After a fully exhausting day wandering the streets of Heraklion, we fell asleep quickly and slept until our persistent alarms woke us. I’m always up first, tormented by the possibility of productivity, so I was the one who got to sweep aside the curtains the morning we arrived in Rhodes.
I was greeted by one of the coolest sights I’ve ever seen.
Over several cruises we’ve learned that each port has its own style. Some, like Sao Miguel and Cobh, offer incredible views. Others, like New York and Miami, are underwhelming. Rhodes by far is my favorite. I swear, I woke my husband up with “Holy sh*t there’s a castle outside.”
Obviously, this is not a castle, just the remains of a medieval port. As we were to discover later in the day, the old port connects closely to the Old Town area where there is a medieval palace and the Avenue of the Knights. But half-asleep at the tail-end of sunrise, this was one of the Top Ten Coolest Things I’ve Ever Seen on a Cruise Ship.
That should be a post on its own. 🙂 Someday.
We were surprised in Rhodes that our itinerary for the day had changed – originally we were supposed to see the site where the Colossus of Rhodes once stood. I’m a bit obsessed with the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and I really wanted to see this, but it wasn’t meant to be. The Colossus of Rhodes was believed to have stood at the Rhodes harbor, welcoming ships from sea. Realistically, it would have been more inland, but the idea of a grand statue hovering over the port is romantic its own way. Unfortunately, the statue was destroyed by earthquakes and has not been discovered – we only know about it from ancient writings.
Instead of seeking the original site of the Colossus, we were taken to the other side of the island to Ialyssos, where we were shown a beautiful panoramic view.
Here, we were able to visit the Monastery of Filerimos. Like most of Greece, this site is built on another ancient site that was destroyed and salvaged for construction materials – the Temple of Athena. While there is still a little bit of the foundation of the temple, you can see where the stone had been used in building the monastery and other medieval buildings across Rhodes.
The monastery stands at the acropolis, which really just means “high city”. There are many acropolises across the Greek islands – it’s not unique to the one in Athens that boasts the Parthenon. Not all acropolises have been as lucky as the famous one in Athens to withstand both natural and human-caused disaster, and such is the case at Filerimos.
The original monastery was destroyed when the Ottoman Empire held Rhodes and the site we see today was rebuilt in the early 20th century by the Italians. This site once held an icon of Mary believed to cause miracles. The icon has since been relocated and a duplicate sits in its place.
Filerimos Monastery is filled with stories change and rebuilding. Aside from the temple of Athena and the replaced Icon of Mary and the original monastery that was destroyed and rebuilt, an iron cross was also erected on the site. During WWII this cross was a landmark used by allied planes and it was destroyed. Today, a tower concrete cross stands in the belvedere. Otherwise, not much has changed about the site since the early 20th century, and it’s interesting to see the layers upon layers of history there.
It’s at this point, I have to guiltily confess that although the monastery was lovely and the panoramic view was amazing, my absolute favorite thing at Filerimos were the peacocks. I didn’t do too much research into the fauna and flora of various Greek islands, and discovering a pack of very cozy peacocks at the site was a complete surprise. I confess, I was enamored. Beautiful birds.
We even got to see a few peachicks! If I even had a pet bird again, I’d want a peacock. Unfortunately, New England is a wretched habitat for peacocks so you don’t have to worry about me setting up a peacock farm. I have a gazillion peacock pictures from this morning, but the alpha decided to strut just as we were leaving and I couldn’t resist sharing this one. Look at that beautiful tail!
Once we have taken approximately one-hundred-and-six pictures of peacocks, we climbed back on the bus and began our journey back to Old Town. On the way, we got to see another couple of surprises – an ancient arena tucked back in the trees, and the remains of the Temple of Apollo. The site is currently being renovated as ancient ruins often are, but the stadium and theatre behind it remain open.
While we didn’t actually visit the site, it was unexpected and took my breath away. This was the first time since we arrived in Greece that we’d seen ruins that fit the stereotypical image in my head of a people who worships the ancient Greek gods we learn about in school. There’s so much more to the culture of course, but the stories of Artemis and Apollo in particularly stuck with me, so this was very cool to see.
Photography lesson: Don’t take photos with a polarization filter through a polarized window. You get weird results. I think it’s interesting… but this would have been such a nicer photo is I’d been able to remove the infernal filter from my lens in time.
Back in Old Town, we made our way to the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights. Speaking of pieces of the Temple of Athena being repurposed – you can see some stone of the same color in the walls of the Palace. The Kastello is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is believed to be built on the remains of a temple to Helios, Greek God of the Sun. It is here that it is believed the Colossus of Rhodes actually stood.
The palace was original built in the 8th century, then rebuilt in the 14th century, then repaired after an earthquake and rebuilt again in the 15th century. It was in constant use from the 16th until the 20th century both as a command post and a residence. When Italy turned over Rhodes and the other Dodecanese islands to Greece in 1948, the palace was turned into a museum and it remains so to this day.
There is so much to see in Rhodes, I felt strongly that we didn’t do the island justice on a single-day trip. The Palace of the Grand Master itself deserves greater attention than what we gave it on our brief tour. It hold beautiful art on mosaics from various time periods. We were unable to go into the adjacent garden, but it looked interesting, filled with imposing, impressive statues.
The statues in particular always impress me because the art form itself requires so much care and precision. The Palace’s courtyard was filled with statues in various states, and inside the building there were a few impressive works of art, including a copy of Laocoön and His Sons, which was attributed to sculptures from Rhodes.
Beyond the Palace descends the Avenue of the Knights. While, yes, it is essentially just a very long cobblestone road, it’s also incredibly well preserved for its age and along the corridor there are seven small palaces which once represented the seven countries of the Knights of the Order of St. John. It starts at the Palace of the Grand Master of Knights and slowly leads down to the Knight’s Hospital, which is now an Archaeological Museum.
While the facades on the outside of the buildings are lovely, they are not authentic to the medieval period and are largely the resulting Italian restoration. The gargoyles on the Inn of France are crocodiles, which is fun. It’s supposedly because the Grand Master supposedly killed a crocodile that had been terrorizing the citizenry.
The shopping was good in Rhodes as well and even though we were in touristy areas, we found some fun shops. I finally found a leather one bag that is big enough to tote my enormous work laptop, which I am over the moon excited about (I’ve been looking for three years!).
One of my main takeaways of Rhodes is the sheer size of the island. There are so many things to do there of all sorts of varieties that it would be quite easy to spend a whole Greek vacation on that one island. From the beautiful beaches to the historical landmarks that span multiple centuries to the local culture, there is a lot to experience on the island Rhodes.
Next week, we’ll be talking about the sacred island of Delos just a ferry ride away from popular Mykonos. See you then!
Which types of buildings do like to see – modern, medieval, or ancient? I’m not in love with most modern architecture, but I adore anything old and made of stone. Tell me about your preferences in the comments!