Monday, 26 September 2016

A Return To Rhodes

Tuesday 13 September 2016. Thomson Dream diverts to Rhodes for the day. We had been scheduled to spend the day at Syros, Turkey, but the wind was a bit too much for the single tugboat at Syros to bring us safely to dock. Our captain took the decision to divert and, as we love Rhodes, we are not too disappointed.

So we can pile off the ship happy that we will be able to wander round without getting lost. Moored opposite us on the narrow jetty is Costa Riviera. We exit the port by a different gate than we have been used to and walk along the coastal road towards the city.

The Marine Gate was the main entrance to the city. It has reliefs of St John and St Paul and the Virgin Mary. We decide to carry on walking around the coast road though.

Some of these boats are shops. Racks of shelves on the back swing open like doors to double the width of the ship and they sell goods made of shells and sea sponges and loofahs.

There is a small fortress on the corner of a dog's leg on the coast. It gave command of the approaches to Rhodes from the sea and withstood sieges from the Ottoman Turks.

It was the entrance to the city used by St Paul on his travels once he left the Holy Land. The bridge to the fortress is still known as St Paul's Bridge. From here the coastal path leads to the old harbour, now more a marina for private and fishing hire boats.

The two columns are said to be sited where the legs of the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the World once held up the mighty statue, so large that ships could pass between his legs without their masts bringing tears to his eyes...

We have a rest on a bench before heading into the town itself. We walk back, retracing our steps for a little while before entering the city here, on a path we aren't too familiar with.

We find ourselves walking round the main fortress in a part of Rhodes we haven't seen before.

The castle was the stronghold of the Knights Hospitallers, who moved to Rhodes following the loss of Jerusalem to the Saracens. The fortress is huge and it's a fair walk around the massive walls.

It is very hot. Small lizards bask on the warm stones, but scurry away as we approach. The dry moat that we are walking round is a perfect killing ground. Cannon embrasures are angled to cover the approaches from either side.

We are approaching the town and I start to recognise bits of wall towering above us that we have walked on top of on previous visits. We pass under the arch into the castle outer bailey and then through a tunnel under the main gate. You can see a couple in the distance on the left about to pass through the tunnel. Look for two grey dots (I did say they were in the distance) between the tree and the woman in the red top under the shadow of the arch. It is dark in the tunnel but not so dark that I fail to spot the large square murder holes in the ceiling. Hot oil or rocks could be dropped down these onto the heads of any invaders.

We come onto streets that we had trod before. Maris had told us to look out for a cafe called the Blue Lagoon near the castle. We would know it because there was a parrot in a cage near it. This one is called Mama Mika but it fits all the other criteria and the under tablecloth had a blue design of fish and shells so we wonder whether it had changed names. Our drinks come in glass wellington boots that are quite heavy!

There is no shortage of cafe bars in Rhodes! They line the streets everywhere. We take a turning from the main street and again find ourselves exploring new territory.

And then back to the main street leading down towards the ruined cathedral and the Marine Gate.

Pottery, dresses, jewellery, carpets, wall plaques are just some of the goods on offer. The cafe owners will quite happily watch you turn down half a dozen invites from cafe bars further up the road. Each time you refuse one of their neighbours makes them more convinced you are waiting until you reach their cafe bar...

We make our way back to the port. We walk past the gate where we usually had left and entered and reach the gate where we came out this morning. Which is locked... Back to the usual gate then! There is some restoration work going on to the old windmills and walls of the docks.

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