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Rhodes

Sacred to Helios, Rhodes rarely fails sun worshippers

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The Old City of Rhodes

The Old City of Rhodes. Courtesy Peter Sommer Tours.

Courtesy Peter Sommer Tours.
Rhodes is a great break from strolling whitewashed villages on the Greek islands, if for some perverse reason you feel as if you need such a break.

The Old City of Rhodes

The restored medieval architecture of the old wall-shadowed city of Rhodes is an antidote to the brightness of the islands. Make the most of this difference by visiting the Archeological Museum of Rhodes, strangely omitted from many from-the-ship tours. The large collection includes the tombstones of many of the crusading knights of St. John, who once made this island their own. In the huge medieval-style hall that houses these, the light is dim and atmospheric. Since flash photography is forbidden in Greek museums, a low lux video camera may be your best bet to record these evocative, skull-incised stones. Other halls contain abundant items excavated around the island, and some fine statuary, including the "Marine Venus".

Lindos

A popular cruise ship destination, most off-ship tours include a visit to Lindos in the middle of the island. Lindos is a lovely village, kept that way by government decrees limiting building and assuring that restoration work is in keeping with the atmosphere of the village. When I went to Lindos, it was a rainy day. I made the mistake of stopping in a shop to grab an umbrella and jacket and lost my group. Fortunately, a kindly German tour group leader invited me to join them on the way up, but it was really unnecessary - just keep going up and you will reach the acropolis. A word on reaching that acropolis: the path up is steep, jagged, and lined with river polished stones, laid out in beautiful patterns of black and white called chochlakia. Unfortunately, this style of paving was created in part to make it difficult for pirates to plunder the island. Even in good tennis shoes, I slipped alarmingly in the light rain. I thought I was just being awkward until I started to see other tourists being carried back down - two in the space of ten minutes. During the summer months rain is rare, but if you're travelling to Lindos in the spring or fall, be careful. On the way up, catch your breath by pausing to look at the amazing lace made by women of the island and sold by them along the path to the acropolis.

However dangerous the ascent, the end result is a truly breathtaking view. Peer out over the sea from gaps in the high wall, and then pass the famous trireme carved out of the living rock on your way up to the acropolis. Here stand the lovely Doric pillars of the temple of Athena Lindos which once was the crowning jewel of this island. It was easy to imagine that the grey clouds were actually Athena's renowned grey eyes gazing down at us. From this lofty point you can also look down at the cove where St. Paul landed, now called Agios Pavlos. This acropolis is definitely not for the acrophobic!

A less-visited archeological site is the remains of the island's third major city, Kamiros.

Faliraki

While Rhodes offers something for everyone, it also is renowned as a party-hearty island with organized trips devoted mainly to pub crawling. The town of Faliraki has been the subject of many calls for crackdowns on cheap drunken travelers, and may not be the best choice for someone looking to get away from it all. While there are some nice places to stay in and around Faliraki, ask about the noise level at night.

More Souvenirs on Rhodes

Rhodes is also known for its long tradition of ceramics, and beautiful polychrome pottery is made at several factories on the island. If you are on a ship tour, a stop at one of these factories is almost guaranteed - it's a good opportunity to watch the craftspeople at work, but remember that probably everyone from the guide to the ship line is taking a cut on your purchase. You may find better, more negotiable deals in some small shops. Be on the lookout for items adorned with the two symbols of Rhodes, the famous long-lost Colossus, and the wild deer, statues of which now watch over the harbour where the Colossus once stood.

Read Before You Go

To capture the feeling of this romantic and interesting island, read Lawrence Durrell's "Reflections on a Marine Venus", recounting his long stay on the island. For a more recent look, enjoy "This Way to Paradise - Dancing on the Tables", Willard Manus' account of his family and their decades-long stay on the island.
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