I was last in Rhodes in 1959, the largest of the Dodecanese Islands, as the Elkington family returned home from our tour in Cyprus. What I remembered most were the huge fortifications and the stack of stone cannonballs. Nor did they disappoint as I had imagined they might, partly because the giant tour ships have been pushed away from the harbour, so they don’t dwarf what were equally gigantic constructions in their own day.
The scale of the tourist industry beyond the Old Town beggars belief, as we saw as we sailed in along the coast. A useful summary of relevant history of the Old Town can be found here. Elaine and I found a wonderful restaurant – the Café Auvergne – at the foot of the Street of the Knights. Highly recommended.
We were introduced to the ruins of Our Lady of the Castle, a rare Gothic church in the region, to pebble mosaics, and to some of the extraordinary defensive architecture created by the Crusader Knights. The palace of the Grand Masters is stunning, though owing a good deal to the rebuilding – and ambitions – of the Italian occupation forces in the 1930s. First time I think I had seen the dating series tracking time from the founding of the Fascist state.
At the end of our second day in Rhodes, we head for Symi, a neoclassical port town whose pastel-coloured buildings tumble down the hills on either side of its bay.