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I had long wanted to go to Rhodes and this autumn I finally got to this glorious eastern Greek island. My interest was particularly piqued by its connection with the Knights of St John Hospitaller (but, spoiler alert – there is much more to it than that). Having written a lot about Malta, which was ruled by the Knights for more than 250 years, I hoped to trace these warrior monks back to their previous Mediterranean home on Rhodes. They took the island from the Byzantines in 1306-9, and lost it when their arch-enemies, the Ottoman Turks, laid siege in 1522 – 500 years ago next year. My other reason for going to Rhodes was simpler. I love Greece. It has my perfect holiday combination of sun, sea and spectacular historic sights – not to mention a relaxed atmosphere, comfortable accommodation, and great food at reasonable prices.

 

Philerminos monastery. Credit: Juliet Rix Philerminos monastery. Credit: Juliet Rix

So it was that I found myself trundling across a narrow bridge over a deep dry moat, between towering bastion walls, in a little white golf buggy driven by Paris. As dusk descended, we pulled up at a tall gate on a tiny alley striped with buttresses between stone facades, some dating back to the time of the Knights. The Paris Garden Hotel is right in the heart of the Medieval Old Town and the following morning I couldn’t resist a quick explore before breakfast. Directly opposite I found the colourful Byzantine chapel of St Fanourios and, just around the corner, Dorieos Square, dappled beneath giant ficus trees. Here my every move was traced by the green eyes of a black cat sitting like some mythical proprietor on the ritual fountain in front of the Ottomans’ Retzep Pasha Mosque. And this was just my first twenty minutes. The whole of the Old Town was in walking distance and I explored by sunny day and flood-lit night.

 

Paris Hotel, Rhodes Old Town. Credit: Juliet Rix Paris Hotel, Rhodes Old Town. Credit: Juliet Rix
Rhodes Old Town. Credit: Rod Standing Rhodes Old Town. Credit: Rod Standing
Agios Fanourios, Rhodes Old Town. Credit: Juliet Rix Agios Fanourios, Rhodes Old Town. Credit: Juliet Rix

There was plenty to satisfy my interest in the Knights (much of it restored, reconstructed or re-Christianised by the Italians, who replaced the Ottomans in 1912). Besides the dramatic fortifications that circle this citadel city, there’s the fortress-like Grand Master’s Palace, the churches, the stony-faced Street of the Knights where they lived in language groups, and their arcaded fifteenth-century hospital, now the Archaeological Museum. Here I browsed an extraordinary range of exhibits, from cute 2,500-year-old clay animals to seventh-century BC engraving tools, and from Mycenaean grave goods to classical statuary.

 

Animal vessel 550 BC found at Kamiros. Rhodes Archaeological Museum. Credit: Juliet Rix Animal vessel 550 BC found at Kamiros. Rhodes Archaeological Museum. Credit: Juliet Rix
Kamiros, Rhodes. Credit: Juliet Rix Kamiros, Rhodes. Credit: Juliet Rix

Rhodes has a whole host of history beyond the Knights of St John. Layer laid on cultural layer by Ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Turks, Italians and modern Greeks. Hellenistic Temples vie for attention with Byzantine murals, Roman mosaics with monumental 1930s architecture. I hire a car to drive right round the island, spending a night in picture-postcard Lindos, dominated by its dramatic acropolis, and another at the Limeri Guesthouse (with wonderful rustic food) in the mountain village of Monolithos.

 

On the west coast of Rhodes. Credit: Rod Standing On the west coast of Rhodes. Credit: Rod Standing
Lindos village and Acropolis. Credit: Juliet Rix Lindos village and Acropolis. Credit: Juliet Rix
Lindos Acropolis. Credit: Juliet Rix Lindos Acropolis. Credit: Juliet Rix

My circumnavigation became a vertical zig-zag between romantic castles perched high on the cliffs and glorious beaches down below. And that is the beauty of an autumn visit. The crowds have gone but the sun has not. It is cool enough to climb, but warm enough to sunbathe, swim and sit over a supper of local specialities al fresco.

 

Monolithos Castle. Credit: Juliet Rix Monolithos Castle. Credit: Juliet Rix
Monolithos Castle. Credit: Juliet Rix Monolithos Castle. Credit: Juliet Rix

Juliet Rix (www.julietrix.com) is an award-winning travel writer, and freelance journalist working for national and international media including the Telegraph, Times, Guardian, and BBC. She is the author of the Bradt Guide to Malta & Gozo and her articles on Rhodes, courtesy of her visit to the island organised by Sunvil, will appear in Wanderlust magazine and the Times in the first quarter of 2022.

 

The Sunvil Family

By The Sunvil Family

15th December 2021



The Sunvil Family
The Sunvil Family
The Sunvil Family

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