Rhodes - Old Town

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Our second Greek island: Rhodes. The island is called “the sun island”, because there are hardly any days when the sun doesn’t shine. Even Greeks flock here from the mainland to holiday. Coming from windy Santorini (that had turned very chilly during our stay), we were relieved to find that Rhodes still had sunny skies and 75 degree weather. In early November. We wished we had come earlier.

Rhodes is the biggest of the Dodecanese islands. The population of Rhodes Town alone is several times larger than all of Santorini. We were expecting many similarities between the two Greek islands, but were surprised how different they were scenically. Santorini was covered in little white-washed houses clustered on top of high cliffs. Now we see flat and definitely not white. Rhodes has an “old town” that is built inside ancient castle walls, complete with arrowslits for defense, non-functioning drawbridges, and a dry mote around the wall. The old town is littered with old canon balls the size of basketballs. It’s the oldest inhabited medieval town in Europe. Within the town are the ruins of the Temple of Venus, which dates to the 3rd century BC. The homes, shops, and restaurants are block buildings, several stories high, built out of matching tan stones to blend in with the castle and walls. Many of the small streets and lanes in the old town do not have names, so getting a little lost is easy. The cobblestone streets look like they took way too long to make, and are not traveled by car. At times, it seems there are more cats living in the old town than humans. 

Our week in this old quiet town was perhaps the most laid-back week yet. Since we had already experienced Greek culture for a bit, there was no shock with language, food, and customs. There was also not much to see outside of the small old town, so our days were long. The old town was deserted since it is mostly a place for tourists. The shops that lined the main street of the old town sold classic Greek items like leather sandals, sea sponges, shells, and blended spices labeled "moussaka" and "Greek mix for lamb". They bustled for a couple hours in the morning when cruise ships dumped a bunch of old white people, then closed up early (before 3pm). 

We stayed in a homey family-owned hotel nestled in the quiet medieval town. Since the summer has passed, we were the only guests in the hotel for the entire week (besides one night). An elderly husband and wife ran the place, and we heard them chatting in the kitchen every morning and passed as they ate their dinner in the cozy kitchen (which always smelled delicious). The walls in the kitchen had displays of family pictures. Sometimes their grown kids came by and a curly haired grandchild played in the bright yellow courtyard. What a great retirement project—to run a small hotel. Every morning, the wife made us coffee and gave us a slice of home baked cake or bread with jam. Near our table in the courtyard, hung a glass blue eye that wards off evil, according to Greek legend. Our room had a back door that opened into a charming little backyard. The couple had laid mini golf green on the entire lawn. In the center was a picnic table with benches. Surrounding the premises were dozens of plants, flowers, and pots. Tucked in among the greenery was a mish-mash of figurines from nude statues to stone bunnies, from stone fountains to Snow White and the seven dwarfs. We spent a few afternoons out here drinking tea, reading, or cross-stitching (yes, I bought cross-stitching supplies and made my first cross stitch using a free rose pattern off the internet! I couldn’t put it down for days until it was complete, and haven’t picked it up since). The day we left Rhodes, they were cleaning out the hotel and closing up for the winter.

- Julia


  1. it's so funny, i took almost exactly the fifth picture down! identical!

    it's also funny to see the old town so deserted, it was just swarming with people when i was there!

    did you guys make it to lindos? that was one of my favourite parts of the whole trip...

  2. that child! that old man! such characters.

  3. So lovely! Your travel documentary fuels my own desire to travel and travel and travel. Can't wait to see where you go next!

  4. This set is the most personalized, full of hints and details, the most intimate that you've post this far. I don't know why, but something special is connecting you to the place :)

    P.s : her bare feet look gorgeous !

  5. It looks just lovely. The old man and the cat asleep on top of the motorbike are so cute.

  6. Janis, you must have a good eye. ;) Yes, we went down to Lindos for a day (and took our first real swim!). We'll be posting that soon.

  7. These pictures are incredible. I love the castle and the cannon balls, so cool!

  8. Julia, Im glad you are doing a little craft project on the side of all your taveling. Thats awesome!!