Rhodes was once home to one of the wonders of the ancient world – the colossus of Rhodes, a giant statue which stood at the harbor. This replica of the ancient Greek sun god Helios was built by Charles of Lindos to celebrate Rhodes’ victory over an unsuccessful siege by Cypress in 305 BC. Construction took 12 years, starting in 292 BC and completing in 280 BC. The statue was stood about as high as New York’s Statue of Liberty, the tallest statue of the era.
Some of the iron and bronze used in its construction came from weapons left behind by the army from Cypress. The statue only stood for 54 years before falling in an earthquake in 226 BC. The earthquake also did significant damage to the city and to buildings at the harbor. The colossus lay on the ground for over 800 years, and even broken was so impressive for its time that people still came from far away to see it. In 653 AD Rhodes was captured by Arabs who melted the fallen statue down and sold the metal.
Rhodes lies just 12 miles off the coast of Turkey and is one of the Greek Isles. Rhodes is the name of the main town as well as of the island.
The city has ancient, medieval, and modern sections with the walled old town its main attraction. It is Europe’s largest inhabited medieval city and contains the palace of the Grand Masters, built in the 14th century by the Knights of St John, also called the Knights Hospitaller. Knights Hospitaller were initially associated with a hospital and cared for sick and poor people. The castle is a tourist attraction now, with a small fee to go inside.
Over time they became more militant, participating in the crusades and defending the holy land as well as providing escort for pilgrimages to it. Later they were called the Knights of Rhodes and defended against a succession of enemies including Barbary pirates, Egypt, and the Ottoman Empire.
In 1522 they lost a 6-month siege to Sultan Suleiman the Magnificant of the Ottoman Empire who sent 100,000 men against the island’s 7000 knights.
Old Town Rhodes could rival Old San Juan, Puerto Rico in the number of stray cats. There are cats everywhere. Locals feed them, and there is a spay/neuter program in place in an attempt to control the population, but we saw kittens in several places around town so they haven’t spayed them all.
A few cats wear collars, those belonging to locals, but most are strays. The majority of them were in better condition than a scrawny dog that wandered by, and it had a collar on. We also saw some stray dogs, who generally looked better than the one with the collar. Way more cats than dogs though.
MSC Lirica docked on a pier with a view of ruins running down that pier right next to the ship. You don’t get far – as in just outside the port gates – before running into people offering taxi tours, though their prices were on the high side. Just a bit beyond the port behind the first small building there’s a stop for the hop on hop off bus, with tickets available there.
Walk a very short distance beyond that and you come to the first gate into the walled city.
The walled city is full of little shops and restaurants, streets made of rocks or stone, people trying to entice you into their store or cafe, old buildings and of course the castle and lots of cats.
There are some open squares within the walled city, but they were not always there. The buildings that once stood in those places were demolished by bombs during World War II.
The walkway along the seawall runs alongside the city walls on the other side of the street and there are other entrances into the old city further down. The seawall is a nice walk and if you go far enough you come to a more modern town where there are things to do like semi-sub rides. This is a port where there are things to see right off the ship and you don’t have to spend a lot of money to find things to do.