It wasn’t so much the donkeys and roosters who woke us up on the morning of our fourth day in Lindos, but the howling of the wind. Overnight the familiar whirring of cicadas had been replaced by something that would not have sounded amiss on the soundtrack of a Hammer Horror movie. Rather than curling up and going back to sleep we got up and watched the Sun come up over the Acropolis.
If I’m going to be absolutely truthful we did nip back to bed for a crafty snooze, before hitting the pool for a couple of hours. Always keen to learn something from our fellow guests as I waggled my toes in the water, I discovered how to disable the security tags in branches of George by folding them in half, it’s not a piece of knowledge that I intend to apply I hasten to add.
That afternoon we had a trip booked for the island’s capital Rhodes Town.
It took about an hour to get to Rhodes Town. We assembled outside the city walls that date back to the time of the Knights Hospitaller. The warrior monks of the order conquered the island from the Byzantine Empire in 1309. They wanted their own place to hang out when their stay in Cyprus didn’t work out following the fall of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1291. Much of the present Old Town including the city walls dates from the time of the Knights who were eventually kicked out by the Ottoman Turks in 1522. The city walls were one of the first in Europe to be designed to withstand those new-fangled cannon and had an extensive moat to trap any invaders in a killing ground where they could be cut to pieces. There are still Ottoman cannon balls littering the moat today.
The Italians who took Rhodes off the Turks in 1912 used the moat as a prison for Greek dissidents and there is a moving sculptural tribute to those that died there just outside the city walls.
In 1943 the Italians found the tables turned when many Greek families hid their former colonist’s soldiers from the Nazis when Italy changed sides in World War II.
Entering by the main gate we passed through the narrow medieval streets towards the town centre.
To survive the regular earth tremors in the area, local buildings are pretty solid and often buttressed against one another as the photo above shows. Towards the centre of town we found one of the few remaining practicing mosques. After the Ottoman conquest only Moslems were allowed to live within the city walls, so the Greek Orthodox churches became mosques. When most of the Turks left only a few remained mosques to serve the island’s small Moslem community.
By far the most impressive building in the Old Town is the palace of the Grand Master Of the Order of the Knights Hospitaller of the Order of St John of Jerusalem.
The palace was originally built-in the fourteenth century. During the Ottoman occupation it was used as a prison and ammunition magazine. In 1856 a lightning strike caused the magazine to blow up and destroyed much of the palace. What you see today is an Italian reconstruction built as a palace for King Victor Emmanuel III and Mussolini and now a museum.
The Knights were a pretty international bunch. By far the largest contingent came from France, but there were also knights from England, Scotland, Spain, Italy and the German states all of whom have left mementoes in the buildings on the Street of the Knights.
After taking dinner at a delightful little taverna called Romio’s (included in the trip), we went for a drink in the Piazza where entertainment was provided by a massive barney, complete with shouting and pushing, between the staff of the Palazzo and Archipelago restaurants over poaching each others customers.
The final part of our trip took us out of the old town into the Mandraki area and down past the rather imposing Italian Fascist architecture of the port for a moonlit cruise around the harbour. To be honest it wasn’t exactly a cruise ship, more a ferry complete with car deck below, but the harbour was beautiful lit up after dark and the brief moment out to sea allowed the stars to be seen away from the light pollution of the resort areas.
We booked the trip online through the Thomson holidays website, cost £50.99 including dinner. You could probably find a similar excursion cheaper in resort.