Your crash course on the Isle of the Knights: its sights, beaches and some of its more unusual inhabitants.
The medieval Old Town of Rhodes is no longer the target of attackers, although it may appear at times to be under siege by mass tourism. This UNESCO-protected World Heritage Site combines vestiges from a glorious past – Byzantine temples, Crusader-era buildings and Ottoman mosques – with a lively present. On its streets, you expect armored warriors, mounted on their horses, to turn up at any moment – and the feeling intensifies once you’re in the Palace of the Grand Master, which was the order’s headquarters.
The fact that it was rebuilt almost from scratch by the Italians (many parts of the original building were destroyed in 1856 following a massive explosion in a gunpowder storeroom) takes nothing away from the feeling you’ll have of being transported back in time.
The classical city of Rhodes was founded in 408 BC on the site of present-day capital of the island by three towns – Ialyssos, Kamiros and Lindos – all acting together. All three of these ancient towns are now archeological sites which you can visit; Lindos, with its acropolis, is the most famous. Each year, countless eyes gaze in awe at its temple, erected in the 4th c. BC in honor of the goddess Athena, and the Crusader-era castle that was subsequently built.
The village, with its Cycladic architecture and its beautiful kapetanospita (traditional sea captain’s houses), is equally popular. Tycoons and politicians, Hollywood artists and rock stars have all been strolling through its alleys and swimming at its three beaches. And despite it being a tourist hotspot, you can’t help falling in love with Lindos.
The defensive structures that knights built include more than the famous fortifications of the Old Town and of Lindos. You’ll find the fortresses of Monolithos and Kritinia on the western part of the island, and those of Feraklos, Archangelos and Asklipeio on its eastern side. Most of these spots were also fortified in antiquity or the Byzantine era as well, since they are the most strategic points of this spearhead-shaped island. It goes without saying that they all offer spectacular views.
Locals suggest visiting Monolithos Castle at sunset, but you can also enjoy the sight from the Castle of Kritinia, where various events, including a medieval festival, are held.
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