While in Rhodes Greece, we took a few day trips from Rhodes Town.
Rhodes’ oldest and most historic town, Lindos was first settled about 3000 B.C. and, on the quality of its harbors, became a wealthy, regional naval and trading power by about the 7th-century B.C. Its Acropolis was the home of a 4th-century B.C., 22×8 meter, Doric temple to Lindian Athena and several columns and lintels from this and from a 3rd-century B.C stoa (marketplace) have been reconstructed. The Crusaders, meanwhile, built a fortress and castle on the Acropolis (long-since gone), although remnants of the 12th -century church that was connected to it, does.
The Byzantines, meanwhile, left a reminder of their time in power in the form of Panagia, a beautiful, pebble-mosaic floored, 15th-century church with a tall bell tower and amazing frescos covering the walls and domed ceiling.
The town itself has a car-free, cobblestone town center with winding lanes lined overwhelmingly by white, stucco-coated homes. Many of the homes, connected to each other in long rows, some with their large, imposing doors and mosaics are modest. Some however, especially those that belonged to wealthy, 15th – through 18th-century merchants, ship owners and captains, are large, with carved-stone entries, ornate, pebble mosaic floors, large, flower-filled courtyards and, in some cases, even more elaborate carved stone panels.
Byzantino, was a restaurant in the town, where we shared tuna carpaccio with lemon and a large swordfish steak. Very pleasant.
Other Rhodes Stops
We rented a car for our day-trip to Lindos so we could explore other parts of the island, in an essentially round-the-island tour. We drove across and made a couple stops along the mountainous spine of the island, over to the west coast where we made a number of other stops. Among our stops and drive-throughs included:
- Asklipio, for its Byzantine Fortress, pretty, but little compared to the town and fortress we visited a few days ago in Mystras (insert link), in the Peloponnese.
- Moni Thari, a 9th-century monastery noted for its 12th-century frescos. But, while the while the frescos are certainly impressive, there are more reasons to visit this charming monastery. The entry takes you through a portal with a lovely wall mosaic and a courtyard consisting of many pebble mosaics laid into the ground. The Monastery itself also has a lovely alter and small nave. Also, don’t miss the row of ceremonial bells that have a scenic backdrop of a pretty valley.
- Monolithos, itself one of the island’s primary towns, is particularly well-known for its 15th-century Knights of St. John castle. Built atop a promontory that is almost 800 feet above the sea, the dramatically-sited castle, as we discovered, can be best viewed from a neighboring hilltop from which you can look down on the castle and the rock-faced hill on which it is located. Although we did not go in, the fortress is supposed to contain two small chapels.
- Kritinia, yet another coastal town with a tall hill topped by yet another of the Knight’s castles.
- Ancient Kameiros, which was one of the smallest of the Ancient Rhodian cities, is also the best preserved. With ruins dating from the 6th through the 3rd centuries B.C., this Dorian-style city (created by settlers from Crete) was built on the side of a hill. It had an agora on the lower level and a residential quarter than climbed the hill, with houses lining both sides of the main street. The next plateau was home to the large, roughly 675 foot-long stoa and a cistern that captured rainwater from the higher levels and channeled it to the stoa and the lower levels of the city. The highest level was, of course, reserved for a temple to Temple of Athena, a large (675 foot) stoa and a cistern and, from the 3rd-century B.C., an altar to the Sun God (Helios) and another temple. While the city was partially destroyed by a large 227 B.C. earthquake, it was at least partially repaired after the quake. It is rare to see ancient city in such good condition and is well worth a stop.
Island of Symi
A small, 25 sq. mile, 2,500-person, mountainous island in Greece’s Dodecanese island chain. Easily reached from Rhodes via a 45-minute hydrofoil ride, it is known primarily for its beaches.
Although the island is said to have fought in the Peloponnesian War (on the side of Athens), little is officially known about the island until the 14th century, when it was a fishing, sponge diving and shipbuilding center. The island, was captured by the Knights in 1309. before being conquered by Turkey in 1522 and then passing through a number of rulers in the 20th century, before ending up part of Greece after WWII.
We, as usual, skipped lounging on and swimming at the beaches in favor of its largest city of Gialos (more commonly referred to as Symi) and its higher-altitude, adjacent neighbor of Ano Symi.
Although Symi is not exactly an international destination, it is a lovely harbor city whose immaculately maintained, pastel-colored buildings climb steadily up the hills of the mountainous islands and fade seamlessly into Ano Symi. We began our exploration by examining some of its highlights, including:
- Remnants of its clifftop fortress and medieval windmills;
- Its lovely church and bell tower;
- The city’s Italianate clocktower and police station (influenced by the period it spent under Venetian rule) and its vaguely neo-classical city hall and ?? (a nod to its Roman heritage) or any number of century’s old stone buildings that look pretty much as the day they were built;
- The bonze, Young Fisherman statue that resides at harborside and has become a symbol of the city;
- NOS Beach, the town’s only beach and one of the few on the island that are easily accessible by road, rather than by boat.
- Its dozens of shops that, in a nod to the island’s history, specialize in selling the island’s highly-prized sponges, that were sought after and commanded premium prices across the region. All sizes, types and grades of sponge, from silky face sponges, to body sponges to rough exfoliating sponges. Along with these are displays of some of the ancient sponge-diving trade including first-generation diving suits and hand-operated compressors.
Not exactly the type of sights that would prompt one to fly halfway around the world, or even the Aegean to see, but that is the point of Simi. The appeal of this beautiful town lies not in its specific sights but in its charming ambience and laidback atmosphere. The joys of wandering around its curving, sometimes dead-end alleyways and stairways just to find out what type of relaxing, and photogenic scene unfolds.
All this chill that makes you want to just sit back and take it all in from one of the many harborside tables that line the harborside promenade. Meanwhile, all the restaurant displays of fresh-from-the-sea whole fish make you realize that it is time for lunch, and perhaps even a bottle of wine while you boats come into the harbor and the tourists exploring the same alleyways and shops that you just discovered. That led us to To Spitiko restaurant:
To Spitiko. After examining the displays of fresh fish, looking as the servers pulled back the gills to demonstrate the freshness of their fish and listening as they explained how they would be prepared, we made our choice: a fresh fish plate for two consisting of a whole, grilled seabream, grilled octopus, fried calamari and the island’s specialty, tiny, delicious, beet-red Symi shrimp that you eat whole, head, shell and all. And with a whole bottle of 2017 Santo Assyrtiko wine to go through, we did everything in our power to justify another plate of the wonderful shrimp. But to our chagrin, neither of us could eat another bite, no matter how tiny the shrimp.