostly of works by famous but Modern Greek artists. There is also an extension which the gallery staff will direct you to, across from the Mosque of Suleiman to house its collection of antique and rare maps and engravings (open Mon-Fri 8am-2pm). One block farther on is the Museum of Decorative Arts, which contains finely made objects and crafts from Rhodes and other islands, most notably Simi (open Tues-Sun 8:30am-3pm).

Now you must continue through the gate until you reach Ippoton, also known as the Street of the Knights. To save your cash, be advised to buy a multi-ticket from the museum you have just visited, and get included (about £10 each), the Museum of Decorative Arts, the Archaeological Museum, the Church of our Lady of the Castle, and the Palace of the Knights.

 

The only way to enter the citadel

The Street of the Knights (referred to as ‘Ippoton’ on most maps) is an astonishing, atmospheric conglomerate of the mediaeval in architectural form in the world. The 600m (1,968 ft.) - long, cobble-paved, street was constructed over an ancient pathway that led in a straight line from the Acropolis of Rhodes to the port and marked out my millions of feet over millennia. In the early 16th century it was the location for most of the inns of ‘national’ inns (where they spoke your tongue), and which housed the Knights who belonged to the Order of St. John. These seminal hotels were used like clubs, with catering and temporary residences for visiting knights, dignitaries, and their retinues. A fascinating and charming detail is that many of these inns reflect the architectural style of the nationals they catered for.

 

Apart from just sauntering around the old town, which is a pure delight, one of the must-dos is to walk the length of the outer fortified walls of the citadel.  If you want to do the easy way, the museum operates a 1-hr. tour on Tues and Sat at 3pm, beginning at the Palace of the Knights. You will be impressed by the extensive fortifications and the monumental series of magnificent gates and towers. The view from the ramparts are, essentially, stupendous and breathtaking, in delightful regularity.

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