It is many years since I have been to Rhodes – probably 17 years during my last visit to Tilos and surrounding islands. To be honest, 17 years ago I was so eager to get off the island and onto the ferry, I didn’t really give Rhodes a chance. It could have been something to do with the 2am arrival at Diagoras Airport with at least 100 lads drunk all ready to live it up in Faliraki. Thank heavens that seems to have changed over the years, but now I’m glad I’ve got the opportunity to spend some quality time on Rhodes using it as a base island during the next leg of my trip. It is likely I will be staying in Rhodes on three different occasions as I bounce back and forth on this trip!
This time around we have a day and a half to explore Rhodes Old Town. Tomorrow evening we catch the 7pm ferry to Nisyros.
From the 7 Palms it is about a twenty minute walk to reach the edge of the old town. The walk down Mitropoleos gives me the chance to look at those beautiful old mansions that I noticed yesterday. This street is paradise for door and window lovers!
We enter the old town through the gate of Agios Ioannis (St John) which is just one of twelve gates that lead into the ancient city. We then proceed to take just a slow amble that takes in the beautiful streets and alleyways. There are maps located on walls throughout the old city but I much prefer to amble and just stumble across things – that way you may end up in the most interesting of places accidentally.
This medieval old town really is unique. The vaulted alleyways were built to give stability to the houses in case of earthquakes. There must be miles and miles of hokaklia pebble flooring – so much work must have gone into creating this. I’m fascinated to see that down the middle of the pebble flooring there is a strip of pebbles all lined up parallel to each other, creating little drainage channels. Genious!
Rhodes Old Town is very touristy and I’m sure the local bars and tavernas are geared up for attracting the people that visit from the cruise ships. By this I mean waiters standing outside bars and tavernas ‘encouraging’ you to come in ‘just for a coffee.’ This is particularly so in an area we came to know as parrot square – if you’ve been there you will know where I mean! I personally don’t like this type of approach and am more likely to go into a place where I have the chance to look without being hassled – but I think this is the way it’s done in popular destinations. We did find a very special place just outside of the hubbub called Minos Roof Garden Cafe. The café itself is on the roof of the pension and offers wonderful views over the town over to the coast. We spot several minarets on the skyline and make a note to seek them out. They do a range of really fabulous crepes here too!
After our refreshment break we head over to Mandraki harbour and take the coastal path around the outside of the city walls. At Mandraki port we walk past the Rhodes windmills to the fort of St Nikolaos.
The next ‘must do’ is to visit the Colossus of Rhodes – or at least where the Colossus is alleged to have once stood! It boggles the mind to imagine what this ‘colossal’ statue must have looked like in situ. I know there have been proposals to rebuild the Colossus but you would hope that this would be as an authentic a replica as possible using the traditional craft methods to make it as opposed to a resin statue like something you’d see on a Hollywood stage set. Time will tell!
Close by is the Governors Palace with amazing architecture – the brickwork is very photo-worthy!
Also worth a flyby with the camera is the main post office in Liberty Square. The post office was built between 1912 and 1943 during the Italian reign. The very opulent building was designed by Italian architect Florestani di Fausto and features interesting carvings on the building’s façade.
Continuing our way around the coastal path we walk past Eli Beach and as far up as Rhodes Aquarium at the very tip of the island. You feel as though you can almost touch Turkey from here! The sand beaches along this part of the coast are quite busy but it looks like a nice beach to swim in.
On the way back we seek out one of the mosques that we’d noticed from Minas Rooftop Café. The entrance to the Mosque of Murad Reis evaded us at first. We could see the Turkish cemetery through the railing but at first couldn’t find the entrance. Anyway, as we circumnavigated the outer perimeter we found this sign which we wouldn’t have found if we knew what we were doing! Villa Cleobolus where Lawrency (Larry) Durrel lived and wrote in the 1940’s.
The entrance to the mosque and Turkish cemetery is very discreet and there doesn’t appear to be any obvious signage but just look for the blue doors on the façade facing the sea. When we visited, the mosque wasn’t open for visitors and seemed to be undergoing refurbishment but the workmen told us we were free to walk around the cemetery. And what an attractive cemetery it is. The headstones were so interesting and nothing like I have seen before. This is also a lovely place to visit if you want a little bit of tranquillity and shade as it is so peaceful as there were no other visitors there.
From the mosque we head inside the city walls again. The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights dominates. The Street of the Knights of Rhodes feels austere and military but it’s amazing to imagine how it must have been in the 14th century when the Knights Hospitaller lodged in one of the seven Inns. The seven inns represented the seven languages that were spoken by the knights, or their birthplace – England, France, Germany, Italy, Aragon, Auvergne and Provence.
It is easy to become overwhelmed with the many things to see and do in Rhodes Old Town but at this moment in time we have worn ourselves out. We still have a half an hour walk from here to 7 Palms and already my Fitbit tells me that I have walked over 9 miles today. I’m not sure I’ll be able to walk again after today but as it’s technically our only night in Rhodes Old Town we all summon up the energy to get ready to go out for a meal. Before this I sample the pool at 7 Palms which certainly helps to sooth the aching bones!
We follow the same route as before, through the St John gate into the old town. We don’t have the energy to walk into the centre of the old town so we look for somewhere close by. Close to the Akantia gate which is one of the arched gates facing the sea, is a taverna called Nimmos where we spot that it has a roof terrace. Although the roof terrace is empty the staff tell us that we are more than welcome to dine up there.
Nimmos is a fabulous family run taverna and the hospitality is wonderful. The staff tell us that the family are from Symi and the restaurant is named after the small island thats sits off the coast of Symi. Our first Greek meal of the trip as a family doesn’t disappoint – the kleftiko was exceptional. I get the feeling we’ll be back to this restaurant again!