“They change their sky, not their soul, who rush across the sea.”
– Horace, The Odes of Horace
Rhodes, “the Island of the Sun”, is the largest of the Dodecanese islands in the Southern Aegean. Our original sightseeing plan was waylaid by a nationwide taxi strike but a day in Rhodes Town didn’t disappoint!
The Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, once stood nearby. Standing 30 meters (okay, that’s about 90 feet tall) this bronze statue was destroyed by an earthquake so no remnants remain.
Today the medieval Old Town of the City of Rhodes, a World Heritage Site (UNESCO) is right next to the port. Once you pass through the gates of the ancient citadel walls, you are transported back into the world of palaces, knights, and history.
Welcoming and friendly locals invite us into their galleries, shops and café bars. A cappuccino here, a gelato there…strolling, and enjoying, we make our way toward the Palace of Grand Masters which was built by the Knights of Rhodes. Walking along the cobblestone Street of the Knights you can almost here the hoof beats and clanging of armor.
The history and chronology of the famous Knights Hospitaller, a religious and military order of the middle ages, is long and distinguished. It includes the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem and the Knights of Rhodes who fell to the Ottomans and settled in Malta, becoming the Knights of Malta.
As we walk this ancient street, the coats of arms of the 7 main languages (called tongues) of the main groups (France, Italy, England, Germany, Spain, Provence and Auvergne) are still displayed on buildings that once housed the noble leaders and members.
The Palace is formidable and imposing! Home to the Grand Master and his family and staff, in addition to apartments, it has 80 large halls alone! As we walk through the enormous rooms echo of the past splendor. Giant sized fireplaces and exquisite mosaic floors remain from the glory days.
We end our visit by climbing to the top of a nearby bell tower for birds’ eye views of this alluring place. No need to be on the watch for the enemy today, just for a nearby taverna to quench our thirst before departing.
A day in Rhodes Town, a day well spent!