Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Parthenon on the Acropolis of Athens  -  Photo taken 2009

Athens and the Island of Rhodes (Rodos)

I awoke the next morning Wednesday, November 8, 2011 in pain.  My nearly 70 year old neck and knees took a beating on the tour to Ephesus the day before. I was glad I had not booked any tours of Athens. When I planned the trip, I knew had to give myself a break between the strenuous tours with a lot of walking and stairs in their routes. 

Past visits to Athens

I visited Athens twice before; once back in the 1950’s with my parents and brothers and sister while on the MSTS ship Pvt. Eldon Johnson as it made its way to Istanbul, and during an 8 hour stopover on my way from Amsterdam to Cairo in 2009. 

My family made a half day tour of the city by taxi cab and stayed the night in the King George Hotel. I remember how all of we children were shocked when the waiter in the hotel's dining room used the same spoon to dish up mashed potatoes as he used to dish out the meat dish that was covered in a red sauce!  We were such picky eaters as kids that we would not eat the potatoes with the small amount of red sauce on them!

In the 1950’s as a young teen, I remember me and my brothers running up to the top of the Acropolis. We climbed all over the famous ruins. 

In 2009 my left leg was in a steel and elastic brace. I had the bad knee replaced later that summer.  

My brothers, Bill and Larry, at the Parthenon - circa February, 1954

On the Acropolis of Athens - circa February 1954

On the Acropolis Athens - original statues are in the British Museum - circa February, 1954

The Greek architect, Phidias, knew that a long straight line would look curved, so they compensated by slightly curving the building so that it would appear straight!  Photo circa - February, 1954

On the Athens Acropolis - circa February, 1954

The Parthenon -  Photo taken in 2009.  The Ottomans stored ammunition in the building in the 1600's. The munitions exploded causing the major damage to the building - which had been a Christian church in the Eastern Roman Empire and later a mosque.
On my last visit in Athens, I took a bus into the central part of Athens to the Square in front of the Greek Parliament building - where the angry demonstrations against new government austerity measures are now being held. 

Greek sentry in front of the Parliament Building - Photo taken in 2009

Greek soldier sentry in his  unqiue full dress uniform - Photo taken in 2009

Sentries after the changing of the guard ceremony. This is the place where so many demonstrations against the new Greek austerity measures imposed by the Common Market countries are being protested. Photo taken in 2009
From that point I hired a taxi for one hour to take me to the Acropolis for a very quick visit.  The taxi cost me 100 Euros for that hour – that is about $135 at the exchange rate back then.  It was a very expensive short visit!

A beautiful Greek Orthodox Church in Athens - Photo taken in 2009
The Acropolis of Athens and other ancient Greek cities are built on hills up above the cities. The authorities do not allow cars or buses to park close to the top of the Acropolis in Athens.  To get to the top a visitor must climb about 285 steps. 

The cab driver ignored the “no entry” signs and took me as close as he could.  He received a stern lecture from a policeman.  I did not go to the top, but was able to take a few photos of the Parthenon from below.
I was dropped back at the Square in front of the Parliament building to board the airport shuttle bus for the 25 mile ride back out to the airport. 

They were working to extend the subway line all the way to the airport at the time.

Back to the present

While the Constellation was in the Port of Piraeus, Athens major seaport, I read and rested.  I went to a movie in the ship's beautiful cinema after lunch, but could not keep my eyes open during it.  I was constantly nodding off asleep.

I wondered if I was dehydrated, so I drank a bottle of water quickly and felt much better within 20 minutes.  I had a very late lunch of fruit and pastry about 4 PM.  

I prepared my laundry for turn-in the next day.  Laundry on a cruise ship is very expensive – in the entire series of voyages I spent almost $90 for laundry during the 6 weeks I was aboard the ships.  The Carnival Inspiration (The last vessel of my voyages) did have several do-it yourself laundries aboard, but I just did not want to deal with sitting in a small hot room to take care of my clothes.

The ship sailed away at dusk to our next stop, the island of Rhodes or as they spell it – Rodos.

