Colossal Rhodes 18th -23rd May
This is a bit long so apologies in advance! Also loads of pics.
We had 2 stops on the little island of Symi, one in Panormitis Bay where there is a large Monastery noted for the miracles occurring there over the years. It is noted also for its two-toned goats and unidentified squawking birds that we suspect are escaped parrots or such-like that have now bred and colonised the area. The second stop was pretty little Pethi, a fishing village currently being done up with holiday homes. These were stepping stones to Rhodes.
A fabulous island. We had been put off by warnings of difficulties getting berths, rude Port Police, Charter Boat mania, etc. but wanted to give it a go. We avoided the weekend charter change-over and coming in May is still fairly early in the season. We were guided in by a very helpful Yeoryios, two nights for a modest fee, very little paperwork and no Port police. We were put on the old harbour wall in Mandraki Harbour, between 3 windmills and St Nicholas Tower (see pic), having passed the narrow entrance which a bronze Sun God Helios, alias Colossus of Rhodes, allegedly bestrode. There are now roe and buck deer statues on pillars either side. Yeoryios (George) also arranged for a hire car to be delivered to our boat the following morning. I love the Greek honesty - the hire company delivered on time; they wanted to collect from the boat at 9pm that evening. Fine, we said, but if we are not there when you come? Out or in, you just leave the keys under the driver's mat and leave the car unlocked. We always do that. No fear of it being stolen, no fear that we haven't left any fuel in it or need to check that we haven't bashed or scraped it! Lovely. In the end we will have stayed 5 nights (4 in the harbour, more of that later), partly due to windy conditions. But there is so much to see and do, it didn't matter.
We have explored the large old town (founded in 408BC by the three main city leaders of the day), getting lost in the maze of little streets and alleyways, going up onto the ramparts and visiting museums. The town became the main maritime power and flourished. The bronze sculpture of Helios (Colossus) created by Chares of Lindos was erected in 265BC near (possible astride?) the harbour entrance, but was destroyed by an earthquake in 226BC and the fragments and bits eventually sold off!
The Old Town contains the Collachium or Fortress of the Knights of St John, with the Grand Master's Palace (14th C) on the highest corner. It is vast. Leading from the Palace is the Knights Street (Odos Ipoton) - a medieval cobbled street lined by Inns. The Knights were divided into nations according to their language. Each nation had its own Inn and Bailiff, but were governed overall by the Grand Master. So down this street are the Inns of France (biggest), Castile (Spain), Italy, England, Provence, Aragon and Auvergne. At the other end lies the Order's Hospital, now a wonderful museum. I wonder if there is an etymological connection between the names of these Inns and our Inns of Court and Temple Inns, etc. There is a pot-pourri of architectural styles, including Ottoman mosques and Byzantine walls. For the rest, the streets are crammed full of cafes, restaurants and tourist shops trying to sell you "stuff".
With the hire car we drove down to Lindos, to climb up to its Acropolis, originally 6thC BC with a temple to Athena. It was built upon and used as a fortress from then, through to Byzantine times, the Knights of St Johns and more recent Ottoman rule. It is still very impressive! Monumented-out, we then wound through the middle of the island, pine and jasmine-scented, with bright oleander everywhere, and vineyards, lemon and olive groves. To Kastellos on the west coast, Butterfly Valley (too early for butterflies, still at pupae stage, but lovely valley) and Seven Springs.
It has been hot and sunny, but blowy for heading back north. We set out on Wednesday lunchtime (without incident), only to be beaten back by a lumpy sea and headwinds. Re-anchored and in previous spot. Today (Friday) we set off again to catch the morning relative calm only to find our anchor well and truly snagged on a harbour chain about 30m out. We tried all the usual tricks to free ourselves, but eventually had to admit defeat and called for a diver. €50 down, but we were free. Having wasted a good part of the morning though and with the wind and sea state building once more, we scuttled round to anchor just outside the harbour by the windmills. Tomorrow's forecast is better, so we'll head off then. A brilliant few days, though, and we are so glad we got down here to Rhodes - before the meltemi sets in!