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Clare
Clare

Days 1 & 2: Home to Rhodes Town

Last June I was setting off on a rather chilly holiday to Greenland. This June I had a different (and significantly warmer!) trip planned to Rhodes, with my sister Helen.

Our journey started on Saturday lunchtime when we met in Birmingham airport, slightly apprehensive about what the queuing situation there might be. The airport had had some really bad press over recent weeks, with long queues forming outside the terminal building as a result of work being done to install new security scanners. Expecting the worst, we'd got there around 2.5 hours before our flight but in the end everything turned out to be fine! We were able to check in straightaway at the Ryanair kiosks, we barely spent 5 minutes in the queue for security and it was loads easier not having to take electronics out of our bags now that the new scanners are up and running. Once we'd got through all the checks we still had two hours to go before the flight, which gave us plenty of time for a leisurely lunch in All Bar One.

The flight ended up taking off with a slight delay, as some passengers seemingly hadn't made it and their luggage required offloading. Once that was dealt with we were on our way, setting off on the 4-hour journey towards Rhodes. It was cloudy over parts of Europe but we got a glimpse of the snowy Alps and were then able to make out some bits of the Croatian coastline. There was a disappointing lack of commentary from the pilot, but with the help of offline maps we could see that we must have flown across the Balkans towards Thessaloniki, then out over the sea towards Rhodes. We had some great views of the Turkish coastline as well as other Greek islands such as Kos, before finally coming in to land.

Greece is two hours ahead of the UK, so it was around 8pm local time before we touched down. Passport control was efficient and we were soon outside the airport, joining a queue for the airport bus. There was a bit of a wait before it came, so it was after 9pm and pretty dark by the time we got as far as the bus station in Rhodes. We're staying in a hotel right in the centre of the old town, so we didn't have too far to walk once we got off the bus, although we ended up having to carry our suitcases at times rather than roll them over the cobbled streets.

It was a hotel with a proper reception, so even though it was quite late by this point there was a lady there at reception to check us in and show us to our room.

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It felt like a long time since dinner by this point, so once we'd settled in we set out into the town to see whether we could track down something to eat. It was after 10pm by this point so a bit borderline as to whether restaurants were still serving, even in a country where people do tend to eat late. We eventually found a place that seemed like a hybrid between a restaurant and a kebab shop and was definitely still open. I had a huge chicken souvlaki tortilla.

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When we woke up the next morning we were able to get a proper look at where we were staying in the sunshine. 

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It's on a very picturesque little street.

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The hotel has a garden area where we were able to sit outside and eat breakfast, before heading out to explore the town. The first sight we came to, just down the road from the hotel, was some Byzantine ruins. 

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At the end of that road we came to what seems to be the main square, complete with fountain. 

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It had been very lively around here last night, with all these bars and restaurants full of people, but it seemed much quieter on a Sunday morning.

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From the square little streets lead in all directions.

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We were looking for one street in particular, the Street of the Knights, which is home to the main buildings of the Knights Hospitaller, a medieval military order who lived on Rhodes for several centuries prior to the capture of the island by the Ottomans in 1522.

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When I came to Rhodes last autumn with Tim, this was the busiest part of town, bustling with large groups of cruise ship tourists.

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This morning it was practically deserted and it was amazing to be able to walk down it by ourselves and admire the historical buildings.

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Once you get to the top of the street, you arrive at the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes.

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This is a huge, very impressive castle.

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You have to pay to go inside it - which we didn't do because we were unsure how much there is to see inside - but there are some small grounds which it's possible to stroll around for free.

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The gardens were decorated with statues and assorted remains. There was a sculpture which might have been a lion...

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...a group of statues, only some of which had heads...

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...and from the far edge we could just get a glimpse of the sea.

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As we headed away from the palace, we got a view of one of the town's mosques.

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The Ottomans ruled the island from 1522 until 1912, so there are plenty of visible reminders of that period.

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We also found an Islamic library.

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Around the corner from there we came across a historic clock tower. It's possible to climb to the top but signs didn't say how much it cost - only that the price included a free drink at the restaurant underneath - so we decided to give that a miss and keep moving.

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As we explored the various walls and fortifications of the old town, we came across some beautiful trees and flowers.

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I really loved all the bright pinks and purples.

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Last time I came to Rhodes was in October, and I definitely don't think there were as many flowers then.

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We found a place where we were able to walk along the walls slightly, but it soon turned into a dead end.

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We climbed back down and started walking along by the sea instead.

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I thought there was a cruise ship in the harbour today, but closer inspection revealed that it was just a large ferry.

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We were walking towards some windmills in one of the harbours.

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They were really cool to see.

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It is actually quite windy in this part of Rhodes - which helps make the warm temperatures more bearable - so I can see it would be a good location for windmills!

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There's also a fortress at the far end of the harbour...

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...plus a good view of Turkey, which is really very close.

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As we came back round from the harbour we could see part of the town where there seemed to be more Italian influence. The Italians captured the island from the Ottomans in 1912.

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We could also see these two statues of deer - one either side of the harbour - which allegedly mark the spot where the Colossus of Rhodes once stood.

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After admiring the sea views for a while we went back into the old town through one of the many gates in the walls.

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The fortifications were so impressive that it was hard to stop constantly taking photos, although for the locals this is just a car park :D 

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Once back in the town we explored the remains of a church...

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...found another mosque...

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...and then sat down for a rest in a shady cafe with an iced coffee.

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Everything in Rhodes is pretty good value; the coffees were only EUR 3.50 each despite being in quite a touristy area.

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Suitably refreshed, we found another mosque (not in a great state of repair)...

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...walked down some more narrow streets...

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...and then exited the town through a gate on the opposite side.

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From here we had a really good view of the former moat.

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The reason for leaving the old town behind was that we wanted to walk towards the Acropolis of Rhodes. It was about 15 minutes away - and slightly tricky to navigate - but we made it. Entry was free, which was a relief because initially there didn't seem to be much to see.

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However, once we progressed a bit further through the grounds we came to the old stadium, which was really quite impressive.

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There was also an ancient theatre of some sort here.

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The tiers of the stadium weren't too high so we were able to climb up and sit on the benches for a better view. 

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From there we made our way uphill, towards where the Temple of Apollo once stood. It's currently being renovated, so there wasn't much to see behind the scaffolding.

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When we'd checked into the hotel last night, the lady had told us that there was a great view of Rhodes from up here.

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We could see the sea, which was definitely nice, but we seemed to be too far away to see anything of the old town.

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Never mind, we walked back down and made our way to the centre, where we found a lovely restaurant to sit outside and eat pizza. At the end of the meal the waiter offered us a free glass of limoncello, which was surprisingly nice; sweet and not too strong.

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It felt like we'd reached the hottest part of the afternoon by this point so we headed back to the hotel to enjoy the air-conditioning for a while!




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