The deer is the symbol of the Island of Rhodes

Rhodes – That Was Then

When my family was living in Ankara, the capital city of Turkey, in 1953 to 1957 the older “high school” aged teens – all 24 or so of us - went with the “seniors” on their 3 or 4 day senior trip from Ankara to Rhodes.  There were only 5 or 6 senior level students at the AAEA or Ankara American Education Association.  Turkish law did not allow foreigners to establish schools, so the Association was formed by the parents to hire a few teachers, rent a 3 story apartment building out in the middle of a large empty space at the edge of Ankara to use as a school.  Many of our teachers were parents who would take an hour or two during their work day to come out to the AAEA building to teach a class.

The group of students flew down on a short flight on a propeller driven, chartered Lebanese airliner.  We stayed at the largest hotel at one side of the waterfront in the city of Rhodes outside the walls of the city. 

I remember how excited we all were that we could eat Greek ice-cream because it was safe and hygenic - unlike the Turkish ice cream of that time. 

My memory is that the hotel – Hotel des Roses – was high with many floors and was very large and elegant.  We raise a ruckus in the hotel for several days. We rented mopeds and rode them to the city of Lindos at the other end of the island.  I remember my arms being bright red from sun and wind burn from the day in the sun.  

We visited the airport by mopeds and found a shot up relic of WW2, a Nazi two motor courier plane still sitting in a quiet place away to the side of the airport.  The plane still had its instruments, canvas seats and oxygen equipment intact  11 years after the end of the war.

We also explored a bombed out multistory building on the airport that had many missing walls and floors.  We were young and did not think we might fall into the basement as we walked all over the thin structural members  still standing.  

Rhodes – This Is Now

The Constellation was tied up at the left of the small waterfront in Rhodes.  The ship towered over the town giving us a great view of the city and waterfront.  Just alongside the ship were the remains and restoration work on several windmills and an old fortification that protected the harbor. Two other cruise ships were in port – the MSC Musica and the smaller ship, Vistamar .

Rhodes and the city walls and gates from the Constellation

Rhodes - Port fortification and watch tower

MSC Musica and the smaller Vistamar in port at Rhodes next to the Constellation

Windmills next to the port fortifications

Learn more about the island and city of Rhodes 

The harbor at the city of Rhodes once contained one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – The Colossus of Rhodes – a 100 foot tall statue of the god Helios (the sun) made of iron and bronze standing on a 50 foot tall marble block base.  The Colossus fell in antiquity. The bronze and iron which had come from weapons seized by Doric Rhodes was probably recycled back into weapons. No trace of the Colossus has been found.

I had signed for a tour of Rhodes including a tour of an ancient Mycenaen / Hellenic city of Kamiros and a walking tour Rhodes within the walls of the old, world heritage city. 

The tour bus passed by the Hotel des Roses where I had stayed so long ago, but it seemed so small compared to my memory of it!  A casino has been added and I have learned it is quite an elegant place with the rooms and suites starting at $700 a night and up!  I bet they do not take groups of rowdy teenagers as guests anymore!

The bus also passed by the airport.  I recognized nothing about it.  The bombed out building was gone.  I am sure that had I the chance to explore the byways of the airport – that the old Nazi plane would be long gone to be recycled into soda pop cans!

The island’s primary economy is tourism. My visit was at the end of the tourist season. This fact was reflected by the many cafes, car rental offices, small hotels and restaurants which were closed for the winter all along the road to Kamiros. 

There were many indications of the Greek debt crisis as well – many half finished construction projects and home additions that looked abandoned and unfinished.


We spent about an hour or a bit more at Kamiros, an ancient Doric city.  It is built in the cup of a valley like Ephesus.  Only about one third of the city has been excavated.

Panoramic view of Kamiros

Traveler Al with a mono pod and photo gray glasses turned really dark!

Kamiros - a maze of small streets and passageways

”On the north-western shore of Rhodes, close To the promontory of Agios Minas (the Ancient Mylantio) lies the third of The island's ancient cities - Kamiros.

Kamiros was one of the three large Doric cities of the island, which united with Ialyssos and Lindos in the 5th century B.C. to create the powerful city - state of Rhodes.

Although it was established by the Dorians, it seems like the first inhabitants of the area must have been Achaeans, as the ruins of an ancient Mycenaean necropolis close to the village of Kalovarda reveal. Kameiros was basically an agricultural society which produced oil, wine and figs. During the city's golden era of the 6th century, it was the first Rhodian city to cut its own coins.

