Rodos or Rhodes is the capital of the Dodecanese Islands, the farthest of the Greek islands from the mainland. It is a rather large island second only to Crete in size. It was an important centre in the 5th to 3rd centuries BC. It was part of Roman and Byzantine empires before being conquered by the Knights of St. John in 1310. Fringed by sandy beaches, with good hiking and lively nightlife, Rhodes attracts thousands of tourists in normal circumstance years. There is no connection between Rhodes the island and the Oxford University Rhodes Scholarship which was established through the will of Cecil John Rhodes. We had time to see the Acropolis of Rhodes, the Palace of the Grand Masters, the Street of Knights and wander the streets of the old town. The famous Colossus of Rhodes statue was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world but collapsed during an earthquake in 226 BC.. It is no longer visible however constructing a new one has been envisioned. Acro means highest, topmost, or farthest and polis means city. In ancient Greece, an acropolis was a settlement, especially a citadel built on a high hill with steep sides which provided a good defensive position. We toured around the site with our guide but after having seen Ephesus the day before, it was hard to hold our interest for long.
The Palace of the Grand Masters was the highlight. Founded by the Knights of St John also known as the Knights Hospitaller, the Knights of Rhodes and the Knights of Malta. This order was founded around 1099 in Jerusalem to provide care for poor or injured pilgrims coming to the Holy Land. It is named after St John the Baptist. The order was also present for pilgrims during the middle ages on Spain’s Camino de Santiago after taking over from the Knights Templar. Several organizations continue the Hospitaller tradition today such as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. The Palace of the Grand Masters had been a fortress but became the knights administration centre and home of their Grand Master. It is one of the few examples of a gothic architecture in Greece. We enjoyed touring its insides and out and dreaming of the days of the chivalrous Knights and of their mysterious Grand Masters. Routed by the Ottoman Empire in 1522, eventually Italy took over their palace which served as a holiday home for Benito Mussolini. His name can be seen on a plaque inside. Italy transferred ownership of the Dodecanese Islands to Greece in 1948. Lots of fascinating history here under the dry warm sunshine. Next we sauntered down the Street of the Knights in the UNESCO World Heritage medieval town centre. Along this 640m long cobbled street, the Knights of St. John constructed 7 different inns in the early 16th century. These represented the 7 countries that the Knights had originated from. Each facade is decorated with emblems and details of the home country. Auberge de France is the most splendid example. These inns are still functional today.
It was soon time to head back to the Nautica. We had had another full day of sightseeing and were ready to relax over dinner and a drink.The newly envisioned Colossus of Rhodes bids us goodbye.