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Rhodes Town - Old and New by Liz Canham

#31 - 17 - 5 - Rhodes Town - Old and New by Liz Canham
[ 2008-03-20 10:59:37 ] - lizc

Rhodes Town is divided in two - the Old Town with its Knights' Quarter and the Bourg - and the New Town with its modern buildings and the harbour.
We started at the Freedom Gate of the Knights' Quarter, parking the hired car in Symi Square, just inside the gate and opposite the ruined Temple of Aphrodite.. The Freedom Gate was named by the Italians who saw themselves as the island's liberators from Turkish rule. The Greeks were of the same opinion when they took over from the Italians after the Second World War so they kept the name.

The moat, which never did contain water, is planted with bougainvillea, palm trees, roses and more besides and is the home of dozens of wild cats and kittens, fed by a kindly local. I have a wonderful photograph of a tabby kitten curled up into a tiny ball, sleeping in a yellow feeding bowl.

On then to Plata Argirokstrou with its central marble fountain, a Byzantine font, which stands outside the 14th century armoury complete with neatly piled cannon balls.

The Knights' Hospital is well-preserved and is the reason for the island's defences and the raison d'tre of the Order of the Knights of St. John and now houses a museum. The cobbled medieval Street of the Knights is worth a walk with its carved emblems and occasional half-hidden gardens and culminating on Plata Kleovolos where stands the reconstructed Palace of the Grand Masters. Its rebuilding was ordered by Mussolini and it bears no resemblance to the original.

From the Knights' Quarter to the Bourg, starting with the Turkish Quarter and the Mosque of Suleiman in various shades of pink, complete with its great dome but missing its minaret which became unstable and was dismantled. Opposite the mosque are the huge carved doors of the Turkish Library with an Arabic inscription above.

On the way to Socrates Square lies the Agha Mosque. The square bustles with activity and in its centre is the Sintrivani fountain and perching on top of its short minaret, a small green owl. Also in the square is the Castellania - the medieval courthouse upstairs and the stock exchange downstairs.

Behind is the Mosque of Ibrahim Pasha and then, if you're not completely lost in the maze of lanes which is the Turkish Quarter, you should find your way to the Jewish Quarter. The Square of the Jewish Martyrs is where the 2000 Jews who remained at the time of German occupation in 1943 were gathered together and deported to concentration camps. The square now boasts a modern fountain topped by bronze seahorses behind which stands the Episcopal Palace. Through an archway you can glimpse the synagogue and towards the harbour the ruined Church of Our Lady of the Bourg.

The ramparts offer a fantastic view of the old town and across the rooftops the clock tower. If you feel like a walk and aren't afraid of heights you will discover a world completely invisible from the streets below.

The most scenic part of the New Town of Rhodes is Mandrki Harbour with bronze statues of a stag and a doe guarding its entrance and the three windmills which remain of the original 14 erected to mill grain for the cargo boats and at the end of the pier St. Nicholas Fort, now a lighthouse.

Alongside the harbour, the New Market, looking somewhat Moorish is attractive and filled with shops, cafs and restaurants from which to watch the world go by. Otherwise there are some unprepossessing administrative buildings then the equally ugly national theatre and town hall saw us turn our backs on the Rhodes town and heading back to the hotel for a swim.

From Travellers' Tales
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Rhodes - Venturing into the Interior by Liz Canham

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