Kameiros has been often compared to Pompeii, something which is not correct since Kameiros did not fall into decline because of a natural disaster. Its decline, like the decline of Ialyssos, was the result of the gradual abandonment by its residents, who decided to move to the city of Rhodes, which as mentioned above, was established in 408 B.C.” 
From Rhodes

The Old City of Rhodes

The tour bus dropped our group off in a quiet by-way near one of the gates in the city walls.  I dropped out of the tour the group so that I would have the leisure to take photos without slowing everyone down.  The city is small so I felt I could get back to the ship by walking.

Approaching the bridge between the outer and inner walls of the old city of Rhodes

One gate into the old city of Rhodes

The killing field between the inner and outer walls of the old city of Rhodes

Detail of carvings over the entry gate at Rhodes

I felt that I could have been relocated back in time.  The walls and buildings were glowing in the golden afternoon light. The streets were mostly made of rounded beach rocks set as cobble stones in regular patterns.  The fortifications and many piles of large, round stone cannon balls were reminders that the city was heavily fortified. Only the passing of an occasional car or motor scooter on the narrow streets or a person in modern dress were reminders that I was not back in medieval times. 

Looking back towards the entry gate - Rhodes, old city

Inside the walls of the old city of Rhodes

I heard accordion music and soon came around a corner to discover two boys and their very young brother busking on the street. (Busking - playing or performing on the street for tips.)  I don't know if the boys were Greek, immigrants from another country or Rom (Gypsies.)  Here are the boys and a sample of their music.

This is a short video and recording of the boys performing.  

Portrait of a young busker - Old city of Rhodes, Greece

Detail of stonework  inside the old city walls - Rhodes, Greece

I passed the buildings of the Knight’s Hospitaller of St. John while they were on Rhodes. This group of knights had profound impact on the architecture and defensive structures of the city and island.  The Knights of St. John had been pushed out of Akko, Israel or Acre when the Holy Land fell to the Muslims in 1291 during the Crusades. The knights ending up for several hundred years on Rhodes, until Rhodes was taken over by the Muslims. 

Original location and current offices for the Knights Hospitaller of St. John

Castle fortifications for the Knights Hospitaller of St. John at Rhodes

A quiet square just alongside the Knights Hospitaller castle and fortifications - I have no idea of the significance of the "Eye" on the tree.

A quiet restful spot outside the Knights Hospitaller castle - note closed tourist shop.

Another view of the Hospitaller Castle's fortification.

My visit to the Knights of St. John’s fortifications in Akko, Israel or as it was then known – Acre – was still several days in the future. 

I would also visit their final destination on the island of Malta where the group of knights became known as “The Knights of Malta” the following week.

A small parking area inside the walls of the old city of Rhodes

 I wandered into a long street that had several ancient "Inns" that were the medieval equivalent of hotels. The inns were usually organized along by areas the knights and pilgrims originated from.  The side walk was marble that was worn to a very slippery surface.  I had to watch my step very carefully to keep from falling.

Inside the old city of Rhodes

Looking back up the street which had several ancient "Inns" - Note the polish of the sidewalk from all the foot traffic over the years.

Happy to see tourists still in town!

I pushed open a door with a beautiful, large brass door  handle.  Take a look what I saw inside.

Elaborate door handle

I cannot pass up a look inside!

What a beautiful garden and patio space!

I was reminded that the tourism season was fast ending. There were few tourists and most of the souvenir shops and cafes that thrive on the tourist trade were closed in some of the quieter small squares and plazas in the old city. 

Wash basin built for  a mosque that no longer exists

Detail of carving at the wash basin

Detail of the wash station water tap

I passed the location of what had been a mosque that is now gone, only the small water tap at the foot and hand washing area was left. 

More shops and stalls were open just inside the walls near the waterfront

Detail of beach rocks used as cobble stones for paving in Rhodes

More elaborate beach stone cobble paving. Many homes on the island have very complicated geometric designs done with black and white beach stones on their courtyards or patios.  I did not see any of those private spaces on this visit.

Tourist children playing at the ruins of a church just inside the city walls of Rhodes

A small church away from the main tourist areas, but still inside the walls of the city.

Inside view of a "Murder Hole" built into the side of an entry / exit passage through the city wall.

Waterfront sales stall

The Rhodes city walls from the waterfront

Panorama of the boats in the small  harbor.

I was back at an area inside the walls near the waterfront, once outside of the walls I walked back to the Constellation for a late lunch and a much needed rest.

Next – Mamaris, Turkey

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