Palace of the Grand Master, swimming

Trip Start Sep 15, 2009
Trip End Oct 17, 2009

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Where I stayed
Semina Hotel, Archangelos

Flag of Greece  , Dodecanese,
Friday, September 25, 2009

We awoke at 9 and enjoyed a lazy morning, grabbing breakfast from a nearby bakery, before catching the 11-o-clock bus to Rhodes city. The bus ride took about an hour and in the sunlight we got to admire all the scenery we had missed the previous night. Rhodes is a strange, not quite Earthly landscape - rolling hills of sparse to moderate tree cover punctuated by jagged rocky mountains, not really in any sort of mountain range, but sprinkled randomly across the island. The mountains go right up to the coast in most areas, with a few stretches of rocky beach-like terrain. (To me, it is not really a beach if it is mostly rock!)

We got off the bus and entered Rhodes Old City - the section behind the medieval stone wall - through a lovely park and a bridge to St. Paul's gate. The bridge led us to the castle, the Palace of the Grand Master. The castle grounds were huge and lined with souvenir vendors and cafes in quaint medieval buildings. We climbed a short staircase to enter the Palace of the Knights, which houses the Rhodes Ancient and Medieval exhibitions.

After the admissions kiosk the castle opened into a very large stone-paved courtyard ringed with statues. It was very sunny and warm, with the tall castle walls on every side preventing any breeze from reaching us. From the courtyard there were two exhibits to see - Ancient Rhodes and Medieval/Byzantine Rhodes. We went into the Ancient one first, and were rather disappointed to find that no photos were allowed.

The exhibits had pottery, glass, mosaics, paintings, and jewellery from as early as 2000 BCE to about the 12th century AD. The most impressive items were the finely crafted gold earrings shaped like a lizard eating its own tail, with incredibly small and delicate scales, and a golden Roman crown (like a wreath of the most delicate and thin golden leaves) from the 3rd century BCE. The coins from buried treasures around Rhodes were also pretty cool, as were the glass items on display.

We headed across the courtyard to explore the Medieval/Byzantine display. There was also a staircase up, but we went into the exhibit first. The first room was a reconstruction of the interior of a Byzantine church. Past this exhibit, no photos were allowed.

This was my favourite display so far, since I am more keen on medieval history personally. The exhibit included coins, keys, plates and bowls, statues, stone tablets, paintings, maps, and icons. We then headed upstairs where we were allowed to wander through a dozen or twenty well-appointed castle rooms with more mosaics and statues. I was in heaven! Definitely want to own a castle now ...

Once through the Palace we exited and grabbed a drink at a small cafe with a tree-shaded garden, then attempted to bus back to Archangelos. Scott and I are veteran bus-riders and were comfortable with the idea of waiting up to 40 minutes to catch the bus, but Simon couldn't handle the undefined waiting period so we eventually hailed a taxi back to our hotel. We were keen on a swim in the Mediterranean ocean so we changed into our swimwear and walked down to the Archangelos beach ... which was about 3 km away down a twisty mountain road, with difficult walking terrain compounded by the fact that we were wearing our thongs (flip-flops for you non-Aussies out there).

The walk took about an hour, but was totally worth it - the view as we walked down was amazing, crystal clear calm blue ocean lapping at the alienesque cliffs below. And the beach itself - well, actually it was very rocky and not much to write home about, but the water was warm and gently rolling - lovely!

We swam until the sun began to set, then had a lingering dinner at a seaside restaurant as the sun sank behind the mountains. Simon had some Mythos beer and I bought one to send to Chuck later, if it survives the trip!

We totally planned to take a taxi back up the hill to our hotel, but the restaurant owner's sun suggested we should just hitch a lift because "everyone does it". We weren't sure about that, so we set off up the hill, half-heartedly sticking our thumbs out as cars passed, but nobody was stopping. In the darkness it was very difficult climbing the hill, and we were getting cold, and Simon started cackling maniacally, so we knew that this was a stupid plan and we should just suck up our pride, go back to the restaurant, and beg them to call us a taxi. they said no taxi would come for the trip and that, even if they did come, it would be too expensive - "Giving money for nothing!" said Dimitrios - so the little old lady who owned and ran the place came outside and flagged down a guy with a Jeep who agreed to drive us up. Scott hopped in front while Simon and I sat in the open rear area. It was great to have the wind in our hair as we zipped up the hill!

Back at the hotel we showered and, exhausted, fell asleep, planning for a very early rise to catch our ferry back to Marmaris.
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