Old Rhodes, 2023

By: | Post date: May 14, 2023 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Culture, Greece, Uncategorized

I don’t think I can do any better than to replicate my account of walking into the Old Town from my Facebook feed.

So I’ve been in the Old Town of Rhodes for a couple of hours now.
It is a medieval theme park, as conjured up by Mussolini’s archaeologists, with all the architectural irresponsibility and short shrift of the Ottoman past that you might expect of them, packed to the rafters with souvenir shops and restaurant touters, and fake suits of armour. It is overflowing with ambling tourists.
It is garish and over the top, it is a simulacrum and a show. It is a a Respighi tone poem on a ghetto blaster (and of course I didn’t pick him at random).
It is simply the most glorious thing I’ve been caught up in. It pulses with life, life bouncing off restored stone walls.
And people’s Dodecanesian accent is a lot stronger here.


The way up from the port, it has to be said, was not promising. The harbour is a workaday, unlovely thing that goes on much too long. It opens onto a typically brusque Greek main road, and the first shop you see, after a fair walk, is a stripper club. (They still exist, who knew.)
Yet you can see at the end of the road an urban park unusual for Greece, and beyond the park a long stone wall…
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Yes, it is an honest-to-goodness castle wall, complete with honest-to-goodness moat (repurposed as outdoor theatre, hope you like cannon balls), and an honest-to-goodness boom gate, trying to back the cobblestones up in blocking entry to the wheels of modernity.
The rest of modernity, of course, can step right in with its wallet. The riotous theme park awaits.
It starts slow and gentle enough, the walk into the theme park, with a couple of tavernas, lots of cobblestones, and more greenery uncharacteristic for this part of the world…
And then, you fall upon the restored ruin of Our Lady of the Burgh (14th century), and it’s all over. You’re in Mediaeval Wonderland.
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And sure, the restoration is compromised, not least by the need to put a road through it, so that the locals call it “the split church”.
It doesn’t matter at all. The ruins jump out at you, where you least expect it. It’s breathtaking stuff.
Our Lady of the Burgh is breathtaking enough that you’re sure to miss the fact that this area in fact ended up as the Jewish Quarter of the town. The only signposts of the Jews of Rhodes left are the name of the piazza, “Jewish Martyrs”, and a synagogue that I could not track down.
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And then the Respighi cranks up, and you are in a glorious sea of tourists and tourist tat and restored monumental architecture…
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And one wrong turn off Socrates St, and there’s my AirBnB lodgings. Right out of Winterfell. I was outright giddy to find it…
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And the monuments continue, old and new. The 19th century Suleimaniye mosque, beseiged by the encroaching souvenir shops…
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Knight Street, poking through the ruins of the Grand Mosque built over it (again with an assist from Mussolini’s archaeologists)…
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The absurdly imposing Palace of the Grand Master…
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The also 19th century Mehmed Ağa Mosque, defiantly straddling Socrates St (and under which my AirBnB was)…
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And not least, Lipsi Restaurant, where I’ve just had another too-rich dinner. Lipsi is a small, hard-scrabble island nearby. Nothing hard-scrabble about this decor…
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